Italy. The birthplace of fascism. The last time I blew Italy to pieces was in Just Cause 3, a game which is also a 3rd person shooter, but that’s where the similarities with Sniper Elite 4 end. Sniper Elite 4 is a classic World War 2 shooter which has both realistic and noob-friendly difficulty levels allowing you to play the game how you would like to. The idea of the Sniper Elite series is to stealth around and very rarely use anything other than your sniper rifle, but close-quarters combat is still top notch with stealth knife kills being rewarded highly.
Sniper Elite 4 is a game about focusing. Similar to Metal Gear Solid V and the upcoming Ghost Recon Wildlands, the game works much more to your favour if you plan ahead, consider every option and explore every vantage point. Using the binoculars, you have the ability to mark every enemy, vehicle, and explosive device such as barrels or fuel tanks. Once you’re done marking enemies, they will appear on your mini-map with the direction they’re facing, and you’ll also be able to see their outline behind objects making it much easier to track their whereabouts and inevitably take them out.
As the game is primarily focused on stealth however, and your weapon of choice is a considerably loud large rifle, the best way to work through a mission tends to be to use noise to your advantage. In the first mission, we found planes flying overhead were an ideal time to pick off enemies. Throughout most missions, you’ll find generators that you can damage which causes them to backfire and mask the sound of your shots. If you can’t find anything to mask your shots there are a few other options: sneak around for knife kills, go gun-ho with your assault rifle, or try for some long-distance shots.
When you zoom in with your sniper rifle, your heart-rate becomes more prominent in the form of a meter which fills up the higher your heart-rate is. A base heart rate in Sniper Elite 4 is around 60bpm, but doing things like sprinting or shooting causes it to rise quickly, and it will stay risen until you are able to stay still and calm down. Using this mechanic, your character is only useful for about three quick-succession sniper shots before maxing out your heart-rate and significantly lowering accuracy. In addition to this, if you want to increase your accuracy you can “exhale”, causing your body to slow movement but your heart-rate to slowly rise. It’s a fun mechanic to play around with and not too complicated to get used to. We’d perhaps like to see it used in other shooters that claim to be realistic.
Fortunately, Sniper Elite 4 offers a very user-friendly shooting range in the menu screen. In the range you can use every gun in the game and shoot standing and moving targets. All the time you spend in the shooting range (and of course in missions as well) goes towards earning XP which unlocks perks as you increase your level and military rank. Sniper Elite 4 offers a fairly basic and linear skill tree, however the skills you unlock definitely assist in making the gameplay easier, such as giving you a lower base heart-rate or taking longer for your heart-rate to build.
Each mission takes anywhere from less than an hour to 3-4 hours to complete, depending on how stealthy your tactics are and how much of each map you want to explore. I found there were a lot of different options in proceeding through maps, from hidden caves with weapon crates to entire underground networks that might otherwise be missed. If you’re going through buildings, almost every window is accessible but just because the option comes up to hit X to jump through, it doesn’t necessarily mean the landing on the other side will be safe. It’s quite easy to fall to your death in Sniper Elite 4 when you least expect it, so it’s always good to remember your bearings and don’t try anything too unrealistic.
The different options and tactics makes it hard to put a timeframe on how long the game will take to complete, but it shouldn’t take you any less than 10-15 hours unless you’re rushing through on easy. While the story is your typical blasé World War 2 manifest, it’s possibly the only current shooter that has never ventured outside of WW2 territory.
If there’s one thing which has to be discussed in Sniper Elite 4 it’s the kill cam. Almost every time you kill someone by stealth methods, the game cuts to a slow-motion x-ray kill camera, showing the bullet projectile, with bones shattering, eyes popping, organs collapsing, and more. It’s an experience that doesn’t get old, but can be turned off in the menu. With Sniper Elite 4, the kill cam has been expanded to include melee kills, as well as explosive kills where you can watch a skeletal ragdoll corpse get thrown. What we liked the most about this is that it means each character model in the game has its internal bones and organs as well, and isn’t just a hollow shell like most models in other games.
Aside from the kill cam, Sniper Elite 4 looks great on PlayStation 4. It’s not going to win awards for being the best-looking game of 2017, but the art style Rebellion Developments went after sits comfortably with the 1943 Italy WW2 setting. With all the different weapons, vehicles, uniforms and military structures laid out across the luscious Italian countryside, you can get lost in Sniper Elite 4 and sometimes forget that you’re meant to be sneaking around and not on a holiday admiring the views.
While the scenery is quite pretty, the audio comes across as a bit of a grind at times. Sure, all the gunshots, explosions and vehicles sound great, but some of the voice acting is less than desirable. Our biggest gripe was the radio operator that hands out your intel at the start of each mission. She sounds far too kind and relaxed, and there’s no sense of urgency in her voice which is strange considering the nature the intelligence which she is giving out. Fortunately, Sniper Elite 4 is a game about stealth and staying quiet, and therefore a bit of lackluster voice acting doesn’t really detract from the overall game.
With all the big shooter titles heading towards the future, Sniper Elite 4 stays true with its WW2 setting, with this game set in the immediate events after Sniper Elite 3. Third-person old war shooters are progressively becoming a rarity, so it was refreshing to play through Sniper Elite 4, and hopefully we’ll see more epic battles closer to the end of the war. How about a Sniper Elite game set on an Australian Navy battleship, tasked to snipe kamikazes and Japanese soldiers in the Pacific Ocean? If a third-person tactical shooter with a range of difficulties, different ways to play, co-op options and lengthy open-world missions sounds like something up your alley but you haven’t ventured into the Sniper Elite universe yet, go ahead and give it a crack. It should definitely tide you over to the onslaught of games arriving in March including Ghost Recon Wildlands.
- A nostalgic WW2 shooter done right
- Realistic sniping system and x-ray kill cam
- Missions last as long as you want, adding to the realism of being a sniper
- There are better looking shooters on the market already
- Uninspiring story that unsuccessfully attempts character relationships