Rebellion surprised us earlier this month with the announcement of Sniper Elite 4. Set in Italy in 1943, one year after the events of Sniper Elite 3, players will once again take control of Karl Fairburne as he aids the Italian Resistance in their fight against the invading Nazi troops. At Microsoft’s ID@Xbox event at GDC, we were able to see early footage of the upcoming game.
New Surroundings, Better Tools
Unlike the barren sands of North Africa, the Italian locations of Sniper Elite 4 are full of tall buildings, brick-paved streets and the occasional set of ruins. This bodes well for you as there are more than enough places to set up a sniping perch. However, this also works in the enemy's favor. More buildings means that enemies can hide in various locations. The increased number of structures provides more ways to travel vertically throughout each area. You can hide from (or even kill) enemies by dangling from a ledge or climb ropes to quickly reach a new location (it certainly beats taking the stairs).
I was shown two levels: A town and its surrounding countryside, and a viaduct level located deep in the Italian forests. Both areas were large in scale. If you slowly progress to the objective, it could take you quite some time to reach the far end of the map. It’s not exactly an open-world game, but the size of each level gives you the ability to plan your attack from multiple points of entry.
There are also some new tools and features that could aid your sniping adventures. Your trusty set of binoculars received an upgrade that allows you to receive more information about the target, such as their rank, personal info and even what they’re carrying in terms of items. You could use the information to track down a group’s commanding officer. If you kill him, the locations of other soldiers will appear on your minimap, making it easier for you to work your way around dangerous scenarios.
Speaking of the minimap, it now shows a small radial area around you to indicate your current noise level. It expands as you make more noise and vice versa. This comes in handy when you’re trying to sneak around while making sure that nearby guards — which are indicated on the minimap — don’t hear you.
Wait For The Kill
At the end of the day, you’ll kill a majority of the enemies with your sniper rifle, and its shooting mechanic received a significant upgrade called “scope zeroing." This ensures that your bullet hits its intended location based on various distances. For die-hard fans, scope zeroing was a heavily-requested feature, and with its inclusion, the experience of using the rifle is slightly more authentic.
There are also some scenarios where you will have to engage in close-quarters combat. Rebellion added new animations for these encounters, so you can see even more gruesome ways to kill Nazis at close range, such as smashing their heads on your knee.
The famous “x-ray kills,” which shows the path of your bullet through the enemy’s body was also improved. In addition to sniper shots, you can also see these special kills in close-quarters combat or when you use the environment (such as an explosion or falling debris) to kill foes.
It’s All In The Details
For the most part, Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t have any monumental gameplay changes from its predecessor. Even with all of the new features available, you could still play the game in the same way as Sniper Elite 3, but you would miss all of the new areas to explore as well as new ways to kill your enemies.
Granted, we were shown a pre-alpha version of the game, and it will undoubtedly have some changes before the final version. But at the moment, Sniper Elite 4 shows some promise, thanks to a few gameplay changes from the developers.