Sniper Elite 4 (PC) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 13 February 2017 / 11,207 Views
When developers look into making prequels its usually to further expand the universe/lore of the series, while of course allowing them to continue making money from a successfully established franchise. Sometimes it’s because the series ended in its prime but fans, and the publisher, demand more. In Sniper Elite’s case it’s to enable the developers to continue telling the story of an elite Nazi killer who just so happened to kill Hitler in the second game.
That isn’t to say that Rebellion Developments doesn’t have good reasons for returning to the series. Sniper Elite’s fantastically varied approach to enemy management on large maps is unique in the landscape of games. 2014's Sniper Elite III expanded on both the series' scope and its gameplay, so Rebellion had to work hard to top it.
And top it they certainly have.
Sniper Elite 4 once again puts you in control of Karl Fairburne, a rugged American sniper who is expert in infiltrating behind enemy lines and dispatching bad guys. The story is centred around the Axis powers managing to create a new type of radio controlled bomb, an invention which, if left unchecked, could turn the tide of the war in their favour.
As the title implies, the entirety of Sniper Elite 4 is based in Italy, which was a great choice of setting as it allows Rebellion creative freedom to showcase environments as varied as stark beaches, lush forests, and even snowy mountains in the north.
The sheer size of these levels is astounding. Even when rushing through a level, and not caring as to whether you're spotted by an enemy or not, it'll still take over an hour to complete each and every level. The amount of care and attention that has been given to these sprawling maps is truly astonishing; some are so big that they could make an argument for being entire campaigns in and of themselves.
This epic size isn’t just to showcase the graphical prowess of Sniper Elite 4, it also plays perfectly into the series' staple gameplay. The sheer amount of possibilities for taking on groups of enemies, or even managing objectives, gives you, the player, an incredible amount of control over how you approach and work through each level.
Fancy being stealthy? The ability to move anywhere on the map or distract enemies using objects found around the environment is second to none, and genuinely makes each interaction with enemies all the more exciting. Fancy running and gunning? You can do that too, just be warned that your limited stamina will make this challenging. This flexibility in how you approach missions makes for a really enjoyable experience overall.
Speaking of challenge, Rebellion have managed to up their game with regards to the AI’s intelligence and the game's general difficulty level as a whole. If you happen to not mask the sound of your gunfire, enemies will eventually triangulate your position and then work to flank you. This level of challenge is brilliant throughout, and consistently forces you to analyse your surroundings and carefully plan ahead.
I also found myself enjoying the game's collectibles, perhaps more so than I should have. Some of these collectibles are hidden on enemy soldiers and the only way to find them is to use your binoculars to tag an enemy. This will reveal not only the enemy's height, background information, and other generic data, but also what possessions they have.
Graphically, Sniper Elite 4 looks fantastic, and there's a clear visual upgrade compared to the last entry. From stunning trees to amazingly detailed house interiors, everything in Sniper Elite 4 looks like it belongs in 1940s Italy. It all makes for a lovely cinematic experience.
Speaking of cinematic experiences, the X-ray kill cam has also been improved. It now shows more detail than ever before as to precisely how you killed your opponent, and what internal damage you inflicted. While you can turn off the kill cam if you so desire, I found them to be a brilliant reward for particularly gruelling encounters; it's a pleasure in these instances to sit back and relax, savouring the hell you've just inflicted.
So the campaign’s levels are fantastic, and the gameplay is as addictive as ever, but the story really lets the main campaign down. Most of the characters are very two dimensional and merely (and quite clearly) exist just to provide an excuse for travelling to the next location. The main impetus behind the narrative is also an unfortunate rehash of Sniper Elite 3’s “the Nazis have a super weapon” trope.
This is a shame, because there are moments when the characters feel like they could offer so much more, but even these instances fall flat in large part because they take place exclusively in 'hub worlds' just before each mission. If there were times where you could potentially meet up with an ally halfway through a stage and work together this would have done a great deal to make them more relatable and likable. Instead, the interactions you have with your allies are thoroughly shallow.
The soundtrack, too, is a little bland. It plays for the vast majority of the game, but adds nothing by being there. A far stronger and more compelling score would have consisted of 1930s and 1940s music, sometimes even intertwined with the gameplay itself, but alas it was not to be and so the score on the whole feels like one large missed opportunity.
Overall, Sniper Elite 4 is a brilliant upgrade on 2014’s Sniper Elite 3. Rebellion have done a great job listening to their fans, doubling down on those aspects of the series that they love and getting rid of most of the things they hate. The narrative could definitely have been a lot better, but on the whole Sniper Elite 4 proves to be a fantastic tactical shooter, one that is bound to keep stealth and sniper gamers delighted for quite some time.
This review is based on a digital copy of Sniper Elite 4 for the PC, provided by the publisher.