Sniper Elite 3 was released back in June 2014 and has built up quite a strong following, but as Karl Fairburne’s story takes him to the Mediterranean, how will the Italians take to his testicle busting antics.
Most people will know Sniper Elite as the king of X-ray kills, forget about Mortal Kombat, putting a bullet through someone’s ball-sack is something Sniper Elite is proud of, now it’s your chance to line up your sights and start dispatching those Nazis.
Sniper Elite 4 begins with Karl on his way to San Celini Island just off the coast of Italy, in search of information about a new weapon being created by the Germans that could change the war in their favour. This initial setting does a fantastic job of outlining the new larger maps of the fourth installment and it won’t be long before you’ll be lining up your first 400 metre kill.
Fans of the franchise will immediately feel at home with Sniper Elite 4, and there’s more than a few improvements that are sure to make their testicles explode. Firstly there’s a greater selection of rifles with seven compared to SE3’s measly offering of four. You’ll also find an even wider selection of X-ray special effects, with close-quarters melee kills and grenades joining the bone-crunching X-ray shots. The artificial intelligence has received major overhaul to feel even more lifelike and less buggy than Sniper Elite 3. There’s obviously a few instances where you wonder why the hell he sat there when you’ve already taken a shot, but these are far between and overall it’s a much improved system.
Also the environmental variety of the Italian setting over the dusty African set-up in SE3 makes the game so much more attractive.
Throughout the campaign you’ll visit 8 different locations and each map feels fresh and unique, there’s plenty of opportunity for long-range kills thanks to some sight lines surpassing 500 metres. There’s new hub areas after the first mission which will allow you to interact with non-playable characters, and these provide valuable information about the mission ahead, especially if you’re hoping to tackle a few of the secondary objectives.
The actual story does take a back seat, as I found myself more enthralled by concentrating on keeping quiet and distance shots rather than the exact mission at hand. Most missions will take well over an hour to complete, although it’s probably best to expect 2 hours or more if you’re hoping to remain quiet and pick up the many collectibles scattered around the map. My full play through on Normal took just under 13 hours in total, but this could have easily been doubled had I been a little more insistent on staying quiet.
It’s worth making note of the difficulty on offer as Easy, Normal and Hard sum up the initial choices incredibly well, Hard adds full ballistics meaning you’ll have to account for wind, but maintains the cursor to let you know when a shot is lined up effectively, however slap the difficulty up to Authentic and you’re going to face the toughest, and most impressive sniping test ever.
Thankfully the difficulty can be fully customised, with 15 options to fine tune from the AI difficulty right up to gravity, wind and bullet spread spread.
There’s no denying that Sniper Elite 3 was already a great game, and without a doubt this is a major step forward in the franchise. The last time I remember a game feeling so complete was Call of Duty 3, and I can’t help but think if Rebellion had taken the same modern step in the future, this could have one of the greatest franchises in the making.
Graphically it’s near perfect, I encountered a few dropped shadows and the occasional lighting flicker, but none of these impacted gameplay in any way, the environments are lush and detailed, the X-Ray kills are bone crushingly realistic and the lighting effects are some of the most impressive we’ve seen to date.
Sniper Elite 4 is best described as a graphical masterpiece, and that’s something you’ll hear me say very, very rarely. When you take into account the scale of the maps, the detail packed from corner to corner and the special effects, whether that’s bullet flight graphics or testicular explosions, it’s impossible not to be impressed. I never tired of the X-ray fatal blows on Sniper Elite 3, and after many hundreds more playing its successor, I’m more likely to head to the options to increase the frequency of them rather than tire anytime soon.
Audiophiles are also in for a treat, with world ambiance setting the atmosphere perfectly. Enemies chatter, especially when they suspect there’s a highly trained sniper hanging around, and the explosions and gun-fire carry a deep, penetrative bass that ensure you’ll witness every bone shatter, especially with some high quality headphones or a decent Dolby system in place. I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the menu music which feels like it’s been snatched from a stock war music website, but you’ll be spending so little time in the menus that this is easily forgiven.
Occasionally you’ll hear repeated lines from the Nazi soldiers and a little more diversity wouldn’t have hurt, but the overall quality is still incredibly high.
When considering value you have to take into account this is far more than a 12 hour campaign, with the whole thing playable in co-op and enough variation between the top 3 difficulty levels it would be a sin not to play through at least twice. A single play through will take you comfortably past level 20 and this rank carries across all modes which means anyone who invests the time will be rewarded, rather than just those who spend their days on multiplayer.
Multiplayer once again has a plethora of options outside of co-op, survival and overwatch missions with Deathmatch and the total kill distance counting ‘Distance King’ both available solo or as a team, and the addition of domination inspired ‘Control’ as well as the sniper friendly ‘No Cross’ with an impassable central split mean there’s more than enough options regardless of if you prefer to use the variety of secondary weapons or pistols.
Each weapon can be tested in the offline shooting range from the main menu, and there’s also a couple of skills and upgrades for each weapon to reward the loyal shooters.
I’ve been extremely impressed with Sniper Elite 4 and it’s safe to say this is the first game of 2017 that’s as impressive on all fronts as Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 was last year. That’s right, Rebellion has propelled Sniping aficionados into the limelight and Sniper Elite 4 joins the ranks as one of the best shooting experiences currently available.