Sniper Elite 4 follows up directly the aftermath of the events in Sniper Elite III, and continues the adventures of Karl Fairburne. Set in Italy in 1943, you are sent to find out about a Nazi ‘super weapon’ of sorts, and then go on to tactically eliminate high ranking Nazi officers by any means necessary. I usually preferred relieving them of their testicles in a fatal manner. Oh, and it looks damn cool in slow-motion X-Ray vision.
Sniper Elite 4 retains the unique style of the series, and cranks everything up to ten. The game sure does look great, specially the huge landscapes and gorgeous vistas. Italy looks absolutely fantastic, and there’s a lot of variety across missions to keep you hooked to the very end. The levels are bigger than ever, and as you sit atop a bombed out tower, there are always moments of serenity between taking shots at the enemy’s most vital organs. The gameplay feels similar to that in the previous games, with a lot more options available to you. Other than sniping, you’ll also be setting up traps, ambushes, and cooking up deviously clever ways to kill the enemy. You’ll also spend a fair amount hiding in the bushes, luring in enemies, and giving them a taste of your knife.
The levels themselves are riddled with various paths, and you choose how to approach your targets from different directions. Will you booby trap a dead soldier, and wait for others come by to investigate? Or will you use environmental hazards to take out your targets? And if all goes to hell, will you go guns blazing, running from cover to cover, trying to stay alive, while making sure that the enemy does not? The game offers the player a wide range of choices, and all of them are immensely fun.
The shooting itself is improved from the previous games, and kill animations are gory as ever. There’s an odd satisfaction in seeing which organ your bullet blasted through this time, and it honestly never got old.
The enemy AI itself was quite clever, specially if you crank up the difficulty a bit. Even if you are sneaking, you will make sounds that they can hear, and then come to investigate. If they are suspicious of your presence, hiding in a bush will not do you any good. If you think hiding up in a tower gives you a good vantage point, well the enemies will just as easily riddle the tower with bullets, leaving you overwhelmed. It’s fun to be challenged in such a way that you are forced to change up tactics, and while patience is rewarding, taking risks and battling out a fight is even more so. It’s also good that you can tag enemies, because the sheer number of them across the vast map can make it really hard to track otherwise.
You can also customize the difficulty to your preference, with a lot of options to play with. There are options to simply change enemy behavior, like aggressiveness, responsiveness and so on. You can also customize how the weapons and suppressors behave, and also decide whether gravity and wind affect the bullets. All in all, there’s enough choices thrown your way to decide how the game feels and plays out. You can also mask the sound of your sniper rifles by syncing your shots with the sounds of planes flying overhead, or tampering with generators to make them emit loud noises.
Adding to the element of player choices are the how almost every item in your inventory will have multiple ways to use it. It can be as simple as grenades being throw-able or sticky, or setting up mines to detonate upon a single step to take out a single enemy or two steps to target a bigger group.
Even though it’s not one big open world, the levels are huge, and you can easily find yourself lost. But it’s worth exploring as much as you can, checking off optional objectives, and picking up or shooting down collectibles.
While the single player campaign is the meat of the game, Sniper Elite 4 also offers some co-operative and competitive modes. There’s Survival, where a team of up to four players fight off against increasingly difficult enemies. It’s extremely fun to keep running from place to place, finding vantage points, and sniping off foes along with friends. Then there’s Control, when teams fight to take control of a point that keeps moving across the map. It’s a more shooter-esque mode, and you’ll find yourself using automatic weapons and fighting up close a lot more. If you’re into some hardcore sniping, there’s also No Cross mode where two teams are separated by a trench, and you have to snipe and kill the enemies.
Overall, Sniper Elite 4 is a robust package, and is immensely fun to play. The glorious X-Ray kills, and satisfying depth in gameplay is complimented by the huge levels and great level design. And it may not be a graphical powerhouse, but more often than not, you’ll catch yourself gazing off into the distance, admiring how beautiful Italy looks.