*DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS WITHIN THIS REVIEW ARE MY OWN. I PURCHASED THIS GAME FOR MY OWN USE. THIS REVIEW IS PURELY FOR THE SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT - AS ONLINE SERVERS WERE RATHER QUIET AT THE TIME OF REVIEWING*
Sniper Elite 4 is a an action, adventure, third person tactical-shooter and stealth game, developed and published by Rebellion. Originally released back in 2017 and is available to play on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Here’s the Steam Page blurb before we start sorting this basket of apples, "Discover unrivalled sniping freedom in the largest and most advanced World War 2 shooter ever built. Experience tactical third-person combat, gameplay choice and epic longshots across gigantic levels as you liberate wartime Italy from the grip of Fascism."
…Did you read the blurb? Good. Because, this game does exactly what it says in its blurb. minus a couple of descriptors, pretty much…
I was first anointed into the Sniper Elite series, back in 2012 when they released Sniper Elite V2, and the key things I remembered from this title were the awesome feeling weapons, and the totally bananas x-ray kill cams. Unfortunately I missed the North African escapades of 3, but when I saw 4 on sale a few months back, I had to pick it up; it was a steal, and curious nostalgia prevailed. Playing Sniper Elite 4 is a bit like fishing... you can either patiently wait in your boat for the fish to bite, or you can throw a brick of TnT into the water and make the fish come to you - in pieces. So dust off your ghillie-suit, find an inconspicuous bush to hide in, and I’ll tell you (without spoilers) what went down in World War 2 Italy when I booted this puppy up.
You play as American OSS Sniper Karl Fairburne, who’s main goal throughout the game is to destroy a new radio guided anti-ship weapon being used by the Nazis, and assassinate some Nazi officers, including some rather high ranking ones, in various locations around Italy. Your objectives could include collecting intel on Nazi convoys, clearing checkpoints, disabling weapons, diving deep into Nazi bunkers, and many more war/espionage-esque tasks. However, this game will still have you rearranging Nazi troops into meat puzzles with well placed shots, hidden traps, close range shootouts (as you claw for an escape), or in some cases, melee takedowns, that will leave the clean up crew shocked and appalled at your actions - in the name of freedom.
The story in this game feels more like window dressing, rather than taking you on a sweeping adventure. Each level begins with you walking around the mission briefing room, which changes from glorious sandy Mediterranean beaches to grey dusty cellars, speaking to the available NPCs to get your objectives for the particular destination, and thrusting you into the world to figure it out and get the job done.
Besides that, it does a good job at giving you the feel of the time and tension, nothing feels out of place for the period, and it gives the landscapes you explore a life of their own. Whether that is a tiny port town with its windy back streets, or villages in the mountains that are torn apart by conflict, Sniper Elite 4 sets the mood for battle well, and it’s loose story serves its purpose for some dramatic landscapes.
If it’s deep and meaningful characters your looking for, you many need to look somewhere else. Character development was rather beige, in a loosely woven plot that is more geared around getting you to interact with the environments its provided, instead of delving deep into the psyche of an american sniper trying to do his bit in one of the most turbulent times in human history. The voice acting in Sniper Elite 4 is told the same way that most war time shooters are these days, by grumbly monotones that gently sift into the background, or by jarringly eccentric characters, in this case with some very, very, very questionable accents…very, that at the best of times clashed and felt janky, especially with the botoxed character models chewing toffees in front of each other instead of moving in time with the script.
Other than these short 5-10 minute interludes, the story is rather irrelevant - you’re a stealthy killing machine with a list of jobs to do, and priority numero uno is to take down as many of the third Reich as you can on your way to the end goal of the level. There were a couple of nice touches that did catch my eye, when you tag enemies from a distance with your binoculars, sometimes the game will give you little facts about the specific soldiers life at home, or announce they have a collectible letter for you to loot and read after their demise - however, these were hidden deep within the sub-menus, and were forgotten most of the time due to how far out of the action you’d have to go for a tiny snapshot at the life in the times.
The game paints a nice canvas for you to vandalise with the blood of fallen foes. How you choose to navigate this minefield is where the game gets its strength.
The levels in Sniper Elite 4 are stunning to look at, when your first dropped into the zone you either scamper on to the shore on from your tiny little fishing boat, roll out the back of a moving truck, or crawl up the side of a mountain face, and all of this gives you a lovely viewing platform to take it all in… before you paint the town red. Levels are open and vast, and give you a variety of ways to tackle certain objectives. The core gameplay loop felt satisfying to puzzle through, find a suitable hiding spot, tag all the enemies (or environmental obstacles, blowing up explosive barrels, truck fuel tanks, dropping suspended haulage on enemies and the like from a safe distance is always fun) in the surrounding area with your binoculars, plan your attack, dive in, find or kill what or who you are looking for, and repeat. Equipment-wise you have access to three types of guns (rifle, pistol, or machine gun / shotgun), ammo types (suppressed or not), and a whole host of trip mines or grenades to toy with, as well as lures such as throwing rocks or whistling to get enemies where you want them. All of these are easy enough to access through the provided radial menu, making it simple to change your flava mid encounter.
The gameplay falls into a couple of categories which I’ll chat through next, also I’ll dip into the various difficulties before moving onto the games overall quality.
Stealth / Campy-Mc-Camperson-And-The-Camping-Crew
I feel this is where the game shines at it’s best, nothing beats taking down an entire encampment without anyone knowing what’s going on. Sniper Elite 4 provides many bushes, chest high walls, vehicles, rooftops, and doorways for you to use for all your devious plans. Moving throughout the game you have the option of being stood up, crouched, or full blown on-your-stomach prone crawling. Sprinting, or moving quickly crouched, generates noise that can be heard by enemies, which encourages you in close quarters to move slowly to anticipate or set up the next encounter. At distance, when it comes to taking your shots with the sniper, you can chose to fire it right off the cuff, or hold your breath to get a smoother and cleaner shot. If you land a successful shot, the game gives you a lovely moment of pause, as you cinematically take in the bullet travelling through the air, and in x-ray form, watch the organs or bones rearrange and shatter, as your foe’s essence collapses into the nether realm - it’s graphic, but nonetheless awesome. All these mechanics felt fantastic, from the moments of bullet time to the pre-planning of mayhem. Placing trip mines in doorways or around corners and whistling to draw them to their splattery fate, always felt satisfying. If enemies discovered you, the UI always let you know whether they had just noticed you, to when you had been completely seen, and the camp had been alerted. Offering red ghosts of yourself to depict where you had been seen, allowing you to either set up the search party for an explosive or stealthy end, or for you to re-position and try again.
Gunz-Blazing / “Arnie sent me…”
Now all that stealth stuff being said, there’s nothing wrong when things turn south to whip out your trusty machine gun, and pepper the bad guys away. Sometimes being known or open about your position lures back-up troops from other camps to leave their post and join the frey, making it easier to thin the herd for your next stealth assault. But be warned, certain troop types can call in some nasty air support assaults against you, which can lead to a sticky end. I did have a few issues on some “louder” runs with enemies shooting through walls and floors, which was infuriating in places. Explosives were clean and clear about their use, or arc of trajectory, and if your pinned down by an enemy tank (or group of Nazis) you can always grab a fallen soldiers anti-panzer launcher to blow them to smithereens.
Difficulty / Biting-Off-More-Than-I-Can-Chew
Easy and normal difficulty are exactly what you expect, the game provides simplicity by removing bullet drop from easy, firing like a laser with your sights, to some amount of curve on normal (which is assisted by the UI when you hold your breath, so your not forever whiffing your shots). However the hard to authentic difficulties steeply climb up. Allowing you to fine tune your shot, compensating for wind, or distance, to completely removing the UI for you to completely figure it out on your own. If this is your kettle of fish and you want to calculate every single round that is going to leave your rifle - go nuts! But for me, allas, it was far more mathematical and environmentally aware than my casual ‘point and make the enemies fall down’ approach to play allows.
Sniper Elite 4 provides some beautiful scenery, exciting gameplay, and a loose story that holds it all together, but the quality of its delivery is what drags it down in places. The game provides you with a wide range of tools at your disposal, but the weapons in your load out lack any form of real difference, alternative rifles, pistols (that offer little to no noticeable difference), shotguns, or a few slightly different sounding machine guns isn’t a wealth of options. Also, some of the textures are less to be desired on close inspection, and at times, certain locations looked like something you would expect from the older generations of console games. Walls and floors appear pixelated, and some of the characters look more like mannequins rather than people. The enemies AI would sometimes freak out and send people running into walls in a few spots, and alerted enemies may just wander off in the middle of a battlefield. These AI tweaks weren’t common, but would throw you out of the moment. Overall, the gameplay held its own, but certain aspects which enrich the experience felt forgotten. If you enjoy methodically taking down troops, and sneaking around to get your objectives completed, with all the x-ray finishers you could want, then this has everything you need.
There’s nothing really to note from the sound in this title. Most of the time it felt like a marching band with three speeds, generic, tense and quiet. Giving you all the military vibe the game needs to get you feeling in the mood for tackling the tasks at hand, with some subtle Italian flavour. The environments felt alive in moments of quiet, gentle bird song if you were in the forests, to water lapping up the coasts of its more coastal destinations. One major niggle I had with the game was the weird sound range of enemies. Sometimes you would hear German voices really loudly beside you and think you had missed someone, or walked into the middle of a group of enemies you hadn’t tagged, just to discover they were across the plaza, around a corner, and nowhere near you. For a game that revolves around hearing the enemy, and remaining undetected, this threw me off more times than I’d have liked.
Everything audible here is what you expect from a shooter (sound bugs excluded), nothing to write home about - or to listen to on your daily commute, just the basics for immersion.
Now I know that it sounds from the majority of this review that I disliked this game, but in actual fact, I really enjoyed it. It takes a step back from most action shooters around, and asks you to think a moment before diving headlong in. Yes there wasn’t a lot of customisable options to vary your playstyle (other than difficulty settings), and the story is rather lacking, but it gave me enough to make a playground in WW2 Italy. A game where I got to play the poised eagle in the trees, praying amongst the crowd of bread-crumb-gobbling Nazi pigeons. It lacks the flair of titles such as Metal Gear Solid, where you can sneak up in boxes to surprise your enemies, or litter the ground in lude magazines to distract them - Sniper Elite 4 leaves that for a more authentic experience. As I said at the start, this game is more like fishing than you would expect, do you wait and take the shot at a more opportune time, or throw caution into the breeze and risk being spotted and having to fight your way out, all the while leaving your enemies broken in your wake.
|Platforms:||PC | PS4 | Xbox One|
|Price:||£39.99 | €59.99 | $59.99|
|Story Completion Time:||10 Hours|
|100% Completion Time:||34 Hours|
|Fun action stealth game, with tons of variety in ways to complete each level.||Loose story and ropey characters, with questionable accents.|
|Gruesome x-ray kill cams to fuel your bloodlust, and make shots super satisfying.||AI and sound bugs still present this far after release.|
|Beautiful vistas, and big maps to explore on your adventures through Italy.||Some elements seemed very PS2 or older on a game that was released in 2017.|
|Arbitrary Final Score|
Review by Peter
Sniper Elite 4 is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows for, £39.99/$59.99. Thank you to Rebellion for supplying the assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.