Game Review: Sniper Elite 4

Bigger maps, more ways to kill, and a new setting, but it is patience that truly rewards players in Sniper Elite 4.

Sniper Elite 4, the latest from UK developer Rebellion, is taking us to Italy for the latest installment of their third-person shooter franchise. They have built gorgeous new maps that are bright and full of color.  More importantly, they empower players to explore and get creative. For players who love sniping or can play with a little forethought, Sniper Elite 4 delivers absolute satisfaction when you get to pull the trigger and enjoy the power of your Springfield.

Sniper Elite 4 Karl Fairburn

Narrative

Following the events of Sniper Elite 3, we are heading to Italy circa 1943. Europe is still engulfed in war, but Allied forces are preparing to take back the continent. Fresh from his critical role in North Africa during Operation Torch, Karl Fairburne is on a new mission to destabilize Nazi forces in Italy.

The Allies are preparing to invade and they think Italy is the weak link. With the historical backdrop of war and social and economic turmoil, Nazi troops are crawling all over Italy. Karl’s job is to thin out their forces, kill a few high ranking officers, and collect intel on yet another German superweapon. There will be plenty of time to meet the locals, enjoy the countryside, and catch his breath.

Gameplay

At the core of Sniper Elite is, of course, sniping. While there are a lot of weapons to choose (from your trusty Welrod to machine guns and explosives), the sniping is where the true joy of Sniper Elite lies. For those who enjoy the planning, waiting, and striking at just the right moment, few other games offer the same satisfaction.

Sniper Elite 4 Melee Kill Cam Screenshot

The X-ray kill cams that Rebellion developed allows you to witness the destructive power of your Springfield or any rifle of your choice. There is satisfaction to be found in stringing together kills or manipulating events in just the right way. Rebellion’s XP system makes you feel rewarded for every small consideration you give, from luring enemies to using sound to cover your shots.

For enthusiasts, the real joy is in Authentic Mode. Realistic bullet physics have you considering distance and environmental factors for every shot and enemies wise up much faster. You have to be methodical. If that seems a little overboard for a digital escape, don’t worry. The game is more forgiving on regular, but can be just as much fun.

Sniper Elite 4 Binoculars

Rebellion has expanded the number of mechanics for this game including massive new maps as wide as hundreds of miles. These act more as sandboxes for players than the more linear approach to the level design of the past. Players can explore the maps in whatever way they choose, exploit environmental dangers, and find new ways to eliminate enemies. This means more opportunities for long range sniping, more experimentation, and a dimension of replayability.

One of the new additions is Karl’s newfound ability to climb. He can now mantle small structures and climb certain walls or chains. This opens new possibilities to find good vantage points. Although it’s limited when compared to other games with climbing mechanics and can be a little awkward at times. For the first attempt at it, I am very happy to have it in Sniper Elite 4, but I hope it is a feature that is refined and expanded on in the future.

Sniper elite 4 Climbing
While he was looking over there, I took the back route. Stupid Nazi Sniper.

Multiplayer

Rebellion has changed up their approach to multiplayer by adding an objective-based competitive multiplayer mode called Control. A match made up entirely of snipers isn’t my idea of fun typically, but it is rather dynamic. Capturing and defending objectives keeps players mobile, and there are small weapons, traps, and explosives to worry about while you get picked off by good sniping. You get to put all that practice in the sandbox missions to good use. Real humans are not always as accommodatingly stupid as AI, but it certainly isn’t boring.

If you want sniper-heavy gameplay  (that’s probably the case if you’re here), there are sniper-specific online modes as well. These include No Cross (a team deathmatch where the teams are separated by a no man’s land) and Distance King (where the match is decided by the total distance accumulated).

A completely new addition is Survival mode. This four player co-op has you and three friends defending a zone against waves of German troops. This is similar to a Horde or Zombie mode, but enemy AI is a little smarter and a lot more aggressive. You can’t just pick the best spot either, as the point you must defend changes ever three rounds. It requires teamwork and collaboration to fend off the Nazis and cover one another as you move or find supplies.

There is also still the two-player co-op, where you can invite a buddy to cover you while you plan. Co-op is a nice feature as it can be good to have someone there to keep you company as you wait for the perfect moment, or just to make trouble with. All the modes and the single player unlock various awards and build your total XP. This unlocks new weapons and customizations for the game.

Performance & Graphics

On my PS4, the game has been running beautifully in 1080p. Italy looks gorgeous and offers players a colourful new setting to play in. Lush forests, colorful Italian villages, sun-drenched coast, all of it looks fantastic. As much as I enjoyed the African Campaign, there is only so much brown a person can take. The same goes for Sniper Elite 2‘s grays.

Sniper-Elite-4-large-maps

I experience no serious game or visual glitching. Other than sometimes animations don’t quite respond correctly. Rebellion is running a little behind other shooters in that they don’t have the same level of facial tracking, so the cut scenes are a little stiff. Steam users don’t appear to have reported any other issues either. Things could be better and you can enjoy almost double the framerate and faster loading if you own a PS4 or if you have the hardware for it.

Audio

Many of the supporting characters possess a lot of character, but it doesn’t always seem natural. Mother Hen, for instance, is great to listen. to either if she’s a little mechanical. Other characters, such as the curious OSS officer and the Italian resistance, can seem like caricatures at times, but lend themselves to the heroic underpinnings of a WWII shooter.

Karl, being the to-the-point kind of guy he is, doesn’t offer much emotional range, but you can’t fault the gruff protagonist too much because it kind of makes you smile. It’s nice when he pats himself (really you) on the back every now and then: “Nicely done, if I do say so myself”.

Where the audio really shines are the effects. The sound of that rifle firing and the visceral sounds of bullets tearing apart flesh and bone. The ambient notifications also keep you on your toes as you maneuver across enemy territory.

Final Thoughts

Sniper Elite 4 lets you choose the way you want to play. You can rush through and blow everything up if you really want. but then this may not actually be the shooter for you. The game tells you right up front where its strengths lie and it rewards players who can approach the task with a certain, methodical mindset.

While Rebellion certainly still has space to improve, (refining the climbing mechanics and cutscene voice-overs and animations) they have delivered a solid title overall. It looks stunning, features creative level design that empowers players to get creative, and delivers absolute satisfaction when those plans come to fruition. Even if the plan was as simple as “tag and bag”.

Score: 9

This article first appeared on DVSGaming.org

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