Sniper Elite 4
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Sniper Elite 4 is Rebellion’s next iteration of its WW2-era, third-person precision-shooter franchise. The series has come quite a long way from the first title’s release some 12 years ago, and it just keeps getting better and better, although “better” might be subjective. Yes, both gameplay and graphics are more polished with every new game, but when you strip it down to its core, Sniper Elite 4 feels like a slightly enhanced version of Sniper Elite 3, in more ways than one.
This time, Karl and his immaculate hairstyle are off to Italy. After the Nazis were stopped in Africa (as neatly depicted in Sniper Elite 3 as well as in a history book near you), Karl is sent ahead before a full-on Allied invasion, to mess things up for the Nazis. Do a little recon, take down a few targets of opportunity, help the local partisans and, of course, shoot as many Nazi schlongs as he possibly can. That’s right my fellow snipers and sniperettes: Nazi Schlong Shooting is back on the menu.
The first thing you’ll notice is the eye-candy. As befitting a modern game, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous, and you’ll find yourself taking a break from your stealthy murder spree to soak in the beautiful Italian countryside. PC gamers will be happy to know that Sniper Elite 4 visuals are entirely open to configuration on the PC: Full DX12 support (with Async Computing implementation that really lets the Pascall-series GPUs shine), SLI support, a full range of graphics options and excellent control implementation with both mouse/keyboard and gamepad. This is a PC game that doesn’t feel like a rushed port but rather a well-thought and well-executed Nazi killing simulator.
The second thing to notice are the levels: they are absolutely huge. The official blurb claims that the levels in Sniper Elite 4 are about 3 times the size of its predecessor’s, and having played both, I tend to agree. But it’s not just the sheer volume of space for you to run around in – it’s also the way the space is utilized. While huge, the levels do not feel deserted. There is always something to watch out for or advance carefully towards, a hidden collectible to find or Nazi presence to engage. In such large levels, sniper nests are now even more useful and the whole game feels more “snipery”, for lack of a better term.
Better yet, Sniper Elite 4 is clearly designed with replayability in mind – and that’s where the huge levels come into play. Once you’ve beaten a level once, you will unlock a unique set of 5 challenges to complete within the level. Often said challenges will be mutually exclusive and require completionists to run a level around 3 times for that perfect 100% stat. The challenges themselves are also interesting and each requires a completely different mindset. For example, an early-level challenge requires you to kill a Nazi once every 2 minutes. Another challenge requires you to grab a specific weapon and use it on a specific target, all within a narrow timeframe. These challenges are fun and optional, but they certainly add more value to this already expansive game.
Sniper Elite 4 wouldn’t be a Sniper Elite game without the series’ famous X-Ray system – that gruesome touch of realism, showing us in exacting and painful detail the moment where a Nazi has become no more. The X-Ray system is beefed up nicely and can now be triggered with melee takedowns, as well as traps and explosions. Now you can see Karl’s efficient knife-work, along with the specific trajectory a piece of shrapnel takes through a Nazi’s abdomen. Note this down: I predict that by the time Sniper Elite 8 is released, it will be in the “Recommended reading” study material for medical students looking to become surgeons.
Once you engage your enemies, they are absolutely relentless in trying to find and kill you – but they no longer cheat. In a major change from Sniper Elite 3, the Nazis no longer “magically” know where you are. Shooting through sound-masking noise or with suppressed rounds (that’s a thing now, I’ll get to it later) will simply make all enemies seek cover and coordinate searches as they try to pinpoint your location. With proper planning and careful shot placement you can wipe out entire divisions from a single cozy nest without ever being detected. In fact, if you begin your attack by taking out the squad’s commanding officer or higher-ranking Jaeger trooper, you can sow complete chaos in the ranks as the infantry soldiers scatter, disorganized.
Better enemies require better tools to deal with them, and the single biggest addition to your arsenal are the subsonic rounds. Completely silent (or just very quiet on the “Authentic” difficulty), these rare and precious rounds let you execute fascists with impunity without them ever knowing what hit them. But wait, there’s more – in Sniper Elite 4, every single item in Karl’s inventory has been given an “alternate mode” of sorts. Mines can be set to detonate immediately, or after a delay; medical supplies can be used to heal, but also to stabilize your heart rate for that crucial shot; the “distract” tool is either a whistle to draw enemies towards you (and their doom) or a rock you toss to lure enemies to another location (and their doom). Of course, switching modes is done on-the-fly and with a single click, instantly and seamlessly.
Sniper Elite 4 also continues its predecessor’s tradition of cooperation. Not only is the entire campaign playable in 2-player mode, but an entirely new co-op specific mode has been added: Overwatch. A perfect way to get your non-sniper-gaming friend to try Sniper Elite 4, Overwatch lets one player be the sniper while the other is the commando. Working together against the Nazi threat, Overwatch currently only has 2 missions but I have a good feeling that more are coming. Combined with the familiar “Survival” mode, Sniper Elite 4 is just as good playing online – in case you’re tired of shooting Nazis by yourself and need a backup buddy.
With all those new toys and levels to play with, it’s a shame that at least one part of the game was clearly neglected – which is the sound. Specifically, voice acting. Almost none of it feels right, and a lot of it is comically bad. The accents, especially, made me feel like I’m watching an old movie taking place in the Roaring Twenties, when every man spoke with a fake Italian accent whether he wanted to or not. Since mission briefings and objectives are now delivered through small “staging areas” where you speak with your allies and get assignments, it feels even worse when the embarrassing accents and shoddy delivery spill out.
While I still can’t quite shake off the feeling that Sniper Elite 4 is just Sniper Elite 3: The Italian Edition, this does not diminish the game’s excellence in any way. It’s not perfect and sometimes it does get goofy, but when it comes down to it Sniper Elite 4 delivers something almost no other game does: that amazing feeling of shooting a Nazi, from 600 meters away, without any assists, at night, uphill, straight in the babymaker.