Right after his mission in North Africa, with Sniper Elite 3 (reviewed back in 2014), American sniper Karl Fairburne is backm entrusted to handle a delicate mission in Italy plunged under the regime of Mussolini, the puppet of the Nazi Germany regime and faithful ally of Adolf Hitler with now Sniper Elite 4. A new country means for sure new settings, and one of my favorite sniper title has not skimped on content, meeting most of my expectations, even if it’s a rather safe sequel for UK-based Rebellion studios.
After a quick tutorial that allows newcomers to discover the basics and novelties of the series, like camouflage in the foliage, or use surrounding plane noises to mask your shots, players quickly find themselves immersed in the heart of the action in Italy, our new “play” zone if I may say so. In addition to being a faithful visual rendering of a Southern Italy coast whether with the architecture, the azure skies of the Mediterranean sea, Sniper Elite 4 offers an increased freedom of movement with larger maps in both width, length but also verticality with cliffs and tower nests. Once on the field, true to all Sniper Elite games, you are free to accomplish your set mission goals in the order that you want, but above all, with the method of your choice, with the similar array of weapons on top of your trusty sniper, including machine gun, handguns, explosives and more.
Much more than just a game where you have to shoot everything that moves, Sniper Elite 4 is a proper third person stealth-based tactical shooter game, which wants you to live the feeling of a true WWII marksman in the field, at a time when planning was done by the sniper in the middle of the battlefield. For you have a pair of binoculars allowing you to observe surroundings and mark enemies and objects, and Rebellion have removed the limit of 4 marked “element” due to – what I believe – a better experience in such larger maps. It is worth noting that each target observed on the binocular will give you a lot of details, including its rank, current state of vigilance, or even an important objects it carries on him which could be crucial to the mission.
In order to propose a more credible adventure – and make the game lifespan longer – Rebellion indirectly pushes the collector in us to fully search every nooks and crannies of the huge playground, thanks to a series of collectibles to either destroy or gather. While some can be simple such as scattered letters here and there, some are actually stashed on enemy soldiers, and will obviously make the task harder. This is where we come back to the important part of this game: planning. Don’t expect to play Sniper Elite 4 like any modern shooter, as you’ll easily get surrounded by enemies thanks to a “smarter” AI that triangulate your location based on where they heard your shot coming from. Back in the 1940s, silencers or suppressors (the proper term) were only available on smaller firearms such as handguns, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that proper one were implemented into bolt-action rifles, and true to the history relevance of the game’s theme, Rebellion made sure that weapons sounded like the WWII era but were also noticed by the enemies the same way. For that you’ll have to plan, plan and plan like a proper recon-sharpshooter, and find ways to break the enemy platoons from a set target, mask your shot by waiting for a plane to pass by, put a trap with a trip-mine, and so on.
The possibilities are so vast that I’ll need hours to explain all sorts of tactics I’ve came out with, but that’s the best part about the game, especially as it allows for real replayability of the game without feeling bored. Karl can now take advantage of the verticality offered by the maps with climbing capabilities that give a new sense of freedom in our exploration of the missions. For example, it is possible to infiltrate through the roofs to take a soldier by surprise, and continue your recon of the infantry camp below where your key target is hiding (usually a high-rank officer).
As mentioned above, Rebellion clearly revised its AI system, and make enemy solder more credible. Depending on the level of alert triggered, the opposing soldiers will either hunt you down, or opt for a group approach, not hesitating to even counter us from the flanks. Similarly, if the elimination of a simple infantry soldier will have little effect on the enemy’s morale, defeating a high-ranking officer often cuts off a platoon from the front lines, and we will see a rapid disorganization of troop which will allow us to get closer to our goal.
Of course, the name Sniper Elite is inseparable with the iconic Killcam effect, which allows us to witness in “Bullet Time” mode, the trajectory of our shot as it hit your adversaries. Be reassure that despite the presence of many novelties in this fourth episode, developers didn’t abandon this element that have helped publicize the franchise, and to be honest brings so much excitement and accomplishment to a well-timed shot. For those of you that never played a game in the series, when a long-range shot targets a vital part of the body such as the head, the killcam is triggered and shows you detailed Xray effect of how the bullet penetrate the skull and burst the enemy’s brain… Gruesome but dead beautiful to watch. This killcam has been also added to other actions including melee combat and stealth kills, but also exploding vehicle weaknesses such as gas tanks (introduced back in Sniper Elite III).
To modernize a little bit the gaming experience and trends of current shooting games, Sniper Elite 4 gives us the ability to customize different classes of soldier in order to quickly switch between different equipment loadout before each start of a mission. On top of that, Karl can also equip perks (as he gain ranks) such as increasing the maximum heart-rate to better stabilize its aim, reduce fall damage and or carry more ammo. While it’s a very basic skill tree, this allows you nevertheless to customize your game experience a little depending on your course of action. We let you guess the happiness experienced once the silent ammunition at our disposal and the Ability to fire at any time without being detected.
Like the success of the series in the past, the game offers shooting physics that is credible with a bunch of different simulation aids depending on the difficulty level chosen. In the most accessible modes (easy, normal), a red marker will signal the impact area of your shot, while in the highest difficulty you will have to judge the distance and impact of gravity on your shot without any sort of computer generated aim-bot. The game capitalizes on its strengths while refining some of the defects of the past such as the rather simple AI, but also expand approach possibilities, yet still seems to be technically low in comparison to other games nowadays. The game’s textures are often disappointing specially when it comes to folliage, and you can notice a lot of environment clipping and aliasing even with the Day-1 update. I’m pretty sure that a patch will correct these technical faults that are sadly inseparable from the saga since the launch and seem to be linked to the game’s engine.
In any case, all technical issues aside, if the singleplayer adventure is not enough to keep you playing for long, Sniper Elite 4 offers several other game modes, including the possibility of playing a cooperative campaign or pure multiplayer competitive modes, ranging from objective base games, to even a horde-survival mode will that will have you face waves of opponents.
Sniper Elite 4 was reviewed using an Xbox One review copy from Rebellion. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in retail and digital store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The killcams
• A great freedom of approach
• The Italian landscape feels fitting
• A lot of replayability
• A better AI
• More verticality in the map
• More customization options
• Diverse coop and multiplayer modes
• Not flawless on the technical point of view
• While the AI is better, it's still flawed in some instances