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In a sea of shooters, the third-person Sniper Elite series has always stood out for bringing tactical action. Instead of charging into the battle, you’re encouraged to play stealthily and eliminate your enemies from afar.
After a brief hiatus focusing on the undead in 2015’s Zombie Army Trilogy, the series heads back to World War II with Sniper Elite 4. Should you load up your rifle or stick to another shooter? Let’s find out.
What I played: About nine hours across all modes. Completed five of the ten single-player levels with all optional objectives, and played several rounds of competitive and cooperative multiplayer. Reached level 28.
Let’s get a negative out of the way first: Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t do anything to stand out in the story department. You play as Karl Fairburne, a sniper stationed in Italy, whose mission is to help the Italian resistance eliminate the Italian Fascists and Nazis.
Across the game’s ten missions, the story and cutscenes are about as generic as you can find. Characters with zero personality give you no more motivation than “we know they have a weapons depot here, go blow it up.” The character models themselves aren’t great and the voice acting is somewhat hokey at times.
Thankfully, the excellent gameplay more than makes up for these missteps.
You’ll find ten giant single-player campaign levels in Sniper Elite 4. Before each one, you’re given a chance to choose your loadout and add both mandatory and optional objectives for that area. How you approach each setting is completely your choice. Aside from your sniper rifle, you have a sidearm and pistol if things get hot, and can also use a variety of explosives to lay traps for your enemies and blow up vehicles.
Of course, since this is a game about sniping, it’s by far the most satisfying form of combat and should be your focus. Scouting an area with your binoculars to tag enemies, hazards, and other points of interest is essential to your success. After planning your attack, you begin to slowly pick off enemies as they wander away from their groups. Whether you want to wait for the perfect moment to snipe everyone or try to move in slowly and stab them in the back is your call.
The classic X-Ray kill cam is back and better than ever. Whenever you score a critical shot in the head, heart, or other vital organ, you’ll get to watch a slow-mo cam of your bullet destroying your target’s body. It’s incredibly satisfying and never gets old. New to this iteration, you’ll also see the kill cam when you kill with an explosive or melee.
The enemies aren’t dumb (aside from the few times they’ll magically see you through stone walls or get stuck walking in place), so you’ll have to think ahead to keep things quiet. Shoot your rifle too close to someone, and they’ll triangulate your position easily.
You can use a variety of tools to outsmart them, such as silenced ammo or using loud overhead planes to mask the sound of gunfire. The levels are wide open for you to attack objectives in any order, so if you don’t like a vantage point you can try somewhere else.
Sniper Elite 4 has several difficulty levels that really change how you play the game, along with custom difficulty options for you to create your own challenge. The Cadet (Easy) setting is point-and-shoot, as it lacks bullet ballistics. Marksman (Normal) adds bullet drop when shooting from a distance, and Sniper Elite (Hard) factors in the wind, too. An Authentic (Hardcore) mode provides the highest challenge for sniping experts, with no aim assist and suppressors that don’t fully mute shots.
Additionally, on harder difficulties, enemies are much smarter and will locate you quickly. If you fire an unsuppressed shot on Sniper Elite or higher, they’ll immediately triangulate you and come to hunt you down.
Every setting except for Authentic also provides an aim assist icon that helps you factor in the wind and bullet drop when taking a shot. If you like, you can turn off some settings and create a custom difficulty. Want to play on Marksman but remove the aim assist icon and make enemies smarter? You can do just that.
We recommend that novices try Marksman difficulty, and shooter veterans try Sniper Elite. Your choice will greatly affect your game experience, especially how much you have to rely on stealth and how severely foes punish your mistakes.
Sniper Elite 4 lets you take your skills online to cooperate with friends or battle against enemies.
Three cooperative modes are available. The first allows you to play any campaign mission with up to three friends. An asymmetrical mode for two players, called Overwatch, is the second. Here, one player is on a high vantage point sniping and the other is an operative on the ground spotting targets for the sniper and completing the mission objectives. Survival, the final mode, tasks up to four players with surviving 12 waves of increasingly difficult enemies.
Co-op campaign and Overwatch are great with friends, where you can team up to conquer the mission however you like. However, with random players, these are kind of frustrating due to lack of communication. If you’re matchmaking online, Survival mode is the most fun. Eschewing the stealth of the campaign, Survival has dozens of enemies loudly coming your way and requires you to place traps to defend your base, pick off enemy snipers, and even take down a few tanks. You can also play this mode alone, but it’s much tougher.
If you’d rather shoot players in the face, Sniper Elite 4 offers several competitive modes, too. Traditional choices like team deathmatch and control point are present, but the most interesting modes enforce the sniper blood of the game.
No Cross is team deathmatch with an impassable fence dividing the teams. This forces you to snipe without worrying about getting stabbed or running into enemy traps. Another mode, Distance King, has you score points equal to the distance you kill from. Thus, stabbing an enemy isn’t valuable, but making a longshot is.
We had a few issues during our multiplayer time, including some lag and frequent host disconnections. At its worst, Sniper Elite‘s multiplayer involves everyone camping and shooting you from places you can’t even figure out. Play for a while, however, and you’ll find a tense, satisfying experience where you have to keep your enemies guessing and be quick on the trigger.
No matter which online mode you play, you choose a basic loadout just like in the campaign. Thus, you can choose if you want grenades to snuff out enemies or medical kits to heal yourself. You can also use your binoculars to spot enemies, plant traps, and do everything else you’d do in the single-player.
There’s a lot of content in Sniper Elite. Each of the five campaign missions we played took us at least an hour, and there are five challenges that open up after you clear each level. These task you with difficult actions like completing the level without using any medical kits or killing fewer than ten enemies. With optional mission objectives, intelligence galore to find, and the ribbons and medals you earn for performing certain actions, there’s a lot to check off in single-player.
Whether the multiplayer will stand the test of time isn’t clear. The competitive is fun but sometimes frustrating; you’ll probably love it if you like the campaign. Co-op is best played with friends but the Survival mode is a good time with anyone. Overall, you shouldn’t buy this game for multiplayer, but it’s more than a tacked-on extra.
Sniper Elite 4 is a great shooter. It demands that you take your time, weigh each action carefully, and work stealthily in the single-player. The open level design and granular difficulty means that you can play just the way you want, and the bullet cams never get old. However, if you like your games full of action and hate waiting for the right moment to act, this game isn’t for you.
Our final word on Sniper Elite 4:
Buy it if you love sniping, tactical shooters, or stealth games. There’s a lot of single-player content here and a solid multiplayer experience to justify the price. Those who want nonstop action in their shooters should probably pass this one up, but we recommend you give it a try if you’re not sure. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Have you played Sniper Elite 4 yet? Let us know what you think about the game, or if you’re interested in picking it up, down in the comments!