It’s fair to say that game sequels have, not a bad rep per say, but a dark cloud of scepticism hovering over them. Tasked with the job of stabilising the franchise, developing the story or refreshing the tired mechanics, it’s a shame that few actually follow through on their own hype. Assassins Creed 2 and Call of Duty 4 established themselves as 2 of the most successful game sequels in history, and with the recent global phenomenon that is Resident Evil 7, studios are once again proving to us that there is still room for creativity, progress and surprise. This is where Sniper Elite comes in to play, a successful franchise that has come on leaps and bounds over the past 13 years, and even in its 4th incarnation … well without spoiling the article too much, this is a game of the year contender.
Sniper Elite 4 is the latest entry in the hugely popular brutal tactical shooter from the British beasts at Rebellion, releasing on PS4, Xbox One & PC. This latest tale follows directly after the events of 2014’s Sniper Elite 3, where we step back into the muddy war torn boots of Karl Fairburne, an OSS ‘Merican sniper agent tasked with assisting the Italian Resistance by shooting fascists in the face from as far away as possible. Fans of the last entry were already blown away by the progress of the series from just a few years before, so rejoice as everything, and I mean absolutely everything, in Sniper Elite 4 is better, bigger and better; yeah, I used better twice, big whoop, wanna fight about it? Each map you plough through in Sniper Elite 4’s new sandbox environments is huge in comparison to the last time round, even the smallest map in this new game is 3 times bigger than anything featured before. Players now have the ability to literally take down any enemy from any angle all thanks to the new ways Karl can traverse around the maps, scaling cliffs, shimmying across ledges and vaulting over walls. Now it may very well be easier to sneak around each landscape, but those that lurk within its walls aren’t as stupid as they have been known to be, as now each enemy will hear every gunshot and sprint, and will see anyone not lurking in the shadows or the foliage, making each objective easier to customise but much more difficult to complete. Speaking of customisation, Karl now has his very own skill tree, and levelling up through being a beast on the field or completing secondary missions will unlock perks that will slow down your heartrate, give you extra ammunition or give fallen Nazi’s more treats to be found on their rotting corpses. As good as Sniper Elite 3 was, this latest release sounds to me like the absolute pinnacle of the franchise and certainly seems to eclipse everything that was so great about its predecessor, but is it a clean headshot? Or is it merely a flesh wound? It’s not just a direct hit, it takes the heads clean off all competition.
This may leave you somewhat flabbergasted, but Sniper Elite 4 is what Metal Gear Solid 5 should have been more like. Seriously. As shocking as that my sound and as good as MGSV was, I just didn’t find it “fun”, and as morbid as it sounds, picking off terrorists should be more enjoyable, and I can’t help but grin manically every time I watch a Nazi’s head explode, no matter how unrealistic or unnecessary it may seem. The slow-motion X-Ray shots never get old, which is great considering there is far more opportunities to see them. No longer is it just a graphic image of a bullet ricocheting through a soldier’s sternum, but shoot a jerry can or blow up an ammunition truck and sit back, relax and enjoy the shrapnel as it tears through the battlefield with sheer delight. Being patient and waiting for the perfect opportunity to fire, like in Mission 3 where waiting for the railway gun to fire means masking your gunshot, is exhilarating and worth every second spent lying on the ground, especially if the payoff is taking the scalp off a sniper from 300m away; the same cannot be said however about my experiences playing The Phantom Pain. The key to dominance on the battlefield is tagging your enemies, and now thanks to your trusty pair of binoculars you can scout the landscape and identify everyone standing in your way. Your rifle may be deadlier, but your equipment is far deadlier, so you’ll be pleased to know that Karl is equipped with a splendid range of explosives and weapons that have not one, but 2 uses. Sick of throwing a rock to distract enemies? Change it to a whistle. Want your land mine to go off on a large group of enemies? Change it to go off after 2 steps instead. The binoculars, the multiple uses for each item, all of these solidify the jaw dropping level of creativity and thought that has gone into a game that simply requires you to shoot Nazi’s in the … well, jaw.
Every map in Sniper Elite 4 isn’t just huge, but jam packed full of perilous landscapes, violent soldiers and devastating obstacles, meaning there’s always something, or someone, to shoot and tactically navigate around. With numerous secondary missions at your disposal too, you can now customise your experience of each level by exploring every corner of it and completing optional objectives that at best will give you an advantage on the battlefield, and at worst will level you up and unlock perks for you to equip. When I read that the enemy AI was a lot more sophisticated, making them a lot more devious and alert I was in all honesty rather pessimistic, however Rebellion weren’t lying or exaggerating at all. The game’s maps may be designed more like a sandbox, the game’s missions may be built with multiple route’s and techniques in mind, however no matter what approach you take you’ll always be outed by a conniving soldier lurking in the streets, or a sniper watching your every move from half a mile away. Kill too many soldiers in the open and others will be alerted to your presence, make too much noise in the same place and the enemy will be able to pinpoint your exact location, the Nazi’s are on point and genuinely make each mission challenging no matter how you choose to tackle them.
Every aspect of Sniper Elite’s gameplay is fantastic, phenomenal even, so as you can imagine it’s a great shame that a simple, yet essential element of the game’s build prevents it from being perfect. The auto save. Yes, that’s right, that incredibly handy, often lifesaving creation that at the last second can save you from the verge of ferocious game rage, is the reason that prevents this from getting a perfect score, not because it doesn’t save often enough, but because it does. Easily the best feature of Sniper Elite 4 is the stupidly quick reloading times, so no matter how often you bugger up that stealthy approach, or in my case standing up instead of packing the binoculars away, then at the drop of a helmet you can load up that recently saved file before you committed said buggery. Sounds fabulous, right? Not if every time you load the latest checkpoint up it saves over the last one, meaning if you’re lucky you’ll end up having 3 saved files of your mission post bugger upery … excellent! Now it doesn’t happen all of the time, and it’s not like your missions are scored like they are in Dishonoured, but still, it’s not fun having to live with a mistake is it.
Sniper Elite 4 is simply fantastic, and in comparison to its predecessor, it is better in every single way. Each map in the game’s single player campaign is huge and bursting at the seams full of difficult obstacles made of flesh and stone that genuinely push you to your limits of what it takes to be a tactical shooter. Enemies are constantly on the lookout for you and will see and hear everything that you do, so it’s a tremendous pleasure to report that picking them all off one by one in a graphic slow motion cut scene is never anything short of awesome. Multiplayer is back and now each mission is available for you and a partner to tackle together, as is the thrilling and dastardly competitive online battlefields, which to no surprise has followed suit and is even more exciting than before. For a fourth entry in a franchise that has only ever asked you to shoot Nazi’s in the most brutal way from as far away as possible, Sniper Elite 4 is just staggering and is exhilarating to play, which is crazy seeing that you’ll spend most of it lying on the ground in a patch of grass looking through a sniper scope. Sniper Elite 4, in my opinion, belongs in the same bracket as Resident Evil 7, as it’s a game that showcases the huge talent of a successful studio who still have what it takes to revolutionise their most prized possession with astonishing creativity and innovation.
Sniper Elite 4 was review on PlayStation 4, the game is also available on Xbox One and PC