Title: Sniper Elite 4
Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Official Site: Sniper Elite 4
Release Date: Feb 14th, 2017
Where To Buy: Xbox Live, PSN Store, Steam, Local Retailer
After spending a large amount of time exploding organs within Sniper Elite 4, I cannot help but feel that the title ‘Sniper Elite‘ is a disservice to the franchise. It sounds like a typical game you would find at an amusement arcade, harnessing a light gun with little to do other than shoot your plastic peripheral. Having never really spent any serious amount of time with the series before, partly due to the arcade sounding title, I’m astonished by just how much more substance there is to Sniper Elite 4 than simply a ‘shooting game with gory physics’. Huge versatile levels, multiple objectives and addictive gameplay elevates Sniper Elite 4 to a thoroughly rewarding experience that enticed me to return time and time again.
Everyone has probably heard of the Sniper Elite series but how many have actually experienced the franchise? Reddit over the next few weeks will no doubt be full of videos showing testicles exploding and vertebrae flying out of bodies which can and is immensely satisfying however, this is not the only gratifying aspect of Sniper Elite 4.
A sniper rifle will take centre stage during your time with Sniper Elite 4 but it will share the limelight with many other weapons. Pistols and assault rifles make an expected appearance but so do flare guns and trip wires. You build quite an arsenal as you progress through Karl Fairburne’s adventure whilst the maps and missions will rouse you to employ all of the tools at your disposal.
Sniper Elite 4 continues the story of the previous expedition and finds our hero traversing the beautiful countryside of Italy. The story is perhaps Sniper Elite 4’s weakest element. Attempts are made to create a riveting tale of uprising against the Nazi occupation of Italy but they are more successful at simply giving context to Karl’s objectives. Before each mission, Karl will converse with his agency via radio and also talk to a few locals who are assisting in the liberation mission. As Sniper Elite 4 resides in Italy, expect to address members of the Mafia and hear tales of heroines leading Partisans against the fascist invaders. Oddly the accents can detract from the subject matter and you may think you were in Asia if it were not for the fields of Tuscany surrounding you. These small segments do enough to break up the action and move the story along however.
Once Karl is let loose, you begin to appreciate just how ambitious Sniper Elite 4 is. The maps are gigantic and they only become larger and denser as you progress. The tutorial mission took me nearly an hour to complete because from the start, Sniper Elite 4 bombards you with multiple objectives. Aside from the first couple of kills which are gifted to you courtesy of two soldiers loitering under an accident waiting to happen, you are given free reign.
Sniper Elite 4 shares many gameplay similarities with the Metal Gear Solid series which is not a bad place to find inspiration. Your true weapon of choice will be your binoculars which possess a superior zoom to your rifle and can tag enemies and points of interest. Tagging an enemy will list interesting notes about each individual such as poor eyesight or their personal history. POI’s may include exploding barrels, breakable harnesses or even an exposed fuel tank protruding from a truck. Once enemies and hazards have been established, you begin to see a scene of opportunity. Although Sniper Elite 4 can be perceived as a stealth game, you are more than spurred on to play aggressively and causing mass destruction from hundreds of meters away is oddly satisfying.
Admittedly you can rain hellfire down upon your enemies yet averting the enemies attention will lead you to success. A sniper is an opportunist which is precisely how you should approach Sniper Elite 4. Nazi’s will patrol, chat and receive orders from superiors as you look down from your nest patiently waiting for them to separate. On certain levels, noise distractions will be occurring such as a new heavy weapon being tested or planes flying overhead. These loud disturbances will muzzle your gun shot and utilizing these precious few seconds is essential. When all of the stars are in alignment and you finally take your shot, it makes the slow motion, X-ray kill-cam that more rewarding.
You would be forgiven for assuming that Sniper Elite is a game of keeping your distance but this is untrue. Karl is efficient in close quarter combat and the sickening death animations follow suit. Karl will slice throats, sever arteries or even plunge his blade directly into the assailants brain as you witness the gory details. Trip wires and other explosives feature similar animations with bodies being splintered with debris. Sniper Elite 4 is not for the timid and squeamish.
In the event you are spotted during your excursion, the AI uses a triangulation technique to hone in on your position. The main culprit for giving away your location is the noise emitting from your rifle as suppressor ammo is scarce. Seeing as the enemies have only heard a noise, they use this information to strategically close in on your location. This makes escaping fairly tricky and you will be wise to have booby traps set up around your perimeter for some assistance. Although the situation can seem dire, especially in later stages when fifteen or more enemies descend upon you, the opportunist in you can capitalise on this by luring enemies into traps. The double press mine is my personal favourite which only detonates as a second victim walks upon it, normally guaranteeing a double kill or even more. If you prefer an immaculate playthrough though, the autosave system works really well. Sniper Elite 4 is consistently making autosaves and will retain the last three meaning you can quickly jump back to a previous save state of your choosing and the loading times are extremely short.
However you eliminate your enemies, a plethora of experience will be dealt your way. Staying silent, distracting soldiers or removing appendages all contribute to the amount of experience gained. It is a simple trick to lavish you with praise but it really works. I always found myself attempting to maximise my kill technique to make them feel even more satisfying when a soldiers eye penetrates the back of his skull. Sadly the levelling system feels wasted as skills that unlock at milestones do little more than enhance your already proficient skills. New abilities would have made the progression more worthwhile. The same can be said for the weapon upgrades as each firearm has challenges which are fairly tough to accomplish. Once they have been attained, they offer less recoil or more damage which seems redundant as they perform rather admirable from the beginning. Weapon skins can be unlocked but I was disappointed to see that many of the exotic designs were only available via DLC.
During the campaign, you encounter a wide variety of stages from quaint Italian villages to dense forests which all offer unique vistas and opportunities. As the stages are so large and have multiple objectives, expect to spend a lot of time on each mission. I would find myself completing all of the objectives and spending near two hours per stage growing accustomed to the environment which in turn made the new surroundings of the next stage feel fresh and welcomed. Each area is well structured with plenty of verticality for Karl to explore. Although Sniper Elite 4 does not look quite as elegant and smooth as some AAA titles, it still looks gorgeous. The lighting effects in particular look stunning as they streak down through the tall trees glancing across the screen. Building structures are well crafted with multiple walkways encasing courtyards and the interiors look beautiful, particularly a cathedral which you explore in a later stage.
Even though the combat mechanics are extremely fun and exhilarating, the concept of shooting hapless soldiers could become repetitive however once more I found myself surprised with the level of detail and variety. Upon searching bodies you may find notes written to loved ones foreshadowing their untimely death. Sniper Elite 4 is far from a grounded, realistic view of the war yet it feels sombre to find a note on one of your victims, declaring his love for his unborn child. Other letters vary in subject matter from operational orders to a confession note but I found them all compelling and it gave each soldier a personality.
Enemies come in different forms too with radio specialists and scouts providing variation to proceedings, each possessing their own unique attributes. My personal favourite enemies are rival snipers. Although Karl is ‘the sniper’ and blessed with a sixth sense when spotted by a rival sharpshooter, you still only have a few seconds to run to cover. The most pleasurable kill-cam I witnessed was getting a shot off first in a stand off with my counterpart. I smiled with sadistic happiness as my bullet sailed past his rifle, into his skull, seconds before he pulled his trigger.
Once the campaign is completed and all the side missions completed, there is still more for Sniper Elite 4 to offer. You acquire money during your escapades and this can be spent on new load outs including weapons and other firearms. You can then replay tricker missions with your new arsenal to assist you. If you still find some objectives tough, you can play the entire campaign with a friend online. If you like to work alone, competitive multiplayer exists or you can indulge yourself with wave based enemies to see how long you can survive.
Metal Gear Solid V was my favourite game of 2015. It had issues with the story but the gameplay was incredibly addictive and consistently rewarding. Sniper Elite 4 makes me feel the same way. Every time I pull the trigger I gleefully watch as my bullet sails precariously through the air. The engaging gameplay has found me playing levels multiple times on different difficulties with altered load outs and it never feels monotonous. I apologise for being naive to the series before, thinking it was a simple arcade shooter but I’m sure there are many of you who feel the same way and I implore you to spend a couple of hours with Sniper Elite 4. I think you will be more than pleasantly surprised. Although the series needs a few tweaks to be considered one of the huge calender releases, it certainly has the potential.
- Gameplay: Objective Based, Sniper Shooter
- Graphics: Incredibly Gory X-Ray Kill-cams
- Sound: Odd Italian Accents, Sickening Deaths
- Presentation: A Much Deeper Experience Than Expected
- Addictive Combat
- Huge, Varied Stages
- More Than Just A Sniper Game
- Loose Story
- Leveling Rewards