SNIPER ELITE 4
come for the exploding testicles, stay for the open-world scope
War, we’re often told, is highly schizophrenic— crushing tension punctuated by sheer, bloody violence; impersonal missile strikes contrasted with knife-point fighting, and the utter contradiction of god-like firepower and fleshy vulnerability. Rebellion understands this, soldiering on from past titles to deliver its best and most accurate war game yet.
With his square jaw and baritone voice, Lieutenant Karl Fairburne seems more suited to the life of a news anchor than that of an OSS agent. Then again, looks can often be deceiving, and that’s certainly the case here—as SniperElite4 puts in a solid, if unspectacular effort on the graphical front.
Make no mistake, the various townships and villas of Italy, where Karl pursues his latest target, are all naturally beautiful locations, but they clearly lack the sizzle and polish of other current-gen experiences. This is a game that looks more like an upscaled Xbox 360 title than a truly modern adventure. But don’t let this workmanlike approach to visuals deter you. This is a game with plenty to recommend.
Simply put, your mission here is to liberate as many brains from their craniums as is necessary, with the game providing a rich variety of means with which to do so. Pistols, sub-machine guns, rocket launchers, and a wealth of land mines and other explosives all combine to form a truly multifaceted arsenal. Pistols are weak but quiet (provided you stick with the ‘wellrod’ variant), while machine guns and shotties allow you to go loud and proud in a pinch. Fortunately for purists, both of these options are essentially nerfed via recoil, as maintaining a steady aim becomes all but impossible in a firefight. That’s not to say that they’re entirely useless, only that they’re more trouble than they’re worth—a decision that carefully prods players back to the game’s ‘main event’.
It probably won’t come as much of a shock to learn that sniping is what
SniperElite4 does best. Here, players are encouraged to empty their lungs and line up a special reticule in order to make their shots. Physical exertion, like running from point A to B, or being in a messy shootout, will quickly spike your heart rate, making breathing erratic and aiming difficult. The extra reticule meanwhile, takes all of the fuss out of adjusting for distance, bullet drop and other environmental factors—though seasoned shooters may wish to turn off these murderous training wheels. In any case you’ll soon meet the game’s calling
card—an X-ray kill cam that follows your bullets as they play merry hell with the opposition’s guts. It’s a gruesome, ultimately repetitive thrill, but one that never quite outstays its welcome.
Each kill earns Karl points that go towards an overall mission ranking. Inventive deaths, such as dropping a shipping container onto someone’s head, popping open two skulls at once, or luring an enemy onto a landmine, will all up your multiplier and raise the overall score. Sadly, as rewarding as it may be to mix up your murder, the tangible prizes for doing so often prove paltry.
Path to glory
As for the game’s levels, these are all well designed, and offer a multitude of paths to completion. The appearance of impassable waist-high fences is unfortunate, though the overall level of freedom easily outweighs their annoyance. It’s just a shame that the missions themselves aren’t more diverse. There are no civvies to be seen, no bustling marketplaces to observe, or pompous Nazi generals out entertaining their guests. This isn’t Hitman to be sure, but a bit more life and variety to these stages surely couldn’t hurt.
That’s not to say your targets are mindless idiots. SniperElite4’ s AI is largely on point, utilizing an alertness mechanic similar to that in Metal Gear Solid. It isn’t perfect by any means, but knowing that your enemies have the presence of mind to alert nearby guards and carry out coordinated search parties reinforces the feeling of being behind enemy lines.
Special mention must also be made of the game’s lightning-quick load times and save system—both fairly dull propositions on paper, but ones that ultimately push players towards greater experimentation. Just knowing that you can retry any takedown immediately after bungling its execution makes every obstacle feel more like a combustible science set than an interminable road block. This is a game that wants you to play your way until you get your way.
SniperElite4 may—ironically—lack the scope of its contemporaries, but Rebellion generally hits the targets it sets, delivering an exciting adventure that deserves to be given a long, hard look. Scope it out.
“Your mission is simple: Liberate as many brains from craniums as possible”
We get so sick of the glue-yournose-to-my-hand trick. Like, can you not? Left
The X-ray kill cam gives you a front-row seat to your enemy’s bones and organs rupturing midfight. Yum.
Sniping often involves hiding behind tiny pieces of chimney, and we’re pros.