Sniper Elite 4: Headshot Confirmed | A Short Pause Cooperative Review
Here at Short Pause, Brent Felsing and Ben Boyce were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to review developer Rebellion’s new marksman-sim, Sniper Elite 4. The guys tackled the entire game together, and what follows is both of their thoughts in our special cooperative review of the game!
Tale of the Tape
Title: Sniper Elite 4
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, & PC
Price: $59.99 ($89.99 Deluxe Edition)
Ben: Hi Brent! We were lucky enough to get our hands on Sniper Elite 4 early for review, and I’m excited to finally sit down and talk to you about it. We played through the entire game cooperatively, so we decided to try a new format for this extra special co-op review. How you doing man?
Brent: Benjamin, I'm doing great buddy. Why am I doing great you ask? Because I've spent the last week playing one of my most anticipated titles of 2017. Sniper Elite 3 was something of a surprise hit critically back in 2014 as Rebellion introduced open world elements to the underrated franchise. Instead of simply being content with Sniper Elite as a well-made budget title, Rebellion opted to up their game considerably with Sniper Elite 3, and the latest installment in the franchise firmly pushes the series into AAA territory. And after spending 20+ hours with Sniper Elite 4, I can confirm they've managed to do so successfully.
Ben: Very successfully. You know, Sniper Elite 3 was actually my first exposure to the series. I didn’t know much about the franchise until you introduced me to its third iteration back in the PS4’s first year. While I never had the opportunity to play through the entire game, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed what was there. Like you alluded to, I had often thought of Sniper Elite as a “AA title” so to speak during the PS3/Xbox 360 generation. With the advent of the PS4 and Xbox One though, Sniper Elite has most definitely become a AAA franchise. Sniper Elite 4 is the culmination of everything that Rebellion began in Sniper Elite 3. It’s a great game, perhaps even surprisingly great, especially when played cooperatively.
Brent: We enjoyed the cooperative elements so much in Sniper Elite 3, we thought it would be pretty cool to play through the campaign together for this review. Obviously, you can still play through Sniper Elite 4 solo, and it’s a great game in that regard. There is a strong emphasis on stealth play, and those of you who like to be sneaky will have plenty at their disposal. Elemental sounds such as planes overhead or rigged generators can be used to mask your shots, while suppressed ammo can be unlocked as you rank up your character. It’s a very challenging and rewarding experience to make it through any of the eight massive mission areas. But we’re focusing on the cooperative component for this review, and Sniper Elite is excellent with a friend all the same.
Ben: Sniper Elite 4 is a fun time solo, no doubt, but the game excels when played cooperatively, and I'm not sure how many people realize this. This really is an excellent cooperative game. Whether you're coordinating suppressed takedowns on nearby enemies or providing cover fire for your partner as he moves on an objective, Sniper Elite provides a harrowing sniping experience when played together. I especially like the spotter/shooter dynamic that often breaks out organically when tackling one of the game's missions. While one person moves in towards the objective — a piece of intel we're trying to retrieve, for instance — the other person hangs back and picks off hostiles as the first person tags them. It's really cool to watch it all come together as you're playing.
Brent: While the campaign co-op is fun, I think cooperative play is even better implemented in the Overwatch game mode. In Overwatch, one player takes on the role of a sniper who overlooks the battlefield from an elevated position, while the other is on the ground with his or her SMG and pistol tasked with completing multiple objectives across a sprawling map. In this mode, the importance of working together is much more pronounced. You are dependent on one another to complete all of the objectives and make your way to the extraction. The sniper’s job isn’t as simple as just sitting on a perch dropping unsuspecting enemies to clear a path for his or her partner, either. There is an entire map full of enemies that they will have to make their way through in order to get into position to cover the operative on the ground. Much like the campaign missions, Overwatch missions are lengthy and very challenging to complete, especially on Sniper Elite difficulty or higher. Regardless of what mode you play, Sniper Elite 4 is a great time with a friend.
Ben: Overwatch may have been my favorite thing we played together. Whereas the campaign can evolve into something that resembles this mode — I referenced the organic spotter/shooter relationship in my comments above — Overwatch itself relies solely on how well you and your partner can work together as a team. I loved slinking my way through enemy lines, tagging enemies for Brent to eliminate from his sniper perch across the map while I moved on the objective. Sniper Elite 4’s prowess as a cooperative shooting experience is fully on display here.
Brent: Cooperative teamwork is essential in just about any mode featured in Sniper Elite 4 thanks to the massive levels that are easily this installment’s biggest highlight. To put it bluntly, the maps in Sniper Elite 4 are absolutely massive, and highly detailed to boot. While the maps in Sniper Elite 3 were vast and put together well, there wasn’t much in terms of variety. This time around, Rebellion has gone to great lengths to keep each area of operation fresh. Everything from beach side venues to dense forests to snowcapped mountains are on display here, and they are fantastic. Even though modes like Survival and Overwatch only have 2 and 3 maps respectively (something that will hopefully be addressed via the free maps and modes set to be included as part of the game’s content drops), these maps are unique in their own right and offer limitless options with which to tackle your objectives.
Ben: You said it, Brent: Map design is easily Sniper Elite 4’s best feature. While this is not an open world game per se — each environment is a self-contained level to make your way through — it does sport open-ended map design. At the beginning of each mission, you’re dropped into one of the game’s gigantic and brilliantly designed environments. You’re given a set of primary and secondary objectives to tackle, and you’re free to go about completing these objectives in any way and in any order you see fit. I love the autonomy and freedom of choice this provides you as a player. Being able to determine when, where, and how the action is going to play out really gives you a sense of ownership, pride, and investment here. Your decisions are ultimately going to determine the outcome of the mission, and that’s an exciting proposition as a player. We could theoretically tackle the same mission ten different times in ten different ways. This keeps things fresh and adds a healthy dose of replayability to subsequent playthroughs as you try to tackle the various scenarios you come across throughout the game.
Brent: You mentioned secondary objectives, which reminds me of Weaver, Dinelli, and Sofia; just a few of the characters that not only assign you these secondary missions, but also to help push the narrative along. Now we both know the Sniper Elite series has never been, and will never be, mentioned in the same breath as story-driven games such as Uncharted or Fallout, but Rebellion makes an ambitious effort here to flesh out our hero Karl and give him some motivation for what he’s doing. At the end of the day though, as the story falls to the wayside, the solid gameplay mechanics and online components are what most people will remember about Sniper Elite 4. And this is all the series needs to move up the ranks of the crowded military shooter space.
Ben: So you’re telling me Karl Fairburne is NOT going to be the next Nathan Drake??
Brent: Lol. No.
Ben: All kidding aside, I think you hit the nail on the head here. I don’t know that anyone is going to pick up Sniper Elite 4 expecting an award-winning narrative. What’s here is serviceable and moves the game along, but I doubt Karl and Weaver are going to resonate much with you after the campaign is finished. You’ll forget about them and move on with your gaming life before too long. While the story takes a back seat to the sniping mechanics and level design, it didn’t have a profound effect one way or another on my enjoyment of the game. Sometimes the vapid cutscenes in-between missions drug out a little too long, but at the end of the day, the narrative didn’t severely impact my overall enjoyment of the game, if at all.
Brent: Now once you’ve completed the game cooperatively, and you’re fed up with your partner’s inability to grasp the concept of stealth, you can always take your aggression out on them in a taut match of No Cross in the competitive arena of Sniper Elite 4. I mention No Cross because I feel this mode best represents Sniper Elite 4 from a competitive standpoint, more so than any of the other run-of-the-mill modes that are included. The main crux behind No Cross is that there a barrier that separates both teams, which eliminates any melee kills or any reason to pull out your secondary weapon. It’s all about sniping in No Cross, and this is where the hardcore Sniper Elite players will no doubt spend a bulk of their time when playing competitively.
Ben: “Your partner’s inability to grasp the concept of stealth...” What are you getting at here, Brent?
Brent: Oh Ben. Do you really think I would call you out like that in front of our readers?
Ben: Absolutely! No Cross is definitely the way to go in terms of the multiplayer suite. Team Deathmatch, Control, and Distance King (a free-for-all mode wherein the player with the most kill distance wins) can be a good bit of fun in their own right, but the sheer size of the maps in multiplayer means that sniping is going to be of paramount importance if your team is going to win, and No Cross emphasizes this fact better than any other mode in the game. No Cross can be incredibly intense as you’re scanning the battlefield searching for enemy snipers, and I’m personally looking forward to hopping back into the competitive multiplayer portion of Sniper Elite 4 to get some more time in with this mode. While we haven’t been able to test the multiplayer in the full release environment — after the droves of people picking up the game on day one are hopping in to play — what we’ve experienced here in the pre-release environment has been solid. Matches are easy to find and jump into, and we haven't run into any glaring issues here. If this changes after launch, we’ll be sure to make note of it. Now Brent, there’s one mode we haven’t talked about yet. What did you think of Survival?
Brent: Survival mode is your standard Horde mode that you and everyone else have played in most other shooters. You and up to two other people must protect a constantly moving objective over the course of twelve rounds. There's a fair amount of fun to be had here if you have the right group of people communicating because the enemies will converge on the objective quickly and in great numbers. Where the objective ends up, however, can result in you putting more emphasis on using your SMG as opposed to your sniper rifle due to confined spacing which eliminates long sight lines. Despite being pulled away from sniping, it is fun coordinating with teammates on where to place trip wires and which dead enemies you should plant mines on to slow the mob of soldiers zeroing in on your location. Ultimately, Survival is my least favorite of the modes included in Sniper Elite 4, but it's nice to have it here if you're ever in the mood for that sort of thing.
Ben: I’m actually with you in regards to Survival. It seems a bit strange that this mode, at times, encourages you to use your submachine gun more than your sniper rifle, and in a game about sniping, that’s a strange decision. That’s not to say that shooting your SMG or your pistol is a chore or broken in any way. In fact, I thought the SMG and pistol actually felt pretty good to shoot. It’s just that the sniping mechanics are Sniper Elite 4’s bread-and-butter, and that’s where this game really makes its mark. Anything that detracts from that feels out of place. All-in-all, while the main campaign remains the primary draw of Sniper Elite 4, there’s a robust collection of ancillary modes and a fully-fledged multiplayer suite to keep would-be snipers busy long after the initial credits roll, even though some of these modes could use a few more maps.
Brent: Survival is actually the perfect segue to discuss some of the negatives of Sniper Elite 4, because you experienced a pretty nasty bug while playing Survival which completely incapacitated you in one of the later rounds. We encountered a few glitches during our time with Sniper Elite 4 and, even though they were rare occurrences and never amounted to anything truly disastrous, we still need to point them out here. Like any game that implements an open-world type of mechanic, there are bound to be a few issues here and there and Sniper Elite 4 is no exception. We had an objective in the third mission that didn’t register as complete even though we had killed off everyone required to attain it. This may seem trivial, but when you’re an hour and a half into the mission and you’re trying to do everything there is to do, this is rather annoying. Also, being shot by a sniper who’s outside on top of a building while you’re ten feet underground in a bunker was quite the surprise as well. Hopefully, these are issues that can be remedied through an update shortly after launch.
Ben: Overall Brent, I really enjoyed my time with Sniper Elite 4. The sniping mechanics, well-designed maps, and incredibly fun co-op play won me over. The less-than-thrilling narrative and minor bugs aside, this is a package that is more than worthy of your time and attention. Sniper Elite 4 is bigger and better than Sniper Elite 3 in every way, and I can’t wait to see where the franchise goes from here.
Brent: You hit the bullseye my friend. There’s a reason that Sniper Elite 4 was on my “Most Anticipated Games of 2017” list, and I’m thrilled that Rebellion was able to deliver a solid experience. It’s obvious they care about the Sniper Elite franchise as the excellent level design and top-of-the-line sniping mechanics keep getting better and better with each iteration. I’m looking forward to delving back into Sniper Elite 4 to clean up any loose trophies I still need to gain, as well teaming up with you again for our attempt at completing the campaign on Authentic difficulty…just so as long as you learn to utilize foliage as cover more consistently and equip the suppressed ammo. Thanks bud!
Ben: No promises, but I’ll try! Thanks for joining me for this, Brent! This was a ton of fun! To everyone reading, go pick up Sniper Elite 4 and share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
We reviewed Sniper Elite 4 on PlayStation 4 using codes provided to us by the fine folks at Rebellion.
- Excellent level design
- Fun sniping mechanics
- Fantastic cooperative play
- Take-it-or-leave-it narrative
- Occasional bugs
- Lack of maps in ancillary modes