Another Valentine’s day and as so many sat down to meals with their loved ones, and so many sat down to brandish their swords, I Returned to the Second World War with my Springfield, Thompson and Welrod for another instalment of Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series.
There are lots of WW2 games coming out or that are in early access, and they all to some degree share the same formula in common. Sniper Elite is that other World War 2 game, the one that punishes the run and gunners and that rewards the methodical, tactical gamer with the opportunity to explode Hitler’s testicle(s) from astonishing ranges.
I have always loved the Sniper Elite Series but had a few bugbears about the transition from action to periods of traversal and in the way that the SMG combat just wasn’t as satisfying as it could be.
Sniper Elite 4 instantly establishes itself as a game in this series. Everything from the controls to the movement and the exquisite ballistics is there from the get-go. It feels like your saying hi to an old friend and picking up exactly where you last left off.
Hello, my old friend
The firing range looks as though it’s been ripped straight out of 3 and given a Mediterranean makeover. Still providing a range of great challenges for you to blow the dust off, and to experiment with your upgrades in the safety of the compound’s environment.
Even if you haven’t played any of the other games, you won’t be at any disadvantage, it’s all explained nicely in the initial cut scenes and mission which has you exploring the bright and vivid San Celini Island. Complete with handy hints along the way, it introduces you to the story nicely and has you explore the different items you can utilise in bringing the pain to the Nazis.
Playing the single player campaign, it became obvious that the game wants you to explore and have creative freedom on how you achieve your goals. This stems from Sniper Elite 3, where for the first time in the series, the missions were a lot less linear and the maps were opened up so that the player could explore more options. Sniper Elite 4 takes this concept and kicks it up a notch. The maps are huge and provide a myriad of different options for approaching engagements.
Furthermore, you are able to pick and choose what order you complete objectives in, so you have the freedom to dictate how the mission goes. There is a great amount of verticality to some of the maps, which can lead to some great take-downs hanging from a surface, complete with a gory X-Ray detailing exactly where your knife has gone in.
I found these take-downs to be very satisfying, and it’s the first thing the tutorial mission in the single player introduces you to. At times, I found sneaking around enemies and sticking a blunt instrument on the side of the neck much more rewarding than whipping out the SMGs or the Pistol.
It is here that I still found myself feeling a little letdown. It’s not a deal breaker, as the use of your SMG is more for that desperate break out from being surrounded, but its perhaps because of the fantastic feel of your primaries that the SMGs still feel a little underwhelming and at times a little clunky. There has definitely been an improvement from Sniper Elite 3 in this regard, but it still needs a bit more work doing to it to sand off the rough edges.
Of course, though, the pièce de résistance is the sniping. It’s what the series is famous for, and Sniper Elite 4 does not disappoint in this regard at all. Emptying the lung (providing you haven’t just completed a marathon around the map) quickly gets you in a position to take the most accurate shots over great distances, and lining the red diamond over far away targets can lead to some very satisfying kills, complete with the bullet and impact cams.
The heartbeat can become a little distracting if you’re taking your time lining up the shot, and it certainly started to grate on me in Multiplayer, but it is also a great tool to keep you focused on when to take your shot.
Each weapon now comes with two options in the weapons wheel, which can drastically change the outcome of their use. One of the issues I found with Sniper Elite 3 is that there were too few instances where I could mask my shots between artillery, bell tolls or broken generators. This often led to intense firefights that I didn’t want to get involved in.
Thankfully, most weapons now have silenced ammo as an option, allowing greater chance to use your primary weapon against the enemy.
This customisation extends into the explosives as well, which are given some great features for you to exploit. The mines can be set to detonate on 2 presses, instead of exploding the instant they are stood on. In the right place, or when booby trapping bodies, these can become incredibly lethal, laying waste to multiple enemies.
Even the rock gets the sniper elite 4 treatment – being interchangeable with the whistle. Where the rock entices enemies to check out the area around where it landed, the whistle will bring them directly to you, so you can line them up and watch the devastation unfold.
This customisation fills out into the skills and weapon upgrade trees, much like they did with Sniper Elite 3. This will allow you to customise your rifle of choice so it is just right for you to call on in any situation.
The huge swathe of options and upgrades available make the game easily customisable to your play style, and that helps against the improved AI. The enemy reacts in a similar way to Sniper Elite 3, they’re just better at it now. Able to triangulate your position from sightings and sounds you make. It can be a bit inconsistent at times, from the brilliant pack of hunters to the deaf and blind, but it’s mostly a worthy opponent in the single player and coop campaign.
Multiplayer grants the same sort of freedoms that singleplayer offers but against other players. This is where I found the most inconsistency – though through no fault of the game itself. In a round of deathmatch, you can spend a great amount of time not seeing anyone, if they’re good enough, and the heartbeat that players, when you bring up your scope, can start to get annoying, especially if you’re never getting in the position to pull the trigger. You can negate this by pulling out the binoculars, but you risk spotting someone who is looking at you through their scope, and that is a race you aren’t likely to ever win.
I found a few multiplayer games came down to who got bored first and went on a suicide sweep of the map. However, in the more team oriented game modes, there was more action happening and more to accomplish, and mileage will vary depending on how slow and tactical you like it to get.
If you want the best of both worlds and have a friend to bring along I highly recommend the CO-OP campaign. For me, this is where the multiplayer elements were at their best. Having a buddy alongside you to plan and spot for you makes the experience all the better. CO-OP lends itself well to the new environments and you’re more likely to get into more continuous action playing Sniper Elite 4 in this way than in a traditional multiplayer game.
Sniper Elite 4 is a solid entry in the series, set in a stunning location which is vibrant and bold. It runs great on a range of different cards (we tested the GTX 650 and the GTX 1060) with few issues on either the high or lower end of the scale. We always achieved solid frame rates, even when the action was in full swing – which is a testament to how well the game has been made.
The changes made to the base formula allow for much greater freedom to the player, allowing you to truly make the adventure your own, which is a good thing too, as the story feels quite generic WW2 plotline, with a few interesting hints to the Mafia and the rest of the war along the way.
The sniping is still arguably the best around in this type of game, and there are enough different weapons and locations to keep you tinkering around until you find your favourites.
The Multiplayer can leave a bit to be desired at times, with long gaps in the action as people nervously position themselves around the map, but is varied enough to provide some truly special experiences with friends.