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Sniper Elite 4 (PlayStation 4) artwork

Sniper Elite 4 (PlayStation 4) review

"A Sequel's Worth"

Upon entering the main area of the first mission, I took the protagonist, Karl Fairburne, up to a nearby, damaged watch tower, and had a solid view of the grassy fields that littered the small, Italian island. It was a far cry from the deserts and treacherous mountains of Africa, where this sniper gave the Nazi regime a good, covert lashing in the previous installment. I could have equipped my rifle and started sniping nearby Nazi soldiers to make my main objective easier, but that would have made too much ruckus. The map didn't seem particularly big, so I instead had some slow-paced fun. I crawled across the ground, hid in bushes, and popped out to kill soldiers with a vicious melee attack, complete with a gruesome "X-ray" peek inside their bodies as it's happening. You'll either see skulls shatter to pieces, or watch their organs and intestines explode in a gooey mess.

From there, I attacked scattered encampments with a combination of the rifle, a suppressed pistol, and more melee kills. A skirmish broke out at a tiny, seized docking bay, where I had a height advantage on a huge hill, and then I slithered through heavily-patrolled barns without raising suspicion, using my unlimited supply of rocks to distract the soldiers. Next thing I knew, I was inside a cave with branching paths, then found an exit to the top of a steep wall that was, once again, looking out into grassy fields. At this point, I figured this was all there was prior to carrying out my goal. However, as I shimmied down the wall, I stopped mid-descent, took another glance at my surroundings, and noticed... I was actually lost. Then I whipped out my map, gave it a solid examination... and made the shocking realization that I spent almost two hours traversing half the island. Of the first mission.

The mission nearly took me five hours to complete on my first go, because I was just so engulfed with how distinct everything felt while killing Nazis in numerous, dastardly ways.

This is Sniper Elite 4's contribution to the franchise. And by "this," I mean the size of each mission and the intricate effort the devs, Rebellion, put into making each location feel as diverse as possible. If you were expecting any drastic changes with the latest installment in this third-person, tactical shooter IP, you're likely going to be let down; you're not introduced to a fancy new gimmick, such as the X-ray death scenes brought in for Sniper Elite V2, or the bigger emphasis on stealth and wider maps injected into Sniper Elite III. Instead, SE4 brings over the series' existing framework, mechanics, and extra modes, such as online co-op and multiplayer, makes tiny adjustments to the gameplay, and subtly insert a few new enemy types in large environments.

"This sounds very similar to Sniper Elite III. Is this just an extension of Sniper Elite III?"

Quick answer: yes. Complicated response: SE4 takes everything that made its predecessor interesting and puts it in a more organic product. Sniper Elite III is a fun game in its own right, but you could tell the devs were in over their heads when they tried breaking free from the linear designs of Sniper Elite V2. Despite bigger areas that allowed for differing approaches, the third game felt tied down to its linear past, and everything still had that "segmented" feel to it. The devs apparently got over this issue, because SE4's level designs are surprisingly seamless. Even though you know you're traveling into a new section of the mission, it's like the adjourning spots were meant to be next to one another, such as a docking bay that effortlessly melds into a vertical, seaside town that also merges into a countryside with an aged, tall lighthouse.

Simply looking at an image gallery or watching a brief, edited video of someone playing this won't properly convey the scope of the game's environments, either. Look at an image of Karl standing at the edge of a dockyard at night, and you'll think that and its immediate surroundings are as big as the mission gets. What the image doesn't show is the starting location where you're creeping around at a hilltop area, or the three separate warehouses filled with soldiers, with multiple floors and rooms, that have various ways to enter and exit. Then there's everything in between, such as the smaller buildings to use as cover, roads being patrolled by tanks, rival snipers situated in hard to reach places, or the array of explosive materials just sitting around for you to take advantage of.

You know how in other video games, you can look into the distance, see some grand structure, and know they're just backdrops hidden behind the map's invisible barrier? SE4 has those moments, except your disinterest eventually turns to excitement once you realize they're within the map's borders. This first occurred with me during mission three's forest area, where I had to destroy a ginormous bridge with a rail gun on it. With so many trees and mountains in the way, I never saw this "fabled" rail gun during the first two hours of play, only using its noisy discharges to blanket sounds from my rifle blasts. I eventually saw it once I got clear of the forest, with the sun's rays giving it a glistened look. A few more hours later, I was at the edge of the bridge, next to the rail gun, and looking down at all the previous places I weaseled my way through. It was a surreal moment.

SE4's third mission would have been overqualified as the finale in previous installments.

Rebellion should also be commended for not making their large environments go to waste. One of the easiest crutches of open area games is how there's sometimes spots on the map that's occupied by "nothingness," as if those locations are there purely to pad out the missions. SE4 tries making every inch of its maps count, such as a peaceful, inconspicuous hill doubling as an advantageous sniping position in three different directions. A simple, brief trail into another area is seemingly innocent, until you find out the hard way that it's either guarded by a faraway sniper or a clutter of mines. Even places that might come off inconsequential in campaign mode takes on a new approach when fighting hordes of soldiers in survival mode; you'll be taking advantage of every small, cleverly-placed object against the very aggressive, very reactionary enemy AI, either solo or online co-op.

To reiterate, this is a stage-based, third-person shooter; this isn't a role-playing or adventure game where the world is intentionally huge, nor is it a sandbox, GTA-style release where every mission objective takes place in different spots on a single, large map. That's why the size, the various ins and outs, and the attention to detail that Rebellion poured into this product is impressive. Sniper Elite 4 is a solid example of using the "more of the same" approach to being a sequel; it continues to fine-tune a template that started with a flawed game back in 2005, challenges players to mostly the same set of enemies, but in different scenarios and meticulous environments, and is overall an entertaining product to play. All this for a game where you just shoot people in the face.

Or the heart. Or use melee attacks to shatter teeth. Or you can bypass most soldiers by going stealth. Or rig dead bodies with booby traps and trick other soldiers to run up to them... You know, for a game that's primarily about sniping, SE4 isn't shy about giving players varying, accessible methods for dealing with the Nazi threat.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (March 02, 2017)

When I was writing my Rolling Bird review, I mistakenly called it Rolling Grid. I didn't catch this until I was about to submit the review...

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Zydrate posted March 04, 2017:

I need to record more of this game for my channel.
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pickhut posted March 04, 2017:

Given the nature of the game and how over the top it can get, it's a pretty fun game to capture footage for. I was going to do a kill montage like I did for my SE1 & 2 reviews, but I just don't have the time for it at the moment. Maybe I'll sneak one in down the road.

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