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Sniper Elite 4 Review: More of the Same But Not a Bad Thing

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Before we get to Italy, let's take a moment to remember the past. Sniper Elite 4 is naturally the fourth game in a series (not including the Nazi Zombie Army spinoff) that started all the way back in 2005 with the first entry being released on the Playstation 2, Xbox, Wii and PC. Sniper Elite presented itself from the get go as a staple war time sniper simulation where you play as a fictional character named Karl Fairburne. Introducing real to life bullet physics like bullet drop and wind interference. These were all excellent aspects of the game, however the most notable part of the game that got people talking was the slo-mo bullet time camera effects for outstanding sniper shots.

As the series went on, these stand out game play mechanics have matured, but they have always managed to stay true to their roots which have produced intense sniping battles and engaging game play. The graphics have also managed to continue to impress with even more popping colours as we go on. On top of this the sheer size of the games play areas has been on the increase with each instalment. Add in some X-Ray vision for bone crunching shots and a slow motion look at an enemies testicle exploding and we have a game that video game lovers will flock to for these reasons alone. Now with the release of Sniper Elite 4 on Valentine's Day 2017, let's get stuck into how this entry into this successful series fairs.
It's 1943 and we are in Italy, but this time Karl is the name of our hero and he isn't here to fix the pipes. Sniper Elite 4, much like its predecessors is a third-person tactical shooter stealth video game where sniping is the name of the game, but not the only way to go about your business. Sniper Elite 4 is a direct sequel in the series and takes place immediately after the events of the previous game. As always, you can pick up Sniper Elite 4 and still enjoy the gameplay and the story without playing the previous, but also like always, you're going to miss out on side details that won't make sense, however the overall experience will be fine for a newcomer to the series.

No matter where you look in a Sniper Elite game, you're going to find Nazis. Your role as a world class sniper is to travel to several locations within Italy to slowly work your way through the hordes of Nazis that are just about everywhere. The Nazis have a new weapon in their hands and you've been deployed to gather intelligence on what they're planning. The story is delivered to the player in the typical Sniper Elite fashion which is in a plain and simple way. You will receive mission objectives similar to "GO KILL THIS GUY" and then you find that guy and kill him however you like. The story here, similar to the game play isn't much of a departure from the previous games. If you're anything like me, you'll find the story will take the back seat in this ride. Unlike the game play, the story won't be the reason you keep coming back to play.
Although I describe Sniper Elite 4 as a simple game, it's the right amount of simplicity mixed with amazing gameplay mechanics that makes Sniper Elite 4 a pleasure to sink your teeth into. The general game play idea revolves around who to shoot next so that you can remain hidden. Line up a shot, exhale, shoot, kill and repeat. This is a task that most will happily do over and over again regardless of how repetitive it may seem. Eventually you are going to make a mistake which will send enemies looking for you and they will eventually hone in on your position. AI has been ramped up this time around which means it won't be long before your "safe" spot becomes unsafe making you need to move and adapt to your environment to stay alive.

Sniping will for the majority of the game be your go to method of assault, however the game will demand that the use of your pistol and secondary weapon is a must. When switching over to your secondary weapon, the game begins to feel a little more like a third person action game rather than a stealth sniper game. Using an automatic fire weapon feels a little distant from the comfort of sniping but it holds its own and feels like a solid part of the game.
With a name like Sniper Elite 4, the sniping mechanics need to be second to none. Hitting a long shot and activating the bullet cam is akin to opening up a packet of Pringles. You know the saying "once you pop, you can't stop". The addictive satisfying feel that you get from a successful snipe does not get old even if you've played through all previous games before. Sniper Elite 4 stays very close to its roots for most of its features and this doesn't disappoint at all. When sniping, you can hold your breath and exhale to enhance your shooting abilities which nothing new to shooting mechanics, but it's a part of Sniper Elite 4 that has been superbly polished this time around.

While there is a lot to Sniper Elite 4 that has remained the same from the previous games, there are some improvements and additions that are worth of noting. In addition to the size of the previous game, the smallest level in Sniper Elite 4 is three times larger than any level seen before in the series. Seriously, the levels are large in scale with main mission objectives being scattered around them with a barrage of side quests to complete within them too. While Sniper Elite 4 is not a traditional open world game, each mission feels like they're their own open world environment for you to experiment in.
Further to the additions to the game, Karl has now been given the ability to traverse gaps by jumping across sections of platforms to aid movement and positioning. Also, sometimes you will find yourself in too close to use a gun to take down your enemy, so to help make takedowns more impressive, a system is now in place where you can melee an enemy from below a ledge or face to face which will initiate a slow motion x-ray death just like a long sniped shot where you get to see a Nazis bones explode. We have also been given a new cover system where you can use trees, bushes and foliage to stay hidden from enemies. Darkness can also be a nice source of cover for you too but it's nice to have some long grassed areas in order to remain hidden in open areas with little cover.
Sniper Elite 4 now has a lot more in the area of customisation with a skill tree and weapon upgrade system. You can customise loadouts for your missions just like previously, however this time as you level up through the game, you can choose different loadout perks that will give you small buffs to help with your challenges. Upgrade your weapons magnification, muzzle velocity and stability with a few more choices too.

The previous game in the series promoted the idea that you could complete missions in any fashion that you wanted to, but with Sniper Elite 4, the player is granted so many different ways to complete missions that it's actually incomprehensible how many different solutions there actually are. Assisting this are the new additions of interactive scenery pieces that you can use in order to take out enemies. For example, shooting out weak points in structures to have it collapse on top of your target gives a satisfying achievement along with a boost to your experience points.

Sniper Elite 4 looks absolutely stunning in the visual department, but more importantly it plays and feels like a Sniper Elite game. This entry into the series doesn't do much to depart of the roots of the series but in this approach the game remains moorish and will keep the long-time fans of the series happy enough to come back for more over and over again. The story won't knock your socks off but the gameplay is worth coming back for.

**UPDATED**
Sniper Elite 4 has included multiplayer modes as well as dedicated co-op missions to further keep you busy beyond the fleshed out campaign. The adversarial PVP multiplayer modes such as Distance King (team with the most accumulated shot distance wins), Team Deathmatch (as it sounds) and No Cross which is a mode where two teams face it out on a massive map which has been modified to have a barrier down the middle separating the two teams. This means you're in for a sniping war without the fear of someone sneaking up on you and there's no turning this match into a run and gunner.
These multiplayer modes are all good in their own rights, however the biggest issue is trying to find a populated match early on. Each time that I have initiated matchmaking, I often entered into a game with one other person, to only have people slowly added throughout the match. If I had to recommend a game type, it would be No Cross for the reason that it's a great style of multiplayer and it also appears to be the most populated. Sniper Elite 4 isn't known overly for it's multiplayer, but there is definitely a community out there ready to shoot you from 500 metres away.

Further to the online modes, it co-op. Not only can you play the complete campaign in two player co-op, there are other modes specifically tailored for you to play through with a trustworthy mate. There is Survival mode which will send you in with a mate to take on waves of enemies to test you on how long you can survive against the odds. There isn't much to explain here other than it's your regular horde mode which is a nice staple for game modes.
Most impressive for me was Overwatch. This is a mode where one player is placed on the ground with only a silenced pistol and an SMG to protect themselves against enemies while they complete objectives around the map before exfiltrating. The other player is placed up on a vantage point with their trust sniper rifle. This player must provide much needed support from above, while being confined to a small locked off area. This game mode provides equal challenge for both players as the sniping player is not safe from enemies finding his location and honing in on him. There are currently only two different maps to play on for this mode, but they are so large that if will take some time to complete them, and you can also replay them in completely different ways to get the objectives done.

Even though Sniper Elite 4 isn't well known for it's massive online multiplayer presence, the developers have clearly still put great efforts into making sure this part of the game wasn't lacking. If you're in for the Sniper Elite experience with a friend, you won't be disappointed.

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
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