Sniper Elite 4: A Shot In the Dark
Immediately following in the aftermath of it’s predecessor Sniper Elite 3, the newest entry returns to our hero, OSS Operative Karl Fairburne. Having just destroyed a Nazi super tank prototype in North Africa, his new target is a remote controlled missile, which takes him to fascist state Italy.
The developer, Rebellion Developments hasn’t changed too much when it comes to the formula they’ve used to make the past games in the series. In fact, many of the functionalities of the game which veterans of the series have come to master over the years have remained, for the most part, unchanged. What is different however, is the developers use of the power of these new consoles to generate massive mission environments.
Truly, the first thing you will notice once you pick up your Springfield, is just how massive the mission areas are. The maps are pretty much double the size they were in the previous entry, with more vantage points, smarter enemies (who have a meaningful rank structure now), and much improved hiding places, most notably the bushes spread around the map. New climbing moves allow the player to climb walls, or drop down to discover subterranean areas, which allows players to discover multiple ways to reach their objective.
Missions now are not as structured as they have been in the past. Taking place over several zones, a mission that begins on a dock can end at a monastery or a village. The improved AI of the Nazi soldiers allows Fairburne to play cat and mouse with them, which is a good nod to work done by Ubisoft in their Splinter Cell series. Unlike in previous entries, when Fairburne is spotted, he has a short window to flee. Enemies will then search his last known position as well as the general surrounding area, which gives the player more opportunities to lure enemies away from an objective they had been guarding, or to simply sneak around and carry on with their mission.
Rebellion has definitely made a well-hearted attempt at improving their storytelling, with more characters each with their own backstory and reason for fighting the fascists. None of these characters are particularly memorable however, and have absolutely no development behind their character which is disappointing considering all the potential each one of them possesses. For example we meet Sofia who is currently the leader of the Italian Partisan resistance fighters. She tells us she has stepped in to fill her fathers shoes as leader after he was captured by fascists, and frankly that’s all we ever learn about her. She is there to give objectives prior to the beginning of several missions but nothing more ever really comes of her. While the gameplay has been nailed down, Rebellion still has much to work on in terms of storytelling.
The fan favorite X-Ray system also makes a return, as a Sniper Elite game would not be truly complete without it. When the player places a successful kill shot with their sniper rifle, the game will sometimes slow down and show the bullet in its flight. As the bullet approaches its target, their body will be shown as a skeleton along with all the vital organs and muscles and show the internal damage the bullet is inflicting upon their bodies. It is gory, and extremely satisfying. The X-Ray system has been expanded to include kills done with melee, blades, grenades, and even shrapnel, all showing what kind of damage those weapons can do to a body.
Players can now also create panic and disorder amongst enemy troops. Throughout the mission maps are pockets of enemy soldiers, often times accompanied by an officer or two. The developer has created a new AI system which involves an enemy rank structure that actually means something. If the player can seek out the officer(s) before advancing upon their objective, and kill them, the soldiers that were under their command will not pose as much of a threat without their commanders there to guide them. This makes it easier to dispatch the rest of the soldiers, or to even sneak by them, depending on your preferred style of play.
Several new weapons are present in the game with more promised to be released in future DLC updates. These include sniper rifles like the Mannlicher M1895 and Carcano M91/41. New SMG’s such as the MAB 38 and FNAB-43, and pistols like the M1934 and Army Pistol 38, plus several others. The new weapons are extremely accurate and I praise them for their realism. Classic series weapons like the silenced Welrod pistol, the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifle, and Thompson sub-machine gun all make returns.
Rebellion has also brought multiplayer back in this title. With competitive and cooperative being options in the multiplayer field, each player is bound to find what’s right for them. The competitive has no new options, and includes all the modes from the previous game. Team and regular Deathmatch, team and regular Distance King – which rewards players the farther their killshots are, No Cross – which is essentially team deathmatch, with the map split down the middle, restricting teams to their own side of the map, and Control – in which teams compete to control a radio drop until they have captured it. On the cooperative side, Campaign and Survival each make a reappearance, along with a new mode, Overwatch. In Overwatch players team up with one other player and complete sniper and spotter missions, with one player as the designated sniper and the other acting as a spotter, tagging enemies so they become visible to the sniper. It is hard not to have fun in any of these multiplayer modes. If played right, they each offer many ways to succeed, and to have fun.
Apart from the campaign and multiplayer, Sniper Elite 4 launches with a DLC mission titled Target Führer. Target Führer sends Fairburne to a forgotten corner of the Mediterranean to attempt to assassinate the commander of a secret Nazi U-boat facility which has been threatening allied shipping missions. Things don’t work out as planned in this secret mission and your target quickly becomes Adolf Hitler himself. This mission is replayable and has no effect on the rest of the base campaign which gives you the satisfaction of killing the evilest person to ever walk planet earth over and over again, and in many different ways.
Sniper Elite 4, apart from having massive areas, is also surprisingly pleasing to look at. The environments are beautiful. Comparable even to some of the best looking games out there such as Uncharted 4, or Resident Evil 7. The developer left no stone unturned in ensuring they were creating a visually stunning game, which only makes delivering that kill shot all the more satisfying.
Rebellion has made yet another very good sequel in this franchise, and has performed very well considering it launched next to developing giant Ubisoft’s For Honor. Sure was a blood filled Valentines Day. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Rebellion will take us whenever Sniper Elite 5 inevitably comes around. The series is very close to being dead on target, only really needing to make improvements to its storytelling and character development. They have pretty much nailed the elements of great stealth sniping, and no doubt have created the greatest sniper games you can buy. I strongly urge fans of the series and newcomers alike to dive into this title and harass the Third Reich one bullet at a time.