Sniper Elite 4
You happen across a decrepit stone tower on the outskirts of San Celini Island, which is currently under fascist control. The tower would make an ideal sniper’s nest, so you plant a trip wire at the base of its ladder along with a few well-placed mines to deter any lurking enemies. Then you ascend the tower and take in the view of the sun-drenched coastal fields. It’s a picturesque sight, but the area is swarming with Nazi soldiers. It’s time to go to work. You spot as many enemies as you can and begin executing them one by one, masking the sound of your rifle fire with the noise of planes flying overhead. The enemy is unsuspecting of your position and helpless to your assault. All that’s left to do is descend the tower and mop up any remaining survivors. This is Sniper Elite 4.
The fourth installment in the third-person tactical shooter stealth series set during World War II, Sniper Elite 4 once again casts players as OSS marksman Lieutenant Karl Fairburne. Following a successful campaign in the deserts of North Africa, Fairburne has been re-assigned to Italy to track and eliminate a mysterious Nazi General, and thwart his efforts to mass-produce a new deadly weapon. While carrying out these orders, Fairburne aids Italian rebels and forges an uneasy alliance with the mafia, but a late twist involving the villain falls flat due to the General’s lack of prior screen time. Ultimately, the plot is inconsequential. The real motivation of Sniper Elite 4 is simple: kill hundreds of Nazis any way you see fit.
Armed with a high-caliber rifle, a secondary weapon, a pistol, and a variety of lures, traps and explosives, Sniper Elite 4 grants players more freedom and open-ended gameplay than any previous title in the series due predominantly to the size of the maps, which are significantly larger than Sniper Elite III. Not just bigger for the sake of being bigger, the maps are intricately designed with a heightened emphasis on verticality and alternate paths. The campaign features eight missions, each taking anywhere from 1-2 hours to complete, depending how thorough you choose to be.
Seeing as you’ll be spending most of your time with marksman rifle in hand, I’m happy to report that the sniper gunplay is one of this game’s strongest aspects. The rifles feel impactful and their power is further accentuated by the series’ trademark x-ray kill cam that gives players a gruesomely detailed look at enemy deaths as each of your bullets pierce flesh, fracture bones and burst organs. There’s no better feeling than sniping an eye shot, a heart shot, or a nut shot from 400 yards away; and those are just a few of the many specialty shots you can pull off. New to Sniper Elite 4, the kill cam is also used for shrapnel and melee combat, and though used less than previous installments, the kill cam never gets old.
Unfortunately, I can’t speak as highly of the gunplay for the rest of the arsenal. Secondary weapons – including SMGs, shotguns and pistols – are unusually flimsy, often taking numerous shots to kill enemies at even the closest of ranges. You’re almost better off firing your sniper rifle from the shoulder. Also, I never felt compelled to use anything other than the default rifle. There are other marksman rifles to unlock and/or pick up on the battlefield, but only one is noticeable different with an exceptionally high rate of fire at the expense of damage. The remainder of the rifles all seemed similar yet inferior to the Springfield.
Inconsistent is the word I would use to describe the enemy AI. At times you’ll be amazed they were able to spot you from such a long distance or acute angle, but they seem to lack peripheral vision, as they’re often none the wiser to you walking alongside them. You’re definitely going to want to increase the difficulty setting to make them tougher and more responsive, as even when they do spot you, you generally have more than enough time to dispatch them before they get a round off. You’ll also want to raise the difficulty for ballistic reasons. Higher difficulty settings introduce bullet drop, wind and scope drift. I have to tip my hat to developer Rebellion for including a custom difficulty, allowing players to adjust settings that affect AI, tactical and weapons. More developers need to include this in their games.
Sniper Elite 4’s progression system includes the ability to unlock skins and upgrade weapons by achieving performances bonuses, and you’ll earn experience points and rank up for everything you do in the game – from killing enemies to completing primary and secondary objectives. Upon achieving five new ranks, you’ll unlock two new abilities from a skill tree to pick from. Some I found quite useful, such as Max Heart-Rate and Accelerated Target-Focus Speed, while others were negligible (Improved Search didn’t yield many extra items/ammo for me).
While the campaign can be played solo or with a friend, the co-operative options extend beyond the story with two new four-player modes: Survival and Overwatch. Survival is a wave-based mode similar to Horde mode from Gears of War, while Overwatch sees one player take on the role of sniper while the other players run around tagging enemies on the ground. Competitive multiplayer returns, supporting up to 12 players in a handful of modes, some of which are quite unique. In Distance King, players earn points based on the range of their kills rather than the quantity. In No-Cross Team Deathmatch, there’s a line in the middle of the map that no team can pass, meaning you can only score kills by sniping. It’s refreshing to play competitive multiplayer where camping is actually encouraged. Unfortunately, with only six maps to choose from and a comparatively bare-bones progression system, Sniper Elite 4 offers neither the depth nor replayability to compete with the likes of Battlefield 1.
From a presentation standpoint, Sniper Elite 4 is a mixed bag. The environments are quite picturesque, but upon closer inspection you’ll notice some low-res textures, especially off in the distance. Some textures are downright blurry. The in-game character models look good, if not lacking in variety, but in cutscenes the facial textures lack detail. Characters come off looking like mannequins with moving lips (and not in-sync with the dialogue either). The x-ray kill cam still looks great, though.
Audio fares a little better than the visuals. Though it’s mostly featured in the menu screens, the music is well done. Once in the field of battle, the soundtrack becomes much more subdued, appropriately giving way to ambient noise and sound effects. From German chatter and weapon fire, to little details like a phonograph playing inside a stone house, the effects all sound really good. The voice cast is led by Tom Clarke Hill, who once again brings his deep, grizzled voice to the role of Karl Fairburne. Overall, the voice acting is okay, though some of the accents sound a little cartoonish.
Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t always hit its mark, but I still recommend it to virtual sharpshooters who prefer a more methodical approach to their shooters. The campaign is perfectly enjoyable solo, but adding a friend heightens the overall experience, as does raising the difficulty level to increase the intensity and really capture the essence of being a marksman. Sniper Elite 4 may be a “wait for sale” kind of title, but if you’re a fan of tactical shooters, you’ll want to keep this one in your sights.
Reviewed By: Stephen Riach
This review is based on a digital copy of Sniper Elite 4 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Rebellion.