Review At The Gates
Here’s a fun fact for you: The invasion of Normandy, one of the largest military operations ever conducted, was delayed! Originally scheduled to take place on June 5th, 1944, a forecast of bad weather convinced Allied leadership to put their plans to invade Nazi-occupied France on hold for 24 hours.
I’m giving you this tidbit of information because just as the weather put a temporary damper on the Allies’ grand plans, external factors prevented me from getting a full review of Sniper Elite 4 in on time. I do, however, have some things to say about what I’ve played of it so far.
Sniper Elite 4 [PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC]
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Released: February 14, 2017
It’s heartening to think of how far Rebellion’s shooter franchise has come. Once a mediocre B-game seemingly made to milk its single gimmick of slow-motion long-distance sniper kills, the series has grown into an expansive stealth-action title.
As a part of the series, Sniper Elite 4 shares the shifted dynamics brought by 2014’s Sniper Elite III. More than a change in numbering convention, Sniper Elite 4 follows up and builds on III‘s changes, refocusing Sniper Elite V2‘s fairly linear (if long-ranged) corridor shooter and transitioning into sandbox-style affair that takes hints from the playbook of Hitman, Crysis, and Metal Gear Solid V.
The game’s maps, set in Italy just before the Allied invasion, are still distinct spaces, their mission objectives bespoke. But the game emphasizes freedom of approach more than ever before, littering the sun-drenched landscape with countless spots from which to snipe, avenues for infiltration and escape, and options to explore. Protagonist Karl Fairburne is free to do whatever he needs to do to pave the way for the forces of democracy to roll up Mussolini’s kingdom, and ironically, that can lead to a disquieting lack of sniping.
Indeed, the openness of the maps can sometimes encourage stealthy-minded players to forgo their greatest weapon (and the game’s greatest gimmick) in favor of Metal Gear-style crouch-walking and sneaky melee takedowns. Further, employing the wealth of new gadgets effectively can often require the player to leave an ideal sniping spot to go do things like lay mines and tripwires.
It’s an odd tension to have, but for the moment, it’s one I can appreciate, especially on higher difficulties, where the sniping is realistic and tricky enough that setting up a successful shot feels genuinely earned. The seeming absence of sniping has made this soldier’s heart grow fonder. It remains to be seen if the rest of the game and its assorted multiplayer modes can take advantage of that welcome asymmetry, but I’ll be sure to tell you in our full review. Stay tuned for it very soon!
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]