Sniper Elite 4
I first discovered the Sniper Elite franchise back in 2014, when Steam gave away free keys for Volume 2 as part of a promotion. I enjoyed the game so much I purchased all the available DLC. Having regularly played both Call of Duty and Battlefield, it was a pleasant change at the time, for a game to be set during World War II. Later that year I bought, Sniper Elite 3, as it offered a far more polished gaming experience, compared to earlier instalments. Furthermore, the story was set in North Africa; a theatre of war that is often neglected in multimedia. Although the plot was somewhat arbitrary, Sniper Elite 3, like its predecessor, still offered an immersive gaming experience with an emphasis on situational awareness and stealth. The franchise has never been about “running and gunning” and favours the patient and methodical player.
This spring saw the release of Sniper Elite 4 which offers yet another refined and improved version of the game. The action this time is set in Italy, leading up the Allied Invasion. Like the previous three games, Sniper Elite 4 is based around completing a series of missions through stealth, sniping and guerrilla tactics. The x-ray killcam is still present in all its gory glory, as well as the option to set booby traps. The weapons are authentic and varied. Customisations are unlocked by progress and there’s a rudimentary skills tree. However, developer Rebellion, have made two significant changes. The maps are now much larger and have an open world format. Objectives can be done in any order. Furthermore, climbing now plays a bigger role in the game, allowing a greater use of the environment.
Where Call of Duty goes to great length to offer players a complex narrative in campaign mode, Sniper Elite has always favoured a more simplistic approach. That’s not to say the story driving the game is bad, as it is not. It just not anything special. The character animations are effectively motion captured and the voice acting is adequate. It’s the gameplay experience that generates the excitement and fun. At times Sniper Elite 4 feels like a virtual sixties war movie. The music cues are well timed and certainly increase the tension as you stalk your prey. Conversely, if you make a mistake and blow your cover, the ambient atmosphere really creates a sense of fear. Remember this is a game where the enemy will triangulate your position if you fire more than three shots from the same place. Also, if you kill a stray guard, don’t forget to hide the body. Unless you want to booby trap it.
Although there are only eight missions to the main campaign, they are substantive, varied and replayable. The maps include such diverse locations as a hillside village, a naval base and an underground factory. With a competent graphics card the game does look rather handsome. There are also more in-depth co-op and multiplayer elements to Sniper Elite 4 that address the campfest problems that featured in earlier versions of the game. Another novel feature is the ability to play through the campaign collaboratively, with another player. I would recommend new players to spend some time at the in-game firing range to test each weapon, before committing to a loadout. The rifles all handle differently and it’s important to find one that suits your style and methodology.
Sniper Elite 4 is a refreshing change of scene and pace for games of this genre. If you approach the game with a traditional FPS mentality then you will often fail the missions and not experience the best elements of the game. There are still bugs here and there with some of the gunshot ballistics being over powered. Vehicle and enemy AI is sometimes questionable and you may find yourself raising the difficulty setting to overcome them. However, biding one’s time can still provide great game play experiences. Luring enemies into a booby-trapped chokepoint can be especially satisfying. Plus, the new melee stealth kills are great fun. However, I still get a big kick out of long range rifle shots while masking the gunfire with environmental noise. My best Ghost kill is 239 metres.
Overall Sniper Elite 4 is a superior third person stealth game due to its atmosphere, tactical elements and nominal sandbox approach. This latest instalment is certainly the best version of the game to date. Developers Rebellion have successfully improved both its performance and accessibility, very much like CD Projekt Red have refined The Witcher series. Sniper Elite 4 at times reminds me of Hidden and Dangerous 2, which is a game I hold in high esteem. As I previously mentioned, the game draws heavily from big budget sixties and seventies war movies. Think Where Eagles Dare, Operation Crossbow and The Guns of Navarone. Sniper Elite 4 exudes these sorts of vibes. If you’re feeling quite adventurous, try playing while listening to the soundtrack of a classic war movie as it really adds to the game play.