Realism in games is something that is often marketed to the masses. It’s highlighted as one of the driving elements of certain titles. Battlefield and previous Call of Duty releases have always hailed to be the more realistic option when it comes to gaming, especially when compared to Gears of War or Halo. And to a certain extent they achieve this. But Sniper Elite 4 provides you with the option of playing the game as it is, or – if you dare – you can attempt the game on the ‘authentic’ setting. This leaves the aforementioned titles standing, with their pants very much around their ankles. Because Sniper Elite 4 takes the term ‘authentic’ or realistic very seriously. And so should you.
This iteration of the sniper-based series takes place in Italy during the Second World War and is played out through eight, very large levels. As per usual, this isn’t a simple run-and-gun game. Patience and stealth is the name of the game here, and you can use it to your advantage in ways that border on the sadistic. And by that I mean you can toy with your enemy, if you are patient enough. It can become very cat and mouse. Except you are the cat, toying with multiple, Nazi-affiliated mice. Distractions, traps, or killing the command elements of the force before you is a sure way to mould and shape the enemy. You can’t scare them to death, but you can dominate an entire map just through thorough planning, and the patience of a Saint.
For me, Sniper Elite appeared on the scene several years ago, and I often considered it the poor man’s version of the usual raft of AAA games available at the time. This wasn’t and isn’t the case. It’s a methodical shooter. It always has been. I was simply used to running around like a headless chicken blasting at anything in sight and revelling in the sense of occasion throwing a grenade gave you. If you have the time and patience, Sniper Elite 4, and it’s previous releases in the series, show you just how good a sniper game can be.
The difficulty settings allow you to increase the difficulty as any game would, but the ‘authentic’ setting results in a far more realistic, and greatly unforgiving experience. While Battlefield now forces snipers to take gravity into consideration when aiming, Sniper Elite 4 pushes the concept of ‘marksmanship’ to new levels. Here it’s important to count your rounds (bullets) when firing, because reloading a magazine that isn’t empty results in a loss of ammunition. You also have wind speed to consider, muzzle velocity – which is very important when engaging moving targets – and the drift of your scope. Finding ammunition in each mission is also more scarce, as most enemies don’t leave it lying around. In the realistic world of war, it’s often secured away.
Visually it’s a superb effort by Rebellion Developments. The environments are a joy to look at. And they need to be, because you’ll be spending a lot of your time looking at them. The X-Ray sequences are also immensely rewarding, and I don’t mean that in a sadistic, Dexter kind of way. Unlike other shooters that might provide a quicker kill for a headshot, none of them offer the opportunity for testicle shots. And of course, you can aim for other body parts, all of which are displayed in X-Ray-like, cinematic glory. Bones are shattered and organs destroyed in detail via the high velocity bullet you just fired from your rifle. Though a little gruesome they do act as a visual reward for exceptional marksmanship, instead of just seeing the target/enemy fall, or a ping as additional points are awarded.
If you’re not up to speed on Sniper Elite or are possibly fairly hopeless at this type of game, there is the option of taking to the range to improve your marksmanship, and it’s not just with the sniper rifle, either. You can practice with the pistol and SMG and you can also try out with a plethora of different sniper rifles, at multiple targets, at multiple ranges. But even on the easier setting, the campaign is more about stealth and preparation than it is about your knack for putting a bullet in someone’s brain – or testicle. But obviously accuracy does have its part to play.
The story is fairly typical of Sniper Elite, involving a romp across the more picturesque areas of Europe. Well, I use the term picturesque loosely, because this is war. But they do look really good and there’s variation here, too. Not just the usual collection of similar environments for you to stalk around, because that would be really, really boring. But varied and very pretty maps go a long way in keeping the monster of repetitiveness at bay.
You also have plenty of gadgets on hand. Enough to make Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne envious. And these can be vital for survival when things go sideways, providing you’ve prepared and planned accordingly. In the lower difficulties this isn’t absolutely essential. You can resort to gunning your way to survival, but on authentic or similar it’s the only way to stay alive once the shots start going out or if you’re discovered prematurely.
Multiplayer can be a mixed bag. Some elements are enjoyable, but there’s still less emphasis on stealth here and often a game can resort to something akin to a Battlefield or Call of Duty sniperfest. But there are games where good teamwork and coordination, and decent players who enjoy the stealth aspect, can result in a thoroughly enjoyable experience. But like Sniper Elite 3, regardless of the type of opponent you are facing, means you constantly anticipate losing most of your skull if you make even the slightest bit of noise or move too quickly. This sense of dread heightens the enjoyment of a match, but it does depend on what game-type is being played or how resourceful and skilled each player or team is. But if you prefer a more intimate affair, you can co-op your way to victory on the campaign instead.
Sniper Elite 4 is a thoroughly rewarding experience, providing you like using and have plenty of patience. If you enjoy meticulous planning and exercising your hidden God-complex then this could definitely be for you. Out of 5 stars I give Sniper Elite 4…