Review: Sniper Elite 4 – Gameplay on Target
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebelltion Developments
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed)
I’m a big fan of shooters, and in particular, shooters that offer gamers strategy and not just mindless action. The Sniper Elite series has been one in particular that challenges players to carefully plan and execute operations, though Sniper Elite III wasn’t exactly dead on target. Legendary sniper Karl Fairburne is back for another tour of duty though, and this time he’s in gorgeous Italy.
‘Sniper Elite 4′ picks up after the events of Sniper Elite III (yes, III used Roman numerals in its title and 4 doesn’t) with series’ protagonist Karl Fairburne once again taking the fight to the Nazis. Like previous Sniper Elite games, Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t have much of a story. In fact, apart from the intial setup and the missions themselves, I would posit that there isn’t a story in the game, at least not one that does more than the bare minimum of establishing the setting for some X-ray camera Nazi gore.
So yes, we learn nothing about Karl, nor do we meet any interesting characters throughout his testicle-obliterating tour of Italy. It feels like a wasted opportunity, but when it comes to gameplay, Sniper Elite 4 spoils shooter fans with strategy, flexible level design and all the slow motion gore they can handle.
Rebellion Developments listened to fans and critics’ complaints about Sniper Elite III, as the series’ move to Italy offers a far more pleasing and visually diverse experience from the brown colour pallette offered in Sniper Elite III. While the game isn’t the most visually spectacular, it does a competent and pleasing job in regards to graphical fidelity, art direction and effects such as lighting.
If you’re new to the series, allow me to quickly explain the gameplay. Sniper Elite series tasks players are Karl Fairburne, an Allied Forces sniper during World War II. Karl is a pretty stock standard action game protagonist (complete with the Christian Bale-esque gritty Batman-style voice) who has a penchant for removing Nazi’s brains from their skulls.
In Sniper Elite 4, players are presented with a primary objective, as well as optional side objectives they can complete. The beauty of the way a mission is set up is in how open-ended the level design is. Players can approach primary and secondary objectives in any order they wish, and from a number of different directions on the map. Not only that, but they’re also take a stealth approach, go in guns blazing, or use a mix of the two styles. Each level is like a sandbox world all on its own, able to be explored and experimented with as players see fit.
With the game’s first mission, I was as silent as possible on my first playthrough. I carefully navigated my way along the main road of the area, either sniping my enemies from a distance when noise hid my otherwise loud rifle shots. On the second play through, I got up close and personal to my prey, stabbing them with a knife, snapping their neck, or using my single-shot silenced pistol if my cover was blown. On another playthrough I made use of all my traps, including mines and tripmines. These distracted my enemies and drew them away from me, so a careful player is able to actually use alarms and explosions as lures.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that the series’ iconic x-ray killcam returns, though it isn’t just limited to decent long-range rifle kills. In Sniper Elite 4, melee kills and even traps get in on the gory transparent action. When you kill someone with a mine, their legs will just about incinerate, getting blown to pieces all in glorious slow motion!
Of course, when things go wrong, things go very wrong indeed. Even on normal difficulty, blowing my cover meant enemy reinforcements, and a barrage of bullets and grenades thrown at my last known position. Isolated towers are a terrific advantage if you’re a cautious player, though make one mistake and they could become your tomb.
When the enemy is made aware of your presence, their effectiveness of taking you down varies from level to level. A great deal of the time, they crouch behind knee high fences, still sticking out of cover because they a. don’t know where you are and b. they’ve chosen wildly inappropriate cover. It’s a shame that the level design is what can determine an enemy’s lethality, though for the most part they will find you and make a decent attempt at taking you down. Karl is surprisingly fragile as far as protagonists go, with even a few rounds from his enemies being able to fell him.
Players looking for an extreme challenge are able to play one of the harder difficulty modes, where your sniper’s instinct is unavailable, and items of interest aren’t highlighted. If you’re wanting to shoot that precariously hanging crate so that it lands on a Nazi’s head, you’ll have to learn how to judge bullet drop and wind resistance.
In addition to the single player campaign, Sniper Elite 4 also includes multiplayers modes. While these won’t set the world of competitive shooters on fire, a 2 on 2 sniper battle is an absolute blast to play. Heck, I even watched a group of streamers battle each other in a nutshot competition and found myself both captivated and laughing myself silly.
|Ultimately, Sniper Elite 4 isn't going to be remembered for its story, though it does offer some fantastically open-ended gameplay. In many ways more successful stealth-action titles can learn from it, as it encourages experimentation from the player, and offers them a number of options with each new area.||3.6 3.6 ( on 5 rating)|