Welcome to Italy!
Shooters seem to follow a set of general rules. One of those rules is that sniper rifles are magic, offering pinpoint accuracy with the only limitation being you needing to aim down the scope and put the crosshairs on target (unless you’re playing Call of Duty). Of the shooters out on the market, a select few make an attempt to blend realistic physics into the mix, like Battlefield games which feature bullet drop over distance.
Sniper Elite stands as a series which takes that feature and turns it up to eleven. Sniper Elite 4 naturally is an extension of that mindset, and it’s probably the best of the series I’ve played so far.
As the name more or less indicates, Sniper Elite 4 is a game where you play as a sniper. One might say that he’s an elite sniper as well; he’s a great shot… most of the time. As you may know, sniping isn’t all about just blowing people’s heads off 24/7, though in Sniper Elite 4, there’s still plenty of that. Being an effective sniper means utilizing the environment to your advantage, leveraging high ground, understanding the conditions and exploiting them, as well as staying on the move. After all, a stationary sniper is a dead sniper.
While it isn’t a sniper simulation in the strictest of terms, it can come pretty close often enough, depending on the difficulty you play on (more on that later). Sure, you can just roll through each level, exploding the domes of Nazis left and right, and you might make it through relatively unscathed, but Sniper Elite 4 is at its best when you play the way it was intended to be played. It’s a stealth-action shooter after all, with a focus on marksmanship. It rewards methodical gameplay, and players who make full use of the sandbox environment will have a much easier time completing objectives.
Speaking of the sandbox style of levels, it suits Sniper Elite 4 well. In fact, the decision to make it a sandbox game has made this newest entry probably the strongest of the series. By giving players the ability to tackle objectives as they see fit, from whatever approach they deem most advantageous, Rebellion made a game that truly realizes its potential. They’ve also given players dozens of tools to help in the pursuit of obliterating their enemies through whatever means possible. In addition to the obvious inclusion of rifles like the Springfield 1903 and Mosin-Nagant, you also have a wide array of sidearms and secondary weapons to choose from, as well as a plethora of devices to make use of.
While you can certainly complete every mission with only your rifle of choice, it’s possible to lure unsuspecting foes into traps where you can perform hand-to-hand takedowns, or even use explosives to send them into the next life with a bang. I have to admit there’s a sick satisfaction derived from drawing an enemy soldier into an explosive trap.
Sniper Elite 4 does well to reward players for feats of skill and creative use of the environment. In a way, it’s rather similar to the Hitman games. Attaining higher ranks gives you access to skills which affect different game mechanics, such as making your heart rate return to normal faster (thereby making moving about and firing much easier) or lowering the amount of damage you receive from falling from heights. Additionally, you’re also given tokens to spend on items to start missions with, as well as different types of weapons too. Unfortunately, while there are quite a few weapons to choose from, about half of them are locked behind DLC.
Probably one of the only changes I’ve seen in this latest game which I don’t think is a positive one, is the addition of suppressed ammunition for more than the specialized firearms like the Welrod (which is an amazing weapon for its time). The ammunition itself is limited, but I can’t help but feel like having more suppressed weapons breaks the game in a way, though I can’t fault the developers too much considering how many difficulty options they offer to players.
While Sniper Elite 4 isn’t ugly, it does look rather dated in many ways. The character models look odd, as if they are some amalgamation of human skin and clay, and the animations themselves look as wooden as the Springfield 1903’s stock. However, while the characters don’t fill me with awe, the environments themselves look pretty. Roaming around various locations in Italy exposes you to plenty of the beautiful countryside, and the night missions in fascist compounds are appropriately foreboding.
Let’s go back a bit though, and talk about the character models again, because there’s one thing that Rebellion does extremely well: modeling human anatomy. A large portion of Sniper Elite 4 is spent watching your successful shots tear through targets with obscene violence. It’s clear that Rebellion has put a great deal of effort into presenting the X-ray shots in extreme detail, and it’s mesmerizing as a result.
Of course, as with many games these days, Sniper Elite 4 isn’t without its issues. I witnessed several glitches, bugs, and weirdness during my time with the game. Instances of textures failing to load properly, audio clips playing for no apparent reason, failing to drop out of an alert state even when hiding, terrible screen tearing (Xbox One version), among other issues. None of these issues were glaring enough to cause me to stop playing out of frustration or disgust(?), but they’re noticeable enough at times to be impossible to ignore.
While most of the features of Sniper Elite 4 aren’t limited to this latest game itself, Rebellion has continued to improve upon their recipe for the series. One of the hallmarks of the Sniper Elite games is the X-ray camera that pops up, showing you the results of your shots. You can tune how often it shows, but it’s difficult to not want to watch the fruits of your labor. It’s kinda like watching a train derail; for some reason you just want to watch it. The X-ray camera itself shows as your bullet approaches in slow-motion, then rends the flesh of your target and annihilates his organs.
Is it disturbing to watch? Yes. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this game for anyone who is squeamish in any way.
And yes, if you were wondering, you can shoot people in the testicles. Sadist.
The X-ray camera isn’t the only thing that sets Sniper Elite 4 apart from other tactical shooters though. Oddly enough, it features difficulty options which are complex and customizable in a way I’ve only seen in Forza titles. There are standard difficulty modes that allow you easily pick more difficult options, but if you want to tailor-make the game for yourself, you can. The AI, bullet physics, player health, and ammunition supplies are all customizable to your liking, and it’s awesome to have that level of granular access. Hell, there’s even an option to force your character to throw away magazines from your weapon instead of magically transporting rounds between magazines in the middle of a firefight.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
Almost every Sniper Elite title (if not all) follows the same story structure. There’s a Nazi bigwig who is in charge of some superweapon program (commonly referred to “Wonder Weapons”). Sniper Elite V2 focuses on the V2 rocket program, Sniper Elite III is about destroying a prototype supertank, and this latest game involves ending the Nazi guided missile program. The formula is a bit cliche to be honest, but it works for what Sniper Elite 4 needs to have; great gameplay with a serviceable story.
Sniper Elite 4‘s story in particular is ancillary. It isn’t the reason to play it, it’s just the medium in which the game takes place. The story is forgettable at best.
Wow, that sounds so negative. The story isn’t offensive, just uninteresting and uninspired. However, that’s not the reason you buy a game like Sniper Elite 4. You buy it to shoot bad guys in creative and interesting ways.
You can extend the life of the game through the multiplayer offering, which is actually pretty good when you can get someone to play with you. There are not only competitive options, like the standard Deathmatches and Capture The Flag modes, but also some unique twists. One mode takes away your ability to get to your opponents by putting you on opposite sides of a No Man’s Land, forcing players to snipe each other. Another puts a modifier on match scores by making the kill distance matter, encouraging players to stay at a distance.
Then you still have the option to play cooperatively with other players, allowing you to jump into story missions with a buddy or take on waves of Nazis. Still, Rebellion found yet another way to change things up by creating a game mode which tasks one player as a sniper, while the other acts as a spotter.
It’s clear that Rebellion put a great deal of thought into making sure that players have ample opportunities to take on new and interesting challenges.
WILDCARD: GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE
As I mentioned above, this is not a game for the squeamish. The level of gore is off the charts; like Soldier of Fortune level of gore, if not worse. It’s visceral violence at a level that is uncommon outside of games like Mortal Kombat. That said, it isn’t a deal breaker for myself, though I can understand why some may find this feature to be unsettling. Still, it’s an entirely optional feature, which can be turned off in the settings if one desires to do so.
Though I don’t know why you’d want to…
Sniper Elite 4 is probably what I’d consider to be one of the better shooters I’ve played, but I also have a soft spot for the series as a whole. It’s a wonderfully gory game, with plenty of features that add unique twists to the shooter genre. There’s something that’s incredibly satisfying about taking a shot from over 150 meters away and watching as the round barrels towards it target, where you’re subjected to a crash course in human anatomy.
To those looking for a challenging shooter which rewards patience and precision, look no further than Sniper Elite 4. Now if only they’d make an option to play in a first-person mode to further enhance the realism options.
Have you played, or even heard of, Sniper Elite 4? Is this a game that piques your interest?
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