The latest (but perhaps the last following the release of Strange Brigade) chapter of the Sniper Elite series takes us to Italy. I appreciated the direction they picked for episode 3 – replacing the grey, urban cityscape with the more colourful, open-world areas of Africa.
The 4th episode follows this approach: Karl now goes to Italy (in 1943) to investigate a radio-guided anti-ship missile system that was used to destroy an Allied ship. Things will get more interesting as we investigate and go from one location to another – once again we have levels taking place in daytime while some of the others want us to snipe Nazis during the night. Italy looks gorgeous – instead of yellow, green will be the dominant colour. I often stopped to look around in the lush forests of the viaduct level or marvelled at the detailed indoors areas in the Bitanti village.
The story is told via 8 big (and I mean big) chapters and each mission starts out in a secluded area with just us and our allies. Karl has the opportunity to radio in and update HQ on his status and also to converse with some other characters. This includes, for instance, Sofia Di Rocco a.k.a. partisan leader the Angel. The story of Sniper Elite will not win any awards this time, either, but I found Karl’s journey the most interesting here.
Going The Full Distance
It’s one thing how beautiful Italia is but another how big the levels became. Reaching the total distance of 100 kms with our shots will be much easier than doubling the marathon in the predecessor. The open world approach provides the same opportunities here, too: more than one option to reach our main goal and many secondary objectives to complete for extra XP reward. Collectibles now include various types of letters and documents and instead of Nazis in the distance, our longshot items will be stone eagles. You have to have a keen eyesight to be able to find everything on your own without using any guides.
Furthermore, in this episode we can climb a lot of things and even use pipes to reach the rooftops of buildings. We can also use environmental traps (mainly cargo hanging above close to cranes) to kill enemies. Masking our shots will once again be important – you can rely on your ears if you go Authentic; a new difficulty level, Authentic Plus, is available for masochists. Those in favour of stealth will appreciate the bushes used for hiding on several stages.
Levelling Up & Mr. Röntgen
Instead of 50 we have a much greater max level to reach. Don’t ask what that level is – 50 was enough for me. The last achievement on this is for 50 but after that to reach 51 you need a huge amount of XP. What changed? More RPG elements were introduced. First, we unlock two skills after each 5 levels. Of the two we can pick one (e.g. faster defusing of traps or reduced damage from explosives) that can later be modified. Second, we receive tokens following each level and these can then be used to purchase guns as at the beginning we have to make do with one rifle, machine gun and pistol.
Weapons have updates once again but these are not purchased by reaching a certain level but by killing Nazis instead. This has a criterion, though. For instance: shoot and kill 50 Nazis at a distance of at least 30 meters to improve the accuracy of your pistol. Once all 3 parameters have been upgraded a 4th update becomes available. The criterion here requires more playtime on your time but the reward will be the same: an exclusive, golden skin for your weapon. Now, imagine what playtime someone has in case they have this skin unlocked for the entire arsenal.
Our favourite, the signature feature of the game, the X-Ray also returns. This is now so detailed that sometimes I felt it was simply too repulsive. Following a successful headshot, for example, the victim’s brain is clearly visible and even moves a little bit (consider it a sponge full of water hit by a high-speed bullet). Yuck! Even the melee uses X-Ray; there are some decent animations employed by the reworked engine.
There are more this time. A guy who can radio in reinforcements, another Nazi who can spot you from afar and can call in artillery strike to your position and special jäger units who have better armour and deadlier rifles at their disposal. There are also several types of armoured vehicles – instead of shooting a tank’s grilled area you have to find the holes to kill its driver and the other guy handling the gun on top. No more fuel tanks – you make it immobile, you move in, attach a C4 and either shoot it from a distance or set a timer to make it go boom! This variety makes missions more interesting and challenging.
Sniping With Friends
Multiplayer is the usual: more than a year after the game’s release you do not find sessions in all game modes. It is a pity as there are some new interesting ones. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and No Cross modes dominate and often players are over level 70 or 80. There are sessions where players do not even move just camp out in their location.
Cooperative gameplay, on the other hand, is still a lot of fun. There are 2 big levels for Overwatch fans – they both include the same collectible items found in solo. Double the eyesight, double the chances! Survival now includes more enemy types (see above) and instead of two there can be 4 buddies teaming up for some Nazi hunting. During the 12 waves we are to protect a command post that is taken to another position in every 3 or so waves.
Sniper Elite 4 is the epitome of sniping video games. While the multiplayer lacks active new players in coop and in solo SE 4 offers a long-lasting experience. This is a must-have for fans of the series as well as for newcomers.