Sniper Elite 4 Preview
Hans is 23 and an aspiring athlete; he has three younger brothers and a girl who he has not seen in many months. He writes to them often, but still misses them dearly. Hans was bullied at school and joined the army in the hope of being “a better man”, as his father said. He dreams of one day competing in the Olympics for his country. He is not sure why he is fighting, only that...
Artillery sounds - a boom like thunder echoes all around.
My bullet whistles unheard through the air in glorious slow motion, showing the beautifully realised Italian countryside. The camera pans around the brass missile as it effortlessly passes through Hans’s eye, into his brain, before exploding out of his skull in a shower of metal bone and grey matter.
The improved X-Ray camera shows, in gruesomely effective detail, every millisecond of my human destruction wrought onto Hans. His lifeless body tumbles from the bridge, of which he was guarding, into the lush green gorge below and out of sight.
I did not want to kill Hans, but the bridge he was guarding is currently home to one of Germany’s fearsome railroad artillery cannons - a cannon that is subsequently wreaking havoc on the advancing allied forces. I had no option at that moment. I exhale slowly, lining up on another German solider.
I wait for the artillery to sound again.
I played Sniper Elite 4 back at E3 this year and have wanted to write about it for some time. This game has stuck in my mind ever since June, like an itch I could not scratch. Whereas I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Sniper Elite games, and indeed the spin off Zombie Army Trilogy, this felt different. This felt complete.
That’s not to say the other games were lacking, more this feels like the team at Rebellion are now totally in control of the engine they have built and are now beginning to let loose their full creative potential.
Sniper Elite 4, if you just glanced, could look like just another sequel, but that would be doing this game a massive disservice. This is an entirely different animal altogether. Starting with the obvious it is an absolutely stunning game, draw distances are huge, as are the maps, particle and lighting effect are in place and it runs in full HD 1080p 60fps (for those that obsess over such things). The character models have been given an overhaul; with better facial animations and more realistic body movements these AI feel more real than ever. Add this to the character bios that appear if you highlight a target with your binoculars, and I actually found myself hesitating to shoot.
AI has been ramped up too, with officers leading their squads with far more efficiency than before; closing down on your last position faster than ever and maintaining morale of their troops after they have sustained casualties at your hand. This makes them your priority target. Soldiers are also far more situationally aware, noticing and reporting bodies rather than simply walking past.
However, your abilities have also received a suitable boost, allowing you to be far more creative in how you approach a situation. Bodies can now be booby-trapped; not only are there X-Ray cams for long range and vehicle kills, but also for shrapnel and takedown kills, with the latter encouraging a stealthier approach to levels. Ledge takedowns are also a thing, as are environmental ‘accidents’, a la Hitman.
During my play-through I waited for Gunther, a staunch Nazi with a love of torturing animals, to wander under a precariously placed platform of firewood, suspended over the barn he was guarding. He did so just as the artillery sounded. Unlike with Hans, there was no hesitation with this shot, and Gunther ended his days crushed beneath 500lbs of freshly cut Stone Pine lumber.
I only played one level of the game in my time with Sniper Elite 4, and even this play through felt like the team had created the most slick and fluid version of the series yet. Rebellion have taken some time to refine what they had, smoothing off any lingering rough edges, whilst at the same time using the full dev cycle on next-gen to be used to its full potential.
Sniper Elite 4 is going to tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
RELEASE DATE: Febuary 14th 2017
Check out the Developer on social media here: https://twitter.com/Rebellion
Check out the games social media here: https://twitter.com/SniperElite