The Sniper Elite series arguably attracts quite a bit of a niche audience, though the series has been one that has almost always prioritised quality and refinement. And, full disclosure, while I’m an absolute newbie with the series, the time I had with Sniper Elite 4 at this year’s E3 gave me a great insight into how the next iteration of the series is shaping up, and, I’m happy to say, it’s looking great.
The short demo we played placed us in a massively-sized map filled with things to do. The main goal was to plant bombs on a railway at the other side of the map, which could be seen right from the outset of dropping into the mission. As I quickly came to terms with the controls and the main ideas of Sniper Elite — aka being stealthy and trying to stay out of sight — I couldn’t help but take in the gorgeous vistas decorating the game’s world: sprawling mountains beautifully complimented the area’s greenery and small villages surrounding the railway. It was, genuinely, one of the most breathtaking areas I engaged in throughout the entirety of E3.
As I mentioned before, stealth is something the Sniper Elite series has always prioritised. It’s all about being as swift and sneaky as you possibly can. And, while I attempted to do exactly that, I failed miserably. The first instance of this came as I attempted to take out a couple of the guards that were occupying the bridged railway directly across from my position. There was a particularly loud noise that you could use to mask your rifle’s shot in order to stay undetected, and that was what I initially attempted to do. But, amongst my thoughts, processing of other E3 demos I’d just come from, and trying to comprehend the controls of a series I was clearly unfamiliar with, I fluffed my shot and the guards were instantly on my case — so much for the stealthy approach.
What ensued from there was a great example of how the game promotes using your rifle, your scope, and, generally, your stealth. Normal third person combat felt flimsy when compared to the aforementioned things, and, as guards stormed up the side of the mountain I was situated on — ready to take me out — I quickly took up what I considered a good position and started picking them off. When you’re exposed an indicator will show you where the enemies will be advancing (which is where the shots were heard last), and you can use that to your advantage. Planting mines and using other equipment meant that I had the upper hand in a battle I shouldn’t have even started. The contrast between the ease of using your stealth-focused weapons and your loud ones is huge here, and I found that engaging in normal combat was the game’s way of telling you to do better as a sniper — it didn’t feel fun, it felt formulaic, and didn’t showcase any of the game’s best mechanics or assets.
What I’m alluding to here, of course, is one of Sniper’s most defining game mechanics — the slow-mo gore cam. It’s back and better than ever, and there were a few occasions when I’d actually get a good shot in with my rifle where I’d get a glimpse at the gorey impact my bullets were having on my enemies. It was, to put it lightly, a great change up to everything else the game offered during the demo.
As I made my way through the level, I took my time, slowly marking guards, watching their movement patterns, taking them out, and moving up. This was a constant pattern that underlined my experience with Sniper Elite. And while it may sound formulaic or repetitive, the challenge and desire to do better in each little area in the game’s sprawling mission as I made my way towards the rail was extremely satisfying. It was a constant battle of trying to refine my tactics to better myself, and I loved it when I pulled off an excellent stealth execution or masked my rifle shot behind the ear-deafening noises that were also occupying the level.
In the end, I didn’t make it to the railway and plant the bombs. As I approached the end of the level I was informed by a Rebellion rep that I required dynamite to take out heavy artillery that found itself stationed right in my way. The requirements for crafting dynamite could have been scavenged off of enemies I’d previously taken out — something I completely neglected. Nonetheless, I still had a ball of a time making my way to almost the end of the level.
Sniper Elite 4 is shaping up quite nicely. As I didn’t play the previous Sniper Elite games, I really can’t comment on returning and new features, but what I can say is that Sniper Elite 4 is a completely different ballgame to anything I’ve played before. Its reliance on stealth and thinking for yourself was a refreshing change up from other games I played during E3, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of the game when it releases later on down the track.