Sniper Elite 4 is the latest instalment into the series whisking players off to Italy to fight along side the resistance and take down the Nazi regime. It’s a tried and tested formula that’s worked for three games so far, but does the fourth instalment keep us on our toes, or is it the same mundane gore-fest we’ve seen before?

Jumping straight into the game you’ll immediately feel the game’s sense of depth. You’re no longer immediately placed within the vicinity of tens of enemy soldiers to quietly pop off, instead you’re treated to a vast open environment with multiple objectives for you to complete. Sniper Elite 4 has become somewhat open world giving players the freedom to tackle the objective however they see fit.

However despite this change of direction as to how missions and objectives are laid out, the usual traits for a Sniper Elite game are there. You’ve got your environmental sounds that mask gunshots, you’ve got your X-Ray cam showing you exactly where your bullet cruises through the enemy, you’ve also got the clunky shooting mechanics when using your pistol or machine gun.

But there’s something inherently different about Sniper Elite 4. It’s familiar, but not too familiar where you can easily cruise through the game as if it’s a follow on from the last title. The game now feels more adventurous than the last, you can now climb walls and jump over crags like in a Tomb Raider or Uncharted game. You have this freedom to sit and wait for your target without fear of being interrupted by an enemy. There’s room to breathe, and it’s fantastic.

With this openness you’ll also discover that the game has changed slightly. Now, rather than finding a calculated way to sneak around an enemy compound trying your best to remain silent, you can now take more risks as your mistakes aren’t as heavily punished as before. The game feels, at least to me, a little more forgiving than before, which may not necessarily be a bad thing for some people, but for those wanting a core Sniper Elite game, you may be a little disappointed.

As you’d expect in a Sniper Elite series you’re once again tasked with taking down the Nazi regime, this time in Italy. However you won’t be alone as you join with the Italian resistance known as The Partisans, but not just as their sniper-wielding lackey, instead you’ll often come across groups of the resistance in the middle of a firefight with the enemy. I’ll be honest, it was actually nice being able to fight along side other soldiers. Being a sniper is a lonely job, y’know.

Another expected part of the game is the story; while it’s a different tale, it’s unfortunately a similar affair as the last: a bad man doing a bad thing building something terrible that could change the history of World War II. However, the story is really only a small part of the game because with a huge open world comes even more options. Before each mission you’ll begin in a sort of briefing area where you’ll be able to choose new weapons as well as talk to members of the resistance as well as radioing through to your own. Taking the time to speak to these characters ahead of the main mission will often unlock optional tasks for you to complete.

These additional missions often make the open world seem a lot less daunting as almost every corner will offer some sort of objective whether it’s to clear a Nazi outpost, or to find and destroy a crashed aeroplane. This also makes each mission a little more interesting as you’re not just heading to the main objective to progress to the next level. So far each mission has taken me around two hours to complete, depending on how stealthy I try to be.

This also adds a ton of replayability to the game as at the end of each mission you’re given a percentage on how complete that mission actually is based on whether you completed all of the side objectives, collected all of the secrets, and found the sniper perches. Rebellion certainly took into account the replayability factor here and it definitely shows.

Other improvements come in the form of enemy AI who seem to be a little smarter than before. No longer are they the usual cannon fodder, oh no, now they seem to be able to find you a little quicker than in previous games which in some respects makes it a little harder to take a risky shot, however this intelligence only goes so far as it’s also pretty easy to swoop around and flank the searching soldiers. I often actually used this as a tactic to clear an area.

The open world certainly has its advantages, mentioned above, but it also has the occasional disadvantage, one of those being the sheer size of certain areas making it almost impossible to find a decent place to perch and take-out enemies from a distance. Considering this is a sniper focused game, I did find myself spending more time in close quarters battles than actually spending time killing enemies from the shadows.

In addition to the game’s campaign mode you’ve also got the ability to play through the entire game co-operatively. Unfortunately due to having the game pre-release I have yet to test this out. Aside from the co-op campaign there’s also a new Survival mode which has players facing off against waves of enemies. And let me tell you, this mode is HARD.

In Survival Mode players are tasked with defending an outpost while waves of enemies come and try and take you, or the outpost down. However, the outpost is smack bang in the middle of the map, and there’s very little indication of where these waves of enemies are coming from. You’ve got to be quick witted in this mode otherwise things can go south pretty quickly.

This mode however is another example of how this particular entry into the series is oriented more towards being a fast-paced shooter than a sniping game as more often than not you’ll find yourself taking enemies down with your sidearms. Now, considering how awkward using your sidearm weapons can be, this can make for a very challenging time, which some may enjoy, others may not.

Finally the online gamplay is largely unchanged as players fight in a number of different modes, largely orientated around sniping. These are the most challenging and quiet multiplayer games I’ve ever played in, but when you finally get that kill, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Overall Sniper Elite 4 is certainly a welcomed evolution of the game, while the open world brings new aspects of gameplay to the table and in parts is a little more shooter than sniper, it’s not a drastic departure from what we all know and love from the series. While the story isn’t quite as gripping as the last, the sheer breadth of gameplay and replayability available is certainly impressive and is definitely a step in the right direction for Sniper Elite.

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