Sniper Elite 4
Open world sandbox games seem to be where things are going these days, gaming industry-wise. Looking back at the past, where gamers more or less had to adhere to the stringent guidelines of their all-too linear mission designs, made some gaming experiences feel like you were on a tracked roller coaster ride, more than anything else.
While some of those old classic experiences were fun in their own rights, there is nothing like letting you pick and choose not only what missions you want to take on, but also how you want to plot out and execute them. Open world games let you plan each mission, which brings the armchair strategist out within all of us. Personally, I do indeed prefer to develop a sound plan, or chain of plans, before setting out to accomplish objectives. Each time you pull off a successful mission, the sense of accomplishment is much more tactile when all of that planning pays off.
Rebellion Developments has been going to the World War 2 well for quite some time now with their Sniper Elite franchise. The rather grindhouse-style series has mainly been focused around a kill-cam gimmick, which lets you see your bullets shred through the innards of your foes (all in glorious slo-mo) since its inception. Unfortunately, although the gratuitous gore and violence was admittedly fun, in a B-movie sort of way, Sniper Elite games have mainly gotten flack because of how linear they’ve been, at least up to now.
That has all changed with the release of Sniper Elite 4. The series has matured along with the rest of the gaming development industry, and has now graduated to the open world genre—and it’s pretty darn refreshing. I mean, relieving Nazi scum’s skulls of their brains can be fun and all, but when you are forced to go through a funnel during each go of it, things can turn a little stale.
Sniper Elite 4 switches things up and lets players take on missions however they would like to. Not only that, but they’ve also drastically increased the size of the maps. The game is set in Italy during the Allied invasion, and is a collection of fantastically sprawling roads, towns, forests, and coastlines. In short, this is one huge game.
The jump to an open world mission structure could have been a bust, had Sniper Elite 4’s missions been more or less as restrictive as they have been in the past. But this time the developers have (luckily) imbued each mission objective with its own distinct flair. One minute you could be tasked with taking out Anti Air guns in order to pave the way for an Allied air raid, and another your mission is to steal some secret Nazi documents. The sheer amount of variance, objective-wise, is a welcome change, and keeps the game’s main campaign from getting tired. There are also fully developed secondary objectives that you can tackle, within the midst of each of your main missions.
Use of cover and concealment in Sniper Elite 4 is always recommended, as it has been in previous installments. Enemies who detect you too easily can quickly dispatch you, so it’s advised to stick to the shadows. You play as the titular protagonist, an elite sniper named Karl Fairweather, whose gravelly voice somewhat reminds me of Snake Plissken from Escape from New York. The character, like his Nazi arch enemies, is rather boilerplate, but complex character exposition is not what this game is really all about. It’s about moving into an advantageous position, getting the drop on some bad guys, and then rupturing their brains/livers/spleens/groins/whatever with a well-timed sniper round.
The kill-cam is back in all of its gratuitous splendor, replete with x-ray vision so that you can really get in there and see the carnage that you’ve uncorked. Veritable fountains of blood can be gleefully witnessed as you rack up the kill shots. Curiously, however, even though you can essentially terrorize entire brigades of Nazis, their commanders will never call in for backup. Similar AI blunders and mishaps pockmark Sniper Elite 4 here and there, but none of them are so great that they are game-breaking.
Indeed, Sniper Elite 4 feels like more of a grown-up game now, despite its rather tawdry gimmick. I never grew tired of plotting out a mission, getting out into the field and marking enemies with my binoculars, and then waiting patiently until the perfect moment to strike from the shadows. Oh, and those grisly kill shots are okay too [wink].
When you’ve completed the main campaign, a full multiplayer suite is on offer as well. Sniper Elite 4’s multiplayer features your standard point-control and deathmatch modes, but also has a couple of unique ones. These include No Cross, where each sniper team is separated by a restrictive line, and Distance King, where players are rewarded for long distance sniper kills.
Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t necessarily have to be all about sniping, either. Both solo and multiplayer modes offer you a decent variety of weapons. There are trip mines, shotguns, grenades, and the like, so those who like to lay traps or prefer close quarters combat won’t be disappointed. The combat system is also very solid, game mechanics-wise, and it really feels that the developers have perfected it over its numerous iterations. Movement speed isn’t too hyper, and likewise guns feel sturdy and tactile in your digital avatar’s hands.
Sniper Elite 4 is loads of fun, and offers unique gameplay, slick controls, great sound design, open-ended mission objectives, large environments, and gorgeous graphics that you’ll want to show off on your high-end gaming laptop (if you’re fortunate enough to have one). The series has finally matured and gotten with the times, and this time it’s a sure-fire winner.