Sniper Elite 4 is the fourth installment of the popular first-person tactical shooter franchise developed by Rebellion. Set for release on February 14, 2017, we once again assume the role of Karl Fairburne, the main character from previous installments. This version is set in Germany, and your mission as part of the Italian resistance movement is to push north against the fierce German forces.
Before each mission, you start off in a small area outside of the mission zone, where you can interact with the main characters in the game. This is where Sniper Elite 4 changes the way it handles side missions compared to the previous games in the series. Each of the characters before the start of a level will offer Karl a side objective to complete. From what I have seen, these side missions offer no gameplay advantages apart from gaining extra experience points. The side missions are what will add depth to each level though. The mission’s main objectives could easily be accomplished in half the time it took to fully complete a mission including all the extras.
Much like other popular action games, Sniper Elite 4 allows the player to play the game in whatever style they prefer. The more methodical players amongst us will enjoy patiently planning out your assault on enemy bases. Binoculars let the player mark out enemy troops, vehicles, tanks and explodable objects, as well as any hidden secret collectables. In addition to making marked enemies easier to target, the binoculars allow you a little insight into the target’s behaviour and their background. I didn’t find any gameplay use for knowing that a soldier used to be a prisoner of war, but it was a nice little added bit of flavor that gave even the minor characters in the game some background.
The other method, which I sure as heck didn’t aim for but more-or-less ended up using anyway is the all guns-blazing approach. I tried to start off each mission as a silent ninja, sneaking in, clearing out enemies without being noticed and getting out again. This hardly ever went according to plan; a single misfired bullet at the wrong time will alert the entire camp of your existence, leaving you a sitting duck in the middle of an open field ready to be filled with bullet holes. I personally really would have liked to have played more stealthily throughout the game, and whilst it is doable with the use of silenced weapons, the bullets for these weapons are few and far between, so you are often left with no choice but to give away your position by firing off unsilenced shots.
When you do inevitably end up in a firefight with the enemy, you’ll sometimes feel like they have an almost endless supplies of reinforcements and air support. Finding yourself pinned down at a tower might make you feel like you are the star of an action movie, but it can grow very repetitive when you see your already-depleted ammo count get smaller and smaller with each never-ending wave of enemies. Sniper Elite 4 does equip the player with some pieces of gear other than the standard sniper rifle and pistol, like grenades, mines and TNT. My entire playthrough the game I had no need whatsoever for mines or TNT; they just sat in my inventory doing nothing. I never found myself needing to lay traps for tanks, as it was just as easy to run up behind them and stick a satchel charge on to blow them sky high, and I honestly don’t know what use TNT would have in any situation, stealthy or gung-ho. These redundant pieces of equipment might become more relevant when you start ramping the difficulty up, but for your average player on normal difficulty, you won’t really have a need to use them, other than for curiosity’s sake.
After each mission, you will garner experience points for completing main objectives, side objectives and any targets you hit throughout the level, such as killing x amount of enemies or looting a certain amount of bodies for example. Accumulating enough of these lets you level up and learn new abilities. The abilities start off at level 5 which you tend to hit once you finish mission 2, unless you’ve been rushing the main objective and not checking out the side objectives. Each rung of the skill tree you unlock allows you to choose between one of two unique skills; sometimes it’s quite obvious which one you need to pick as the second one can sometimes be pointless, but others depend on the player’s preferred playstyle.
The campaign itself took me eleven hours to complete on normal mode. I felt that if that had gone on any longer the repetitive nature of the game would started to have wear thin. The game does end in a rather abrupt way. The rushed and frankly unspectacular conclusion to the whole story left a stale taste in my mouth. With that being said, each of the missions also have hidden challenges for you to complete, even on top of the side objectives, and since I enjoyed the gameplay so much, I can see myself wanting to jump back in in a few days to have a bash at the challenge modes for each of the missions. I can’t see what achievements the game has to offer right now due to the game not being officially launched, but with a hefty 62 to complete, the completionists out there will have their work cut out for them. After finishing the story I’ve hit 18 of them; I personally believe some will be multiplayer related.
On top of the single player campaign, players can also choose to play in co-op. This will add a whole new spin on the story mode and one that I am looking forward to trying out in the future, I believe it’ll make the the game’s replayability fairly high too.
Sniper Elite 4 really takes advantage of its freedom from last generation’s consoles, and with DirectX 12 being fully embraced, the game’s environments look absolutely stunning. Playing on high settings didn’t tax my 1080 graphics card – I was able to achieve 60 fps almost one hundred percent of the time. However at times for seemingly no reason , I would get freezes for a split second, which did hinder me when tracking enemies in my scope or in hectic firefights. These freezes didn’t disappear even when lowering the settings all the way, so there is clearly an optimization problem which I hope will be fixed in the Nvidia GameReady patch on day one of launch.
Sniper Elite 4 is a real AAA experience for all the right reasons. It remains to be seen how popular the multiplayer modes will be and whether it will keep its audience interested, and with some really heavy hitting multiplayer games like For Honor coming out soon, it will have to be something special. However, the single player mode alone makes Sniper Elite 4 worthy a purchase both for any fans of the series and adrenaline junkies alike.