Welcome to NSS’s first official game review. We’re jumping into 1940’s Italia to single-handedly win World War II by exploding Nazi bodies through the magic of bullet time in Sniper Elite 4.
Sniper Elite 4
Platform: Xbox One (Available on PS4, PC)
As much as we talk about the oversaturating of “bro shooters” in video games, there’s always room for something artfully crafted. Sniper Elite 4 from developer, Rebellion, could be a Picasso of WWII brutality. Stepping back into the role of a master ninja marksman is every bit the challenge it was and then some.
My first experience with the series came years ago when I covered Sniper Elite 3 at E3 for a different outlet. I’d never heard or played the predominantly PC based shooter, but I knew I’d need a break from the show floor and it was the only way I was getting into 505 Games lounge so I booked an appointment. There’s no reaction quite like the first time you fire and the X-ray bullet camera kicks in. As gory and sadistic one’s enjoyment might be, it’s the first game to properly illustrate what a bullet does to the human body. No neat holes with a ring of ketchup around it, bullets cause catastrophic damage to the human body and Sniper Elite didn’t shy away. This game I knew nothing about yesterday, had me. So I was all in on playing through a new chapter of the series.
Sniper Elite 4 continues the embracing of a larger non-linear experience. The smallest map in Sniper Elite 4 is three times the size of the largest one seen in its predecessor, and these expansive sandboxes are brimming with open-ended objectives. What better place for these picturesque landscapes in WWII than Italia. From dense verdant forests to confined sun-splashed beach towns, the game unfolds its experience through just about every part of the country.
Making a return is the series signature X-ray cam in all its explosively morbid glory. There’s no better feeling in video games than seeing a bullet travel the distance before colliding with Nazi anatomy. Expanding on the previous game’s festival of sniping, the X-ray camera also gets triggered when you need to skulk your surroundings to sniping position by knifing your enemy through their perfectly chiseled polygon made jaw or when the AI sets of a land mine exploding their coccyxes.
While the mechanics of the game are top notch, it’s story that’s valued by The Beat above all else in games. Sadly, that’s never been Sniper Elite’s strong suit and continues here. Playing as Karl Fairburne, a one-man military machine who single-handedly wins the war for the allies, or at least it seems the case while playing the game, never really resonates with the players. There’s no real soul to connect with, in fact, the only time you feel anything for him is at the end of every mission when you see you’ve eliminated entire Axis armies for a paltry $4 reward. Even with converting from modern day inflation that seems low. Storywise, the game wastes some good opportunities to capitalize on its setting. Some surface level details touch on the Italian resistance and the mafia’s role in the war, but it never delves deep enough to be particularly enlightening or engaging as a story. An investment in outsourcing writing duties on the game would have paid higher dividends.
Fortunately, the game experience itself not only saves it, but elevates it. This game is extremely challenging, even on normal difficulty setting. While you’ll see enemies set on precoded paths, the A.I. is more responsive to its surroundings and your interactions. Blowing your cover not only launches you into a frantic battle for survival, it makes players have to come up with a new strategy for your surroundings as A.I changes its actions. Sniper Elite is also the one game players won’t be able to magic Call of Duty bullet enemies. You’ll have to account for real conditions: caliber, wind, elevation. Becoming a master marksman in the game means more than simply putting an enemy in the center of your crosshair, especially as you increase your distance.
Multiplayer serves up a plethora of game modes spread across competitive and cooperative offerings. The game’s survival mode is daunting and forces players to implement as much strategy as action. When dealing with wave after wave of enemies through increasing difficulty, you won’t be able to exterminate Nazis from the same spot very long as heavy armor units and mortars rain down on you. Competitive modes boil down to marksman competitions as your patience and reflexes will be tested trying to eliminate opposing human players. When we played this two weeks ago there were very limited people on the servers, which actually made for tenser 1-on-1 matches. Trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack gave the matches a dramatic gravitas no multiplayer game has.
Sniper Elite 4 is more fun than anything has ever had a right to be. Despite a lack of emotional story, the game’s challenge and over the top methodical action never lets you get bored. Seeing just how many different parts of the human anatomy you can explode with a bullet is some of the best junk food gaming experience you can find. While violent war shooters aren’t what we care about all that much, I’m straight up Captain America when it comes to taking out Nazis.
Sniper Elite 4 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC