Sniper Elite 4 is an excellent stealth-action title that hits its mark.
When it comes to shooters, I’ve always found the role of sniper to be my go-to class of choice. No, I’m not the best at it — in fact, I can be pretty awful at times — but the very real satisfaction that comes with sending a round tumbling downrange into the noggin of a foe from a mile away and watching it pop like an overripe melon is something I’ve always found irresistible: Kill to death ratio be damned.
That said, you can imagine my excitement when I heard Rebellion was bringing Sniper Elite 4 to the front lines. Sure, the series has always been the most refined. In fact, earlier releases in the series were little more than bare-bones shooting galleries designed to showcase the game’s brutal ballistics model than compelling gameplay. Over the years developer Rebellion have honed their grisly craft, and this time around the developer has finally zeroed in on their target to deliver the kill shot. Sniper Elite 4 is not only a huge improvement over its predecessors, it’s also an excellent stealth-action title that manages to do the unthinkable. It makes shooting Nazis fun all over again.
Sniper Elite 4 puts players behind the scope of elite OSS sniper Karl Fairburne, leaving behind the dusty battlefields of North Africa as he fights to topple the fascist stranglehold on Italy. The game’s main campaign spans eight massive missions that will have Karl assassinating high ranking Axis officials, sabotaging secret weapons, and assisting the local partisans in their efforts to bring down Il Duce and his fascist forces.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Sniper Elite 4 is just how fleshed out these missions are, which take place in such varied locales as bustling Mediterranean villages, verdant mountain valleys, and heavily-fortified bases nestled deep in dense forests. Each of these missions can easily take over an hour to complete as you tackle a laundry list of primary and optional objectives. These usually involve killing enemy officers or taking out some sort of nefarious Nazi super weapon.
My favorite of the bunch involved destroying a massive rail cannon positioned on a freight bridge. To complete my objective, I had to carefully work my way up a winding mountain path, sniping patrols and enemy snipers positioned high above in order to place explosives on the bridge’s supports. After rigging up a satchel charge, I scurried down a mountain path to a scenic perch overlooking the river below. Finally in position, I carefully dialed in the range to my target and squeezed the trigger, sending a 6.5mm round from my trusty Mannlicher Carcano into the charge with laser precision, thus sending the massive metal monster into the drink in a spectacular display of destruction. It’s moments like this when Sniper Elite 4 shines the brightest. And luckily for you, these moments are plentiful over the game’s lengthy campaign.
As a sniper, remaining undiscovered is the key to your survival. Each of the missions is populated with scores of Nazi troops with exceptionally itchy trigger fingers. Getting spotted can often mean a quick and messy death at the hands of the game’s aggressive AI. That said, it’s important to pay close attention to your surroundings. Finding cover in foliage or on high ground will almost always make your life as a one-man killing machine much easier. You’ll also need to pay close attention to how much noise you’re making, as enemy soldiers are pretty bright in Sniper Elite 4, and can quickly sniff out your position if you’re too reckless. This means you’ll need to take a methodical approach to your assassinations, picking off enemies one by one, often while changing up your shooting position to keep enemy patrols from crashing the party. Those hoping for a more fast-paced shooter will likely be put off by Sniper Elite 4’s more deliberate pace, which is much more in line with that of the Hitman games than other third-person shooters. However, if that doesn’t bother you, you’ll likely find Rebellion’s latest offering to be a sublime stealth-action experience.
As the name on the box implies, long-range kills are the real star of the show in Sniper Elite 4. To get those visceral kill shots I was talking about at the outset of this review, you’re going to need to have patience and a steady trigger finger. Playing on higher difficulty modes, you’ll have to keep an eye on wind conditions, bullet drop, and your breathing when zeroing in on your targets. Sure, a handy reticle turns red when you’ve managed to target the sweet spot, but the rate at which you lose your breath and the ever-shrinking cross hair, you’ll need to be on point to make your shot count. Easier difficulties scale back some of these layers of depth with less factors and a more forgiving ballistics model, but even on its easier difficulties the game is never a simple “point-and-shoot” affair. And frankly, the game’s all the better for it. True armchair marksmen can even get rid of the reticle altogether to really put their sniping skills to the test. The way players can tweak the game’s challenge is welcome, as it allows for both newcomers and seasoned veterans alike to tailor the game’s complexity to their liking. And no matter how you play it, you’re still in for a good time once you step out onto Sniper Elite 4‘s massive virtual hunting grounds.
One thing I really like about Sniper Elite 4 is the way the various little things come together to turn each stage into a veritable ballet of destruction like some sort of sadistic Rube Goldberg contraption. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of pegging a grunt’s grenade belt with a well-placed shot as he passes a row of trucks and watching the fireworks as half a dozen Nazis get caught in the ensuing fiery chain reaction. You can also stealthily wait for ambient sounds, like planes passing overhead or a nearby piece of artillery to fire so that you can mask the sound of your shot, allowing you to do things like shoot a hanging pallet from a crane’s grasp, watching it crush the hapless baddie below in what looks like a freak accident. Toying around with your enemies provides a delightful power fantasy in its purest form. Well, that is until you get carried away and have to deal with the business end of half a dozen machine guns as you giggle in the bushes at your latest sadistic kill streak. And you will laugh. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing funnier than picking the gonads off of a grunt from a village away. Nothing.
In addition to a meaty single player campaign, Sniper Elite 4 also offers a wealth of multiplayer modes that are surprisingly solid. There’s a co-op survival mode that allows you and a friend to put your sniping skills to the test against hordes of Nazis. You’ll also find a variety of variations on genre staples like death match and control point capture modes. My personal favorite mode pits two teams of snipers on a map separated by a large gorge, forcing players to wage war in tense sniper showdowns. It’s a delightfully paranoid game type that will make you consider every move as you search for the faint glare of sunlight off of an enemy sniper’s scope to reveal their position. Sure, it may not be as fast-paced as your average Call of Duty or Battlefield match, but it’s a refreshing take on the shooter formula that’s hampered only by (at the time of this writing) some fairly empty matchmaking lobbies. Hopefully with time the community will grow, because what’s here is a great alternative to your usual shooter du jour.
Without question, Sniper Elite 4 marks a high point for Rebellions’ stealth-shooter series. The game’s excellent main campaign provides a great mix of stealth action and the franchise’s trademark sniping shenanigans. That campaign, combined with a wealth of addicting multiplayer modes, ensures there’s an awful lot for fans of the genre to enjoy here so long as they aren’t put off by the title’s more methodical pace. When all is said and done, Sniper Elite 4 hits the mark, and is an excellent addition to any shooter fan’s library.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Rebellion Developments ; Developer: Rebellion Developments ; Released: February 14, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of Sniper Elite 4 provided by the publisher.