In 2017, Rebellion Developments returned to the world of tactical sniping with Sniper Elite 4 and provided the opportunity to destroy entire battalions with gruesome long-distance shots. This game put players in control of sniper Karl Fairburne as he headed to Italy in search of key military commanders and unique ways to murder them all. Three years later, Rebellion released Sniper Elite 4 on the Nintendo Switch and sent the specialist back to Italy. The result is a portable version of an entertaining stealth shooter occasionally limited by the twitchy Joy-Cons.
The campaign of Sniper Elite 4 takes place in the immediate aftermath of Sniper Elite III and sees Fairburne go from North Africa to the island of San Celini. Nazi scientists created a radio-guided anti-ship missile, and Fairburne's mission is to eliminate General Tobias Schmidt and other high-ranking officers that created propaganda films with footage of the missile. Along the way, he partners with a local resistance and helps weaken the Nazi control of the island by destroying supply depots, tanks, and anti-aircraft guns.
In order to eliminate these officers and find success, Fairburne must sneak around the island and showcase his abilities with a long-range rifle. Perfectly-placed sniper shots are the goal given the overwhelming forces inhabiting the island. Getting into shootouts with Nazi soldiers leads to certain death, so Fairburne has to instead rely on shots to the head, lungs, and yes, testicles.
The Sniper Elite series has drawn attention for its slow-motion bullet camera that follows well-placed shots. These cinematic moments show the exact placement of the shot and transition to an X-ray view to truly put the damage front and center, and there are several moments during the campaign in which key body parts will explode as the bullet passes through them. Shooting red barrels and boxes of TNT will also create similar slow-motion shots. Regardless of what prompts the slow-motion clips, they never fail to elicit a smile.
As a shooter, Sniper Elite 4 excels when slowly lining up long-distance shots, but getting into firefights with the MP 40 and other automatic rifles is more of a chore and can routinely lead to multiple reloads. The controls fall short of more popular franchises that focus on quick-paced action. Fortunately, there are several ways to bring shootouts to an end given the tools available to Fairburne. There is an assortment of mines and traps that will kill multiple soldiers at once while creating distractions so the famed sniper can sneak away.
The sniping is where the game truly shines due to being complex enough to create a challenge but still easy enough for newcomers. Accounting for heart rate, bullet drop, and other factors puts an emphasis on taking your time and lining up the perfect shot in order to avoid mistakes. Hurrying the process regularly results in shots flying off-target. They will still hit the Nazi soldiers but will only do minor damage while alerting an entire company. When this happens, you have to hastily refocus on the soldier and pull the trigger again while hoping that your heart rate doesn't rise too quickly.
Having the ability to earn bonus points with great shots also provides another level of entertainment. There are several opportunities in the campaign to create chain reaction explosions that destroy several trucks at once and kill multiple enemy soldiers. A never ending supply of hanging cargo nets also create satisfying accidental kills.
While the sniping is enjoyable overall, there is one issue when playing in portable mode. The right Joy-Con has a tendency to shift suddenly away from the target due to the drift, a common problem with older models of the console. This drifting occurs at inopportune moments, often leading to misplaced shots and considerable frustration. Playing on a Pro controller in docked mode, on the other hand, is just as enjoyable as using an Xbox One controller or a DualShock 4 due to the lack of issues.
While it's critical to line up the shot properly before pulling the trigger, it's far more important to account for sound. There is a limited amount of silenced ammunition in Sniper Elite 4, and enemies are very aware of any sounds out of the ordinary, causing them to flock to the source in large numbers. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to mask the noise of the guns. Ringing church bells, airplanes, and explosions all provide intermittent coverage while generators strategically placed around each level can add a constant racket to drown out the shots.
Sniper Elite 4 isn't the longest game considering that there are only 10 missions, equaling roughly 12 hours of time. Though there are multiple reasons to go back into each mission, such as shooting statues or finding lost letters from dead soldiers. Finding these collectibles can help unlock a wide assortment of rifles, handguns, and automatic weapons.
If replaying the main campaign is not ideal, Sniper Elite 4 provides both competitive multiplayer for up to 12 players and a cooperative option for 2-4 snipers. Additionally, there are several DLC missions available for purchase, including one that tasks Fairburne with assassinating Adolf Hitler.
Sniper Elite 4 performs well overall on the Nintendo Switch and provides an opportunity to play the game on the go. There are no noticeable technical issues, and shooting enemy soldiers with perfectly-placed lung shots is still enjoyable. The Joy-Cons are not ideal for lining up each shot due to the twitchy nature, but they don't hold back an overly enjoyable experience.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sniper Elite 4 is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, and PC. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by Rebellion Developments for the purpose of this review.