Sniper Elite 4 Hands-On
Remember Metal Gear Solid 5? In its finer moments, Sniper Elite 4 feels just as strong as that. Playing a WW2 commando and ambling around the large open levels invites a sort of stealthy experimentation last seen in Konami's most recent stealth-'em-up.
It's not a generous description either. After two half-hour sessions dashing around the place, experimenting with long range sniping and accidentally taking out a whole platoon with a 1911, I think there's a good chance Sniper Elite 4 could be the best stealth game of 2017 when it launches on Valentine's Day next year.
The Sniper Elite series has always been evolving. Sniper Elite was quite a basic sniper game, and the second entry nailed the sniping but didn't get the stealth part. The third made further advances, but Sniper Elite 4 is where it seems to have hit its stride. Firing an unsilenced rifle will make a loud noise that travels to all that can hear you, but despite them hitting the ground when a round is fired, they won't be able to locate you. Enemies will primarily be looking to triangulate your position from multiple shots. If you move around before pulling the trigger again, you'll throw off their attempts to find you. Similarly, there's a lot more you can do in terms of traps. Traps have always been integral to the game, but now you can booby trap bodies and other objects, and the addition of many more types of mine mean you can get really inventive.
After my playthrough I watched a Rebellion staff member traipse through the level and he showed me a "two-step" mine, so called because it doesn't go off after the first person steps on it, but the second.
To illustrate why this is useful, he sets up an elaborate trap where a faulty generator lures in an officer who, while coming to investigate, steps on the mine and activates the trap. While trying to fix the generator, a booby trap on the generator explodes, killing the officer. Rushing to support their fallen comrade, a patrol charge up the stairs, hitting the mine for the second time and killing them all.
Not a single shot has been fired. No one outside of the valley is coming to look. Sniper Elite 4 is awesome.
It's not quite an open world game, but it's definitely open plan, in so far as you're dropped at the start of the level, given a handful of objectives and optional secondary objectives, and turned loose. I can see myself spending a few hours in each level, crawling around on my stomach as I look for prime sniper shots, and ambushing German patrols as I do… I dunno, some commando stuff.
Sniping is great fun, as you might expect, and the gruesome killcam has returned. It's gory stuff, and you'll wince the first time a sniper round pops both of your enemy's testicles, but this killcam has been expanded now, showing you the impact of a savage punch to the ribs, or the shrapnel from an explosion nearby. I'll probably end up turning it off eventually, as I have in each Sniper Elite game so far, but it's always fun once or twice to get a reward when you ping someone with a round at 600 metres.
Sniper Elite 4 looks like a much more detailed game than its predecessor, and it's a firm reminder that Rebellion are really going places as a game studio.