Sniper Elite 4 is a third-person shooter with first-person sniper aiming that retreads familiar ground for the series, but manages to carve new pathways in terms of new gameplay features to keep things fresh and exciting. Sniper Elite 4 is the 4th entry in the main series, and the 7th game in the Sniper Elite franchise that began in 2005. What makes this series special is the bullet cam, and in the sequels since, is the addition of the x-ray camera to accompany it. You’re shown your precise shot in all its bloody splendor. In that regard, Sniper Elite 4 does not disappoint. And for the most part, Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t manage to disappoint at any stage, but I am a bit concerned for the series going forward, as it’ll be hard to top being the best looking and feeling Sniper Elite yet.
In Sniper Elite V2, you creeped around a war-torn Germany. In Sniper Elite III, you prowled through the sand in Africa. In Sniper Elite 4, you tiptoe the oceanside views of Italy. You once again play as series hero Karl Fairburne in 1943 Italy. Not much has changed for the world, the Germans are present everywhere you don’t want them to be, and it is up to Karl to thin their ranks by eliminating high-ranking officers with extreme prejudice and impressive distance. At times, Karl will meet up and work with the Partisans, a new ally that inserts themselves into your missions, breaking up the standard missions with some real flavor. Along the way you’ll meet up with allies named Sofia and Lucio that will aid your cause and give optional objectives. Italy at this time, is rather pristine and utterly beautiful compared to any location in a Sniper Elite game before it. The locations feel open and lush in ways you wouldn’t expect a game taking place in World War II to look like.
Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t play much different than its predecessors, save for one major change in the level design. Rebellion has made these levels open-world. In addition, there are optional objectives to complete. And they all can be done however you deem fit. You can complete all or none of the side objectives. Each level can take anywhere from one to two hours depending on how patient of a player you are. As you reach new locations, you may stumble upon new side missions to take on, and a simple task can have you scouring the entire map in order to find all the collectibles and eliminate all the targets. In this, Sniper Elite 4 feels richly organic in how missions and objectives are taken and delivered.
Karl is much more agile and nimble this time around. Karl is able to leap, hang, and even perform hang-kills that are as deadly as his long-range shots are. In close range, Karl can perform takedowns with a knife that often times shown as an x-ray kill as he punctures a vital organ. This makes for Sniper Elite 4 the most fluid game in the series history, where I’ve always felt there was some stiffness to. While this isn’t quite “Sniper Elite HITMAN”, there are some parallels. Stealth is always preferred, but is not mandatory and is not tracked by the game. The game really only cares about accuracy. Should you blow your cover and make yourself known to the enemy, they will do their best to hunt you down based on your last known position. They will triangulate based on the shots they’ve heard and any line of sight they may have on you. The AI is smart, but not always. If you leave out traps, some may try to disarm them while others will lose an arm by being careless. Blowing your cover is not a game over, this only alerts the enemies in the nearby area, it does not make the entire level known to you, which is much preferred.
Any game is always at its best when you have with an emergent moment with it. I was hiding in a bush after sparking some curiosity of nearby Germans, and as I was about to get a close range headshot with my quiet pistol, he stood up the moment I took the shot, and instead of the head, I shot this man in the grenade and blew him up. This only sparked more serious inquiries to the goings on, but was a moment that me laughing hysterically. The stealthy player will use their binoculars to learn everything they can about an enemy, as well as track them with a marker over their head in-game. Cautious players will pick up dead enemies and relocate them to not arouse suspicion.
The Sniper Elite series is a “rifles first” kind of game. A majority of your time will be spent watching enemy movement, and lining up that perfect shot. In most cases, it would be to mask the noise by waiting for nearby artillery fire or planes flying overhead before pulling the trigger. Sometimes the mission can’t wait as a truck full of explosives is fleeing the area and you must blow it up before it makes its delivery. Other times, you’ll need to make your own noise such as disrupting a generator so it sputters every few seconds to give you the cover sound you need. Only if a nearby enemy sees their comrade go down, will they come to investigate. And even then, it is so satisfying to pull off a headshot again and again. This is all enhanced by the x-ray kill cam, first introduced in Sniper Elite V2 and further improved by its visual fidelity and internal organ destruction representation physics. When you’ve lined up the best headshot, heart shot, eye shot, or even testicle shot, the game will slow down and follow the bullet as it meets its target of flesh, bone, and organ. This is something you’ll see again and again. I should note that there are settings so you can tone it down, or up – but turning this feature down diminishes part of the core experience.
Reinforcing elements introduced in Sniper Elite 3, you are earning experience for kills, type of kills, and everything surrounding successfully eliminating the enemy. As you earn new ranks, skills become unlocked that act as perks to get you reduced fall damage, improved bandaging, and enhanced lung capacity. And the more you use weapons, skins unlock and guns become more powerful, such as adding the ability for a longer zoom over the standard. Returning are loadouts, allowing you to customize what weapons and accessories you bring with you to each mission. There are suppressors you can outfit on rifles, but they are gated by player rank, requiring you to do some work before getting them in-game to make things too easy.
Editor’s Note: I wasn’t able to partake in any multiplayer or co-op prior to release, but these two modes return for Sniper Elite 4. Without experiencing an online match or co-op session, I can’t speak to how the servers hold up or what it is like playing them. While there’s some returning game modes I am familiar with, I have no experience with the new ones to speak definitively regarding them.
Co-op lets you work with a friend through the campaign, in a survival scenario similar to Nazi Zombie Army, or in overwatch where one spots and the other takes shots. Multiplayer has returning favorites Distance, and Team Deathmatch. New this year seems to be No Cross, wherein a TDM level has a line that neither team can cross, and encourages long-range kills. A variant of Distance with Team Distance requests teamwork in achieving the longest range kills possible. The game will feature dedicated servers at launch.
Included in the game is a Shooting Range, but other than for some quick tests, doesn’t give any good or interesting scenarios to really mess with it. This is good if you’re testing a loadout, but can’t put it to good use. If you’ve preordered the game, you’ll get access to the Target: Führer standalone DLC mission. This is rather enjoyable side story, tasking Karl with infiltrating a base to disrupt its U-Boat operations, but quickly discover that Hitler is overseeing this mission and has put the previous commander out of commission. What follows is yet another opportunity to eliminate Hitler at long-range, and it is absolutely enjoyable. This is a smaller, more contained level than what you’ll find in the main campaign, but no less enjoyable to try new tactics.
Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t do a whole lot different than its predecessors, but the core gameplay of lining up that perfect shot and seeing the bullet delivered in gorgeous and gory detail is always satisfying. While I realized I was basically doing the same things level to level, the design and open nature of these levels eased the monotony that could have overwhelmed my enjoyment of the game. Instead, it gave variability in approach and execution. Sniper Elite 4 is the best at what it does, showing you the brutal devastation that a long-range rifle can provide, and making you feel like a badass doing it.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.