On a dark summer’s night in 1940s Italy, two Nazi patrolmen are shooting the breeze, specifically regarding recent events. One mentions how he’s heard stories of “The Shadow”, a lone US sniper who has been causing a bit of a ruckus for the occupation. His friend chimes in with how The Shadow, despite being on the other side of the war, is quite efficient. I had to pause Sniper Elite and have a little chuckle, as Karl Fairburne was anything but efficient when in my control.
If anything, Karl had become quite proficient in the art of getting discovered and murdering anyone who looked like an extra in The Great Escape. It certainly got the job done, and British Intelligence didn’t seem to mind, but efficient? Absolutely not.
Sniper Elite 4 is the continuation of the acclaimed stealth series, infamous for its simulation and depiction of sniping. Reprising the role of the love child of Captain America and Deadshot, Mr Karl Fairburne, you’re inserted into Nazi occupied Italy during 1943 in order to foil a new super weapon, capable of destroying US Navy fleets with ease.
In doing so, you’ll co-operate with the local rebel movements, sabotaging key Nazi objectives and installations and maybe even sniping a high ranking German. Or a low ranking German, or a tank operator, or just an entire platoon because you feel like it. To be honest, the story is Sniper Elite’s worst attribute, serving only as filler context for why Karl is hopping from place to place exterminating Nazis with impunity.
At its core Sniper Elite 4 is a freeform stealth game. You’re plonked into a zone and given a number of primary and secondary objectives. The game doesn’t care how you get them done or what order you do them, so you’re given a huge amount of freedom to operate as you see fit.
When trying to infiltrate a base, you could just run in guns blazing and just hope everyone days in a John Woo-esque hail of gunfire, or you could search for a vantage point on the outskirts and try to pick off the guards from a distance. Alternatively, you could identify an alternative route that’s less defended, using stealth takedowns to dispatch anyone unfortunate enough to be posted there. You could even utilise a number of distractions and use the ensuing chaos as your cloak to make your entrance/escape.
It’s quite liberating to play a game structured like this, even if it all too often meant being discovered and then subsequently riddled with more bullets than 50 Cent. It’s a good job, then, that the game checkpoints often and loads back up rather quickly if you do decide that a mulligan is in order.
Still, once you’ve successfully planned and executed your strategy, it’s hard to not feel like you’re the apex predator of the battlefield; stalking your prey, biding your time, waiting for your chance to strike.
And when you do strike, you’re treated to Sniper Elite’s famed killcams, which showcase your devastating handiwork in glorious and gory slow-mo. Those nazis might be evil, but it’s hard not to wince when you turn their jawbone into a powdered mush. After 12 hours of campaign gameplay, those killcams do not get old, which is just as well considering there’s full campaign co-op with 2 exclusive co-op missions, a 4 player survival mode and full multiplayer support to sink your teeth into.
For what Sniper Elite does well, however, it’s fair to say that the game is a little rough around the edges. Italy looks beautiful, and you’ll be visiting a varied range of locales on your jolly little subterfuge expedition, but what’s not beautiful is seeing a nazi stuck running in a chest high wall, or the bad lip syncing on display during cutscenes that would make Bruce Lee films look like Oscar-bait.
That’s not to say those niggles take away from the fun offered by Sniper Elite 4, but they do dampen its shine somewhat. If you can past that lack of polish, you’ll find some deep and rewarding stealth, a realistic sniping experience and some sweet sweet nazi mutilation. What more could you want?