I have seen plenty of excellent films based on the exploits of snipers, but I honestly can't think of many games which have done the subject justice. Snipers stand out from the roar and carnage of war stories because their craft is more personal and intimate.
As it happens I have never played any of the previous Sniper Elite game and I feel like I've cheated a little: just waiting for the series to iron out the kinks enough and perfect the noggin popping. Don't get me wrong, I've picked up many sniper rifles across hundreds of games: but I don't feel like the skill required to shoot targets at long range (with drop and wind sheer etc) has ever been replicated. So when a game actually has 'sniper' in the title you would expect that the experience goes beyond a simple point and click affair. Let us take a look.
Developers Rebellion has been around the block a few times and so when it comes to shooters they know their stuff. From looking at the previous Sniper Elite games they have gone for a more open world formula this time around. You take on the role of Karl Fairburne who is lending his marksmanship talents to the Italian resistance in order to kill Nazis and bugger up their war machine.
A trip to the Albert Hall
Unlike previous games, the levels have now evolved into a more open world approach, but not what I would consider fully open world. You are given a main objective as well as a few side missions and away you go. These missions are nothing too surprising and usually involve either a high ranking Nazi losing is decision juice or some piece of hardware being decommissioned. Overall I found the levels well designed with plenty of routes to your target. As the title suggests sniping is the name of the game and it is very satisfying.
They say Hitler only had one ball, 'they' being the infantile chanting of my fellow primary school chums: maybe they were right. Most of the kills you chalk up will initiate a sort of X-Ray kill cam which lets the players see the devastation a single bullet can cause. Brain, lungs, heart and eyeballs are all turned into raspberry trifle in glorious slow motion. You can even pop someone's nut-sack which still makes my eyes water every time I see it. This mechanic is used a lot and while I thought it would get old over time it never actually did. The kill cam effect even extends to enemies killed by explosions and melee kills which really adds to the fun. I personally thought that if you have gone to this level of macabre detail why not have a few limbs being blown off for good measure: alas these Nazis are made of tough stuff and always stay in one piece.
As you approach a group of enemies it is usually a good idea to mark them with the binoculars, you can also mark explosives and even environmental items than can be used to dispatch troops. You can use suppressed rounds to pick off stragglers and there is also some clever use of acoustics where you can mask your shots with environmental sounds (planes flying over etc). However, once you do fire a normal round that isn't masked the enemy will start to triangulate your position. Once they have located you it is still an option to flee and slip away: the game will always let you know where they think you are to make this easier. On a few occasions the enemy AI lost its way and started doing stupid things but overall I think it puts up a good fight. If you do fancy going all John McClane with the Thompson then this is also an option: while good the full action mode is definitely a gear down from the amazing sniper play.
Looks wise this game does pretty well but there is also a last generation feel to many assets: if you told me this was a remaster from the PlayStation 3 era I would certainly have believed that. However, that doesn't mean the game is ugly, far from it. Some of the levels have been very well designed: such as one where you must take out a long range gun that is positioned on a bridge. The animation and movement of the main character look and feel clunky. It actually reminded me of the way Metal Gear Solid 5 handled movement: like you have a sack of spanners on your back. It does the job though and you can get around the various ladders and rooftops with relative ease. It is also worth mentioning that this game is very well optimised on PC, I was getting upward of a hundred FPS for the majority of the game with everything on the highest settings. Just one level that was covered in foliage and trees dropped this down to around sixty which is still acceptable.
Insert Story here
Ok so if you are looking for a devious WW2 plot with twists and turns at every junction you are going to have to look elsewhere I'm afraid. I am not sure if Rebellion just couldn't be bothered with a good story or what we got was their best effort but I suspect it was more of the former. Everything from the heavy use of cliches, Skyrim levels of poor facial animation and just some of the worst writing I've seen in yonks.
The skill progression also seems to be an afterthought and overall doesn't add a great deal to the mix. I would have preferred some new skills and tricks to be able to play with the already decent amount of gameplay mechanics. However, the developers went for things like being able to spot enemies faster, while certainly welcome it feels like a missed opportunity.
Sniper Elite 4 is a solid game and certainly does its core theme justice. Thanks to some decent ballistic modelling and the awesome kill-cam I had a lot of fun playing through the missions on offer. The various difficulty settings also add a welcome challenge for those who are looking for a more authentic sniper experience. There is multiplayer on offer which is decent but finding a match has been a problem, there are just not a lot of people playing Sniper Elite 4 for multiplayer and I don't expect this to change. There is also a co-op option which I haven't been able to try personally but speaking to a few other sources this seems to be a fun way to play the game. As I have mentioned the story is poor and the cut-scenes are woeful but you can just skip these and get straight to the action.
The DLC issue is a shame because the way it was handled felt like I was having to pay extra to unlock guns which should have been included in a game ( one that is being sold at full whack). I would say in future, get the game out and then maybe a few months down the road offer new guns. I have no problem recommending you pick up Sniper Elite 4 at full price, but of course, we are drowning in games right now with some major titles dropping this next month. So with that in mind I would hold fire and wait for the next Steam Sale to give it a shot because it is certainly worthy of your time.
Thank you for reading my review of Sniper Elite 4 on PC, please follow me on Twitter @riggedforepic and also check back here for more awesome content very soon.