Since it first hit consoles back in 2005, Sniper Elite has been a big hit with the gaming community, and it’s not hard to see why. Unlike the many other shooters available on the market, Sniper Elite doesn’t send you into battle all guns blazing – in fact, those that attempt to do just that on anything other than the easiest difficulty option are sure to get blown away in mere seconds. Instead, the task here is to map out the area, plan your route and get the job done as quietly and efficiently as possible.

As a big fan of all things stealth (which was most likely brought on by my childhood dominance of Hide and Seek), Sniper Elite has always been a series that has appealed to me. But as we all know, too much of the same thing can get boring very quickly and with Sniper Elite 4 set in the same time period as each of the previous entries in the series, does this latest iteration have enough in the tank to provide another thrilling experience, or will another shot at World War II be too far for one of the most decorated Indie franchises on the market?

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Sniper Elite 4 returns players once more to the trusted eyes and ears of series veteran, and mainstay protagonist, Karl Fairburne of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) – unless of course they choose from the various other characters available. Following on from the immediate events of Karl’s outing in Africa in Sniper Elite 3, Sniper Elite 4 sends the main man to Italy to assist the Italian resistance in the fight against the Fascists during World War II. Throughout it, Karl must gain the respect of the local resistance whilst taking down every obstacle in his path, in order to stop the advancing threat of General Böhm, the Nazi constructor of a series of missiles capable of tracking down allied ships with precision targeting – the Wonder-Weapon.

Whilst previous entries in the series followed a fairly strict path in terms of gameplay, Sniper Elite 4 has been designed to give players more choice on how to take on each mission. To help with this, each map within the game is much larger in size than anything previously seen in the series. This is a big help when it comes to approaching enemies, with players now able to choose various paths through each level. Another change this time round is in the optional side missions that can be found throughout each level.

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At the start of a mission, players go to each of the characters in the starting area and make radio contact with ‘Mother Hen’ to gather mission objectives. However, it is up to you how you approach each of these objectives, or if you bother at all, as missions only require the completion of the main objective in order to progress. That said, those looking to reach the level 50 cap will want to ensure they complete each of these in order to gather the valuable XP on offer from each one. The side missions can range from the collection of intelligence to the assassination of high ranking officers, as well as the destruction of enemy vehicles and weaponry, and each one really helps add a sense of choice and urgency to the importance of the end goal. It must be said that the campaign found in the game may just be the series’ best yet.

With it coming in at just eight missions in length, it may sound like enough to turn away those looking for a lengthy adventure, but it’s worth noting that the sheer size of each map and the collectibles and objectives that can found within them, can have you heading towards a couple of hours of game time for each mission. Whilst the title may suggest otherwise, Sniper Elite 4 isn’t a title aimed at those with unmatched skill in the shooting genre, and with a selection of difficulties ranging from super easy to incredibly tough, there is plenty on offer to help keep the game engaging for everyone. Those looking to go in at the deep end should be warned though, the Authentic difficulty option is not for the feint hearted, with mission objectives hidden and the entire HUD removed for the ultimate in sniping combat – or sniping horror depending on your ability to crack out those long-shots in silence.

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Other than side objectives, and larger maps, Sniper Elite 4 also offers players a wide selection of challenges that really help the feeling of replayability and these come in two forms; weapon challenges and mission challenges. Mission challenges are another addition to the campaign and it wasn’t until my second playthrough on the harder difficulties that I paid much attention to these. These offer a different way of playing the game, and will appeal should the many hours of sniping begin to wear you down. One of my personal favourites was the challenge to complete one of the missions with melee combat only, as well as another which required me to kill an enemy every two minutes. These things may only be small in comparison to the rest of the game, but there’s no taking away just how much more you can get from the game if you choose to hunt them all down, especially on the harder difficulties.

Weapon challenges on the other hand offer a great option for those who find themselves with a weapon of choice, with extra objectives and their completion unlocking the highly valued golden camo for use. Challenges for weapons are tied to upgrades, with each one also unlocking a welcome enhancement to your weapon, such as higher ammo capacity or better damage and more control over muzzle velocity. The weapons in the game are like those seen in other entries in the series, with favourites such as the Lee Enfield, Karabiner 98K, Webley MK IV and of course the popular secondary choice the Trench gun, all in place. Like the mission challenges though, the weapon challenges are varied with each weapon, and offer a decent selection for you to get on with.

Some of these weapons will be available immediately, but many will require unlocking and this can be done with in-game money which is obtained through either standard gameplay or through certain challenges – killing a specific enemy type with a certain weapon for example.

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With Sniper Elite 4 changing almost everything seen previously to something bigger and better, you would no doubt expect more in the way of opposition, and that is the case with players taking to the field of battle against hundreds of enemies at any one time. Many are your usual soldiers on patrol, but there are certain enemies to watch out for should you be going about your business in the quietest way possible. Elite enemies such as the Radio Soldiers, Spotters, Officers and Snipers ,offer an increased threat to the player, and alerting these can bring much unwanted attention to Karl. With Radio Soldiers capable of bringing more soldiers in as reinforcement, Spotters bringing a barrage of air strikes down on the player’s position and Officers having a commanding shout to alert all soldiers under his orders to the player’s location, you would be wise to keep yourself hidden. Of course, getting involved with the Snipers is pretty self-explanatory – sitting in their line of sight for more than a few seconds will show you what good marksmanship is all about.

For those wanting to eliminate every threat or take the quietest possible route, your best friend will be your equipment, and in particular your binoculars. Good use of your equipment is a must in Sniper Elite, with every weapon having two modes and every item having a use that could make your mission much easier if used at the right time.

Whilst enemies are a constant threat in Sniper Elite 4, they can be used to your advantage if you go about your mission sensibly. Taking down the Elite enemies is no more challenging than any usual grunt on the battlefield, but should you pick these off, you will get the opportunity to use their abilities in your favour, with Officers providing the whereabouts of every man under his control and Spotters dropping their trusty weapon so you can bring artillery strikes down on the enemy, something which can provide a big help when taking on heavily fortified positions.

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So, it’s pretty much agreed that the campaign offers an experience that is sure to delight, but it isn’t the only game mode available.

From the main menu, players can choose from a selection of Multiplayer and Cooperative game options as well as partaking in a shooting range with targets to fully test out each of the weapons abilities. Co-operative is the perfect place for those looking to go about things with a friend with the Campaign fully playable together, along with Overwatch and Survival modes. The former of these sends players on spotting and sniping missions, with one taking up each role, demanding communication for success, whilst Survival pits up to four players against waves of enemies. However, with enemies getting progressively more challenging as waves go on, you can quickly find yourself outnumbered if you don’t make sure to use environmental dangers and everything in your arsenal to their full effectiveness.

As for the multiplayer side of things, there is both a Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch option – neither of which need an introduction – along with Team Distance King, Distance King, No Cross and Control. These game modes offer a nice and unique offering compared to what you would usually see in other shooters. Distance King and Team Distance King offer a solo or team experience in which the winning individual/team is the one with the longest accrued distance from killing shots within the time limit. This helps put those refined marksman skills to good use as the winning shot can potentially be the only shot, and is certainly a game mode in which I found myself feeling tense throughout. No Cross is basically Team Deathmatch with a twist; each half of the map is covered by an impassable No Man’s Land requiring players to use their half effectively, flushing out hiding spots and making the most of environmental dangers. Control meanwhile is very much a Domination variant with teams fighting for control over each Radio Drop until it is captured.

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Overall, and while many will look to Sniper Elite 4 for the solo experience, anyone who has played previous titles will know that the multiplayer offerings are exceptionally enjoyable and Sniper Elite 4 takes this to the next level. Those playing as a team, with communication, will find it truly enjoyable, but that’s not to say those going it alone will be left disappointed. They won’t, for Sniper Elite 4 excels in many ways.

Have we seen the year’s best shooter? Quite possibly.

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