We’ve always had a soft spot for Rebellion’s Sniper Elite franchise – a plucky underdog that, game after game, squares up against its triple A shooter rivals. Despite each game’s flaws, the Sniper Elites have always been fun to play, with melodramatic storylines, jumping out of the hedgerows to stab Nazis and, of course, those x-ray cam kill shots. All things considered, what Rebellion’s accomplished over the years with a budget the faction of the size of the big studios is remarkable.
Our personal favourite, Sniper Elite V2, was a tense, urban affair, while Sniper Elite III opened up sight lines but proved somewhat linear – and was held back on Xbox One by the need to cater for the last generation of consoles.
Sniper Elite 4 drops those shackles, and with them some of the slightly underwhelming elements of previous games in the series. Sniper Elite 4 looks like a game that belongs on Xbox One, and after our hands on at EGX last week, we can say that it definitely plays like it belongs there, too.
Of course, there’s still some melodrama.
“Set in the aftermath of its award-winning predecessor, Sniper Elite 4 continues the series’ World War Two heritage by transporting players across the beautiful Italian peninsula, from sun-drenched Mediterranean coastal towns, to colossal Nazi megastructures, daunting forests and giddying mountain monasteries inspired by Monte Cassino. Covert agent and elite marksman Karl Fairburne must fight alongside the brave men and women of the Italian Resistance to help free their country from the yoke of Fascism, and defeat a terrifying new threat with the potential to halt the Allied fightback in Europe before it’s even begun. If his mission fails, there will be no Operation Overlord, no D-Day landings, and no Victory in Europe.”
When we got our hands on the game, we were tasked with destroying a Nazi train by blowing up a huge bridge. We had to make our way through an enormous chunk of the Italian countryside, avoiding and evading patrols, creeping through villages and plant the explosives. Our first play through was less than successful – partly because we just had too much fun distracting the patrols and messing with the AI, which feels a lot more developed this time ’round. While we survived the thirty minutes more or less intact, the train was never in any danger.
Our second attempt, though, was more focused and we at least reached the train (though not as stealthily as we would have liked) and planted the explosives before being gunned down by an unnoticed guard. We were, it has to be said, far from brilliant.
Whether it’s a result of the clearly improved AI, the change of scenery from the dustbowls of North Africa, or the wonderful audio, there was a greater sense of place, and an atmosphere dripping with tension, throughout our time with the game. Sniping was still as brutally satisfying as ever, with even greater, gory detail delivered in those slow motion x-ray animations. When things get frantic and up close, your submachine gun feels meatier and weightier than in previous titles, and it’s all the better for it.
Sniper Elite 4 is bigger, better looking, with more things to see and more ways to kill the enemy than any of its predecessors. When Sniper Elite 4 was announced, we were pleased, though not terribly desperate to play it. Now we’ve spent some hands-on time with the game, it’s one of our most anticipated titles of 2017.
Sniper Elite 4 releases on 14 February, 2017.
Thanks to Rebellion for chatting to us about Sniper Elite 4 at EGX on Sunday. Loving your work, guys!