Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Genre: Stealth, Third Person Shooter
Rating: M for Mature
Though not a massive triple-A franchise, Sniper Elite has established a foothold in the market over the last few years. Its iconic x-ray kill camera has given it a competitive edge few properties on the market can offer. After experiencing Sniper Elite 3‘s African campaign, I was excited to see Italy through the scope of our grim hero.
Though many World War II-era games lean toward the Nazi forces diving into the occult, there is little to no spiritual content in Sniper Elite 4. One side mission has a priest that’s suspected of foul play with German forces, but that’s about as spiritual as this game gets.
Sniper Elite 4 revels in the art of destruction. Though it can be turned off, the game’s most prominent feature turns your kill shots into short cutscenes that show the bullet traveling through the air and tearing through your opponent in x-ray vision. It’s viscerally satisfying to watch but notably disconcerting. On top of rifle rounds, explosion can also trigger the cutscenes, showing bones and organs shatter and tear.
To the game’s credit, there is otherwise little viscera. Unlike the stomach-turning scenes in Hacksaw Ridge, there is no dismemberment or gore.
There are some minor curse words used throughout the game’s dialog but nothing more egregious than you would hear on network television.
There is no sexuality in this game. It is worth noting, though, that enemy models are anatomically correct and you can kill a man by sniping his genitalia.
Through the Partisan rebels, we see the virtue of standing against evil forces despite the odds. The very idea of being an effective sniper also promotes a sense of patience and precision.
I completed Sniper Elite 3. When I first saw Sniper Elite 4, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. While there are a smattering of new features, SE4 feels largely like its predecessor with a new setting.
The Sniper Elite franchise is, at its core, a third-person shooter with a heavy emphasis on stealth and precision. Before each mission, you’ll wander around camp, discussing your objectives for the upcoming mission. Once you’re booked up, you can hit the road. Out of the gate, you’re equipped with binoculars and your trusty Springfield rifle (though loadouts can be upgraded and altered to suit your style). Once you’re in the field, you’ll have to make your way from point to point, completing objectives and eliminating Nazi combatants. Every kill grants you experience and the small things add up quickly. For example, if you can take high ground and eliminate an enemy with the noise of an overhead plane masking your shot, you’ll rack up some sweet bonus points.
Once you have the scope up to your eyes, the game takes on its best form. You can slow time a bit while you hold your breath, and by default a diamond will appear in your field of vision. Taking distance, bullet drop, and more into account, that diamond lets players know where their round will hit. Getting that over the vital anatomy of an enemy and pulling the trigger will treat players to a bullet-time cutscene of the round flying through the air and tearing through the body of your foe. It’s gory and a bit cringeworthy, but there’s something viscerally satisfying about watching the bullet you fired tear through the lung of your prey. The slow motion x-ray effect even works on vital shots for tank gunners or by the explosion caused when you shoot dynamite.
Staying quiet isn’t your only option, but it’s certainly your best. Going loud is where the game starts breaking down for me. If you aren’t firing from the scope of a rifle, the gunplay feels like it lacks the impact of many of its contemporaries like Gears of War 4. It doesn’t matter if you’re wielding submachine guns, grenades, pistols, or C4, the aiming feels less snappy and the animation is a bit looser. The silenced welrod pistol can be an entertaining asset, though. On top of that, soldiers will flood your position, even calling in mortar strikes and more to beleaguer you.
Missions are no laughing matter. While the collectibles screen can be misleading (showing information that includes two DLC levels I thought were in the base game), the campaign is substantial. There are eight missions, each with massive landscapes and multiple side missions. If you made a beeline for the primary objective, you may be able to beat missions in half an hour, but you’d likely still want to complete a side mission or two on your way. Doing everything will typically clock a mission in around 1.5-2.0 hours. All of that said, I really just wanted to shoot guys with my rifle, so everything else felt like a diversion.
The game does ship with multiplayer, but I’d consider getting my online fix somewhere else. I saw one fully-staffed game of Team Deathmatch end at the 20 minute time limit with neither team reaching 20 kills. Other modes, like Longest Distance, are fantastic ideas on paper, but I often saw games with no more than 2-3 players (including myself), which made catching an enemy in my sites a rare occurrence. Also, as previously mentioned, gunplay outside of sniping is ill-fitting.
Even after finishing the game’s narrative, I’m not sold on it. Our protagonist, Karl Fairburne, finishes his tour of duty in Africa (Sniper Elite 3) and has moved on to Italy. There, you have run-ins with the partisans and mafia, all while completing ops for America and her interests. The narrative does enough to keep you moving from one location to the next, but the execution feels flat and the payoff is woefully underwhelming. There are some genuinely substantial moments throughout the tale, but it is ultimately middle of the road at best.
The game’s look and feel are hit-or-miss. When you’re viewing the world through binoculars or a rifle scope, everything feels fantastic. The cutscenes triggered by kill shots never cease to draw my attention and, morbid as it is, the x-ray kill cam is a hallmark work of brilliance that will keep fans of the series coming back for years. Outside of that, Karl’s animation feels almost unnatural. The Italian landscapes and villas are beautiful, however.
The game’s soundtrack is engaging and the sounds of breathing and rifle fire will draw you in. The voice acting feels completely anemic, however, with our gruff, one-toned protagonist taking the lead. It almost feels like he’s dead to the world. Then again, I suppose if you had slaughtered hundreds of unsuspecting people, you’d probably have to be a little dead on the inside.
Overall, Sniper Elite 4 is a fun game with some problems. The tagging and sniping feel absolutely fantastic and the animations around that are every bit as satisfying as you’d hope. They also do a great job setting you up with large environments to slink around and acquire targets. Unfortunately, the narrative feels middling and that’s only accentuated by poor voice acting and a completely unsatisfying ending. If you’re looking for a great story or the next multiplayer game to play with friends, you may want to give this one a pass. If you just want to shoot some Nazis in slow motion from a long way away, you should definitely consider giving Sniper Elite 4 a go.
Review product provided by Wonacott Communications, LLC
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The Bottom Line
Sniper Elite 4 is a blast when you're in its sweet spot, tagging enemies and dispatching them from a distance. Unfortunately, it's dragged down by otherwise bad gunplay, a mediocre story, and poor voice acting. If you just want to shoot Nazis from a distance, you'll have a good time though.