Review: Sniper Elite V4 (PlayStation 4)
Sniper Elite V4: Official GBAtemp Review
GBAtemp review of Sniper Elite v4.
GBAtemp was sent a copy of Sniper Elite v4 for the PS4, this is the somewhat belated review of it.
Many of us have our preferred weapons and play styles for games. If I can be a spear wielding mage you can bet I will be one. For me long distance killing is another one of those and will be how I roll if given the chance, almost to the point of impracticality. I played the first Sniper Elite game on the original xbox where I had a blast, mainly due to local co-op. As I have lamented before though it seems local co-op is increasingly a thing of the past. There is an online co-op, one that attempts to mix things up a bit, but it suffers the same problem as all less than ultra popular long form games in trying to find good people to play with. I toyed with some of the others and a dozen other games with decent ballistics but this is the first Sniper Elite game I have done in earnest since that original game. On with the review then.
Weapons handling in the real world is a tricky thing, going longer range still does not diminish this any. Setting it during mid world war 2 is also a way to change this somewhat.
To that end where difficulty modes would want to be skimmed over in other games, mainly by them usually just upping or decreasing the health or cheapness of enemies, here it changes quite a few things. Here you gain extra things to have to account for (wind, bullet drop at different ranges), fewer helpers (ammo counts, heart rate monitors, stealth indicators, minimaps, marked enemies) and it also reduces the zoom available on your scope (and binoculars) as well as removing certain perks from the experience system. There is also a bullet time mechanic, called empty lung, that also projects the expected hit location of the bullet. You do get a certain measure of increased enemy awareness and reduced ammunition finding ability too but the bulk of it would come from the different mechanics outlined above. On the flip side those wanting the classic “bullet goes where the crosshairs are at” type gameplay, with all UI elements to help, can have that. Switching difficulties is possible, though going to hardcore mode will mean a new load.
Some of the various options you can set
and some more options
Binoculars in normal modes and hardcore mode
Over the shoulder, non upgraded 2x mode from easy, 6x mode from easy/normal
hard mode gives wind to account for, 12x from the upgraded rifle and and hardcore with less zoom and no helpers.
Some of the different scope styles
Those seeking the purest of pure sniping systems will likely keep searching, if for no other reason than all weapons seem to be chambered for the exact same rounds and everything fires true all the time, and I am never quite sure about leading a target. That said you can still do all the fun things like ranging shots so as to dial them in should you so desire, or maybe being forced to take easier shots. Equally counter sniper, anti personnel, anti materiel, stealth, recon and more all feature which is nice. There is also an option to disable auto reload which can make for some tense moments where you are in a shooting match, have a shot lined up and as you have not been counting you get the ever panic inducing click. Personally I used it in all modes as it stopped a little reload sequence if I accidentally selected the other type of ammunition, and the little extra thing to think about was welcome.
Ranges seem to top out at around 500m (the above compared binoculars also saw the location of the longest shot I managed) despite longer being available far earlier.
Cassell's The Technical Educator. Vol 1. ~1870.
Granted the above would appear to provide grounds to argue against a longer range if we assume this is proper sniper conditions with dirt and all.
The main single player campaign starts you with a little in world pre mission bit where you can talk to your contacts, possibly take a new weapon or two (usually different rifle or different secondary weapon) if your base setup is not up to the task or you have not unlocked it generally, and then you start the missions in earnest. The missions themselves are fairly free form and take place in a large map where you are free to do things in any order you like, though there are definitely more practical ways to set about it. Small hidden routes, alternative ways to complete objectives and more pop up all the time and give a definite push towards exploration.
You mainly unlock non DLC weapons by purchasing them with money earned from missions, a few come from specific actions within the game. For the most part I stuck with the initial setup and it performed well. That said a few different play styles could be had by those that want them, most notably with a semi auto rifle with a 15 shot magazine that becomes more readily available in the late game. Differing scopes/reticule designs between the weapons also help mix things up on harder modes where you can get some different and occasionally nice to have markings, should you know how to use them (I never saw the game explain it). If you are thinking about a play style as varied as wandering in somewhere with a slightly retooled infantry rifle vs a 50 cal rifle then don't; technically penetration, range, power and such are listed but for most practical purposes it matters less and the only differences are from magazine size and scope magnification.
Some of the rifles on offer
It has been remarked that when smaller developers go up against the likes of Call of Duty that it is not a good plan as they were never going to win, far better to do something a bit different. One of approaches to that is to merge a few different mechanics from other games and see what falls out. Here you have the sniping which kind of stands alone, the stealth which might as well have been ripped from splinter cell, a map design that might well have come directly from assassin's creed or watch_dogs and then polished up quite a bit. I was reminded of watch dogs when playing with the binoculars, after you tag an enemy if you linger on them it will give a little bit of background, and similarly trite messages to that game often pop up (usually swinging between single child of loving parents that was conscripted, has a picture of his dog on his bedside table, and professional soldier that regularly tortures prisoners).
Stealth is one of the key differentiators of a sniper from some kind of marksman and it can play a huge role in this game, and the game was clearly designed with it in mind. It is possible to complete the game with a run and gun approach, indeed several missions of mine played out as a prolonged stealth insertion and fight my way out again when it all went wrong, or right as the case may be if right involved a massive explosion. That said it is not easy and run and gun would likely have to combine with save scumming to get it done.
There is a fair bit of replayability in the missions. Variously to try other routes, weapons, restrictions, difficulties, challenges (no healing, no empty lung, under certain time, don't be spotted, kill fewer than ?, kill all certain enemies) or simply to obtain any collectibles you might have missed or side missions you might have skipped. The other modes, mentioned later, also add to this.
While it can certainly be enjoyed it is never going to be called anything other than game like. Many years ago when playing the original Thief the Dark Age game I had wondered how the guards could get very close and never see you, this was the same but occasionally in broad daylight. In theory they do nice things like notice when other members of their unit are missing, however in practice many times I had one with a 2 minute patrol pattern get taken out 10 seconds into it and be noticed 5 seconds later, maybe they whistled while they work. Other times the local bed of flowers seemed to be hiding some of kind carnivorous plant shaped like me but they would insist on going in one at a time to investigate it rather than lobbing a few grenades in and spraying bullets. Another time I had just blown up a piece of artillery a guy was manning with a team, both killed in front of him, and he suddenly decided to start a patrol route.
On a late mission I had snuck into a base and was faced with a mine field to cross. Where you can lure enemies into traps elsewhere it seemed despite him and a couple of mates blundering through the minefield, one their side had set, nothing happened.
With that said they would do things like take cover, notice fallen friends, occasionally try to save fallen friends, investigate, call in reinforcements, surround buildings, and theoretically act “cautious” should my actions be noticed by I escaped capture. Some disbelief would have to be suspended where in real life you would imagine all hell would have broken loose; you are in a secret base/way behind lines and there is a massive gunfight and several large explosions at the next unit over's position? Just keep patrolling as you have been. On occasion you would organically find adjacent units peel off to investigate a firefight, a lone survivor attempting to get to allies, adjacent units increase defences and organise around choke points, and get the occasional scripted version of the same.
On the flip side you also feel like using many of their behaviours against them – luring enemies into traps, employing distractions, waiting for sound cover and more feel like extensions of your arsenal rather than afterthought mechanics. It is maybe not quite as tight as some of the later Splinter Cell titles but it is a far, far cry from the token stealth section of games 10 years ago.
We're off to kill a nazi, sneaking down a mine filled road
The game is set in
grey-brown quite sunny and colourful 1940s Italy, with missions spanning several locales and times of day. Some aspects lack a bit of polish but it got it all done in the end. I could compare to the original, set in last days of World War 2 Berlin, and released on the original xbox but that would be silly. What it may lack compared to something like Battlefield's or Call of Duty's millions spent it more than makes up for in substance.
See the top of the archway
Show guide with an invisible hand, don't tell
Similarly some of the graphical design cues would want to be changed, one time I was trapped on an upper floor in a house and where I could hop over a wall one side and hang, the far more sheltered other side which would have allowed a quick escape had an impassable… chest high iron grille. A simple change to a full size one would have resolved this entirely.
It is one of the games that has an all purpose action button, sometimes the action being jump off a building where you might have preferred to hang off it. If the purpose of the game was some kind of demi god power fantasy a la the force unleashed it would have failed. If you played it solely on cadet (easiest) mode then I could see an accusation of stiff controls compared to some other games. If you play it on any of the modes it wants you to play on then it definitely helps enforce the brains before bullets approach. My biggest complaint that regularly affected gameplay is you can set the shoulder you are looking over for your pistol, in an option in the menu. In a game where peeking around corners is common you don't want to be exposing your entire self as you are looking over your other shoulder for the corner. Other games manage switching in game quite handily, sometimes by pressing one of the sticks in, and it got to me. Along with the grille thing above I did occasionally get trapped behind things the player could clearly climb over, and some things would be easier if you could climb over more tables.
Oh and you can throw rocks and break lights, or throw rocks at people.
The game is of the save and load anywhere persuasion, with a pretty decent autosave that cycles around so if you want to rewind to a lot earlier you had better have made a manual save.
A final tip is when unlocking the weapon improvements you can see the requirements from the selection wheel if you pause, and don't have to wait at the menu.
Enemies had nice conversations, music where it was serviceable, weapons did what they had to do, and the voice acting was about the level of a good cartoon, much like the story. There was a story but that it is being mentioned in a section about audio says most of what you need to know there. Voice acting was more than good enough, though nothing to write home about. Being a sniper without a radio in your ear there is not much scope for story other than before and after missions so worldbuilding tends to come from the pickups you get, set pieces within missions and the levels the missions are in. The main character for me managed to pull off the “hard man with a hard job to do” persona without going into sociopathic sniper nor ignorant master killer territory which was nice. In the list of games this one shares aspects with above are a whole bunch of Ubisoft games, and with that in mind I will bring up the Division. Both this and that want to evoke a feeling via the world itself and Sniper Elite V4 manages a lot more with a lot less; secret cavern quasi platform section into a base? Could absolutely believe it was there. Future top of building running maze puzzle from wire link fences and boxes? Only there because game designer says so.
Other Game Modes
It seems every game these days needs a copy of the horde mode that Gears of War popularised. This is not a bad thing from where I sit as many times my friends and I would seek parts of games that performed as such in times prior. Here you, and possibly a few mates if you go online, get to control various points on the map as waves of enemies try to take them from you. It is also a good way to get some of the weapon challenges, which unlock improvements to the weapons in the easier modes, as well as some done. The online was much like the other modes in terms of quality but occasionally left a bit to be desired where I had taken up a position away from the base, however then had a new enemy group spawn in quite literally on top of me. They are not especially difficult but they are by no means a cakewalk, and if you lose the base, get into a bad position, or get flanked then you can find your game ending prematurely very quickly.
There is a co-op mode based on single player. The co-op one aims to be a two different play styles affair (a sniper geared for long range and a spotter geared for shorter/mid range). The thing about local co-op is you are there, you are invested, you can talk easily… where online there is far less investment and thus is far harder to get a game going on. If you and yours have overcome this then you are doing better than the rest of us, and if you somehow manage this on public servers then prepare to be accused of being a witch.
As mentioned you can join some others in horde mode if going solo is not your thing. This adds a nice revival ability, as well as the ability for people to provide overwatch, close cover and makes it all play a bit differently. Whether random people on a server are inclined to play in such a manner is a different matter though.
Other modes are closer to classic deathmatch, team/squad deathmatch and do much like they say. There is a mode scored based on distance kills which was amusing, definitely encouraged slow play, setting traps, knowing the maps and something approximating sniper tactics, as well as a bizarre thing where if you found yourself dead to rights then running towards the enemy, to reduce their score, was the thing to do. Other modes still had sniping as a core focus but significantly less than that, save perhaps for the chasm mode where you are two teams on either side of an impassable space.
The net code was mostly OK, save for a somewhat annoying bug where it would glitch when reloading and do so infinitely which denied you use of the weapon. On those occasions I pretended my weapon had jammed and had to switch to another.
All the multiplayer and survival modes take place in small maps either ripped from or heavily based parts of the single player missions. All are pretty well designed and allow for sniping while not making for an impassable chokepoint where a lone sniper is an unstoppable force, though a good sniper in a good position is certainly a force to be reckoned with. In the end it is exactly what you imagine a smaller developer making a multiplayer game that is not necessarily a focus but not an afterthought, for a game with a single core mechanic. Servers may eventually become a bit of a ghost town, they were hardly jumping during my time with the game, but I can well see a loyal following arise like I have for certain other games.
There are a few forms of DLC for this. Other than the seemingly obligatory “kill Hitler” bonus mission the primary one with any real impact in the game is the silent warfare weapons pack. It grants single player access to a variety of silenced weapons. From the start you have a very nice single shot silenced pistol, the Welrod, and the ability to carry silenced ammunition for other pistols and rifles. Said silenced ammunition is very hard to find on maps so for the most part it is whatever you bring in. A silenced smg would have possibly changed how the game was able to be played though so it would have to join the ranks of day 1 DLC that changes the game. It is not quite as jarring as the likes of Deus Ex Human Revolution keeping the silenced sniper rifle for DLC/pre order but it is not a simple different skin, different ways to play, affair. Without the DLC you can try things out on the range as a demo of sorts. Said range is available from early on in the game install/download phase and allowed me to start earning some experience, though nothing towards the weapon upgrades.
Further DLC has since been made available and includes an extensive new single player, and co-op, campaign. A free new mode called elimination has been made available too but that has not been tested yet.
The following are some images taken for this review
Several enemies remarked about actions my character was supposed to have undertaken in a previous game, set in North Africa, and I am curious to see how that plays out. If sniping is ever to be a mass appeal concept this is not the game to do it, if you are already in though then you can have a great time with this. Just before posting I saw some reviews say the third (now available for not a lot at all) was better, I wouldn't know but I can say I had a good time with this.
+ Sniping, lots of it if
+ We don't care how you do it, just as long as it gets done.
+ It is nice seeing something other than grey and brown.
- Some graphical issues
- Single action button controls
- Multiplayer slightly buggy
- A.I. while good does tend to break immersion
Not the prettiest game out but knows what it wants to be and mostly pulls it off. Some excellent world building via the in game levels.
The sniping aspect is great fun and while a lot of missions have fairly similar objectives (kill someone, search this place, destroy these items) it is not just endless fetch quests.
For some this could well live on as a challenge type game among friends. For others after the pretty reasonable campaign has been done there will be some fun in going back and trying different approaches, and finding the collectibles. The survival mode is a welcome feature too. There is a multiplayer too but it is unknown how long it will stay populated for. Judging the length of the game is hard. Do the main objectives and you could probably do a run and gun play for each mode in not long at all, do the side objectives, find collectibles and take a sneakier/more observant approach on harder modes and you can spend hours.
out of 10
(not an average)
A game about sniping, does what it sets out to and was fun along the way. I don't feel quite like investing lots of time in this a la some open world games but it has a future as a just for fun game.