At war, a sniper’s job is never truly over, and in case of Sniper Elite’s Karl Fairburne, taking out Nazis is the least of his troubles. After clearing the African front by teeth and bullet in Sniper Elite 3, the fourth entry in Rebellion’s venerable groin shooting franchise sees him heading down to the beautiful coast of Italy, as Nazi Germany is up to no good, with the support of Mussolini’s troops. Considering his past adventures, it’s safe to say there’s even more fun to be had foiling Hitler’s plans ahead for Karl in Sniper Elite 4.
For starters, the maps in this game are absolutely huge, which Rebellion claims are over three times the size of the largest level in the previous Sniper Elite. From my experience, I’d say they aren’t lying – all the levels I’ve played were expansive, detailed and an absolute blast to sneak my way through. This being a sniping game, I dabbled with using sights and taking long range shots here and there, but by far my favorite approach since Sniper Elite V2 has been to take care of things in a more personable way. Rebellion’s yet to disappoint in that regard, especially given the fact that Sniper Elite 4 is even more open-ended in its mission structure than any of the previous games in the series.
But if you’re set for following tradition, you’ll find plenty of flexibility in the way sniping works in Sniper Elite 4. Depending on the difficulty option you choose, you’ll find that the game is ridiculously manageable, and whether or not you want to be as realistic as possible when calculating the trajectory and cadence of a bullet and taking into account wind speed, direction and resistance, the game’s more than happy to provide a nice and arduous challenge. On the other side of things, if you want to go all out and just pop and shoot, you’re also covered. My choice is the middle of the road, the second to last difficulty setting, which takes into account some of the realism, but doesn’t absolutely destroy my chances of completing a mission in case I make a mistake. Then again, considering that the game allows for manual saving at any point, I tend to go a little overboard in how careful I am not to mess up and take my time.
Keeping that in mind, it’s quite easy to spend over an hour or two in each of Sniper Elite 4’s missions. They range from the run-of-the-mill target elimination to just about every objective you could think of that a commando would do in war, be it explode weapons caches to rescuing prisoners, Fairburne is one tough son of a gun who just happens to be a dead eye shot and absolutely deadly up close, thanks to his trusty iron knee to the chin move. Ouch. Anyway, you’ll find plenty of optional things to take care of in between the main mission goals, and for the most part, they’re worthwhile enough to complete, giving you points that open up some of the game’s unlockables, mostly tied to new weapons that can be added to your arsenal.
All things considered, the array of guns and trinkets you can use in the game is rather limited in scope, no pun intended. Sure, there are a handful of sniper rifles with ranging stats and customization options, as well as a lot of different sub weapons you can take into missions, but all things considered, it’s best to stick to a set and level it up instead, which in turn help boost each of the gun’s stats, the more differently and effectively you use them. Say, if you stick with the silenced pistol that you start with and get pretty good at long distance shots, you’ll eventually unlock upgrades that increase its precision, and the more damage you do with it, the better the damage you’ll get, and so forth. Thanks to that, I very rarely veered away from the standard setup I’ve had since mission one, with no regrets whatsoever. Then again, I can imagine that at the highest difficulty, a sniper rifle with a better scope might help you out way more, but in the setting I chose to play, that didn’t get in my way. That brings a slight note that fans of Sniper Elite 3 might scoff at when coming into Sniper Elite 4: there’s no option to change weapon parts, so if you want a better zoom but would rather keep the same gun, you’re out of luck in this newest game.
Other than the size of the maps, there have been a few new additions to the overall gameplay to Sniper Elite, mostly tied to how stealth works and how quickly you can get detected. On the minimap, your position indicator is at all times inside a circle that grows and shrinks the more and less you are visible to the enemy. Stick to shadows or obstructions and avoid making noise, and you’re less likely to get spotted. Then again, the same goes the opposite way, but unlike the previous games, the alert levels are more segmented in the game – given the bigger maps, not all enemies will be aware of your presence right away in case you’re seen, and unless you start wrecking shit, the chaos can be contained if you’re quick enough to dispatch whoever has their sights set on you.
While the game’s artificial intelligence tends to break a few more times than is tolerable, putting troops infinitely climbing up and down ladders or running into walls, they tend to be quite attentive when working correctly. Or as much as you’d expect for soldiers to behave in a videogame. If one notices a dead friend, they’ll hurry to investigate or take cover for a while if they catch your scent, and after a while, all’s back to normal. Other stealth games have dealt with alert phases in somewhat better ways, such as increasing patrol alertness permanently after you get spotted, or even changing patterns in order to force you to change your approach to a given situation, but Sniper Elite 4 is pretty straightforward when it comes to cooling off the enemy.
The same can be said about the story that tries its best to tie all the levels together into something cohesive. Frankly, there’s very little in the way of character development throughout the game, and the few times that you do get a bit of dialogue among the cast, it’s all directly tied to what’re doing in the next mission. There are bits of potentially cool stories that could’ve grown and developed into something past the expected “grunt saves the world again in WW2”, but it never takes off. Still, I tend to dig old-timey mission briefs and still war photos that litter this sort of game’s presentation in a way, and there’s plenty of it to be found in Sniper Elite 4.
Besides single player, you’re also given the option to dive into special cooperative missions that put you and a friend against waves of enemies that invade a base you’re tasked with defending. While not exactly as exciting as finishing actual objectives, it’s still fun to factor in the Sniper Elite gameplay with a second player in tow to help you out (just keep in mind that there’s friendly fire when setting up those shots!). There’s also a bit of deathmatch multiplayer with which I had very little experience playing, but the modes that stray from senseless killing that I saw have the potential to garner a following, such as Distance King, which has players competing for who gets the farthest shots in instead of number of kills. Then again, the more traditional deathmatch of No-Cross can have its charge, since this is a sniping game after all, where each team has a spotter who can call out shots as they sneak around the battlefield. It’s neat to have a team of snipers scurrying about trying to outwit and out snipe each other. Hope’s that the multiplayer gets a following and doesn’t suffer the painful death of the online modes of games that are not Call of Duty or Battlefield.
Across the board, Sniper Elite 4 is a suitable entry to an incredibly solid series which has seen increasingly better games over the years. It’s a little tough to imagine where else in World War 2 where’re likely to embark to in the inevitable next game, outside of the obvious options left on the board, but regardless, for what we have now, Italy is a great sandbox for us to snipe around and cause havoc in.