Sniper Elite 4 Review
February 14, 2017.
Rebellion’s World War II stealth sniping game returns and manages to build on the work of the third installment with a robust campaign that provides an enormous amount of freedom to the player, as well as a full co-operative experience and a number of multiplayer modes. Once again you are in the shoes of veteran sniper Karl Fairburne as he takes the Nazi’s down single handed, one nut shot at a time, and furthers the Allied forces efforts.
The campaign moves from Africa to Italy this time, and much like previous games you are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out objectives for the Allied Forces. Stealth is key, so each mission begins the same way: find a high point and spend some time scanning the area with your binoculars and tagging key enemies and other points on the map that can help you in your objectives. There are vehicles, gas canisters, flammable containers, even suspended objects precariously suspended above hapless soldiers ready to be dropped on top of them. You are entirely free to approach each level any way you wish. All you have to do is complete the primary objective to finish the level, but there are always secondary objectives that can keep you busy for some time and enable you to explore as much of the level map as possible.
The maps are huge, complicated, and beautifully detailed. They range from cliff-side rural areas with bivouac camps to explore, to small towns complete with narrow streets, to a huge monastery and castello, to huge military complexes with bunkers and missile silos. As a sniper, your primary resource is stealth so planning shots is an important part of each level. In some maps there are environmental factors that can assist you in this, for example in the first level planes are flying overhead that will drown out any shot you make for a short time, in other maps there is equipment that you can tamper with that will make a noise on a semi-regular basis that can mask your progress.
It isn’t all about sniping, at the start of each mission you can select your loadout which includes a sniper, a secondary weapon that ranges from an SMG to a LMG, and a pistol. In addition you can take a small amount of consumable items with you, such as medkits, as well as grenades and mines and traps. You will spend much of your time sniping, but should your cover be blown there are ways to shoot yourself out of trouble which is very welcome.
The sniping is what Sniper Elite 4 is about, though, and it is violence porn in the extreme. The visceral X-Ray kills that are a staple of the series are again on display with slow motion close ups of bullets penetrating the body with bones splintering and organs deflating to the sounds of groans and squelching that are outrageous in their implications.
The sexual parallels are further exemplified in the process to set up these gloriously violent kills; you lie down, hold your breath, steady yourself, line up your shot then squeeze the trigger, your bullet erupting from the end with an explosive excitement. If it’s a hit you follow the bullet’s trajectory, burrowing its way through the air to land in your target, his blank unaware face staring out as his lower jaw disintegrates into pieces.
Nearly every kill you make with the sniper ends in this way and perhaps worryingly it never gets old seeing your hapless target’s innards or more satisfyingly, gonads, disintegrating to the chimes of XP markers: “TESTICLE SHOT”; “LONG DISTANCE”; “GHOST KILL”, flash up on screen providing a delightful feedback loop for your efforts.
The campaign has eight stages to it, and depending on how much you wish to complete in each level can take you anywhere from forty minutes to two hours to complete. The difficulty on Normal verges on easy as most of the work is done for you, and the AI is laughably dumb. When scoping in on an enemy or other target a convenient reticle guides you as to whether you will make the shot or not, turning amber when you are close and red when you are guaranteed a hit. On harder difficulties the HUD is removed and the tags that you make through your binoculars do not highlight for you. Furthermore, on each shot you will need to take into account the drop distance on your bullets and the direction and speed of the wind. If that isn’t enough for you, you can also set custom difficulty levels where you can specify the scarcity of ammo as well as other modifiers to truly create the experience that you want.
If sniping alone isn’t your bag, you can play the entire campaign in co-op with a partner, and in addition to that there are also two other specific co-operative modes: a standard survival mode where you and your partner have to survive waves of enemies over a set amount of time and a wonderful asymmetric mode called Overwatch where one of you is the spotter on the ground and the other is the sniper clearing enemies in front of you so you can carry out the level’s objectives. Unfortunately for Overwatch there are only two maps which once mastered provide very little incentive to replay. There is also a Multiplayer section that provides a number of different game types ranging from standard deathmatch to a mode where it isn’t kills that win, it is the kill distance. All modes are on large, detailed maps that mirror the campaign locales.
Sniper Elite 4 is a pretty extensive package offering a lengthy campaign with a large amount of customisation and difficulty options to really challenge fans, as well as cooperative modes and multiplayer. The story itself is pretty nondescript, and despite the beauty and detail of the environments, the character animations are fairly ugly, the enemy AI is also pretty dire on occasion getting stuck on the environment or just standing still for easy pickings. Rebellion, however, knows where Sniper Elite’s strengths lie, and that is in the deliciously gruesome slow motion kills are an absolute highlight and are very much a guilty thrill.
X-Ray kills never get old
Each map provides a staggering amount of freedom
Lots of customisable difficult options
Story tails off
Not a great deal of variety in missions
The AI is really dumb
A solid sharpshooting experience that knows where its strength lie. The open ended nature of each level, as well as the myriad ways to despatch enemies makes each level interesting, but it is the X-Ray kills that remain the centrepiece of this particular franchise.