The Sniper Elite franchise doesn’t get enough credit for its emergent gameplay. In a post-Metal Gear world, it’s assuring to find a campaign mode where a single decision can blossom into myriad follow-up opportunities. This kind of unpredictability is one of the reasons why roguelikes and adversarial multiplayer games are popular. In the context of single player combat, Sniper Elite 4 preserves the series’ open ended, improvisation-driven designs while still preserving a goal-driven story.
It’s a narrative that continues Sniper Elite’s exploration into the campaigns of World War II where fictional missions are carried out in front of factual backdrops. The series has taken fans from Berlin to North Africa and now Italy.
The mission in Rebellion’s E3 demo’s was a perfect example of the journey being more crucial than the goal. The objective was straightforward: detonate a bomb on a train bridge in order to disrupt an crucial Nazi supply route. The path to the targeted bridge support is beset by patrols and a small base, practically ensuring you’re going to use more than a sniper rifle to complete the assignment. Having an expansive arsenal has always been the key feature that separates Sniper Elite from its main competitor, the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series. Sniping is just one component in a game loaded with other combat mechanics includes cover-based third person shooting and liberal grenade tossing (assuming you’re not a stickler for stealth).
The most fortunate players are either skilled multitaskers who can switch between weapons on the fly or focused snipers who are resourceful and patient enough to use their surroundings to their advantage. If you opt for ranged lethality, you’ll be treated to Sniper Elite’s trademark slow motion x-ray kills, where you’ll witness the detailed brutality of your targeting choice. It’s the kind of see-through gruesomeness that’s only rivaled by the last couple Mortal Kombat games.
Sniper Elite 4 isn’t bereft of challenge and it’s underscored by the fact you have to play according to many WWII-era rules. That means benefitting from the discretion of a silenced pistol but having to contend with its inaccuracy. You can at least take advantage of the unrealistic ability to mark enemies and a mini radar for easy tracking.
It all comes back to recognizing opportunities and options, environmentally and situationally. It’s about deciding how many Nazis on the bridge you’d like to take out from a distance before you move in and plant the bomb. It’s about how you plan to prepare for the incoming troops altered by your rifle fire. It’s about using tactical cover points to take out a small army on the base as you make your way to the bridge. And it’s about where you’d like to target the bomb after you’ve planted it on the bridge support. The wide-linear design of the level–-which Rebellion assured us is indicative of the entire game–-ensures that every failed playthrough shouldn’t be a cause for frustration but rather a reason for excitement that you get to try a different approach when you respawn.