I tried playing Sniper Elite 4 as a pure stealth game, carefully sneaking past patrols and waiting for a plane to roar overhead to mask the crack of my rifle as I debrained my first fascist officer. But a little while later some wandering putz spotted me and so I sniped him, too. And then my minimap turned red and everyone got all aggro and so I just went ahead and sniped them all. Cut to me standing at the top of a lovely hill on the Italian countryside with a brand new moat of bodies at its base.
Sniper Elite 4 became much more fun when I started treating it less like a stealth game and more like a shooter with some sneaking. It isn’t as playful or full of gadgets as Hitman or Metal Gear Solid 5. You can lure enemies out of cover with sound and set explosive traps on bodies, but there are no boxes to hide in and no non-lethal options. I wouldn’t expect any in a game that delights in slow-mo x-ray shots of bullets crashing into foreheads and tumbling out the backs of skulls. That’s the Sniper Elite way, and it’s never been better at doing its own thing than it is in Sniper Elite 4.
Each campaign mission drops you into a large map somewhere in Italy during World War 2—think Battlefield size or a little bigger—and sets up some Nazi scheming to be foiled. The characters are pretty bland, and though I like the idea of teaming up with Italian partisans and the Mafia, I wasn’t gripped by the plot details in the skippable cutscenes. But all of that recedes when it’s mission time.
There’s no voice in your ear giving you orders or telling you to stay frosty: You’re on your own against bunches of AI soldiers who guard multiple primary and secondary objectives (blow this up, find this intel, kill this guy, and so on). At your disposal are a pair of binoculars to tag enemies with, a sniper rifle, an SMG and pistol, medkits, mines, and as many satchel charges as you need.
So it’s a lot like Sniper Elite 3—the sniping itself feels almost unchanged—but it's also a lot better than Sniper Elite 3. The maps are bigger, with more routes to the objectives (which you can handle in any order you like) and the AI isn't nearly as buggy and incompetent.
How the fascist fodder operates hasn't changed much, though. Take a rifle shot and they’ll hear it and take cover. Take another shot or two from the same location and it’s on: they know where you are and they’ll open fire. But they don’t have great eyesight. Run away without being re-spotted (a red ghost image of yourself shows you where they think you are) and hide for a minute and they’ll feebly search for you and eventually return to their routines. Classic videogame enemies: they witness you shoot the spleens out of a hundred of their friends and then go back to strolling around and mumbling.