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First Impressions: Sniper Elite 4

Saw this was on flash sale on PSN for 39 bucks, and I figured... hey, why not? For a new PS4 game, 39 bucks... that's not bad at all. And the reviews looked rather good. Mind you, I've never played any of the other Sniper Elite games before, so this is absolutely my first experience with the franchise.

As someone who enjoys realistic stealth games, I gotta say... this is really damn good. It is a much better stealth open world shooter in polish, graphics, and feel compared to Ghost Recon Wildlands, which also came out recently. I mean, it's hard not to compare the two. Obviously, here you're dealing with much smaller open worlds, basically islands around Italy, as opposed to Wildlands which sims the entire country of Bolivia. So the scale is smaller, but it feels so much better and polished. On a spectrum from MGS V to Wildlands, this game feels and plays much closer to the MGS V end. The graphics aren't amazing or Crysis 4 or anything, but I do enjoy how you don't just see huge ass blocky boulders made with four or five polygons like you get in Wildlands. In particular, it seems like the devs for Sniper Elite are really proud of their God rays, cause they show up a lot and look pretty spectacular in the summer Italian daylight. Really gorgeous vistas.

In addition to the all important sniper rifle, the game gives you an automatic rifle/SMG slot, which I never actually use, and a silenced pistol, which is surprisingly accurate and feels as satisfying as a Splinter Cell game when it comes to delivering headshots. So when you get caught unawares and need to stealthily take out a guard at close range, it is completely comfortable and natural to pull out and use the pistol. And the bullet does go through helmets, unlike MGS V. There's also a lot of tools and gadgets to play with, like sticky grenades, which work like the sticky grenades in Halo I guess. Could be interesting, but I've never used them so far, preferring to stay stealthy.

Now, in order to stay stealthy, the sniping gameplay basically calls on you to use either a lot of distance, or sound masking to hide your shot. Basically, you need to fire when there's a really loud noise in the environment drowning you out, like a plane flying overhead, or a malfunctioning generator nearby, or etc. The planes flying overhead are pretty frequent, coming around maybe every minute and a half or two, so it's not that much of a chore to wait around for them. In the meantime, you can use the binos to scout out for more enemies patrolling around, admire the scenery, etc. Of course, if you're impatient and don't really care to wait around for 2 minutes just to shoot a guy, the game does give you a limited supply of suppressed ammo. You can equip them as an alternate ammo, which also adds a suppressor to your rifle, and now you can fire whenever. But the limited nature of them does mean that you're encouraged to utilize the sound masking mechanic at least some of the time, which has been fine for me.

Oh yeah, and you can adjust or zero your scope for different distances. Again, the sort of realistic detail that Wildlands should've had.

Now, I will say, the rather surprising thing I've encountered with the game is... it's pretty damn easy. I'm playing on Hard difficulty, which is above Normal, and below Authentic. I figured this was a good difficulty setting to start off on, since I've never played a Sniper Elite game before but do have a lot of experience with stealth games like Splinter Cell and the like. But man, this game on Hard difficulty is just about... the easiest stealth game I have ever played. This is no exaggeration, it really is easy. Snipe carefully and enemies from 200m away will never have any clue where you are, unlike the amazingly prescient cartel henchmen from GR Wildlands. On Hard difficulty, gravity drop and wind are both in, but the aim assist still works, so you still just use it to automatically adjust and fire at the red assist marker. You use binoculars to tag enemies, just like in most other stealth games these days, but the funny thing is... enemies will always show up on your minimap regardless of whether or not you've ever tagged them. So it's basically impossible for them to catch you unawares. And their reaction time feels really forgiving, because I got caught by surprise by a guard walking around the corner about 6 feet in front of me (the minimap did show him, but I mistakenly assumed he was on a higher elevation level), while I was completely offguard and was holding the sniper rifle while casually strolling. In the next couple of seconds, I had enough time to manually save the game, pull out the silenced pistol, aim it carefully at the guard's head, and pull off the headshot, before he did anything. This all took a few labored seconds just because I was so unprepared, mind you. And yet I still killed him without any reaction or alert or anything. In a Splinter Cell game, this would've ended in my immediate death. So yeah... pretty easy so far.

And I do like how the game allows for saving anywhere at any time (as well as quicksaving on PC, I'm sure). There's checkpoint saves of course, but if you don't trust the devs to know when you want a save, you can just manually save as often and as freely as you like. This is a BIG, BIG plus for the game in my opinion. There's no wasted time due to screwing up, which makes sense for something in the stealth genre. And really, it allows for so much neat experimentation and fun with the gameplay, because you can always quickly load back if something goes wrong. It's exactly what a stealth game should have, and I applaud the devs for having it in. It's really a shame that a lot of devs won't see the logic and improved quality of life of saving anywhere.

All in all, if you're craving more of that really polished, really tactically satisfying, open-world-but-without-the-jank, realistic stealth shooter experience that MGS V delivered, and found Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Wildlands woefully inadequate to satisfy your needs, then I can say with complete confidence that this is really the game for you. It's got mechanics that reward planning, patience, observation, and just delivers a lot of refreshing depth in a landscape of very casual, very mainstream fare. Just uh, be prepared to crank the difficulty up.

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