Better late than never, Rebellion Developments’ 2017 hit Sniper Elite 4 is finally coming to Nintendo’s plucky hybrid. This port is one I and many others have been really looking forward to, but the question remains: is it worth a repurchase? I’d say so.
Sniper Elite 4 is a tactical 3rd person shooter set in 1940s Italy, and your primary goal is to kill Nazis by any means necessary. Sounds simple, but it’s handled really intelligently. The enemy AI is smart and cunning; enemies can triangulate your position if you stay in one place for too long or make too much noise. Your movements can be spotted from long distances and mobilize to close in on you. Stealth is certainly important, but you also have the option to face your adversaries head on with short to mid range weapons as well.
This constant feeling of being hunted and outnumbered leads to a nice cycle of anxiety and satisfaction as you dispatch the fascists, in spite of your solitude. Despite this repetitive formula, each encounter feels distinct thanks to a variety of enemy formations and terrain.
Sniper Elite 4 sets itself apart from most military based games by being methodical and tactical instead of the usual “shoot everything in sight as quickly as possible” formula that other series tend to use. This slow and steady approach makes for a more satisfying experience but it can also cause levels to drag on a bit.
If you’re a fan of the Mortal Kombat series, the kill camera will look familiar. When you make an impressive shot, you get to see the enemy’s internal organs and how you’ve destroyed them in detail. Luckily for our squeamish friends, this is totally optional.
The big Switch exclusive feature is motion controls. I always dread testing the motion control in games and usually save it for last, because they’re almost always terribly unwieldy and unnecessary. Luckily that’s not entirely true for Sniper Elite 4. That being said, they only really work when you’re using a sniper rifle. In close combat scenarios, they’re worse than useless and will always get you killed but when you’re having trouble lining up a 200 yard headshot, they’re surprisingly intuitive. They also don’t get in the way when you’re not using them. The joysticks still do the heavy lifting and work in conjunction with the motion aiming. Sadly, even decent motion controls are eventually annoying and you’re still better off leaving them alone.
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World / Level Design
The maps in this game are huge. They’re filled with obstacles, explosives, secondary objectives, buildings and hidden arsenals and as such, feel full and engaging; so full and so engaging in fact that the levels take between 75 and 90 minutes each to complete. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, it can be a little taxing after a while. I realize this would normally be a minor issue but when the save function failed on a particularly difficult level and every time I died I had to start completely over, the gargantuan map felt like a hindrance. Hopefully this is a pre-launch bug and will be fixed soon.
As it stands the maps are well crafted and the size and variety lets you choose how you complete your mission. In a nutshell, the level design is really top notch.
Story / Personality
The story didn’t really grip me, if I’m being honest. There’s all the WWII tropes we know and love but the overrepresentation of this era in all forms of media means that any story that takes place in this era has to work extra hard to stand out. While it does make a decent effort, there’s nothing really groundbreaking here. It’s the World War II equivalent of Iron Man 3: decent and worth paying attention to, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
Graphics / Art Direction
The graphics are pretty good, all things considered. I didn’t experience any significant drops in frame rate or other performance issues (except for the saving problem I mentioned earlier). When you’re looking out onto the battlefield and through the scope of your rifle, the game looks great, but the grass and brush you hide in looks comical. It looks like it doesn’t belong and while it is a minor issue, it’s an annoying one.
The anatomical animation is very impressive. When you trigger the kill camera, the resulting violence is highly detailed and manages to pull this off in full motion.
Final Score: 85%
I had a lot of fun playing Sniper Elite 4 but I don’t think there’s enough here to justify a repurchase if you have another version of this game. That being said, this game is still amazing and if you haven’t played it yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. There’s something incredibly satisfying about being able to make as many choices in how you engage your enemies as this game allows. I haven’t played any other Sniper Elite game but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this entry. This tactical shooter stands out in a sea of military shooters that seem incredibly juvenile in comparison.
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