Sniper Elite 4 is pure satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like tagging an enemy officer, tracking his movement and patrol patterns, and perfectly timing a single shot to take him out, uncontested and undetected. As Karl Fairburne, you steady your breath, adjust your scope, aim, and watch as Sniper Elite‘s X-Ray kill cam system, tracks your perfectly fired round as it obliterates an enemy officer’s skull. There’s a certain sense of exhilaration that comes with the showcase of exaggerated and slow-mo violence that comes while playing Sniper Elite 4, one that isn’t matched by many games. While I was never enraptured by Karl’s involvement in the plot, or the generic narrative that followed, I was always satisfied by the interactions I created during my time with Sniper Elite 4.
Sniper Elite 4 takes place in Italy in 1943, immediately following the events in Sniper Elite III. For those unfamiliar, the previous title saw Karl Fairburne, an Office of Strategic Services agent, as he found himself involved in the North African conflict during World War II. In Sniper Elite III, Karl learns of a secret Nazi weapon, and sets out to destroy said weapon, killing anyone and everyone along the way. Unfortunately, Sniper Elite 4 follows a similar path, albeit within a different setting. Karl must assist the Italian resistance force to fight against the Fascists in World War II, who, of course, have a secret weapon that must be stopped. Narrative is never Sniper Elite 4’s strong suit, especially in the wake of everything that Battlefield 1 did exceptionally well in creating exceptionally strong war stories with meaning. Sniper Elite 4 attempts to introduce side characters with various motivations, but their performances and motivations are meandering, never quite hitting the right mark. The story is never exceptionally poor, but it’s as generic as can be. If you’ve played through a World War shooter campaign before, well, you can know what to expect when it comes to Sniper Elite 4.
Thankfully, where Sniper Elite 4 missteps with a generic narrative and characters, gameplay emerges as the true star of the show. Just as with the improvements from Sniper Elite V2 to Sniper Elite III, such improvements have translated into Sniper Elite 4. Gameplay feels refined, crisp, and from the get-go tutorial being an elite sniper has never felt better. It’s been almost three years since Sniper Elite III‘s release, but jumping back into Sniper Elite 4 felt just like riding a bike. The process of marking enemies, then taking them down one by one is no strange concept in the world of video games, but the tactical nature of embracing being an elite sniper continues to take the cake. Yes, there are a plethora of weapons to use, and multiple paths to objectives, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as solely utilizing a sniper rifle to take out all enemies in a single area.
While Sniper Elite III moved away from the linear paths into open areas, to approach in a multitude of manners, Sniper Elite 4 doubles down on that concept and grants players even larger areas to approach. Karl travels across Italy from locale to locale, and there are some truly massive areas to explore. While the same approach to exploring each area progresses similarly, and the main objectives and side objectives are hard to miss, it’s still great to have an even larger sandbox to play in. While it’s true that Sniper Elite 4 has grown and expanded upon the area that Karl can explore, the series still remains distant from massive open worlds to explore and dominate, like that of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or Far Cry Primal. Sniper Elite 4 certainly is larger than previous Sniper Elite entries, but still feels mostly linear in not really being able to miss the “hidden” objectives or secrets within a level. That’s where Sniper Elite 4 clashes up against games that have taken stealth-action to the next level, and where Sniper Elite 4 often comes up just a tad short.
Sniper Elite 4 has an addictive formula of marking enemies, gaining a vantage point, and splattering various organ and brain matter across Italy, but by the time I got into the back end of the eight total campaign missions, I felt like that addictive formula had slowly grown more repetitive than addictive. Yes, each of the eight missions grants players anywhere between 90 minutes up to three hours per mission, depending on how you play, but in the last few missions I just wanted to get to the end. Each mission has additional challenges, loads of collectibles, and tons of replay value, but I didn’t necessarily feel the need or desire to go back after completing each of the missions with a 70%-80% completion in my first playthrough. If you want it, it’s certainly there, but I never necessarily felt that pull back into the exploits of Karl Fairburne.
Sniper Elite 4 has an addictive formula that grows more repetitive than addictive.
For those who want even more, Sniper Elite 4 does include additional co-op for the entire campaign, which can add some new tactical aspects to how you approach and balance having two elite snipers destroying enemies across larger areas. It adds interesting and fun coordination and excitement, as well as the fun of challenging buddies to see who perhaps can take out enemies from the furthest distance, or take out enemies in a certain manner. Both single player and co-op have their own benefits, but co-op is a fun way to play through Sniper Elite 4, especially with the various facets of replay value. Additionally, there’s the asymmetrical co-op mode in which one player spots enemies while the other player takes out targets, a survival mode, and the return of similar multiplayer to Sniper Elite III for those who think that they are truly an elite sniper.
Sniper Elite 4 is truly satisfying in the lather-rinse-repeat setup of gameplay, touting visceral carnage through Rebellion’s X-Ray kill cam system once again. There are some gorgeous new environments for Karl Fairburne to explore, as he kills anyone who gets in his way during his travels across Italy. Unfortunately, while gameplay is certainly improved and refined over Sniper Elite III, the narrative of Sniper Elite 4 is as generic as they come, especially for anyone who has played prior Sniper Elite titles. While Sniper Elite 4 showcases satisfying and addicting gameplay spending time as an elite sniper, the rest of the bits become a bit muddled, reaching a point of repetitiveness that isn’t quite as addicting by the time all is said and done.