Sniper Elite has been around for a while but it’s always felt dwarfed by those bigger war related games from EA and Activision despite having its own unique style.
Hopefully Sniper Elite 4 will change things as it’s a solid game that provides a different take on the World War II theme, thanks, in part, to the Italian setting.
Of course other things stay pretty much constant with the series; you play a gruff US army loner with a penchant for shooting Nazis from a distance and single highhandedly saving the day from another megalomaniac. Rebellion has listened and improved the game this time around, though, making AI far more intelligent and responsive and setting the whole game in some huge open world levels instead of the linear approach of previous games.
To help the player and possibly to keep the AI working as well as it does, the huge open levels have zones that require certain objectives to be completed in. These are self-contained areas so that your antics and body count won’t affect other areas, leaving you a little more breathing space between these sections and giving you a unique opportunity to take in the rather pretty scenery in the process.
Maps are well designed with some nice high vantage points, crafty Nazi outposts and plenty of natural and man-made objects creating both stealth opportunities for you and cover for your enemy. There were a fair few surprises thanks to this, where rounding on a seemingly empty enemy camp meant getting caught by surprise. Of course, that’s the point of recon, which the game encourages you to do, picking out enemies from a good vantage point and mapping out their movements before working out who to kill first.
The sniper rifle is, unsurprisingly, the go-to tool of death, but you can still rely on your Thompson up close and the occasional close-quarters takedowns. But the open world also lets you have more fun with mines and grenades, planning your attacks to take out a whole group at once. It may well be called ‘Sniper’ Elite but given a landmine with a programmable timer and a handy room which is soon to be full of Nazis, you just can’t resist the fun. It’s the deadly equivalent of placing a bucket of water above the door.
Thankfully, the aesthetics have also been improved for this fourth outing (5th if you include V2) and this makes it easier to find hiding and sniping places, as well as to spot enemies from further away and plan attacks. Some of the levels are beautiful on a decent PC and make you thankful that Rebellion went for an Italian setting, though there’s still the feeling that more could have been done with the maps (dare I say DLC, perhaps?). Back once again are the X-ray slow motion shots, the one thing that Sniper Elite games have become notorious for, being able to see exactly what damage your bullet is doing to a body, sometimes with painfully hilarious results. It will make you think twice about aiming for the certain parts of the body after a few moments of painful x-ray shots between the legs.
It’s also worth mentioning Authentic Mode, where you’ll get less ammo and a more realistic sniper experience, having to take into account elevation and wind speed, as well as providing less chance of you surviving. It’s a tough mode that involves a lot of patience, but then every mode, even the easy arcade one, benefits from patience as it allows you to collect more tools and upgrade weapons, then use them to create some great scenarios.
The story does wane towards the end, too many strands (including the obvious Mafia element) make for a messy middle but, be honest, you’re in this for the Nazi shooting, aren’t you? Multiplayer is solid enough in terms of the modes if provides, including co-op and vs play, though in my short time with it I’ve found some of the larger team deathmatch maps suffered from lag or became firefights rather than stealthy encounters.
It’s certainly a Sniper Elite game, though, with all the baggage that brings, but Rebellion’s ongoing series has at least seen an AI and graphics upgrade, plus enough tweaks to still recommend it to fans of the series and those looking for something a little different to the latest Battlefield and Call of Duty games. Sniper Elite 4 is not perfect by any means but it still manages to hit the spot.