Since Sniper Elite 4 was announced early last year, I've had several opportunities to go hands on with the game. Just before the Christmas break, however, I was invited along to developer Rebellion's studios for my most extensive play session yet.
In the video below you'll be able to watch my valiant attempt at completing Sniper Elite 4's first level, San Celini. It's a mid-sized sandbox that offers multiple routes and plenty of vantage points for some impressive long-range sniper kills.
It all starts off pretty well and I manage to demonstrate a couple of new additions to the series, including silenced ammo for your rifle, which allows you to take out a few targets without having to worry about using environmental sounds to mask your shots.
However, as with most things I do, chaos was close at hand and, as time for my hands on started running out, the pressure to rush through increased, resulting in a panicked firefight inside a swanky Italian villa. Hardly the stealthiest of approaches, but a good chance to show off some grenade and assault rifle kills.
I also got to replay the level in co-operative multiplayer, which adds another layer of tactics, allowing a team of two players to either split up and attempt separate objectives, or work together to provide cover or spotting duties for each other. It doesn't affect the way the campaign plays out and, going from the small section I played, might even be my preferred way to play through the game.
The other multiplayer modes on hand were standard stuff that we've seen many times before - Survival mode pits teams of four against ever increasing odds, whilst the 6v6 Control gametype throws the sniping out of the window in favour of more run-and-gun, King of the Hill-style gameplay. Enjoyable stuff, especially when grouped with a team that works well together, but it's by-the-numbers multiplayer that will only hold the attention of dedicated Sniper Elite fans.
You can see snippets from all these modes in the video below, where I demonstrate five stupid ways to play the game. No spoilers, but one of the points includes a very impressive headshot on a seagull. Caw blimey.
It's all good clean fun, but I was left with the impression that Karl Fairburne's adventures are in danger of becoming the sniper game equivalent of the FIFA franchise. They do what they do well and the people that play them, myself included, really enjoy them. But the differences between each instalment seem like minor adjustments rather than innovations, and I suspect the lack of originality might hurt the game come review time.
Also, whilst Sniper Elite 4 is definitely more polished than its glitchy predecessor, at times it still feels like the Asura engine the game is built on is struggling to keep up with the scope of Rebellion's design.
It's a fun game, and one series regulars will enjoy come its February 14th release, but here's hoping Rebellion finds a way to reinvigorate the gameplay for Sniper Elite 5.