It’s been almost 12 years since Rebellion Developments released the first title in what would become the Sniper Elite series, a franchise which was has improved in ways both noticeable and welcome as the years have gone on. The franchise continues this February with Sniper Elite 4, the follow-up to 2014’s Sniper Elite 3, which came closer to perfecting the tactical, sniper-focused gameplay but fell short of greatness due to a few niggling issues.
Following a hands-on preview of the game prior to release, it’s clear to us that this title will continue to hone the now tightly-wound game loop. Rebellion Developments is putting a hell of a lot into Sniper Elite 4 to ensure it represents a significant improvement over it’s predecessors — or, at least, that’s the initial impression we got the hour we spent in the game’s co-op component.
While we aren’t able to comment on the campaign until our actual review of the game, we can give an overview of what will be present in the final game. First you’ve got the setting and story: the game takes place in Italy deep into World War II, when Nazi occupation was overwhelming the Italian resistance. That means you, as Karl Fairburne, must help in the liberation of Italy, sniping your way through one beautiful setting after another. One of these locations is a sun-kissed Mediterranean village right on the coast and it’s here that our co-op experience was set, and it’s here that we immediately recognised the biggest change that will drive this title forward: size and scale.
In order to offer players the appropriate level of tactical freedom, Rebellion Developments have taken a broader approach to Sniper Elite 4, doing justice to this gorgeously detailed map. The noticeable increase in scale (and to put it into perspective, the smallest map in this title is around three times larger than the biggest in Sniper Elite 3) brings more ways to arrive at the objective, and when you’ve dropped into a co-op mission this is especially valuable since players can actually put as much or as little distance between each other as is necessary to account for different play-styles.
The game’s defining slow-motion kill-cams have also benefited from current-gen thinking, expanding the visceral shots of bullets tearing through someone’s spleen or eyeball (or testicles lol) to include other ways of taking out an enemy: melee, shrapnel, stealth and even environmental kills. The animation systems for these have also been improved, providing plenty of variety depending on where, when and how you kill an enemy so that each time you take out one of these Nazis it feels like a dramatic 1-on-1 rather than just a shooter going through the motions.
An incredible amount of detail has also gone into improving the realism of the game’s focus: sniping. Longer shots are possible because the maps are so big — a plus in itself — but the bullets seem affected by gravity, dropping as they travel, which means the player will need to take their trajectories into account as well. This obviously provides a lot of depth when compared to the typical sniping experience, which is also aided by careful consideration of the environment — see that loud plane above? Study it’s route because you can use the noise from it flying overhead to mask the sound of your fire.
Of course, patience is a virtue so going around sniping everything would be a quick way to get yourself and your teammate overwhelmed (even if you just placed a couple of trip-wires around your vantage point). Climbing up one of the many architecturally impressive towers on the map or simply sniping from the bushes must be preceded by your use of your binoculars, tagging as many enemies as you can so you have a proper lay of the land before you start shooting. This description is a gross oversimplification of the setup required; many enemies are under cover or hidden from view so that you’re almost always surprised by just how many come looking for you once your cover is blown.
Things are definitely looking up for the series as current-gen hardware has seemed to allow Rebellion Developments to iron out what is now their most well known and popular franchise. Let’s just hope the story is done justice and the single player campaign is as fun as the co-op.
Sniper Elite 4 will be released on 14th February 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.