Sniper Elite 4 - the testicle-popping, World War II-set, third-person shooter - is our favourite kind of stealth game; one that focuses on player empowerment, rather than admonishment. There’s no score that diminishes when you eliminate a non-primary target as a condescending sign that you’re doing it “wrong”, instead potential reprimands present themselves within gameplay and you’re equipped with a toolset to help you overcome them. You’ll still need a patient and methodical approach on anything beyond the easiest difficulty setting, but when things almost inevitably go south you won’t be left with that miserable sinking feeling as every considered movement that got you to that point disappears down the drain.
Sniper Elite 4 is our favourite kind of stealth game; one that focuses on player empowerment, rather than admonishment.
You might not think it from the title, but it’s actually very possible to make good progress without utilising a sniper rifle. The silenced pistol is largely to thank, but it’s also easier to manipulate the AI and utilise the environment to your advantage in a more intimate setting. You might shoot an explosive barrel to distract a group of guards and slip by unnoticed, whistle to lure a straggler into a concealed area and take them out, or throw a rock to have somebody investigate the trap you laid for them. Making the most of every tool at your disposal is immensely rewarding, especially when it’s so easy to settle into a groove in most games.
While this approach places you at greater risk of being caught in the act, there is a leniency to being spotted that helps balance things out. If a Nazi catches sight of you they only become suspicious for a time, which is your opportunity to escape their line of sight, but even if you fail to do so there’s a brief window in which to eliminate the threat before they announce your presence to their comrades. If you don’t quite make the shot you’ll find yourself in open combat, which is undesirable, but not a death sentence thanks to your secondary weapon. If you’re the kind of player that likes to ghost through everything, this is where you can make use of the unlimited manual save system to avoid any frustration.
Optional secondary objectives - which we really recommend completing, they can double the length of a mission - bag you extra experience points to help in the levelling process. You gain a currency token used to purchase new loadout items with each level you gain, while every five levels you’ll also acquire valuable character skills. This character growth paired with the addition of mission-specific challenges on subsequent playthroughs adds a decent amount of replayability to the package.
Though we love the campaign’s mix of gameplay mechanics that evoke both Metal Gear Solid V and Hitman - with an added handful of unique Sniper Elite spice, of course - at some point narrative seems to have fallen by the wayside. We can give Rebellion a pass on the story, there really isn’t much call for motivation when it comes to dismantling the Nazi war machine, but their flat characters and interactions aren’t extended the same virtue. Protagonist Karl Fairburne is a gravely veteran that’s devoid of personality, while the supporting cast are entirely forgettable. Ultimately, it doesn't have much of a negative impact on the experience, but it does feel like a missed opportunity.
The peripheral multiplayer modes aren’t the strongest, either; they’re by no means bad, but they very clearly play second fiddle to the main campaign. We can’t fault the full campaign co-op, but the two dedicated asymmetrical sniper/spotter co-op missions intentionally cripple both players to leave neither role an ideal experience. The dynamic can be good fun with the right partner, but nightmarish with the wrong one.
While we love the campaign’s mix of gameplay mechanics that evoke both Metal Gear Solid V and Hitman, at some point narrative fell by the wayside.
A wave-based survival mode rounds out the cooperative offering, but while it can be intense with a full group of four, there’s such a strong sense of déjà vu that it’s hard to get too excited. It does what it says on the tin.
The competitive side of things is genuinely quite interesting, as it’s such a drastic change of pace when compared to other online shooters. Camping is encouraged, with success hinging on securing a concealed location with good sight lines across the six wide, open maps.
Whilst your bog-standard Deathmatch and Capture modes are in there, Distance King and No Cross stand out from the crowd. You win the former by having the highest combined kill distance, rather than the highest number of kills, while the latter splits teams with an impassable No Man’s Land for pure sniper battles. No Cross is particularly tense and thoughtful, which makes it all the more annoying when a small design flaw spoils things.
With teams coloured red and blue, you’d assume allies would always remain blue and enemies red, but that isn’t the case. If you find yourself on the red team, your teammates are highlighted in red on the minimap and in the game world, which makes them look uncannily evil. In our experience, team killing was prevalent as a result, which is perhaps why the servers aren’t exactly bustling.
Though it’s still very much rough around the edges, considering Rebellion weren’t working with a traditionally “AAA” budget, they’ve done themselves proud with Sniper Elite 4. It’s easily the series’ best entry yet and it’s jam-packed with stuff to do, even if some of it doesn’t quite live up to the high standards set by the campaign. Whether you’re into stealth, sniping, or just like blowing stuff up, this one’s worth a look.