Sniper Elite 4

Re­bel­lion guns for a new era of ex­cel­lence

EDGE - - GAMES -

PC, PS4, Xbox One

While the new Bat­tle­zone is set to break new ground for Re­bel­lion as the stu­dio strikes out into VR ter­ri­tory, Sniper Elite 4 may yet prove to be the UK stu­dio’s most pro­gres­sive project. Sure, it’s un­likely to revo­lu­tionise the third­per­son shooter, but it rep­re­sents Re­bel­lion’s big­gest en­ter­prise to date: now en­tirely self-funded and freed from pub­lisher in­flu­ence, the com­pany is at­tempt­ing to re­po­si­tion its niche shooter for the main­stream, and in do­ing so trans­form its rep­u­ta­tion, too.

“For quite a lot of our years we’ve been work for hire, which has its highs and its lows,” Re­bel­lion CEO Ja­son Kings­ley tells us. “At its worst you have to just put some­thing to­gether over a short pe­riod of time and get it out the best you can, and you’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but at least you keep peo­ple em­ployed. You might also get to work on some bril­liant brands, and get re­ally big bud­gets if you’re lucky enough. It’s usu­ally other peo­ple in con­trol, though, and of­ten you get other peo­ple mak­ing cre­ative and game­play de­ci­sions in spite of your sug­ges­tions. But now we’ve tran­si­tioned to work­ing for our­selves, and that means that there isn’t any­body else apart from us mak­ing the cre­ative de­ci­sions or busi­ness de­ci­sions.”

Re­bel­lion has ex­tri­cated it­self from this rig­ma­role by stock­pil­ing the profit it’s made on pre­vi­ous games, and now has no ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists or banks to an­swer to. But it does have over 200 em­ploy­ees across its Ox­ford and Liv­er­pool stu­dios – 120 of whom have spent the past two years work­ing on Sniper

Elite 4 – so there is more rid­ing on the game’s suc­cess than ever be­fore. The se­ries is in rude health, at least, hav­ing cel­e­brated its tenth an­niver­sary last year and co­in­ci­den­tally cleared sales of ten mil­lion copies.

Fur­ther shack­les that Re­bel­lion is keen to cast aside are Sniper Elite 3’ s links to the pre­vi­ous con­sole gen­er­a­tion. “The game was con­ceived to come out when PlayS­ta­tion 4 and Xbox One had been launched, but they weren’t huge in the mar­ket­place yet and PlayS­ta­tion 3 and Xbox 360 were still re­ally im­por­tant,” Kings­ley notes. “What we did on next-gen con­soles was some­what con­trolled by what we could do on the old-gen for­mats, and ob­vi­ously we didn’t have enough funds to do com­pletely dif­fer­ent ver­sions. On

Sniper Elite 4, we’ve used our own en­gine fully, we’re en­tirely self-fund­ing it – 505 isn’t the pub­lisher any more, we are. It’s just us mak­ing it, and be­cause there are no last-gen re­stric­tions this time, the de­sign­ers, artists and coders have been able to say, ‘Right, the gloves are off now’.”

The re­sult­ing game bears clear ev­i­dence of this re­dou­bled ef­fort, boast­ing densely de­tailed, sprawl­ing open-world maps, ramped-up enemy AI, and over­hauled con­trols and abil­i­ties that en­sure every­thing feels more pol­ished. The stu­dio is well aware of crit­i­cisms lev­elled at pre­vi­ous games in the se­ries, and is us­ing its care­fully planned bud­get to ad­dress them.

“It’s a fairly big bud­get from our per­spec­tive – we’re talk­ing mil­lions of pounds, but not tens of mil­lions. So we’re com­pet­ing in the world­wide mar­ket­place with a game that prob­a­bly costs a fifth of what some of the big­gest games out there cost to make, but I think will prob­a­bly sell as well. So I’m very proud of what the team has done. We’ve built on the suc­cesses of

Sniper Elite 3, and we’ve lis­tened to the feed­back of the fans and jour­nal­ists’ con­struc­tive crit­i­cisms. If some­body just says that the game’s shit then there’s not a lot we can do about that, but if some­body says, ‘I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand the AI,’ or, ‘Col­li­sion was a bit ropey,’ those are all le­git­i­mate things we can look at and ad­dress. So that’s what we’ve tried to do: we’ve re­designed the AI from the ground up, and tried to im­prove how we com­mu­ni­cate what the AI is do­ing to the player. If a sol­dier is pan­ick­ing, they sound like they’re pan­ick­ing, and they say they’re pan­ick­ing. So the player is com­pletely com­fort­able and says, ‘Oh, they’re pan­ick­ing,’ rather than go­ing, ‘Why is the AI do­ing stupid things?’”

“It’s just us mak­ing it this time, and there are no last-gen re­stric­tions. The gloves are off”

Re­bel­lion CEO and co­founder Ja­son Kings­ley

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