It’s hard to think of Rebellion without thinking of Sniper Elite. From the first it was a very different game and if you’re were playing it on the harder difficulties, it was about your shooting. With the wind, the target lead and distance. With each title in the series they’ve improved and they continue to do that here.
Shooting things is the core and greatest challenge of this series. While you might have three weapons, only one can give you the reach to target your enemies with safety. The full ballistics of the others appears here and it’s most certainly a challenge to deal with on Sniper Elite difficulty, never mind Authentic. Here the sniping has been improved, first and foremost in the weapon variety and secondly in their upgrades.
The sniper rifles in this game are a joy to use. Not only for the kill-cam, back and even nastier than ever. They each have their own character. Comparing the Kar98K to the Springfield and the Lee Enfield Number 4 Mark 1 is an impossible task. While it’s easy to look at simple numbers, magazine capacity and zoom distance, other factors can change what you need to make the most of your playstyle, your plans. The G43 might be semi-automatic, but if it aims too slow for you, it’s not the rifle you need now.
The other part now applies to all weapons, from your primary rifle, your secondary weapons and your pistols. You can now master weapons. By meeting these four requirements you can unlock a special skin for your rifle, as well as improvements for them. Some relate to muzzle velocity, how fast your bullet starts. Others stability, recoil, damage, all far more self explanatory. These help set the role the rifle is good for, where it does it best. Even more so for the secondaries and pistols.
The only new addition to the title in terms of your tools are the suppressed rounds for your pistol and your rifle. These allow you to fire while not being sound masked and make it just as hard for the enemy to tell your location. Carefully using these rounds is important, as you can carry very few them. Even less on Sniper Elite difficulty.
The kill-cam is back and it’s even more brutal than ever. More locations to hit and more organs, veins and arteries to see explode abound. Now instead of just from your sniper rifle, you can see them from melee kills and trap kills. It’s easy to say they’re cringe inducing but that doesn’t sell how bad some of them are. From explosions you can trace the individual pieces of shrapnel entering the body, watching the bones break, flesh and ligaments tear. In the case of larger pieces, even see them pierce the body and exit the other side. Melee kills are just as brutal, watching the knife tear holes in the heart, cut through the brain and jaws breaking under hard impacts, punches or knees.
Another great change from the previous relates to the size of the maps you enter. While it seemed that they were large in the third entry, here they’re massive. It’s truly on you to find your spots and nests, where you take your shots and where you sneak by. Completely each level takes time, easily in the area of an hour each. Despite this obvious length, it never felt like it was dragged out. There’s some collectibles, letters and targets. In my first playthrough I easily found seventy, eighty percent of them.
Audio and Visuals
As beautiful as the last game was, this shows a clear mastery of the console, hardware. Light, shadow, texture and draw distance all work together to take you to that little part of Italy. The bright sunlight can blind you for a moment, letting an enemy get the drop on you. Shadows can you hide you, as much as the enemy. Even worse when they are camouflaged and well camouflaged. From Italian villages that look like they’re hundreds of years old to a Nazi base high in the mountains, level locations are varied and interesting. Enemies and characters are well animated and move smoothly. Even after being shot and falling dead to the ground. Viscera and gore are modelled at a detail that it would take a medical student to complain about.
Just as there’s been a world built for your eyes, it’s also been built for your ears as well. Generators and explosions have roars that they should, the blasts even seem to echo are present. After a few missions I swear I could tell the difference between the calibres, pistols short and small retorts. Rifle calibres having clear barks, automatic fire like angry wasps. Your rifle has clear deep shout when you fire, the wind passing around the bullet in its flight. You can even listen in on conversations, between partisans and soldiers alike. Some give you tips, others give tell you stories.
Multiplayer features and Sniper Elite haven’t always gone on well together. The Co-op gameplay has been much the same of the single player, if not making the game a little easier. This returns and is a welcome return but the additions are so much more interesting.
The co-op, up to four player survival, horde mode is the one that has me the most interested. You must hold a series of points against waves of lethal enemies. Simple enough, until the points start to move and all you have is your rifle to take on tanks and infantry. Communication and co-ordination is the name of this game.
Competitive multiplayer also makes an appearance, with a capture the flag mode. While it holds the least interest for me, it makes a change for the game. Fast paced and far more about your secondary weapons and pistols, this can help to keep the game fresh, give you a break from lining up your shots from concealment, hiding in long grass waiting to ambush.
There’s something about Sniper Elite which just keeps me coming back. It’s not just the ballistics, learning how to aim where your target is going to be. How to estimate that for first shot kills isn’t easy even with the simplified ballistics on offer. It’s about planning, preparation and premeditated murder and it’s unashamedly brilliant at that. You have a world that acts and reacts to your presence that challenges you, even without the need to aim at what can appear be a completely unrelated direction to your target. That’s probably what stands out here, the world you’re in is just so big that you have the power to choose how you complete the objectives.