Ask any Battlefield or Call of Duty player, playing as a sniper is cool. Rather than being in the thick of the action maybe capturing flags or zones, they keep their distance, providing support or clearing routes. To be a sniper, though, you have to be silent and stealthy, almost ghost-like as if you were never even there, enemies just dropping with bullet wounds and knife slits without explanation. It’s a true skill and one needed to survive as you’re a one-man army yet again in Sniper Elite 4 from Rebellion.
Sniper Elite remains solid in the World War II setting, this time hitting up the shores of Italy as Karl Fairburne, the series’ protagonist, who is an expert sniper tasked with going behind enemy lines to discover the origins of a “next-generation” guided bomb which has deadly accuracy never seen before in the war. As Karl, you must find and kill the officers, generals and scientists responsible for the creation of this devastating weapon that threatens the Allied advancements. An intriguing but poorly executed plot in an iconic time highlighting that other operations were underway aside from beach landings and bombardments. As good as Karl is as a soldier, he’s not one for having a shining personality. His stern, brief discussions with his contacts throughout the game are mainly forgettable, but they are more than enough to carry along the outline of a potentially interesting story. Information on the war and the weapon’s progress can be found by collecting dossiers found scattered across each map; important ones trigger Karl to comment and explain more about the Nazis and their intentions or hint at what Karl must do next.
Sniper Elite 4 is significantly bigger than its predecessor in both map size and kill possibilities. The first mission takes place in an island off the coast of Italy which demonstrates the journey ahead for you as the player. The first thing you’ll realise is that the island is impressively large as you find your first high-ground viewpoint; you set up shop and create your sniper’s nest or rather kneel down and whip out your binoculars using the right stick button. The binoculars allow you to tag enemy soldiers and destructible items, such as fuel drums or vehicles, that can be shot to take out a group of soldiers that are just out of sight. To take out enemies undetected takes time and patience in Sniper Elite 4. Shooting your powerful Springfield Rifle without a suppressor is a sure-fire way to get seen, as the noise will attract nearby undesirables who will come to see where the shot came from. Some levels have periodic environmental features that help mask your shot which can be used to your advantage. Fighter planes and bombers patrolling overhead or a huge rail-gun firing from a railway bridge make enough noise to allow you to take out the enemy without worry. Karl has now got impressive new traversal methods in Sniper Elite 4. He can now climb posts, chains and vault over obstacles with ease. He can also hang from ledges which can be used to execute any unsuspecting fool standing directly above him.
Karl is primarily a sniper, but there are times he must get up close and personal, and he’s more than capable. Aside from his primary rifle, Karl has a pistol and sub-machine gun in case things go south; or if he remains undetected, he can either use the aforementioned noise cover to shoot with his pistol or he can use his trusty knife for a brutal melee kill. Whichever way you take out an enemy, you’ll be granted with a spectacle as the series’ famous x-ray killcams are back and are just as brutal. The satisfaction of watching the path of your bullet leaving the chamber, drilling through the air finally making its target with skeletal and internal damage fully visible is fantastic. Brains are pierced and dislodged, kidneys and livers can be obliterated and bones shattered in an eye-watering bloody showcase. You can also see tendons and arteries tear and teeth shatter during melee kills, as well as absolute devastation caused to the human body as a nearby explosion erupts. Nothing is left to the imagination and to fantastic effect.
The missions are nicely varied. Placing explosive satchels on key structures, taking out a few Nazi head-honchos or hunting down key plans may be on the main agenda, but they are fleshed out with an abundance of side-missions, such as taking out checkpoints, an armored vehicle or assisting the nearby local resistance movement. Although there is plenty to do, the huge maps can sometimes feel empty, but it’s never long before you’re considering your next kill. Vehicles are there to use as an explosive distraction rather than be driven from one objective to the next, which usually means Karl has to traverse a lot of ground on foot. Luckily, he’s a fast sprinter, but this raises his heart rate and breathing which are factors you need to take into account when lining up for your next kill. A heightened heart rate compromises your scope’s stability, making it difficult to make a clean shot from afar. Then there’s cover to consider such as overgrown foliage or a nearby wall, or Karl can set up deadly traps using trip mines or TNT by planting them or sticking them onto a dead body for anyone who discovers it. Sniper Elite 4 has no shortage of possibilities that stimulate your imagination.
Sniper Elite 4 looks fantastic. The warm Italian sun can almost be felt as its rays peer through the clouds illuminating the countryside below, with Nazi ammunition caches in strategic positions among Italian streets and market squares with patrolling Nazis everywhere. There’s plenty to see in this authentic recreation of a beautiful country which, at times, made me almost forget that Karl is a lone wolf in a time of devastation, fascism and control, instead thinking how nice it would be to take a holiday there. Then there are the bloody killcams that are visual spectacles which take away the serenity of Karl’s surroundings in a satisfyingly brutal fashion.
Once the single-player campaign is done and dusted, Sniper Elite 4 is a strong multiplayer game too. Aside from the standard deathmatches, players can compete for the furthest kill, cooperatively tackle the campaign, or see how long they can last in a horde survival mode. Players can use the new traversal methods and sniping opportunities seen in the single-player campaign to outwit their opponents to get the best score. Whilst playing any of the multiplayer modes, I impressively encountered no lag with every match running well.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 14th February 2017