“Sniper Elite 4 pulls of tactical stealth shooter with almost perfection”.
Sniper Elite 4 was not a game I had on my radar. Having not played the prequels, I got the impression from the name that I was in for just another military shooting game, this time with a focus on sniping. Boy was I wrong.
Sniper Elite 4 instead heads down the tactical stealth shooter route and pulls it off with almost perfect execution.
The game takes place in WWII in Italy. The story isn’t particularly engaging and the characters aren’t to memorable but it does the job for a more gameplay orientated game.
You play as the sniper Karl Fairburne. While the game categorises Karl’s role as a sniper, I get a more special agent vibe. Sure your main weapon is a sniper rifle but your arsenal comes packed with a deadly variety of explosives, a rather useful pistol, an unsubtle secondary weapon (Shotgun or SMG) as well as some Jackie Chan level martial art skills.
The story is split up into a variety of campaign missions, each set in a massive open area for you to roam around. You are given a whole heap of tasks in each mission involving killing, destroying or finding something. How you do it is completely up to you.
One of the key triumphs of Sniper Elite 4 is choice. From the moment you are dropped into the Level, where you go and how you choose to undertake the objectives is up to you. You forge your own path. I never felt the game was forcing or even encouraging me down a certain path. There was no conveniently laid out enemies, waiting for me to take them down a certain way. Everything just felt open and natural. It was left up to me to assess the situation and decide how I want to approach it.
It isn’t just the choice that was great about each encounter, it was also the uniqueness. Every encounter was different primarily due to the different environment but also due to the layout of the enemy.
My favourite moment in the game was when I found a nice defensible spot up on a mountain, looked down at a small town full of enemies and started picking them off one by one with little care of anyone noticing me. Some of the enemies took cover and started trying to shoot me back, others decided to try and swarm my position. Just moments before in my last encounter, I decided to sneak into a camp, take out as few people as possible, complete the objective and get out of there before anyone notices something is up.
For the stealth side of things, there are a whole host of mechanics and game design features that I look for in a good stealth game: Once you tag an enemy, they become visible even when obscured by objects, not realistic I know but it makes everything a lot less tedious. There is a slight delay between a person discovering you and them alerting everyone in the vicinity, giving you time to quickly take them out. When a sound is made, only people who should be able to hear it actually hear it. People don’t automatically know where you are in strange or unreasonable circumstances. There is an excellent autosave feature, enabling a quick redo when things don’t go your way.
I’ve never shot a sniper rifle before but to me this game seemed reasonably realistic. Your bullet drops significantly over long distances making it a critical thing to account for. To make things a bit easier on the non-hardcore difficulty settings, when you hold your breath, an aim assist marker appears showing you exactly where your bullet will hit. Unrealistic I know but the game would be much much harder without it. Also you only have a certain amount of time you can hold your breathe for, so you will find yourself making the occasional shot with no aim assist at all.
One of the more unique aspects of the game is the slow motion X-Ray kill cam. Typically when you fire your bullet you get to view your bullet hitting the target in slow motion. Not only that, there is an X-ray like view, allowing you to see their bone structure and organs. As your bullet penetrate their organs or chatters their bone, you get to see it all its gory magnificence.
There is a certain extra level of satisfaction and pride garnered when you get to see your bullet hit its mark. It is undoubtedly brutal though. At one stage I had to put the game down because it was a bit too full on for my current state of mind.
This is one of the few games where I find hard to find flaws with any part of the gameplay. Maybe a bigger variety in tools may open up the gameplay even more but doing so while being faithful to the time period would understandably be difficult. Admittedly the game can be reasonably slow paced which means you have to be in a certain mindset to play the game but such is the nature of tactical stealth games.
The aspect of the game which I haven’t really touched on is the modes. Mostly this is because I wasn’t taken to anything outside the campaign. You can play the campaign online co-op which with a friend which I could see as being a blast. Trying to coordinate with a random person online however, not so much.
The multiplayer strips away everything good about the game by focusing on none of the games strengths. Instead of being about tactics, the game relies more on luck.I find each match tends to boil down to finding a good hiding spot then hoping you see someone else before they see you.
There is also a survival mode, here wave after wave of enemy AI is sent at you. Once again, the tactical and stealth components of the game is absent leaving what feels like a very generic multiplayer mode. I just found it boring.
Sniper Elite 4 pulls of tactical stealth shooter with almost perfection. By far, it is the best game in the genre I have played. By playing to none of the game’s strengths, the PvP multiplayer lets down the otherwise strong campaign mode. The brutal kill cam may not be for the light hearted but overall I find it hard to not recommend to anyone who is a fan of tactical stealth shooters.
Released: February 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action, Shooter