Sniper Elite 4 Review – Death, glorious death

Sniper Elite 4 Review – Death, glorious death Darryl Linington
Gameplay
Story
Graphics
Sound
Fun Factor
7.8
User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

Snipers are a unique bunch. They’ve got the patience of saints, reflexes of wild cats and unlike their counterparts who thrive on being in a team – Snipers like their alone time. I don’t blame them. If, like me, having a bunch of loudmouth jocks shouting off every so often is far too much to bear, and while, they have a place on the battlefield – the lone wolf path suits others more.

Now if you met Karl Fairburne -the protagonist in Sniper Elite – you’d see a man with a earnest face, a tendency to ask direct questions and talk only when it mattered, most of the time. You would consider him single minded, at equilibrium with himself. Hell, you’d even like that part of him. Then you’d witness him on the battlefield and you’d ask where the demon came from, and what prompted it – he’d be that brutal. You didn’t want Karl to target you. The Germans and Italians knew this, and it’s clear: If the  Special Operations Executive (SOE) sniper is in your realm, you’d run away. His precision with a rifle and pistol remain unmatched and you never quite know where he is, or what he may be plotting.

Having never played a Sniper Elite game, I was in for a treat. Here was a game that not only offered solid stealth play, but also more than a healthy dollop of action. The flow of these two types of combat is more than fluid. One might run through one area massacring every Axis soldier in sight, and then sneak to an intended target, and proceed to ex-filtrate. This is the beauty of Sniper Elite 4, and in many ways its predecessors.

Stealth is rewarding and cautious play gives you extra experience points. The gunplay is satisfying. Bullets have somewhat realistic trajectories, and as you’ll be accounting for wind and distance as you raise the difficulty. Naturally, being a masochist, I went for Hard and boy was I rewarded. Enemies at higher difficulties are much more perceptive then on lower points. They’ll also kill you faster, so the onus is on you to get to them first. It makes for a tight game of cat and mouse. Sometimes you’re the cat, and sometimes the mouse. Like the stealth and aggressive gameplay – this role is quite fluid. The result is a predatory style of play where you’ll prioritise your targets and eliminate them one at a time.

I had some issues with A.I. forgetting my location within a matter of minutes – but that only really happened when on yellow alert status. Red enemy states have enemies searching you out based on last location seen. It came down to me being forced to run and bait them out, and proceed to change location not long afterward. While hilarious at times – I often wondered what Rebellion Developments could’ve done to make them more responsive.

Let’s talk about level design. Sniper Elite 4 revels in its outdoor maps. Marking enemies off 300-500m apace and then taking them out as they panic is smile-inducing while staying in the shadows and then surveying them is therapeutic. Once my targets were ready, I used sound masks to tear into Axis flesh. That, by the way, is a distinction I must make. There are more than Nazis to take out here. Since we’re in Italy, we’ve got Mussolini’s army to take on as well.

Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t do as well in tighter spaces. While the plodding, methodical pace remains… the game’s pace becomes frustrating. The combination of platforming, cover-based play and distraction don’t work so well. One memorable mission had me scaling a drain pipe, hoping to reach the next – but I was forced to move to an optional objective without another way up. It felt frustrating.

Let’s talk about guns, because guns make Sniper Elite 4 such a special game. I wondered what the point of offering other kinds of guns in the game was. It sounds harsh, but the Springfield rifle with its upgrades is enough to last the entire game. Just buying 20 suppressed bullets is enough to finish Sniper Elite 4 with starting weapons.

I really do question the replay value of this game if there were no clear advantages and disadvantages for using certain guns over others. Yet, and this is important, the upgrade system and weapon purchasing didn’t even impact my enjoyment of the game. If I had to guess, Rebellion wanted to give players as much agency as they wanted to play. If that was what the developers had in mind – I applaud it – because there’s nothing like moving around these huge maps and enjoying the view while slowly working toward optional and compulsory goals.

What about the story? There is one – and it involves undoing the German army piece by piece. Karl, lone wolf and all round killing machine, is the B.J. Blaskowitz of the sniper world. There were some great bits of story involving a vicar smuggling people out of Italy, and seeing him die was tragic. Yet, Sniper Elite insists that you go back into the action. Whether these little reflective moments did or didn’t impact me, well, I’m not sure as Sniper Elite 4 is more gameplay focused than narrative focused.

Now, here’s the thing: I appreciate that there was motivation for Karl to continue on his mission, but let’s be frank – is this a reason to play Sniper Elite 4? No. Killing soldiers and enjoying the freeform play are. Maybe, if I were asked to save some Nazi prisoners, or escort a vehicle convoy away from danger. Hell, there could’ve been some simple scouting missions involving some serious consequences. What about the mini soldier biographies when tagging enemies? What if we actually saw the soldiers doing what these descriptions said? These little additions could add so much to the game.

Moving away from that… Sound and visual design are wonderful. Some repeated use of assets here and there – such as those used in a mission where Karl infiltrated a few mansions to pursue his target – left me wanting to move on quicker than I’d hoped. The forest maps remain the highlight and are such a pleasure to navigate. There were hitches here and there where I experienced framerate drops, especially in indoor areas. The mantling and climbing system felt like it boxed me in too many times. A man like Karl should be able to navigate low rocky area with ease. Yet, Rebellion placed far too many invisible walls, which essentially need to be visible in order to make the game flow better.

Conclusion:
Sniper Elite 4 is a glorious power fantasy involving high-powered rifles, distractions, massive levels and overall enjoyment. The story could’ve been fleshed out better while climbing and mantling could have been improved upon too. Where Sniper Elite 4 wows me, though, it does so with brilliance. Despite having its problems, it remained enjoyable. I’d recommend playing it just to experience the tight gunplay and expansive environments. Piacere di conoscerti Karl Fairburne. We will meet again.

Sniper Elite 4 was reviewed by Zubayr Bhyat

Editorial Contact: Darryl Linington
Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za
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Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter

Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Cliffcentral.com. Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: Darryl@techitout.co.za or via +27788021400.