Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: July 10, 2017
Sniper Elite 4 is a third-person tactical shooter available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Sniper Elite series started on PS2 in 2005 before a remake titled Sniper Elite V2 was released in April 2012 on PS3 followed by a prequel named Sniper Elite III in June 2014 on PS4 and PS3, while Zombie Army Trilogy is a spin-off that was released in March 2015. Rebellion was founded in 1992 and outside of the Sniper Elite series; Rebellion has also developed games within the Aliens vs. Predator series, continuing the Battlezone series with Battlezone 98 Redux and Battlezone VR and even videogame adaptations of 2000 AD characters such as Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper. Can Rebellion deliver the best game in not only the Sniper Elite series, but also Rebellion’s much storied career?
The story continues from the aftermath of its prequel; revolving around the lead character Karl Fairburne completing missions in Italy during World War II in 1943 in order to assist the courageous men and women of the Italian Resistance in fighting to free Italy from the grip of Nazi occupation.
Shooting range is the ideal place to begin as it allows the player to become accustomed to the feel of the sniper rifle, improving aiming accuracy at short, medium and long distance targets and how to adjust and apply breathing techniques for moving targets, while nearby shooting ranges are also available to provide the same challenge albeit for a machine gun and pistol. Players attempt to earn their highest score in each of the three categories with points scoring being judged upon accuracy of hitting or missing targets, where the shot hit each target such as a headshot providing bonus points and the amount of time it took to complete the shooting range course in order to be assessed as having mastered that particular weapon category. There is a variety of weapons for each category which provides half a dozen or so, therefore allowing the player to find a favourite sniper rifle, machine gun and pistol to form a practical preferred loadout when heading into missions.
Sniper Elite 4’s story campaign is as vast as ever; comprising ten missions set within what could considered to be open-worlds including primary mission objectives such as killing high-ranking Nazi Officers and locating allies in addition to optional secondary objectives such as clearing checkpoints of enemy troops, destroying cameras, finding sniper reports and many more primary and secondary objectives besides. When completing a mission; five challenge objectives will be unlocked for that particular mission such as Bushwacker for getting at least ten takedowns within foliage during the first mission or Perfect Ten for killing less than ten enemies in the third mission, therefore requiring players to approach each mission differently when playing through them for a second time.
Solo survival mode allows a player to battle 12 waves of enemies that gradually increase in quantity per wave with your orders being to protect the designated objective the opposing waves of enemies are attempting to capture as you pick them off one by one. The action is set within five special expansive arenas including Italian countryside, urban streets, a dockyard set in Lorino at night, narrow streets in a marina and a winter market set within a snow covered mountain village. There are seven characters to choose from with a further six unlockable characters, your preferred loadout of weaponry, skill trees and difficulty; resulting in an entertaining customisable experience.
Weaponry is accurate to the World War II era including M1903 Springfield, Mosin-Nagant M91/30, Mannlicher M1895, Lee-Enfield No. 4, Karabiner 98K, Gewehr 43 and Carcano M91/41 sniper rifles; machine guns such as Thompson and MP 40; assault rifles including MKB 42 and FNAB-43; Trenchgun shotgun; pistols such as Welrod and Luger P08; and explosives such as satchel charges that are used to breach some locked doors or set traps for patrolling enemies who can be lured towards your position by whistling or throwing a rock, although stealthy takedowns can be utilised when ammo is depleted. However, the majority of weapons need to be unlocked through a form of in-game currency referred to as sharpshooter tokens. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including damage, muzzle velocity, recoil dampening, stability or accuracy, maximum zoom or range and rate of fire accompanied by a diagram showing an improvement or decline in performance for each attribute in comparison to your currently equipped weapon. Extensive customisable loadouts include the ability for players to assign a sniper rifle, secondary weapon and pistol in addition to six items within four presets, alongside choosing their character skills. Every weapon has unlockable skins and upgrades such as the M1903 Springfield that can have its damage increased by performing 30 sound-masked kills, while recoil can be reduced by killing 50 enemies when aiming from the shoulder and the zoom capacity of the scope can be increased by killing 20 enemies from over 100 metres, alongside a mastery skin after unlocking all other upgrades for that particular weapon.
Karl Fairburne is an excellent lead character as are all ally characters as they all exuberate heroism in their efforts to save Italy from its unfair Nazi occupation. Enemy design is just as good as the lead and ally characters in the sense that the enemies are depicted as being as evil as they were during the war. Enemies will intelligently communicate with each other about your last known position when conducting their search, then send out an alarm for reinforcements and attempt to flank your character.
Environment design is rather varied as your character will be exploring expansive picturesque Italian villages and foothills one moment, then moving onto a moonlit dockyard and facilities the next. Environments are also interactive such as environmental objects that are heisted up in the air which can be shot at to drop the heavy objects on nearby enemies, while your character can take cover behind walls and objects as well as within foliage to stay out of sight of enemies.
XP is essential as levelling up rewards the player with sharpshooter tokens, while attaining levels 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 respectively rewards the player with the ability to choose one of two skills from the character skill tree, although character skills can be altered at any moment albeit without the alternatively chosen character skills coming into effect until the start of the next mission. 10,000 XP is initially required to level up from the first level as private to the second level as private mark 1; therefore a lot of primary objectives, secondary objectives, killing enemies and more besides will need to be carried out before levelling up in any major quantity. However, XP in single player and online multiplayer is combined into one total amount of XP; therefore you can also earn XP in online multiplayer for you or your team winning a match. Character skills include increasing your maximum heart-rate or heart-rate recovery for levelling up to level 5, accelerating binocular target-focus speed or acquiring extra items and ammo from searches for reaching level 10 and a 25% increase in maximum ammo or the ability to choose three of the same item when selecting your loadout and picking up one extra of the same item during combat for levelling up to level 30.
Service record provides a broad breakdown of your progression in some major gameplay elements. Written and illustrated tutorials cover everything players could possibly want to see a reminder of when returning to the game including a wealth of information on such categories as HUD, shooting, items, planning and stealth, movement and environment, enemies and allies, vehicles and co-op comprising of uncluttered sub-categories in what is quite a well presented, useful user-friendly feature.
Ribbons come in a variety of stripes, patterns and colours totalling to 58 ribbons for completing objectives including Secondary Weapon Specialist and Melee Marauder for killing 10 enemies with a secondary weapon and a melee takedown in single player or co-operative modes respectively. Bronze, silver and gold medals can be earned for achieving specific objectives within various game modes such as The Rifleman, Second to None and Pistol Whipper for performing to the standard required on the shooting range with the sniper rifle, secondary weapon and pistol respectively; Sharp-Shooter bronze medal for killing 50 enemies with the sniper rifle; Crack Shot bronze medal for killing 25 enemies with headshots; completing and winning 10 matches in each online multiplayer mode for multiple bronze medals; and much more besides.
Collectibles are scattered throughout every mission including letters from home, letters to home, last letters, miscellaneous documents, duty roster, sniper reports and deadeye targets totalling to around a staggering 300 collectibles. Letters provide back-story and insight into the war from a soldiers’ perspective and their families too, while official documents offer enemy intel, alongside three deadeye targets per mission that are as hard to hit as they are to find, although special rewards will be afforded to anyone who can.
There are vast ranges of statistics including total play time and the amount of times your cover has been blown amongst the general category; a detailed breakdown of how the player has killed enemies, which weapons have been used, types of infantry killed, hit locations to enemies and vehicles destroyed; alongside play time, XP earned, weapon accuracy details and longest kill shot distance amongst campaign, overwatch, survival and competitive modes respectively.
Sniper Elite 4 features downloadable content in the form of a season pass for £28.99 comprising Target Fuhrer single player and co-operative online multiplayer story campaign mission available separately for £7.99; a three-part single player and co-operative online multiplayer story campaign mission titled Deathstorm which is available separately for £5.79 per part; accompanied by 18 new weapons including many new to the Sniper Elite series for use in all modes, 9 new characters to choose in competitive and co-operative online multiplayer and 32 themed or camouflaged rifle skins for use in all modes. There are also new online multiplayer modes and maps that have been released post-launch for free, therefore producing further value for the entire Sniper Elite gaming community.
Sniper Elite 4’s remote play performance is quite possibly the best implementation of the feature yet as it does not just retain the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version, but it also possesses such attention to detail that the control layout diagrams reflect the Vita’s controls instead of that of the DualShock 4 controller. Appropriate control optimisations include shooting being re-mapped to R, aiming mapped to L, weapon selection menu and binoculars mapped to the bottom left and right of the touch screen respectively, sprinting moving to the left of the rear touch pad, focused breathing by emptying lungs of air during sniping re-mapped to the right of the rear touch pad while aiming with L and the story campaign map and objectives or online multiplayer scoreboard naturally moving from the touch pad to the touch screen; therefore collectively making for one of the very best remote play experiences.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to shoot; sensitively holding L2 to aim from the shoulder or fully holding L2 to enter the scope of a sniper rifle; holding L1 to enter the weapon selection menu; pressing R1 to use an item, set a trap or empty lung during sniping; pressing triangle to perform a stealthy takedown, pick up a body or a weapon; pressing triangle after holding L1 to switch the over the shoulder camera angle from the right to the left or vice-versa; pressing square to reload, interact or defuse or holding square to search a body; pressing X to traverse; pressing O to crouch or holding O to go prone; pressing up or left, right or down on the d-pad to quick select a sniper rifle or change ammo or use respectively; double tapping up or down on the d-pad to zoom in or out; double tapping right or left on the d-pad to increase or decrease range adjustment; pressing L3 to sprint; pressing R3 to use binoculars followed by pressing R2 to tag an enemy; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to look up or down and rotating the camera left or right or alternatively adjusting your aim during over the shoulder aiming or within the sniper rifle scope; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu including tutorials and collectibles.
Tapping the touch pad opens the map and objectives during the story campaign or the scoreboard during online competitive multiplayer, while vibration occurs when your character’s heart rate increases during sniping or sprinting for long distances and loud noises from nearby environments. Surprisingly, there is no light bar implementation which could have produced various shades of green, yellow, orange and red to display your character’s health, while flashing red when having almost no health remaining, alongside flashing white when having completed a primary or secondary mission objective.
Graphically, it is very evident that Sniper Elite 4 is an incredibly ambitious game. For instance, the quality of animations are on par with the Uncharted series as the lead character shimmies up drain pipes and along rooftops, aerial traversal using ledges, then even jumps from rooftop to rooftop Nathan Drake style, climbs ladders, vaults over walls and takes cover behind objects. Sniper Elite 4’s graphical aspirations do not end with high quality animations though as bullet-time and killcam effects provide a realistic visceral approach to conveying the impact of combat, although it can be toned down in the graphics options for those who are squeamish, while destructible vehicles and objects explode in multiple stages. Environments look amazing not only in the near ground, but also far into the distance especially when viewing through your binoculars or scope, alongside particle effects, foliage, lighting, shadows and everything else besides. Stereoscopic 3D provides a genuine field of depth throughout every gameplay element including general exploration and combat, although the absolute standout has to be the bullet-time and killcam effects being particularly impressive as there is significant depth between a single bullet after it enters bullet-time as the field of depth gradually adapts to its surroundings as it nears its target. PS4 Pro support provides visual enhancements to draw distance, foliage, reflections, shadows, lighting and object detail that is more inline with high-end PC settings that are accompanied by faster loading times and increased frame-rate, although there is no higher resolution than 1080p and no HDR support on PS4 or PS4 Pro.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, single player menus, online multiplayer menus, online leaderboards, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of each menu focuses on a different area of an Italian village containing buildings, vehicles and plenty of foliage.
Tom Clarke Hill is outstanding as Karl Fairburne having voiced the lead character of the Sniper Elite series since Sniper Elite V2 having previously voiced Sergeant Cortez in TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect, Sergeant Rico Valasquez in Killzone and Killzone: Liberation, Milton in Blues and Bullets, Kendert in Horizon: Zero Dawn and more besides. Further cast members include Klemmens Koehring who voices Harry Hawker and Andreas Kessler having voiced Brauer, Vahlen and German soldiers in Sniper Elite 3 and Doctor Schwaiger and German soldiers in Sniper Elite V2, alongside Giovanni Noto voicing Giancarlo and Dinelli having previously voiced Italian soldiers in Sniper Elite 3 and Ezio Auditore in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles and even more actors and actresses who all produce excellent performances to bring life to their respective roles. Sound effects includes walking, running, jumping, aerial traversal, shooting at enemies, enemies shooting back at your character, explosions, slow motion during bullet time and ambience such as seagulls, rustling of foliage and wind. The soundtrack includes orchestral music composed by Mark Rutherford who has previously composed music for Sniper Elite V2, Sniper Elite III and the China episode of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. There is no DualShock 4 speaker which is surprising as it could have produced the slow-motion sound effect during bullet-time as the bullet draws closer to the enemy within a killcam sequence, alarms, enemy propaganda and enemy communication.
The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 38 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. There are three sets of additional trophies totalling to 26 trophies for downloadable content packs including 11 bronze trophies and 1 silver trophy in Target Fuhrer; 5 bronze trophies, 1 silver trophy and 1 gold trophy in Deathstorm 1 and 2 respectively. Easier trophies include The End of the Beginning bronze trophy for completing the first mission on any difficulty level and the Dogface bronze trophy for reaching character rank 5. Harder trophies include the Are You Insane gold trophy for completing the entire story campaign on authentic difficulty; The Collector silver trophy for collecting all last letters, letters from home and letters to home collectibles; and the Veteran gold trophy for reaching character rank 50. There are a few online multiplayer trophies including the Competitive Nature bronze trophy for completing at least one match in each online multiplayer mode and the Channel Changer bronze trophy for taking control of an enemy held radio and capturing it with just seconds remaining. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 30 to 40 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are four difficulty levels including cadet which is the easiest difficulty, normal difficulty known as marksman, hard difficulty named sniper elite and authentic which is classed as the hardcore difficulty level. The major differences between the cadet and authentic difficulty levels include authentic not displaying a mini-map, no aim assist, tagging enemies will not permanently highlight them, realistic wind direction and ballistics needs to be factored in when sniping, A.I. controlled enemies are capable of withstanding a lot more damage and inflicting significant damage to your character and enemy snipers have increased accuracy to the point of having the capability of killing your character with a single shot. Four difficulty levels are also accompanied by a range of options to create your own custom difficulty comprising of aggression, responsiveness, skill and toughness for A.I. customisation; authentic suppressors only reducing shot volume instead of silencing it entirely, weapon spread, auto healing, HUD, minimap and player toughness for tactical options; and ammo abundance, friendly fire during online multiplayer, effects of gravity and wind on bullets, the amount of scope drifting and throwing away remaining ammunition in a clip or magazine when reloading for customisable weapons difficulty options.
There are eight competitive online multiplayer modes including Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch which are team and free-for-all versions of trying to win by scoring the most kills; Team Distance King and Distance King revolves around the total distance between you and the enemy you have killed; and No Cross is a Team Deathmatch variant with the twist being that teams are separated by an impassable No Man’s Land resulting in long range combat. Capture the Flag requires the opposing team’s flag to be carried back to your base, although your team flag must be present at your base to score; Control pits teams against each other as they compete to maintain control of every radio drop until they are captured; and Elimination is a massive twist on Team Deathmatch as teams vie to win a round by entirely eliminating the opposing team with rules stating that killing an enemy from the opposing team respawns a dead team-mate from your team, although there are limited respawns. There are a further three modes for co-operative online multiplayer including the story campaign for two players, battling waves of enemies in survival for up to four players and overwatch in which two players must work together as sniper and spotter.
Sniper Elite 4’s performance during online multiplayer is flawless without any lag or frame-rate issues even when a lobby is at the maximum capacity of 12 players. Efficient matchmaking allows players to browse games utilising filters such as competitive, co-operative, full games, empty games, eight modes and eight rule sets. Players can alternatively create their own matches by selecting from any of the eight modes, nine maps, eight rule sets, private or public match and choosing a name for your lobby.
Sniper Elite 4’s online multiplayer is a tense and calculating affair that for the most part certainly requires more strategy and thought than just running and gunning, while the wide open spaces with numerous vantage points introduces a serious tone of tension and atmosphere as the location of your enemies is unpredictable.
If your character is killed, then the camera will zoom in towards the direction the enemy player took the shot from, while for the majority of modes; you have a choice of immediately respawning or entering a third-person spectator viewpoint following any of your team members until autospawn takes place after 90 seconds.
There is unfortunately no split-screen multiplayer, although it would have been amazing to have all of the online multiplayer modes available in split-screen multiplayer with customisable A.I. controlled bots for team focused modes and larger variations of what would otherwise in split-screen be 1 vs. 1 modes such as deathmatch. However, if split-screen multiplayer would have been or is going to be implemented in a future Sniper Elite game, then survival mode would be the star of the show; as a split-screen co-operative variant of survival mode would unquestionably rival the standout mode in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas. A further slant on survival mode could see both players leading opposing sides with the invading team needing to take control of an objective and the other player being vastly outnumbered and outgunned; having to utilise every trick and technique to survive while simultaneously retaining or winning back the objective.
The online leaderboards are focused on worldwide rankings, friends rankings and your positioning with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); kills; accuracy; scoped accuracy; ghost kills; longest shot; and average kill shot distance, albeit with some variations related to certain game modes. Sniper Elite 4’s online leaderboards are vast as they encompass every mode including campaign, campaign co-op, overwatch sniper, overwatch operative, survival, competitive multiplayer, deathmatch, team deathmatch, distance king, team distance king, no cross, elimination, control, capture the flag, shooting range for sniper rifle, machine gun and pistol and the overall leaderboard.
Replayability originates from every mode and gameplay element including ribbons, medals and collectibles, unlocking five challenge objectives per mission after completing each mission, XP and levelling up leading to unlocked abilities chosen from skill trees and earning sharpshooter tokens, customisable loadouts including unlockable weapon upgrades and skins, four difficulty levels and customised difficulty levels, a large scale story campaign, survival solo mode, online leaderboards, online competitive and co-operative multiplayer and a positive community driven approach to releasing post-launch online multiplayer modes and maps for free resulting in there being collectively dozens of hours of replay value.
• Title: Sniper Elite 4
• Developer: Rebellion
• Publisher: Rebellion (Digital)/Sold Out (Retail)
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/2-12 (Online Competitive and Co-operative Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
• Hard Drive Space Required: 40.42GB (Version 1.10)