Karl Fairburne is back, and just as dangerous as ever.
You climb up into a tower that gives a great view of the surrounding area, get comfortable and wait. Then, just as massive planes fly noisily overhead, you hold your breath and squeeze the trigger, watching as your bullet flies across the landscape before coming into contact with the fuel tank on a vehicle, causing it to explode violently. You smile to yourself with grim satisfaction as the two Nazi soldiers that happened to be standing next to the vehicle chatting are blown to pieces. The best thing, nobody will ever know you were there. Time to move on to another position…
That smug feeling of superior skill is surely the most attractive aspect of Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series. Anyone can go in guns blazing and take out enemy after enemy, but there are only a few people in the world that can pierce a Nazi eyeball from more than half a kilometer away and Karl Fairburne, the returning stoic hero in Rebellion’s latest Sniper Elite 4, is one of those people. Step into his highly capable shoes, hop on over to Italy in 1943 and expand your anatomical knowledge by watching bullets rip internal organs apart with the glorious X-ray view.
Sniper Elite 4 gives elite snipers a wealth of choices when it comes to completing objectives in each of the levels. Rebellion really want the player to explore the most unusual and exciting ways of taking out the enemies in the game, and will reward difficult or unusual take downs with more experience, but the player really does have multiple avenues when it comes to how they play the game. Each level is massive compared to the levels in the previous game, and players are free to approach objectives in any order that they choose. Coupled with an abundance of collectibles and secrets to be found in each of the levels, replayability is paramount in Sniper Elite 4.
And while the game may be called Sniper Elite, it could also be called stealth killer elite, assassin elite or even super killing machine elite. Players are quite able to, if they choose, run into an enemy encampment and shoot everything that moves. Karl’s skill set also means that sneaking from cover to cover, setting booby traps or even grabbing Nazis from behind and taking them out with a knife before disappearing back into the shadows, are all a possibility. Karl’s movement in this latest game is much improved over the previous title, making level traversal much more fluid and satisfying. However, the enemy AI has also been given a boost and they are much more likely now to actively search for this assassin in their midst. That being said, the normal difficulty level does seem a little low by default, but there are plenty of options to tweak the games difficulty if you find it lacking challenge.
So the player has options, but Sniper Elite 4 really shines when the player sticks to the name and gets sniping. Each level is littered with vantage points that the player can use to look across the landscape. Use binoculars to spot your targets, whether human or mechanical, and then grab your rifle and let rip. Pressing a button will allow the player to hold their breath, both in game and quite often in real life, as they squeeze the trigger to make a seemingly impossible shot. As mentioned before, the enemy AI has been improved and they will quickly be able to make out the players hiding spot after only a few shots, and come looking. Background noises, such as planes flying overhead, can be used to cover the noise of the players shots, but the best approach is to move on after a few shots to another vantage point.
The sniping is great fun and feels so empowering, in a non-creepy way of course. The series’ much loved x-ray view, which tracks a fired bullet and gives the player an x-ray view of the recipient as the bullet passes through and causes damage, returns in great effect. Rather than being supremely violent, the view almost provides some light-heartedness to the game as it pauses the action to show some silly, almost cartoonish, over-the-top gore.
If you think that finding the perfect sniping nest and taking pot shots at Nazis is great fun, imagine how much more fun it would be with a friend. Sniper Elite 4 includes a collection of multiplayer modes, but taking on the campaign in co-op mode is the best way to enjoy the game with a buddy. The players can work closely together, having each others back, or they can split up and approach objectives from different sides of the sandbox levels, leaving the enemy utterly confused. Again, the possibilities are endless.
The other obvious improvement over the previous title is the way the game looks. The last game awkwardly straddled the console generation cross over, being released on both the previous generation and the latest. This time around, with Sniper Elite 4, the game is released purely for the Xbox One and PS4, along with PC of course, and the visuals are suitably improved. The game will never win any awards for the way it looks, but it is quite an improvement and works really well in the context of the game.
Sniper Elite 4 is a little rough around the edges. The improvements to the visuals and the AI are great, but still have problems, and the movement can still be a little janky at times. However, the massive open levels and the pure joy of making that perfect shot across unimaginable distances really does out-weigh any issues. Add this to the replayability and the choice of how to play, and the game becomes an easy recommendation. Players new to Sniper Elite should jump into the series now, while veteran snipers should welcome Karl Fairburne back with open arms. Great stuff!