Hitting The Target
Finding a spot with a great view of the battlefield, staring down the scope of your rifle, and taking out your enemies before they even know what hit them is a thrilling moment in any shooter. With the fourth entry of Sniper Elite, a franchise built on delivering on that feeling, developer Rebellion has created a well-rounded and empowering sandbox shooter.
Sniper Elite 4 puts you in control of Karl Fairburne, the heroic sniper from the past entries. This time, Fairburne’s adventures take him to Italy to assist the resistance forces. The campaign, which consists of eight lengthy missions, deploys you to a large open area with little more than your loadout and a map marked with objectives. While each mission has a few primary missions that must be completed, the map is littered with meaningful secondary objectives, such as taking out a pesky sniper, destroying artillery, or swiping classified Nazi documents. These goals are all on the way to your primary targets. Because of this, I love planning out my route at the start of each mission.
Sniping is unsurprisingly the main gameplay pillar in Sniper Elite 4, and it feels great. The cycle of marking enemies with my binoculars, breaking out my rifle, holding my breath to steady my shot, and firing never ceases to satisfy. Though I rarely prefer sniping in other shooters, it is my go-to method of attack in Sniper Elite 4. Picking enemies off one-by-one is not only efficient, but landing a successful shot feels great. I also reveled in watching the cinematic x-ray cam during killing blows.
These slow-motion x-ray shots are a mainstay of the series for good reason. Each time I let off a shot from my sniper rifle, I anticipated witnessing the carnage I was unleashing. Whether you’re blowing out an infantryman’s eye on the way to blasting out his brain or puncturing an officer’s lung, the level of detail in these brief moments is impressively depicted for those who don’t mind the gore of a slow-motion kill. While the novelty began to wear on me by the end of the campaign, I was still disappointed each time I scored a headshot and the kill-cam didn’t activate.
While sniping is the main draw, Fairburne has plenty of other options at his disposal. From trip-mines and TNT that blow enemies to smithereens to rocks and whistles that stealthily lure enemies, Sniper Elite 4 empowers players to approach each mission how they want. While being stealthy has serious advantages at times, if you set yourself up with trip-mines and a lot of secondary weapon ammo, there are few situations you can’t fight your way out of. Because the SMGs, shotguns, and pistols are fun and easy to use, I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty and taking the fight up close. When each goodhearted stealth attempt inevitably ended with my cover being blown and hordes of enemies descending on me, I took comfort that I had access to these effective secondary weapons.
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Gone is the relocation meter of Sniper Elite 3 that gave you a set amount of noise you could make before enemies knew where you were. Instead, enemies are immediately alerted of your position when you make noise near them, and they begin searching the area or firing on your location. Because of this, masking your sound with environmental objects is crucial to remaining hidden. I like the sound-masking mechanic, but found it inconsistent at times. Things like artillery guns and overhead airplanes always drown out the sound of your rifle, but strangely, a nearby gunfight does not hide your location when you fire.
Despite some fun moments, several issues popped up over the course of my playthrough. On multiple occasions, I’d take out one enemy stealthily, and then lure a second to continue to thin the herd. When I tried to stealth-kill the next foe, Fairburne picked up the dead body of the first, completely blowing my cover thanks to some buttons being responsible for too many actions. In addition, getting locked into an animation for stylish melee kills is panic-inducing, and resulted in me suffering several cheap deaths.
Thankfully, the checkpoint system is generous, often resetting to right before you encounter the enemy that killed you. While I appreciate this, it has a tendency to backfire during intense segments like being pinned down by a tank. When this happened, I either needed to restart my mission altogether (less than ideal, since missions can take between one and two hours on first attempt) or sprint away and hope the enemies miss me. The feeling of hopelessness and frustration that sprung from such situations made me thankful it didn’t happen regularly.
If you ever get stuck on a mission, you have the option to drop down the difficulty, but it’s much more fun to call in help through the drop-in/drop-out cooperative play. This feature is available in all campaign missions, the game’s asymmetric sniper vs. spotter Overwatch mode, and the intense round-based survival mode. Attacking a campaign mission with a friend also significantly cuts down on the time it takes to complete these long missions, since players can split up and track separate objectives.
The competitive multiplayer suite includes unique options that capitalize on the sniping theme. On offer are the standard deathmatch and control modes, but my favorites were Distance King, where you’re awarded points based on how far your kills are, and No Cross, a twist on team deathmatch where the teams are completely separate the whole time thanks to a strip in the middle. These modes are worthwhile for those who enjoy the gameplay of Sniper Elite 4, but the matches do little to contribute to any meaningful progression system, making them largely free-standing.
Sniper Elite 4 is a well-rounded experience that delivers on multiple fronts. The campaign is flexible and full of satisfying objectives, and I enjoyed jumping into missions with a friend. The unique collection of competitive multiplayer modes rounds out Sniper Elite 4, giving shooting fans a game that’s worth a look despite its flaws.