Even though I played through it just a couple of months ago, on the newly released PS4 Pro, it’s easy to forget that Sniper Elite III was a cross-generational title, appearing on both Sony and Microsoft’s older and newer consoles. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but as I reflect upon my time with it, it becomes more clear that the game does suffer from having cater to older, noticeably weaker hardware. That’s not the case with Sniper Elite 4, however. Built exclusively for current-gen consoles (and PC, of course), Rebellion Developments has clearly listened to the fans and critics and has taken it upon themselves to fix many of the shortcomings with their previous title, making Sniper Elite 4 infinitely more enjoyable in the process.
While I could take the time to explain the story and characters of the Sniper Elite series, narrative has never really been at the forefront of the franchise, and that hasn’t changed this time around. You take control of Karl Fairburne, an elite sniper (see what I did there?) who is often sent on solo infiltration missions, tasked with assassinating high-ranking members of the Nazi regime, while also performing reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. This time around, Karl is sent off to Italy during the middle of the Second World War, in order to liberate the country and destroy a secret weapon that could turn the tide of war in the Axis Powers’ favor.
As the name suggests, sniping is the main attraction on display, but Karl has a handful of other gadgets and tricks up his sleeve which are just as important. While previous games in the series have always placed a focus on stealth, Sniper Elite 4 fixes many of the problems and design flaws from older titles, which elevates stealth from a nuisance to an avenue that’s actually worth pursuing. Right off the bat, it’s quite apparent that Karl’s movement system has been revamped for the better; he can more easily and fluidly climb up ladders and jump across gaps, and he’s now able to shimmy up poles and hang on ledges, allowing for ledge takedowns and stealthy eliminations all around (don’t worry; bone-shattering, organ-bursting X-ray kills haven’t gone anywhere).
Of course, Sniper Elite 4’s revamp of its stealth mechanics would be for nothing if the AI hadn’t been improved. Thankfully, that’s not the case. I might be a little more biased having just finished Sniper Elite III, but the enemy AI is much more intelligent this time around. While they will make occasional blunders (such as letting a dead body or two go unnoticed), enemy soldiers are much more effective at thwarting your advance. Taking too many sniper shots without sound cover will allow enemies to triangulate your position and they’ll work to surround you if you don’t quickly relocate.
To their credit, Rebellion has provided enough tools to allow you to assess if you’ve been exposed. Radar, field of vision indicators, and last known position markers all let you know if the enemy is actively seeking you out, or if they’re merely suspicious. It’s a noticeable improvement compared to past titles, and even a few hours in, the enemy AI was surprising me when I least expected it. On one occasion, I saw a soldier diffuse on of my booby traps, and during a shootout, some soldiers will avoid the bodies of their fallen comrades in fear of being shot.
Aside from improvements to the game’s stealth mechanics and AI, one of the biggest changes to Sniper Elite 4 is the sheer scope of the sandbox-style levels that the game drops you in. Compared to its predecessor, levels in Sniper Elite 4 are massive, and don’t suffer from chokepoints and narrow designs that often force you into confronting enemies head on. Aside from a focus on sheer size and verticality (aided by Karl’s more varied move set), levels are littered with collectibles, secret side objectives, and extreme longshots to seek out. Coupled with the ability to tackle objectives out of order, the game puts a heavy emphasis on replayability, which is aided by the customizable difficulty options.
Not unlike other entries in the franchise, Sniper Elite 4 allows you to customize gameplay settings in order to create a custom difficulty level. Players have the option to control the aggressiveness of enemy AI, as well as change physics settings such as bullet drop and sway due to gravity and wind. It’s an excellent inclusion that I would love more titles to adopt, though I wish Rebellion would allow an option to cause a gameover should an alarm be raised, a la Metal Gear. Still, the ability to purchase new weapons and customize loadouts is a nice touch, allowing players to cater Karl’s to their liking. There’s also a skills/perks system, which ties into a player experience system.
At the end of the day though, regardless of the amount of improvements that Rebellion has packed in, Sniper Elite 4 is a blast to play because it gives you the freedom to tackle its wide-open levels however you want to. Whether that be raising as much hell (and noise) as your heart desires, or slowly and methodically taking out your enemies from the shadows, Sniper Elite 4 is easily the most polished, robust, and simply put, best game in the series.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Author’s Note: Due to the nature of reviewing a game pre-release, we were unable to extensively test out the Sniper Elite 4’s co-op mode, which allows you to tackle campaign missions with a friend. Similarly, we have not had the opportunity to go hands-on with the game’s multiplayer modes. We will be testing both of these modes out once Sniper Elite 4 is in the hands of the public, and will update our review and/or our score if we feel that these modes significantly add to or detract from the overall experience.
With a revamped stealth system, improved AI, and massive sandbox-style levels, Sniper Elite 4 is hands-down the best game in the series.