Sniper Elite 4 Review: Not Throwing Away A Shot

Rebellion /

There’s no question that Sniper Elite 4 is the best game in the series to date. In other words, it’s pretty good.

Developer: Rebellion Developments

Publisher: Rebellion Developments

Platform: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC

Release Date: January 14th, 2017

Each iteration of Sniper Elite has resembled a stepping stone for the series; a measured refinement of what came before, rather than a dramatic expansion to the core formula. As a result, the series has slowly but steadily improved across four separate games (five if you count that zombie spin-off) released over a period of twelve years. Sniper Elite 4 is a culmination of everything great about the tactical stealth experience that Rebellion has been developing since 2005, and it subsequently offers a quality package full of single-player, co-operative and multiplayer content.

Sniper Elite 4’s campaign takes a cue from the likes of Dishonored and 2016’s Hitman, by isolating each mission to a single, open-ended environment. Each of these ambitiously designed sandboxes is noticeably larger than anything the series has offered in the past, with multiple (albeit simplistic) objectives, vertically oriented terrain, and multiple options for combat approaches. The focus isn’t solely on stealth per se, but rather making sure the player always holds the opportunity to stay one step ahead ahead of the enemy, often by catching them out by surprise.

Sniper Elite 4
Rebellion /

There’s only eight levels, but each one can last well over an hour if you take your time and strive to enjoy everything there is to do. It isn’t an easy ride either; enemies will flank, call for reinforcements, revive downed allies, or even hail down artillery fire to bring you out of hiding. They aren’t always the smartest examples of artificial intelligence (switching to a machine gun reveals how boring and easy the game would be as a standard third-person shooter), but they put up a pretty good fight even on normal difficulty.

Sniper Elite has never won any awards in the looks department, but the Italian-set backdrops make for some really stunning scenery, from the sun-kissed coastline of San Celini Island to the ornate architecture of Abrunza Monastery. Their distinctness also serves to diversify the proceedings, with the very topography of the terrain acting as both an advantage and an extra challenge to your mission, often all at the same time.

Much of the core stealth-focused sniping gameplay will feel familiar to veterans of the franchise; find a good vantage point, enjoy the brutal bullet-time kill-cams, make sure the enemies can’t triangulate your locations, and repeat. That infamous camera gimmick now accommodates environmental kills, buffing up the list of “things you can shoot in slow-motion” to include raised platforms, explosive barrels and precariously elevated cargo.

Sniper Elite 4
Rebellion /

Unfortunately, Sniper Elite 4 still leaves us wanting when it comes to the use of short-ranged firearms, since the arsenal of machine guns and pistols are deficient of any of the precision or responsiveness of the game’s sniper rifles. On a more positive note, even the simplistic melee combat has been embellished by the signature kill-cam, bringing to mind Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Attacks as it brutally reveals all the bones and muscles that are snapped whenever Karl gets into a hand-to-hand tussle.

Rebellion’s black and white presentation of good guys vs. Nazis feels strangely resonant in today’s political climate…

The expanded scope of the mission design (if you’ll pardon the pun) allows for the returning campaign co-op to really come to life here, too. The need for strategizing your approach to each objective becomes doubly gratifying when there’s two of you, while the array of different guns, gadgets and skills allow both players to diversify themselves from one another with specializations.

The “Survival” and “Overwatch” co-op modes that have appeared in previous games also make an appearance here too, ensuring the chance for continued buddy-buddy sniping even after the campaign. The latter mode essentially offers two more fully fledged campaign-style missions, but geographically separates players, with one acting as the on-the-ground operative and the other providing valuable cover support. If you can find a friend to enjoy it with, Overwatch is a memorable highlight of Sniper Elite 4.

Sniper Elite 4
Rebellion /

Unfortunately Karl Fairburne remains the dull-as-dishwater gruff soldier cliche he always has been, and the visibly improved quality of the cut-scenes and conversation segments do little to elevate the story beyond another by-the-books dramatized retelling of history. Sniper Elite 4’s stale, impersonal approach to storytelling is intended to act as a peripheral backdrop to the gameplay, but a little creativity with regards to characterization and narrative through-lines wouldn’t go amiss. That said, Rebellion’s black and white presentation of good guys vs. Nazis feels strangely resonant in today’s political climate, endowing Sniper Elite 4 with a refreshingly unambiguous message that might not have been so pertinent a few years ago.

Sniper Elite 4 also benefits from a comprehensive set of multiplayer modes, several of which – beyond the bog standard deathmatch and team deathmatch – aptly support the game’s focus on long-range combat. Both “Distance King” and “No Cross” make a welcome return from Sniper Elite 3, but the technical, mechanical and visual furnishings of Sniper Elite 4’s game engine awards each with a new lease of life by making them more enjoyable than ever.

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The free-for-all or team-based “Distance King” modes rewards players through a scoring system based on highest total kill distance, which suitably discourages attempts to spoil the sniper play through any running and gunning. This systematic focus on sniping immediately raises the tension of every match, and the large, open maps of the campaign return to fully accommodate long-distance firefights. The size of these environments are something of a double edged sword, however, since the player count is strangely limited to just 12, stifling the frequency of combat to the point where traversing entire areas of the map without encountering a single enemy becomes a commonality.

Sniper Elite 4
Rebellion /

“No Cross” is more interesting, separating two teams permanently apart with an untraversable barrier situated at the center of the map. Even more so than “Distance King”, this mode is entirely a test of your sharpshooter skills, free from any fear of being taken out from behind by a sneaky foe. The placement of the barriers haphazardly slap-dashed into each map feels a little shoehorned and hastily designed, and the slow pace of each match can drag at times, but No Cross effectively rewards patience and situational awareness; two skills which are typically left ignored by team-based multiplayer modes in today’s triple-A market.

It might not be for everyone, but Sniper Elite 4’s online component admirably places a sharp emphasis on the systems of its namesake and, in doing so, offers a multiplayer experience that stands out amid today’s online gaming landscape. Whether it proves sustainable as a popular place to go for PvP, of course, remains to be seen.

7.5. For better and for worse, Sniper Elite 4 serves thoroughly traditional entertainment via the resources and templates of modern video game design. The uninteresting story and inconsistent controls still leave room for improvement in a series that should have addressed these redundancies by now, but as an interactive power fantasy which lets you take down the Nazi Empire, bullet by bullet, it’s easy to overlook the shortcomings of Sniper Elite 4’s old-school sensibilities. Never before has this guilty pleasure felt so, well, pleasurable.. Rebellion Developments. . Sniper Elite 4

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.