Sniper Elite 4 picks up right after the previous installment in the franchise, once again pitting players against insurmountable odds as Office of Strategic Services, and legendary American sniper Karl Fairburne. Leaving behind the trials and tribulations of Africa with the last outing, Sniper Elite 4 takes up residence in the new found surroundings of Italy circa 1943, where the multi-skilled operative finds himself assisting Italian resistance fighters in its conflict with the fascists.
Sniper Elite 4: PS4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Rebellion Development
Publisher: Rebellion Development
Release Date: 14 February 2017
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
As a franchise, Sniper Elite and Rebellion doesn’t tend to rely on its storytelling but rather places greater emphasis on gameplay, offering just enough by the way of a significant plotline to satisfy them without the need for over-indulgence, something that continues here. Sniper Elite 4‘s story might feel like a simple or basic one at heart with characters you won’t likely remember for too long or feel too much of a connection with due to a lack of relationship development, but it takes nothing away from what is a stunning gameplay experience, which is by far the smoothest and cleanest Sniper Elite title since its inception in 2005.
Dropping the weight of previous generation console development allows the scope and scale of Sniper Elite to at long last be fully realised, and with little restriction plus a wider range of playstyles on hand, Sniper Elite 4 offers expansive, varied environments that offer a real sense of freedom. Negotiating the game’s structures with vertical scaling not only enables the player to gauge a good lie of the land but can also help to determine which approach to take. With endless possibilities to take on missions and multiple spots in which to showcase your rifle skills, Sniper Elite 4 truly feels like an exemplary tactical experience.
As I wandered the statuesque landscapes of Italy I found myself constantly repeating that echoed line “one bullet can change history”, and with Sniper Elite 4, this can often be the case. With a playstyle design not too dissimilar to recent Splinter Cell outings and some much-needed freedom, I found the ability to move amongst enemies silently Sam Fisher-esque to be very pleasing, something that was never a possibility for casual players in previous entries. With the right tools at my disposal, I found myself continually able to do negate missions in a variety of ways.
While players can opt for a more stealth-minded approach, sniping continues to retain its excitement. With an assortment of rifles at my disposal, I found my heartbeat actually mimicking that of the protagonist as I patiently waited for the precise moment or in this case the sound of a passing plane to mask my viperous shot. Calculating distance and wind speed on the fly is somewhat of a staple of the franchise, although here it simply feels better than it ever has. A true challenge would be to play the entire campaign with all assists turned off, leaving the player to their own devices to change the course of history.
Away from the franchise’s trademark sniper rifles, I found using the game’s automatic weaponry to be wildly inaccurate, never feeling like a viable option, preferring to use my dependable Welrod over a Thompson on almost every occasion.
Hardened fans of the franchise might be pleased to find the game’s weapon and equipment wheel has changed very little since 2014. Where Sniper Elite 3 gave the player all the right tools to succeed, the game didn’t quite have the environments to fully capitalise on them. Sniper Elite 4‘s expansive level design allows players to carefully plan out each mission, offering numerous ways in which to carry out deadly assignments such as fighting in towns to assist rebels storming a fort from afar. Sniper Elite 4 truly gives the player everything they need to change history with a single bullet.
Sniper Elite 4 not only presents a huge improvement over previous entries in both scale and graphical representation with sharper gorgeous visuals, it also refines other areas as well. In addition to being able to fully enjoy the game’s entire story campaign with a friend or online cooperatively, further enhancing the experience, Rebellion has remodelled Sniper Elite 4‘s AI, who now appear more alert, cunning and vicious than ever before.
For the best part Sniper Elite 4‘s enemy AI function amazingly well, with all new routines and reactions to certain events. Throwing a rock in the direction of a soldier would see that enemy begin to notify all other soldiers in the surrounding area, who would then proceed to survey the area in question. However, if Karl were to stealthily eliminate that very same guard, and therefore not allow him to return to his regular routine, the other guards in the area become aware of this and remain on alert as they proceed to search for the soldier whereabouts or his corpse. As well as this works, it is not always the case.
Sniper Elite 4‘s enemies now triangulate sound and movement to hone in on the player’s position, but they can also behave slightly inconsistent at times. On occasion I would waltz into a room full of heavily armed guards and not one soldier would pay a blind bit of notice to the elephant in the room, however, there would be times where I would find myself halfway across a map, seemingly unnoticeable before an enemy suddenly and inconceivably picks up on my location and thus an alert begins. The slight lack of consistency while rare can lead to confusion and troubling situations for the game’s protagonist.
Synonymous with the franchise, Sniper Elite‘s iconic X-Ray styled Killcam will always be a great draw for players. The sheer bruteness of each cinematic that follows a precise and well-timed shot remains both graphic in its authenticity and utterly enjoyable, as the human body continues to be ripped apart and torn to shreds with the impact of a single bullet. Sniper Elite 4 sees the Killcam make its triumphant return, and it’s safe to say that the feature is better than it has ever looked before. Cinematics so good in fact that I found myself grimacing at certain instances such as knocking out the bottom half of an enemy’s jaw, or the sight of a poor individual’s manhood being torn away from them. Sniper Elite 4‘s X-Ray Killcam is painfully accurate and yet, also strangely satisfying.
Aside from a few minor missteps, Sniper Elite 4‘s overall gameplay feels great. As a veteran of the franchise, I was somewhat concerned going in that it might be lacking in certain areas much as Sniper Elite 3 did for me, but any worries or concerns proved to be erroneous as Sniper Elite 4 proved to be thoroughly enjoyable, and with greater emphasis on stealth-based tactics felt like a far more balanced title.
Sniper Elite 4 does not live or die by its multiplayer experience but that does not mean the game mode should simply be neglected by all players, even franchise veterans should give the new iteration of Sniper Elite multiplayer a whirl. Much like Sniper Elite 3, the multiplayer has not really been a talking point leading up to the game’s release, and that is simply because Sniper Elite’s gameplay lends itself much better to a PvE environment which is where cooperative game modes thrive most, however, Sniper Elite 4’s multiplayer is enough to satisfy long-term fans and newcomers long after they’ve finished the campaign and different co-op modes.
Sniper Elite 4 is truly the best entry in franchise history. With beautiful large-scale environments, crisp visuals and a variety of differing play styles on offer to cater to every type of player, I found Sniper Elite 4 to be a pleasantly surprising experience. Although its story lacks substance, its AI a little unbalanced and a lack of reliable weapons, what Sniper Elite 4 does offer players is a near stellar game and the representation of a new beginning that I personally look forward to seeing more of in the future.