Few periods of human history have been covered in the interactive arts as much as the Second World War. The reasoning is simple: the main antagonists are the Nazis and they remain as one of the most brutal and evil regimes in all known time.
Of course there were also the Japanese and Italians as part of the Axis powers. Nonetheless, their sins pale compared to what Hitler committed for his Third Reich. That may be why for some, if not for most, that’s justification enough to kill as many virtual Nazis as possible. Sniper Elite 4 is giddy with showing you the ways.
This is the first of the Sniper Elite games I have played, so I must base my perspective of this series with what will be first impressions.
Based on critical consensus and secondhand opionion, Sniper Elite 4 is not a bad way to introduce a player to 1940s sniping action. You take on the role of American sniper Karl Fairburne. He’s got possibly the deepest and gruffest voice I’ve ever heard come out of the American hero archetype.
At times I wonder if his 50-pack a day voice was actually something of an inside joke by the developers. Nevertheless, there is enough genuine swagger to carry you through his reasonably lengthy tour of duty in fascist Italy.
He arrives as part of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to Italy before the allied invasion to help weaken the defenses of the German and Italian forces stationed there. But more importantly, Fairburne is there to uncover and destroy a fictional Nazi super weapon capable of crippling the Allied ships at sea.
It is as by-the-books as it comes - aside from some admittingly solid voice acting and a couple of good quips from Fairburne. Still, there is nothing narrative-wise to make Sniper Elite 4 stand out in any particular way. But that is not enough to dismiss it.
Sniper Elite 4 is a solid stealth action game that also rewards you for going loud and explosive.
So long as Fairburne gets the job done, the game will go along with you. There is still an emphasis on the delayed gratification for those who wish to remain patient to find the right spot, lay the right traps and time your shots carefully to fill the fascist soldiers with lead.
One challenge to the game – nigh impossible not to alert your enemies due to the intentional lack of suppressed ammo for any one weapon. You can in some cases use ambient sound of a firing shell or low hanging plane to mask the rifle’s soud. Those moments are particularly satisfying.
While the utilization of weapons and traps like mines, TNT, and trip wires are well thought out and situated to find onsight precurement, the one weakness of the gameplay I came across was how you move Fairburne. While he can stand, bend down and crawl just as well as other game protagonists, character movement makes it unnecessarily difficult to sneak or run from enemies especially in harrowing moments. Many game overs occur because of such critic.
Whether it’s traversing the mountains, seaside towns and densely packed military compounds, it never feels like the experience is on repeat visually. The number of objectives Fairburne is given - mandatory or otherwise - is exemplary. There are so many tactics to lure poor unsuspecting Nazis to their doom: quietly sniping soldiers and then either dropping a suspended crate on them or blowing up a nearby gas tank with a precision sniper bullet.
But it’s not all about stalking and killing. The amount of collectibles can also be a challenge, further valuing replay potential. Most of these come in the form of letters - operational reports, letters from home and most somberly, last letters, written by soldiers whose demise is innevitable
Such touching moments when letter are read makes the wanton act of killing actually somewhat harder knowing they aren’t just mindless drones. Still, it won’t stop you from being what the game wants you to be – a stealthy killing machine.
Sniper Elite 4 is not a revolution in the stealth genre, as it actually uses a lot of what makes up games of its type. With a gorgeous locale, great variety in objectives, great utilization of the titular role and some great freedom to explore and execute, it’s a solid, at times spectacular period piece only slightly marred by an aggressively been-there done-that narrative.
It’s hard not to recommend Sniper Elite 4 as either a full purchase or for penny pinchers, a rental with lots to fill your spare time.