Gamescom 2016: Sniper Elite 4 is Smart, Stealthy Sandbox Sniping

Gamescom 2016: Sniper Elite 4 is Smart, Stealthy Sandbox Sniping

2
Lee Abrahams

Within about thirty seconds of starting my mission to destroy a train-based artillery cannon in Sniper Elite 4, I’ve been spotted. Technically it wasn’t my fault, I did everything right. I snuck up to a high vantage point to get the lay of the land, marked a bunch of targets down below. How was I to know that a truck would come along the road behind me and lay all of my meticulous plans to waste? Alarms blare, troops start rushing to investigate and my job gets a whole lot more difficult before I’ve even had the chance to blow anyone’s testicles off in slow motion.

Once again you play as covert sniper Karl Fairburne tasked with high risk missions behind enemy lines. Only this time Sniper Elite 4's levels are far less linear with a more sandbox feel to them, the whole game being twice the size of its predecessor. As a result each level feels like a huge area just begging to be explored, with hidden missions, collectibles and intel strewn around as you sneak through.

Our train-related task highlights this perfectly. As off to our left is an army base that we can make our way through, offering a shorter but much riskier route to the bridge that we need to blow up. While on our right is a road down to a small Nazi occupied village, full of cover but also full of enemies and the ever watchful eye of snipers on the bridge itself.

I initially head into the village but then I get spotted and have to book it into cover. The enemy AI has been given a significant tweak, even since the E3 build, and they feel much smarter as a result. Rather than a group of enemies just legging it over to your last known position, a group might close in. Then send one lone scout to check it out while the rest cover him. So you can’t just sit in one spot and lure every enemy to their deaths until the level is empty – which is bad news for the lazy among us, but great for those who relish a challenge.

We snipe a few enemies ahead, and constantly seek to relocate so they can’t pinpoint our position. Just like a real sniper would. Of course, we also take advantage of the scenery around us, and manage to blow up a host of Nazis lounging too close to a fuel drum. Then we use the resulting chaos to sneak past the other guards that come to investigate the blast.

Unfortunately the success has clearly gone to my head as I totally forget about the snipers above, who prompty pin me down as I get near the bridge. I whip out the trusty Thompson machine gun and mow down a posse of foes that try and flank me, then draw a bead on the snipers above to be rewarded with a slow motion kill camera, watching as our bullet slowly pierces an eyeball. Ouch. That’ll teach them. We frisk a few of the nearby dead bodies for supplies and sneak up to the top of the bridge.

Once here we clear out the few stragglers that remain and hustle over to the designated bomb site, gingerly climbing down to plant a satchel explosive. But now we have to make our way back to where we started to detonate it. Our options don’t look too good, either through the enemy-laden army base ahead or back through the village through the hornet's nest of enemies we stirred up earlier. May as well go with what we know so it’s back through the village. This time things go a lot smoother, as we scout out paths and sneak unhindered behind buildings. Then it’s just a matter of pulling the trigger to blow the bridge, then ARRRRRGH! The demo times out and I’m left rueing all that time I spent machine gunning like a crazy person.

What we did learn during our time with Sniper Elite 4 is that the stealth system, enemy AI and sniping mechanics feel spot on. Taking into account the range, wind and necessity of relocation after every shot (no fancy silencers here) make this a supremely tactical affair. The huge open areas look wonderful too, full of additional challenges to take on and alternate routes to clamber through, as well as covering a broad spectrum of locales from the Italian theatre of war. While Sniper Elite 3 had some issues, Sniper Elite 4 seems like a more complete package. With co-op play and multiplayer action thrown into the mix, it could well prove to be a certain hit.

Expect the be gunning down Nazis from afar on 14th February 2017, because nothing says Happy Valentine's Day like a shot through the heart.

Comments
2
  • Sandbox... now you are talking. Make it good and that will be the first Sniper Elite game i will buy.
  • Sandbox in Stalingrad please
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