I’m lying in some deep grass, desperately hoping that the enemy soldiers coming my way don’t see me. I’ve just shot one of their guys through the lung from an insane distance so they’re probably quite annoyed; I know it was a lung shot thanks to seeing it in glorious, x-ray slow-mo bullet tracking wonderment, my bullet flying through the air and annihilating one of the body’s more useful internal organs. It can only be Sniper Elite, bringing back the enjoyable parts of the previous games and this time making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Sticking with the World War 2 theme from previous games, and indeed keeping the same main guy, Sniper Elite 4 moves over to Italy, an often beautiful backdrop to the carnage and destruction going on around you. The premise is the same, and the strong suggestion is that you should be sneaking round each level, barely making a sound as you dispatch dozens of Nazi enemies from a great distance using the cover of loud noises, suppressed ammo or lethal up-close knife attacks. With patience (and a small amount of insanity) you can do exactly that, making your way through every level unseen and unheard, shooting piles of rubble suspended in the air onto the unsuspecting bad guys below, pulling people over ledges and using the cover of nearby loud noises to remain undetected. When the bad guys find one of their own with a bullet hole in their head and not quite as alive as they were before they’ll start hunting around, but if you’re well hidden and haven’t been heard they’ll stand no chance.
But here’s where my main gripe comes, as it does with 90% of other stealth related games: the enemy AI seems to have a really rubbish memory. Sure they’ll scout round for a while, but before too long the alarm drops and they’ll go about their usual business, and this even happens if they see you or hear you. They’ll hunt more persistently as you’d expect, and between triangulating the noises you’ve made and remembering where they last saw you they’ll have a good guess of where you were, but again the search soon dies down and they seemingly presume you’ve had enough and gone home for some lunch. Problem solved.
But even though I see this as a problem, it does open up the fact that Sniper Elite 4 works just as well when you’re not trying to be quiet. You can’t escape the joy of seeing your finely aimed shot rip through someone’s forehead, or land a shot right through someone’s trouser-plums, but if things go south as they often do then you’ve got your machine gun ready to deal with onrushing bad guys, and as you start to get the hang of explosives and traps it almost becomes a sport to lure them into your vicinity and watch smugly as your traps tear them apart in a series of explosions. You can even use dead bodies to your advantage, moving them to certain areas where any intrigued Nazis coming to take a look end up within blast range of a truck’s petrol tank, ready for a carefully placed shot to take out two or three in one go. Alternatively drag several enemies to your previous location while you sneak round using the huge maps to your advantage and blow up your latest target without even killing everyone. It’s risky, but it can work, and shows that it can often pay to get noticed if you do it right.
Something that really works is the different difficulty settings, giving you a range of support in terms of your long range shooting. As its most basic there are no real physics involved at all – your bullet flies straight and true to the exact point your sights are aimed at, defying any kind of gravity or weather that might be trying to put the bullet off course. At the other end of the scale is no help at all, just you and your long range scope. Wind and gravity are in full force, and with no help from your HUD as to where that sucker’s going to land you need to know your sniping inside out before even trying to take aim. It’s hard enough to stay alive as it is – start missing a few shots and you’ve no chance.
But the key thing to keep in mind is that whether you go all guns blazing or take a more sedate route through your killing, Sniper Elite 4 is really good fun. Having played Sniper Elite v2 I knew what the game was about, but having skipped the last game (with Dean reviewing it instead) the break did me the world of good. What I was met with here was a great looking and well made game which rewards patience every bit as much as it rewards just wanting to blow stuff up and cause mayhem. It’s unavoidable to notice the quite dim AI, but at least they can shoot fairly well so they’re beating Stormtroopers hands down in that department, and considering they’re just about resourceful enough to stumble into some brilliant traps you can set up for them it’s easy enough to forgive. You’ll be too busy enjoying the huge open maps to care probably, and with so many ways to approach each level you could easily play through a couple of times and get a different game each time. Sometimes you might want to quietly complete the main objectives and get out, other times you might want to wipe the map clean of Nazis and track down every last weapon, document and side-task.
And, let’s not ignore, that if you’re finding this all a bit lonely you can pair up with another player and complete the missions as a co-op experience, which adds a massive amount to the enjoyment. You can cause a diversion for the other player to sneak into a dangerous area, or both take pot-shots from distance to take out people with more chance of hitting them. It makes for a very different game, to the point that even the same missions feel different, and it’s most definitely worth seeking out someone to try this out with, even if it’s just a random player online.
Do also bear in mind that if you buy this digitally it’s a huge download – over 50Gb – so don’t expect to play immediately, but at least the download is split into two parts so you can start playing before the latter parts of the game arrive. So that’s nice.
Overall though Sniper Elite 4 is a very good game, and a true return to form for the series. There’s loads to try out, several ways to try and play and a good chunk of time to sink into it. And you can shoot Nazis in the balls.
What’s not to like?
Reviewed on PS4