When presented with a sniper rifle in most games, I'm quick to switch it out for literally any other gun. I've charged into an open field with a shotgun before just to avoid having to hang back and line up my shot. Knowing this, you might think that I'm not the right person to review a game titled Sniper Elite 4, and you may be right. If you're looking for an in-depth dive into the game's various difficulty settings and descriptions of a completely silent playthrough, then my experience doesn't really apply. However, if you look at any of the game's ridiculously over the top X-ray kills and yearn for the days of Blitz: The League and Mortal Kombat, then you'll know exactly why I had to play through this campaign. The Sniper Elite games have become skilled at pleasing multiple audiences by taking advantage of customizable difficulty settings, and this means that I can have my skeleton filled explosive romp while a more serious player can get down to brass tacks and take out opponents from the other side of the map. Either way, Sniper Elite 4 delivers a polished Nazi shooting experience that is hard to pass up.
OSS commando Karl Fairburne returns from his African adventure in Sniper Elite 3 to take on a new mission on the Italian peninsula. Meeting with a group of freedom fighters, he must join their cause and cripple the fascist operations throughout the region. This means that most objectives involve retrieving plans, blowing up trucks, disabling radios, and piercing the skulls of innumerable guards and soldiers. The narrative takes a few twists and turns, but I was hard-pressed to care about any of it. The dialogue is mostly hamfisted (especially when it comes to the named bad guys), and the few cutscenes that do pop up during and after missions seem wholly disconnected from the chaos you're causing as you make your way through each Nazi facility. Of course, this doesn't even get into Karl's dealings with various Mafia bosses that seem to exist only because the game is set in Italy. Shakespeare this ain't.
Thankfully, a lack of decent storytelling is hardly an issue. Following in the tradition of last year's excellent HITMAN, Sniper Elite 4 drops you into a large open playground and lets you go nuts. The levels aren't expansive enough that you'll get lost, but they don't really feel restrictive either. Instead, they smartly funnel you towards objectives and give you multiple ways of tackling everything, even if those methods don't involve firing a gun. In fact, the most fun I had with the game came from leaving a path of landmines and tripwires wherever I went. This led to moments where I'd line up a perfect headshot only for the camera to suddenly cut to someone halfway across the world causing a great distraction by being engulfed in an explosion. The melee systems are also pretty efficient, and I felt comfortable taking on one or two soldiers with just my knife if I got into a rough situation.
This isn't to say that the "Sniper" part of Sniper Elite ever falls into the background. You have a wide array of rifles to choose from, each with unique scopes and various effective ranges. You have to contend with bullets dropping over long distances and the speed and direction of the wind affecting trajectory. You can fire stealthily by either waiting for a loud noise to mask your shot or loading in suppressed ammo. If you're into this side of the game, you can make your experience immensely more difficult by turning off the HUD markers and toning down the more over the top elements. This creates a simulation-esque experience that will certainly have its fans, but I can only confirm that these features work as advertised and that I'm not a very good sniper.
Speaking of options, most every tool and weapon in the game has some sort of alternate function, which gave me lots of variety in my killing methods throughout the campaign. Leaving a box of TNT on the ground and firing at it as someone passes by works, but it's much more fun to switch to the timed TNT and hurl it at a man's face, knocking them out and watching them explode before they regain consciousness. In addition, any game where you can slap duct tape onto a grenade and stick it to a guy's helmet is alright in my book.
Once you're done with the campaign, Sniper Elite has a few options to keep you engaged with their world of long range assassinations. If you still want something to do on your own, you can load into one of the several Survival maps that gives you a base to defend and waves of Nazis to entrap or fire upon as you see fit. If you want to take the fight online, the game also features a multitude of co-op modes. You can snipe alongside your friends throughout the entire campaign or in Survival mode, and this only ramped up the opportunities for chaos and nonsense for me. There is also a full Deathmatch suite available, although I didn't see a huge audience growing here during my time with the game. If you can get a match, it's a unique set of game modes that are interesting to play, but you'll really have to be on the ball to take on the game's most dedicated fans.
Running the game on PC, Sniper Elite 4 presents a gorgeous world with large environments and detailed character models that break in all the right places. The voices of the Nazi fodder enemies are varied and contribute to the atmosphere, but the player character's line can come across as a bit annoying after hearing them for the fifteenth time in a single level. I did experience some strange phantom inputs while running the game on Steam using both a Steam controller and a standard Xbox One pad. No matter if it was wired in or wireless, I would sometimes fire off a shot or get kicked to the menus without any explanation. I wasn't able to reproduce this while playing with mouse and keyboard, so those who want to use joysticks may want to stick to the game's console ports.
Sniper Elite 4 isn't going to compete for the spotlight with 2017's biggest games so far, but it does fill a few niches that don't get touched on as often as they used to. It provides both a fun arcade atmosphere and a solid gameplay foundation, ultimately giving players the tools to tweak their experience as they see fit. Even if you're not a huge fan of sniping, Rebellion's latest can be a fun fling for anyone who misses World War 2, as well as those who are looking for a new game to pick up after mastering the wave of recent open world stealth titles. This is truly the first game focused on stealth that I've enjoyed from start to finish, and it accomplished this by focusing less on punishing restrictions and more on letting the player be as quiet or as loud as they wanted. No matter what level of stealth you desire, Sniper Elite 4 delivers a satisfying experience that is sure to please.
Sniper Elite 4 was reviewed on PC (Affiliate) via Steam with a code provided by the developer. It's also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
- Varied Stealth Gameplay
- Over The Top Presentation
- Wealth of Modes
- Lame Narrative
- Technical Quirks on PC