Played on Windows
Also Available on PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Welcome to the second in the series of Humble Monthly Bundle games for September 2018. Today we’re covering Sniper Elite 4. We’ve previously covered Staxel, and still have Tales of Berseria to come.
Sniper Elite 4 is pretty much what it promises, the fourth game in a series about an elite sniper. It’s a rather interesting series, that I’ve played in past and had some issues with. However this is the latest and greatest, so is it worth picking up?
Let’s get the sequelitis out of the way, this is a standalone game, while you do play the same character from the previous games, this is an all-new story, and you’re once again waging war in World war 2. Fighting the Nazis… even when you shouldn’t…
What do I mean? We’ll let’s take a trip down the story lane, and jump in our history machine. In Sniper Elite 4, you wage war in Italy, before the massive invasion of Italy known as Operation Avalanche. You’ll be placed in a lot of different locations in Italy.
So clearly our enemies might be the Fascists, or even potentially the Mafia, or what a….
It’s the Nazis. It’s literally the Nazis in god damn Italy. You’re in another country, you’re in World War 2 before Italy fell apart and you can’t find a single Italian to kill because “Nazis are bad”. This is a quest where you go and try to kill a guy named Pierro Capo who is an Italian mafioso who’s working with the Nazis… He appears as a goddamn Nazi officer.
Now here’s the thing, I hate Nazis, if you somehow like Nazis or look up to Hitler, this is not the game for you. But you’re in Italy, which had their own military, and the Fascists to boot. You will team up with the Partisans, an actual liberation movement during World War 2 who fought the Fascists. However, the game has the Partisans but not even one Fascist from what I saw.
For a game that tries to replicate history, that’s an odd “mistake.” I understand why, but I feel that it’s a way to almost whitewash what actually happened. Germany didn’t force Italy to go to war, Italy’s army wasn’t only Nazis. It’s just very odd.
So with that problem discussed, the real story is you are SOE(British) officer Karl Fairburne who is working with the OSS (what would become the CIA), and eventually the Partisans, to track down a scientist named Kessler, who has made a new radio-controlled missile that can destroy ships.
Here’s Karl with his OSS buddy Jack Weaver.
There’s a decent amount of story in this game, but mostly it’s made to set up the set pieces you’re going to be going through as well as the goals. So it might tell you why you have to kill a harbor master or disable a missile, but really it’s just window dressing. However, there’s a couple of good moments in the story. Kessler is an interesting character, and while Karl gets almost no development, working with the different groups is rather interesting, even though you can also ignore the discussions with them before a mission and still get the same missions as you enter the map.
Overall though, if you really want a story based game, I’d look elsewhere. The story just isn’t as big a priority here. You might get five minutes of story, and then play a map for an hour or two with sniping and slow movement.
Graphically though, the game looks good. As it’s a sniper based game, one thing that is critical is the ability to see for miles. When you’re on a hill or a tower, you can see most of the map and usually have a good view of everything going on, including all the enemies moving around. From there you can tag all of them that you can see for later use.
The game isn’t going to win graphical accolades from what I’ve seen, but it’s really impressive to see how far away the game renders the enemies, and it’s got a great draw distance. I absolutely love tracking enemies far off or tagging them with my binoculars and still being able to follow them later.
Though the set pieces do look good when they get destroyed. But this is scripted destruction.
As for the gameplay, it’s actually rather good. I mentioned the plethora of missions on a single map in Sniper Elite 4, and part of the reason for that plethora of missions is a move to a more open world game. I didn’t remember the level based gameplay of the past (I played Sniper Elite V2) however the levels in Sniper Elite 4 are rather good. There’s usually a few high vantage points that allow you to see most of the map, and from there you can also rain fire down on unsuspecting enemies.
The game does have a push towards “stealth” gameplay here, and unlike Sniper Elite V2, which made it difficult to sneak through the enemy bases, Sniper Elite 4 has rather solid stealth gameplay.
A shot can be heard, seen, and if you don’t kill your target in one hit, felt. So enemies aren’t stupid, they’ll try to figure out where the shot came from. Enemies are a bit slow such as when you shoot from the obvious vantage point and it’s not immediately clear where your shot originated from, they will actually try to triangulate your position from numerous shots. The game claims there’s an enclosing triangle around the player on the map, but personally, I only saw the triangle once the player is caught.
The player has a few options to avoid this triangulation. A number of levels have very loud noises that happen at regular intervals, such as a plane flying overhead, or a cannon firing. If the player shoots during the noise, their shot sounds are undetectable. The noises are infrequent but sharp players can use them to assist in their sneaking. Players can also use suppressed ammo and can move locations with each shot, which makes the enemies ability to locate them from a sound that much harder.
At the same time, enemies can see the player if he’s not careful so you’ll have to sneak by patrols or hide in the shadows to avoid detections, and all these features actually work very well. I felt almost like a ninja sneaking up on a target, and often felt like a sniper making a great shot.
Stealth can slow down the player quite a bit, but comparatively, I believe stealth is actually faster than shooting it out with the legion of enemies in the game. The player can take a few bullets, but he will die in a normal firefight. He’s able to escape relatively well from danger though. Enemies will track the player, though need to maintain continuous view of him, but if they lose track of him the game will track his last seen location. This allows the player to know where enemies will search, but running away and evasion are both relatively easy. However, the enemies will stay in an agitated state for a reasonable amount of time.
You however have the ability to tag any enemy you see with your binoculars, to track.
So stealth is heavily pushed but not required in this game. There’s a number of tricks the player has, including mines and traps, SMGs (or shotguns), and even a handy pistol if he wants to shoot it out, though it is a harder game to play in that way. Even if the enemy comes one at a time, the player can use his rifle to take them out after he’s been seen.
Really, the player’s choices will define what type of game he’ll play, personally I think the stealth is more rewarding and more entertaining but I did have to have a firefight once or twice when stealth failed me and enjoyed those moments too.
However, that’s not to say the game is perfect. The stealth AI for the enemies is a bit lacking. Enemies will not notice when a nearby soldier gets shot, and then when they do notice the body, they’ll approach it, giving you ample time to kill them too. Even then enemies continue to approach the bodies giving you a chance to plunk them. If you have suppressed ammo you can keep killing them without any alert going up.
Attack AI isn’t that stellar either. Enemies seem to attack in a few ways and predictable. The minimap will help you watch your flanks, but the enemy seems to rarely try to flank you. If you’re fighting 4 different enemies, they don’t seem to work as a team and allow you to get away a bit too easily as well.
Still if the AI was too smart, the stealth would be more painful, and being spotted would require a restart, but personally, I’m a bit mixed on the AI on the game. I enjoyed the game a lot avoiding them but it could be so much better.
I should say I played on “normal” difficulty, the developer claims higher difficulty will have better AI, but overall I don’t know if I fully believe it because the AI was so weak on my setting. Perhaps that’s the case but I’ve seen reports that say differently, where they might change a patrol pattern but not raise an alert once someone has died.
The map is pretty well laid out and shows you all your objectives at once.
As for the missions that the game includes, they are pretty decent. There’s a lot of space to cover on the map, and so most objectives are spread out so you can choose which directions to attack the map (usually in a circular motion of some sort.) However many missions are similar. Find plans, find letters, find information, and so on, all are the same. You’ll look in buildings, find a desk or a table with an envelope on it that you can grab. Sometimes you’ll find a safe that needs to be blown up, and then you can walk over and hit x to grab it too. You’ll also get “Sabotage” something, and that’s similar but this time you’ll look for an object instead of a desk.
You also have the ever-popular “kill a target” and that usually involves looking in a location for an officer and shooting him.
These aren’t the most in-depth missions but the locations that you have to search or shoot from are interesting enough that I was happy to keep playing the game. There’s a decent variety here and while I always killed Nazis in all of them, I still enjoyed exploring Italy. But I have to admit after about half the levels, I felt like I had seen all the missions this game had and I wish there was a little more variety in the choices.
Now if there’s one thing Sniper Elite is known for, it is the kill cams. And don’t worry, those are still here. For the uninitiated, Sniper Elite sometimes will switch to a camera that follows the bullet on a particularly good shot. You watch as the bullet flies, and then the bullet will penetrate the target, usually showing a vital organ or a head shot. You can get a headshot, eyeshot, liver shot, heart shot, intestine shot, or groin shot, and it’s so satisfying even while it’s very graphic.
Sniper Elite 4 uses an x-ray view for the penetration, but it’s not as gory as you might imagine. Ok it can be quite gory sometimes, but overall, I didn’t mind seeing the damage, and I figured in eight levels I’d eventually get bored with it and turn it off, but it happens just often enough that I don’t forget about it, but rare enough that it’s not constantly in your face. The only downside is it doesn’t seem to show anything that interesting or different, just amazing shots over long distances. Still, each kill cam was enjoyable.
Not the most graphic shot I have, but one of the most picturesque moments.
Just firing a gun can be rather hard, and shooting a gun at any distance with accuracy is going to challenge most people. The good news is the game offers a really overpowered “Aim Assist”. When you empty your lungs before a shot, the game will actually show you where the bullet you’re aiming will hit. If you’re not a great shot, it’s extremely helpful, but it can feel overpowering. Eventually, the Aim Assist indicatoris what I focused on more than aiming my shot.
You can, of course, turn off the Aim Assist, but if the sniping is just a touch too easy with the Aim Assist diamond on, the sniping is very difficult with it off on anything above the first difficulty. The game starts to play with realistic physics. The first level has all bullets flying in a straight shot. The second adds in bullet drop where over the distance the bullet falls a certain number of feet, above that, you add in wind and Coriolis effects that are a bit exaggerated. Personally, I was grateful for Aim Assist because, without it, I would probably have had a number of problems judging the distance of most of my shots.
There are also a ton of collectibles, side missions, and challenges as well in the game. The collectibles are excessive. There’s just too many of them and a lot of them have to be collected from corpses, so you have to hunt down an enemy who is carrying the documents, kill him, and then search his body. I found it to be too much work for me to really chase them all down on even a single level, but if you’re a completionist, there’s a lot of work to do.
I don’t got time for all this… Ok maybe I do but I don’t want to spend it there.
Side Missions are the same as the main missions and they’re worth completing for no other reason then they are mostly on the way. You can skip them, but it’s part of the fun of the game, to do as much damage as you can to the Nazis. I personally beat them all in a single playthrough as I enjoyed them and none of them really proved to be too difficult.
Finally, there are challenges, which are optional choices when you replay the mission, there are 5 challenges for each mission and they’re a bit of a pain, such as use the SMG to kill 50 enemies and then complete the mission, or find a special rifle and use that to kill a sniper in under 5 minutes. I did complete two of them but the challenges were a little too tedious for me to feel like I wanted to chase it down.
There’s more to the game that I didn’t fully investigate. There’s a survival mode that allows up to 4 players. It works but is mostly just a chance to hold out and kill Nazis, the main game does a good amount of this, and I didn’t find it different, though if you want to play with 3 friends, this is the mode to do it in.
There’s also co-op available for the entire main game, allowing 2 players to work together. However, it doesn’t change the difficulty so it will make the game easier. Though you can raise the difficulty of the game as well.
There are also two missions that are only available in 2 player mode (called Overwatch). I couldn’t find a partner for that one, so I didn’t go much further.
In addition, there’s a multiplayer mode that seems a little dead at this point, so I didn’t jump into that, and anyone hoping to find a game might have some trouble.
However with just the single player section of the game done, I finished with the game, and honestly, I’m happy with what I played. I rather enjoyed Sniper Elite 4, and I found the stealth improvements in this series (that may have appeared in Sniper Elite 3) to be rather enjoyable. I loved sneaking through a map and killing my targets, and while some maps took me an hour of playtime, and maybe thirty minutes or more of restarting from checkpoints, the time was well spent.
As mentioned, I played the game on normal and found the challenge just right for me. I know sniper fans will probably go to Sniper Elite, or Authentic (where they start to remove all the HUD elements), however, the game has the ability to be customized to what you want. It will never become an arcade shooter, but if you want a sniping game, Sniper Elite 4 seems to have you covered no matter what you think “Sniping” should be.
At the same time, the AI is lackluster, and while I enjoyed the missions, the fact that they mostly consist of going to a location and shooting someone, or finding a location and hitting x to collect someone limits the depth of the game. It plays it a bit safe, and while I enjoy it, the player’s enjoyment is going to be based on how comfortable they get with the sniping mechanics, as that’s the core of this game.
I give Sniper Elite 4 a score of
Final Thoughts: An excellent Sniping game. There’s stealth approaches as well as full firefights depending on how you approach tasks. The game also allows you to customize your experience as needed.
Stats: 17.4 hours 27/85 achievements (Many of those are DLC)