There are surprisingly few World War II games on Switch, so it’s a welcome surprise to find a very robust version of 2017’s Sniper Elite 4 gracing Nintendo’s system, even if the action switches from most of the common locations to the sunny coasts of Italy.
Then again, it wouldn’t feel like a Sniper Elite game if you found yourself placed in a Call of Duty style war zone. The games have always been about either a lone gunman or a small team and the fourth outing is no exception, with returning sniper Karl Fairburne back on the Nazi hunting job. Karl has a penchant for shooting Nazis from a distance and that comes in handy as he’s tasked with single handedly saving the day from another megalomaniac who just happens to be one of Hitler’s far-right hand men. Rebellion’s latest playground is more open world than before, though, and this alters the gameplay, making it feel more in line with the current generation of open world games out there rather than the more linear approach offered by the previous games in the series.
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 third Switch game and this makes it easier to find hiding and sniping places, as well as to spot enemies from further away and plan attacks. One of the good things about porting a three year old game is that the developers can make use of everything they’ve learned to make this look every bit as good on Switch as it did on PC and console back in the day. It looks and plays surprisingly well, even in handheld mode, though I found myself squinting at some of the text and, yes, the graphics aren’t as sharp in order to keep the framerate smooth, but they’re still good. 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 thankfully provided on this version, complete with Survival, including co-op and vs play, and it works well, though in usual Switch fashion you’ll need to find a way to voice chat outside of the game.
The fourth Sniper Elite game has always been a highlight of the series and it has thankfully transferred perfectly to Switch with all the additional content included as well.