I have been creeping around trying to gather the intel on a Nazi shipment, but I keep getting pulled into side tasks. First I took out a traitorous Harbor Master who had betrayed his own people. My mission is taking place at night, which is helpful for a sniper, but I keep running into giant spotlights strewn around the area, so I figure I should take those out too. That brings me to where I am now. On top of a building, looking down upon heavy artillery which is causing our folks problems. All that stands between me and taking it out is, ya know, Nazis.
This usually would not be an issue. I have the cover of night, some decent space between myself and my enemies, and of course my trusty sniper rifle. What I do not have, unfortunately, is any silenced ammunition or anything booming in the background to cover my shots. I use my binoculars to scan the environment and I come up with a plan of action. Will it work? No clue, but I am going to give it a shot.
I pull up my rifle and peer through the scope focusing on a large truck and I wait patiently as a Nazi Officer slowly makes his way towards the vehicle. I empty my lungs: show time! I pull the trigger and the camera follows the bullet as it ruptures the gas tank causing a massive explosion and sending shrapnel through the unsuspecting Officer and another Nazi grunt. With flames reaching towards the sky and my need for oxygen increasing, I pan to the right and pull the trigger when my crosshair settles on a soldier attempting to hide behind an ammo crate. Again the camera focuses on my bullet as it travels the distance to my target, enters his eye, and blows out the back of his skull. My lungs are on fire, but I pan one more time and find a final target cowering behind sandbags. My vision is partially obscured, but I am able to settle my rifle on his chest, pull the trigger, and soon his ribs are breaking, his lung is being punctured, and my bullet is exploding out of is back.
I bring my rifle down and things are going bananas. I am being shot at from behind, and decide it is time to find a new position. I climb down a ladder and sneak my way through brush and around rocks as I make it to the area of all the enemies I have just taken out, their bodies littering the landscape. The rest of the enemy is still focused on my previous location and my new position allows me to attack them from a flank. I am close enough I pull out my silenced pistol and shoot a hanging pallet of cargo which drops on my unsuspecting opponents. I switch back to my rifle and use my scope to scan the landscape and isolate the last three Nazis who are now very confused after the falling cargo. I am able to pull off two head shots in a row leaving me just one adversary who is beginning to run and my first shot puts him on the ground and my second host ensures he would never have children had he survived. I pull the rifle away from my face and begin to relax. I saunter over to the artillery, plant a bomb, and walk away as it blows up action movie style behind me. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a small glint of light and hit the ground. Another sniper. I may never get to the main objective, but let this game of cat and mouse begin!
That synopsis actually happened, and is the best way I can characterize Sniper Elite 4. It is a thinking person’s shooter. You could, technically, go in guns blazing and muscle your way through each area in hopes of completing your tasks. You will find, however, you are much more successful by doing some reconnaissance, planning your approach, laying traps, and putting your plan into action with well placed shots from a distance. Sometimes these plans play out like you expect and you feel an immense sense of relief and accomplishment. Other times these plans run afoul the moment you place them into action and you scramble to think on your feet and make the best of a hectic situation.
In Sniper Elite 4 has you play as Karl Fairburne who skills are now being utilized to assist the Italian resistance during World War II. If you have ever played a first-person shooter before the controls will feel right at home. Most of the gameplay tropes are things you have seen before, but they are done really well. The shooting feels good and though the non-sniping weapons can sometimes feel a bit inaccurate, they do not feel unfair and that helps to encourage you to snipe whenever you can. Why would you want to snipe? Because it feels amazing. Tracking targets, adjusting your aim for bullet drop, knowing when to empty your lungs, and pegging your target from 200 meters feels extremely satisfying. The ability to use loud noises (airplanes, explosions, etc.) to hide your gunfire is well implemented and rewards you for planning and picking your shots. I liked this mechanic so much that I definitely missed it when it was not available.
The one gameplay aspect that helps stand Sniper Elite apart is the X-Ray Kill and they are brutal. Whether it be watching someone’s eye socket blown out, intestines shredded, jaw broken, testicles ruptured (yup), or any other of the numerous shots that exist, it is pretty savage to see and you know the enemy is not coming back from it. In a fast paced game, this mechanic would be a welcome respite, but honestly, Sniper Elite 4 is a slow shooter. There is very little run and gun and you are far more successful being methodical and tactical. As result, these X-Ray Kills slow the game down even more. You can turn them off, but they are pretty epic to watch, so I found myself in this back and forth of do I speed my playthrough up, or do keep watching these awesome kills. I ended up leaving them on.
These kills are part of a straightforward but serviceable story that I enjoyed. The voice acting is quite strong and while I did not fall in love with any of the characters, I always looked forward to my next conversation with them. You will not have had to play Sniper Elite III to pick up on what is going on, and the story is told through structured missions. The main missions are what you would expect (collect this intel, eliminate this person, etc.) but they are all accompanied with multiple side-missions and your relationships with other characters develop through these optional adventures. This is not an open world game, as each chapter of the story takes place on a new map, but these maps are rather large and beautifully detailed. If you blow through only the main missions, you could probably complete them quickly. However, it was not uncommon for me to methodically complete the main missions and side objectives on each map and be there for a couple hours. Keep in mind, I was not purposely going for any of the multiple collectibles, which would add even more time to your map exploration.
Spending times on the maps makes you appreciate all the detail Rebellion put into this game. The graphics look great and every environment tells a story from the bombed out countrysides, to thick forests, to Nazi occupied towns, you have multiple paths to every objective and interesting surroundings and tasks to do along the way. The sound incorporates perfectly with the environment, occasionally providing cover noise for your shots, having unique dialogue between enemies you can listen to, and actual music being out of the way most of the time. When the music is present (typically when you are no longer being stealthy and have a rain of Nazi bullets coming down on you) it always feels appropriate to the situation and increases the intensity and stress of the situation you are in.
I have been heaping praise on Sniper Elite 4, but I did have a few issues while playing. The enemy AI, while typically solid, has moments that can be befuddling. Granted, these almost always go in your favor, and maybe it was just the difficulty level I was playing on, but there were occasional quirks on when an enemy could or could not see me. While Karl is typically able to mantle and climb up many objects, he will occasionally get caught up on small rocks or rises and not be able to get over them or even jump over them. This never caused an issue in a firefight, but I ran into it occasionally when backtracking, etc. Additionally, I had one instance where an enemy got caught (for lack of a better word) in gas tank that had exploded. They could shoot me and could only run in place, but no matter the angle, I could not hit them, so I ended up leaving them there and moving on my merry way. Finally, they game gives you virtually everything at the start, and while there is a limited skill tree to upgrade, how you play the first mission is not drastically different than the last. So if you are not completely enamored by the sniping mechanics, the gameplay can be a bit repetitive by the end.
In the current landscape of AAA titles, it might be easy to overlook Sniper Elite 4. That would be a mistake. Last year was a banner year for shooters, and this one is different enough to slide in among that group. If you are looking for a stealth based, tactical shooter that gives you a chance if things go wrong, Sniper Elite 4 fits the bill. It is not going to be fast paced enough for everyone, but if you have a bit of patience and enjoy your shooters with a bit of finesse, give this one a shot.
Sniper Elite 4 was reviewed using a PS4 code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.