It has been over 2 years since I brought you the review for Sniper Elite 3: Afrika, where I loved it’s excellent sniping mechanics; its huge, open maps; and the amazing slow motion bullet cams. Now we have the release of Sniper Elite 4: Italia, which takes place after the events of Afrika. Having only been in development for a relatively short time for a full fledged sequel the question needs to be asked: “Is there really enough new content to justify a new purchase, or is this just a quick re-skin with some new features?” Well, let’s find out.
If you’ve been a shooter fan for much time at all, it is very well know that Call of Duty has received much hate over the years. People claim that it is the same rehashed content year after year and it does nothing new to push the genre forward. You also have the people who have a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality that will argue that CoD’s yearly iterations improve on the style and have new stories to keep things fresh. I tend to side more on the latter half of the argument and I see that it also applies here to the Sniper Elite Franchise. Afrika took what made V2 special, and built upon those mechanics to help bring them to the forefront. Thankfully, I can say that this does the same. In the way that it borrows inventory management, persistent leveling, and sprawling, open maps – Sniper Elite 4 improves upon all of these things in great ways. Rebellion has said that the smallest map in Italia is 3 times larger than the largest map from the last game. That seems a very true statement because each of the maps are extremely large and varied. I am also a fan of the locale with the mostly abandoned Italian cities and the dense wooden forests. The locations are much more attractive and vibrant than the last game’s desert locale. One major benefit of the larger maps is strategy. With each of the main missions supplemented with secondary objectives, planning out how and where you want to go to tackle each objective really enables you to put in thought for each level.
This is no run and gun video game. Those who play it as such will die, lots. Sniper Elite teaches players that those who win, plan and go slow. Using your always equipped binoculars you can survey the land ahead from a vantage point to see what lies below. Patrolling German enemies can be tagged for easier tracking. A new feature this time around is when you are looking at enemies the hud will not only show what kind of soldier they are and their weapon type, but it will also give each enemy a short bio. Anything from an officer who thinks his soldiers are fools to the young farm boy who misses his home, these short glimpses into the lives of these artificial enemies is interesting. It is great for helping justifying the end of an evil man, and at the same time adds some depth and meaning when you end a soldier that is more of a pacifist. It’s an interesting little addition that I feel is cool.
Other things that help give the world and its inhabitants depth is the letters you can find around the map, or on fallen soldiers. These range all the way from Officer’s letters of status that are directed to the Fuhrer, down to an infantry man that just got a letter in from his worried mother. These are great for padding the story and adding lore. What really helps this game feel fleshed out is the sheer amount of content available. Every level has a large number of collectibles, similar to how Tomb Raider handled theirs. Finding all of them before you end the objective is very satisfying and is sure to give the completionist a good time. Once you have beaten a level, you can return for several new challenges that have just been unlocked. These encourage players to attack the level with different objectives which make players think outside of the box, or alter their play style. It’s a great inclusion that adds quite a lot of replayability.
Sniper Elite 4: Italia is largely about the gun play and I can happily say that sniping feels better than ever. Each of the common WW2 Era rifles, along with their close range counterparts, all make a return, and this time can be upgraded. In order to unlock better weapon handling and power, certain objectives have to be met such as a number of kills, or overall distance shot, etc. This style of leveling system is a great thing to have for the single player campaign and I wish that more games included it. Everything you do earns you XP and as you level up you can select new perks to enhance your character, such as heart rate recovery which helps you have a steadier aim faster. You also earn cash which allows you to buy new weapons, though I just wish more were available to unlock without being behind a DLC pay wall. That being said, at least some requirements for unlocking weapons are done by in-game achievements, such as shooting a sniper with a trench gun, which in turn unlocks the trench gun for regular use.
The slow motion, gory, x-ray view bullet cams are there in all their glory and make each well placed shot feel rewarding. You’ll also find the effect triggered with explosives, traps and melee combat too – showing you the damage you’re inflicting in way too much detail. The weapon wheel returns which makes switching from rifle to bandages to trip mine and back all very quick and easy. A new feature this time around is that every item has two modes. You can turn your grenades into sticky grenades, or you could change your trip mine to detonate after two soldiers walk over it instead of only one. There are also plenty of environmental ways to take out foes such as shooting at a conveniently placed gas barrel, or getting even more clever and shooting a crane cable that is holding a cumbersome load of supplies just above an unsuspecting soldier.
The entire package of Sniper Elite 4 is full of content and just feels cohesive. The full suite of multiplayer modes from the last game return and the larger maps even make them more enjoyable. You still have the options to play the entire campaign in co-op as well. Collectibles that are earned in this mode will unlock for both players and also remain tracked for your solo play through. A four player wave-based survival mode is available, along with two Overwatch missions. I found these to be fun as it changes the way you work together with a friend. The person selected as a Sniper has their own objectives they must complete all while protecting their buddy who is the Operative, and the two cannot be together in the same place at the same time. The Operative has only side weapons available and a pair of binoculars for spotting enemies; and the Sniper only has their rifle and relies heavily on the Operative to locate foes on the field. It really changes up how the whole game plays and can be particularly tense.
All in all, Sniper Elite 4 feels more like an iterative improvement over the last game, rather than a product that really pushes things forward, but that is far from a bad thing. Rebellion has a winning formula with the Sniper Elite franchise and sometimes just making small adjustments is all that is needed to keep the ship moving ahead. I highly recommend this game to those who like to plan out their course of attack, like to be rewarded for carefully searching the map, and enjoy collaborative efforts with friends. Sniper Elite 4 is a solid package all around.
A PS4 review copy of Sniper Elite 4 was provided by Rebellion’s PR team, and the game is available on PC, Xbox One and PS4 from the 14th February. The season pass will be available on the same day and gives access to the Target Fuhrer pre-order content, weapon skins, characters, and standalone missions due to be released at a later date.