Italy. 1943. The middle of World War II. You lay on a distant cliffside perch high above the German soldiers below. Scanning the troops gathered in the villa with your binoculars you finally spot the target you’ve been waiting so patiently for. A German officer decked out in shiny silver crosses. He steps outside to survey the German war machine, barking orders at a nearby attendant. The attendant scurries off and the officer plants his hands behind his back taking in the Italian landscape. He has seen this site several times before but it always manages to take his breath away. He does not realize it will be his last time. You pull up the rifle lying next to you and aim down its long scope. Pointing the barrel of the rifle directly at the officer's distant chest you take a deep breath. Time slows to a crawl and you can feel the wind pick up slightly as you pull the trigger. A shot rings out and several heads look around for the source, including the German officer. He looks around worriedly and notices bits of plaster falling from the once whole wall behind him. The moment he opens his mouth to alert the guards is the moment a bullet flies through the back of his head and into that very same wall. A very nice shot in your opinion, but not from you. Glancing up towards a distant bell tower you catch the glint from the scope of a rifle. Your partner and friend on this mission. Smiling, you shoulder your rifle and sight the next German soldier. Take a deep breath and pull the trigger on Sniper Elite 4.
In Sniper Elite you play as Karl Fairburne an elite sniper and decorated war hero. In the fourth game, you are sent to Italy to find and destroy a new Nazi weapon. The story is rather straightforward and not much in the way of surprises. It has a few emotional pulls however like the Italian resistance leader Sofia “Angel” Di Rocco searching for news of the last resistance leader, her father. Besides that, the gameplay is clearly the focus of this game and does wonders to keep the average story afloat.
Sniper Elite 4 is a tactical shooter and stealth game that as the title suggests involves quite a bit of sniping. The first thing I noticed upon playing the first mission is how seriously this game takes its namesake. The Sniper Elite series has had three other games to polish their skills and the fourth iteration does not fail to disappoint. Depending on your level of difficulty bullets fired from your high powered rifles can be affected in multiple ways. This includes wind, distance, and even ricochet depending on what you strike. The controls seem complex at first but can be understood rather quickly. The weapons and equipment attached to your radial wheel menu seem overwhelming at first but allow you several methods of completing your mission. You can be a traditional sniper, finding a high perch somewhere to scout out the enemies below. Or a guerilla fighter setting multiple traps, causing chaos with your hit and run tactics. Or maybe a combination of both with help from a friend.
Co-op is included in Sniper Elite 4 and it may be the best feature of the game aside from the shooting itself. The only drawback is that it is over online play only but despite the lack of couch co-op it still is a fun experience. I played a part of the game alone but most of the game with my brother and the best moments I had with the game was when we would put our plans into action and attempt to control the ensuing chaos. The AI enemies react well to our movements and distractions. Further along in the game, there was noticeable scaling in difficulty and enemy aggression. On harder difficulties the margin for error is minimal and death comes quickly but the satisfaction of making the perfect shot under less than perfect conditions is that much better.
For example, one of the games most difficult enemies is the opposing snipers who appear throughout the levels. At first, they are a simple affair usually perched in easily spottable locations however in later levels they become instant death dealers with expert marksmanship and spotting them before they spot you becomes paramount to your survival. Moving recklessly is a sure fire way to end up shot and bleeding out in the middle of the road. Once when we encountered such a foe we ended up pinned down by his accurate fire. His precise shooting allowed reinforcements to show up and blow us both to kingdom come. In our next attempt, we tried something different. Splitting up, we fired on the sniper from two separate positions effectively flanking him until he made the fatal mistake of leaving cover allowing my brother to finish him off. As I stood up to celebrate, I noticed a glint in the distance and was quickly shot by another sniper we failed to notice earlier. Patience is the name of the game here.
Moments like these made the game for me, along with features like the X-ray kill cam which activates every time you shoot an enemy with a rifle showing you exactly how they die. It can be a bit gratuitous at times but does little to detract from the feeling of exhilaration when scoring a clean kill. Another thing I noticed while playing is how large the maps are. There aren’t that many missions total but that makes sense due to the size of the levels themselves. When playing by myself it took over an hour to beat one level. There is definitely a time investment that can be a little off-putting if you aren’t into stealth like games like Metal Gear or Splinter Cell.
Overall, if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a special forces sniper then this is the game for you. Even though there aren’t many campaign missions there’s plenty to do in the menus like multiplayer or weapons training. Sniper Elite 4 was made by Rebellion Developments. It’s out now and can be purchased at any game retailer for $30.