World War II could well be the most recycled time period in all of gaming. Since the birth of 3D video games we have partaken in large-scale battles, air warfare, and even skirmishes at sea, all during the world’s most famous war. Despite all the variants, Sniper Elite 4 still manages to make this historical setting feel fresh and fun.
A Sniper’s Tale
Karl Fairburne, the game’s protagonist, is—as the title suggests—an elite sniper, taking on the Nazi War Machine almost single-handedly. Resuming directly where its predecessor left off, Sniper Elite 4 takes Fairbrune and, consequently, us to 1943 Italy. We are tasked with aiding the Italian resistance and eliminating high-ranking German officers over the course of eight gigantic levels. The narrative itself is somewhat lacking in terms of story-driven drama. However, it makes up for this with its diverse gameplay.
Locked and Loaded
The Italian setting is a great choice for the series, allowing for varied landscapes, such as high mountain peaks and close quarter villages. Each map is a sandbox in which the player can tackle mission objectives anyway he or she sees fit. Go in guns blazing, tearing bullet holes through anyone and anything you see, loud and risky, but you can do it. Perhaps sneak up on enemies and dispatch them with your knife, quiet and deadly, or perch on a hilltop and snipe your foes from a great distance. You could even synchronize your shots with passing airplanes, masking the gunfire from the opposition’s ears.
This isn’t even scratching the game’s surface. Fairburne can hold his breath to steady his aim for precise shots, plant traps and then lure unsuspecting soldiers in with a thrown rock or quick whistle, he can even sabotage motors, causing thunderous explosions. There are literally dozens of options for you to blaze your own trail. Bare in mind though, every stage takes around an hour or more to complete, so once you have decided on a strategy, stick with it. It’s not so easy to skulk back into the shadows after engaging in an all out gunfight.
In addition to the franchise’s signature gunplay, the fan favorite x-ray kill system has also returned, gorier than ever. For those unaware, after lining up an enemy in your crosshair and pulling the trigger, you occasionally are treated to a slow motion scene that shows the full extent of what a speeding bullet can do: bone fracturing, kidney bursting, heart exploding, blood spraying carnage. While explicit, this shows the full horror of both guns and war. Aside from the X-ray cam, the most rewarding aspect of the game can be found online in its various multiplayer modes. These game types are your standard death match, team death match affair. Where it differs, however, is the way you play the matches. Instead of running and gunning like one would in titles such as Call of Duty, here you must bide your time and stalk your prey. There is nothing like waiting with your rifle—draped in shadows—as you scour the scenery for foes.
The Lay of the Land
Graphically, Sniper Elite 4’s character models are adequate but they won’t blow you away. In contrast, the lighting transforms the otherwise mediocre subjects into stunningly realistic figures. The setting sun curtains Fairburne in golden varnish, similarly, reedy shadows leave him obscured by dark streaks. Landscapes are also expertly crafted and filled with excessive detail, incorporating bushes to hide within, letters from forlorn shoulders to read, houses to explore, secondary objectives to conquer, and debris that, when shot, can cause harm to nearby Nazis. There are as many collectibles and as much beauty to uncover as there are ways of completing each mission.
Sniper Elite 4 is a master class in stealth action. We take on the Nazis in Italy—a locale often overlooked in World War II video games—and, while doing it, are afforded to the greatest gift of all: freedom to do it our way.