One thing that never got old when playing “Sniper Elite 4” was lining up long-distance shots and watching in slow motion as my bullets ripped through Nazis' skulls. An x-ray view gave graphic, real-time assessments of the damage as my shots tore through skin, muscle, cartilage, teeth and bones.
Almost every sniper shot I took while crawling through the game's eight open-ended levels triggered the gory, slow-mo cinematics. Even close-quarter melee kills and shooting explosives to blow up enemies triggered the kill cam. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's oh-so satisfying.
It's too bad that feeling doesn't carry over to most other parts of the game.
The best, most-polished part of “Sniper Elite 4” is, naturally, the sniping. Set in 1943 Italy, players control Karl Fairburne, a talented sniper who has to kill Nazis with his handy Springfield rifle. Everything from distance to Karl's heartbeat affects the path his shot takes, which makes nailing those long-distance headshots so thrilling.
It might seem an easy gameplay recipe to snipe bad guys from a safe distance, but Karl's rifle is loud. With one shot, enemies start searching for where the noise came from. Take another from the same spot and you greatly risk giving away your position, which adds a strategic element to the gameplay. I appreciated the option of turning on nearby generators and using other noises to mask my gunfire.
Without the ability to mask shots, the solution is to constantly change vantage points and positions when sniping. But that presents another problem: the stealth.
“Sniper Elite 4” is absolutely littered with an unrealistic amount of enemy soldiers. Even with the advantage of a minimap that shows where all of them are and if they're aware of my presence, it became progressively more difficult to make it through a mission without alerting half a dozen nearby soldiers to my position.
Missions sometimes became a frustrating mess, but thankfully, “Sniper Elite 4” has a generous checkpoint system. Whenever things got too crazy or a shot didn't go as planned, it was simple to reload the last autosave to try again.
Outside of the sniping, “Sniper Elite 4” lacks charm. Karl and almost all the other characters and the story overall are largely forgettable. They're all table dressing for the main attraction, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I just wish I grew more attached to Karl and his allies along the journey.
Players go through several missions set in open maps with various primary and secondary objectives to accomplish. Most of the missions run together in my memory because they feature similar goals: find a document here, kill a Nazi officer there and so on. A few fun moments do stand out, though, such as the time I planted an explosive on a bridge pillar and sniped it from a safe distance to destroy the structure and bring down the enemy train sitting on top.
I wish “Sniper Elite” featured more sniper-focused objectives. It's easy to snipe a patrolling officer, which plenty of missions task you with accomplishing, but it's much harder (and far more satisfying) to snipe the gas tank or driver of a moving truck. Such moments are few and far between, and I wish “Sniper Elite 4” featured more of them.
Most of the levels took well over an hour to beat, leading to a lengthy campaign. I found sneaking and shooting through these huge levels tedious at times, but patient gamers will relish the challenge.
“Sniper Elite 4” also features multiplayer, including cooperative missions, which I unfortunately didn't have time to try out. It's nice to have the option to team up with a buddy to snipe Nazis, though.
“Sniper Elite 4” shone brightest whenever it allowed me to do what the game handles best: sniping. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to find a vantage point, settle down and snipe Nazis' skulls from hundreds of yards away. Unfortunately, most other gameplay falls short, and sneaking through missions was more annoying than it should have been. The story was forgettable, but that's not what I play “Sniper Elite” for in the first place.
Final score: 7/10
“Sniper Elite 4” was reviewed on the Xbox One with a digital copy provided by the publisher's PR agency, Wonacott Communications.