For many, Rebellion's successful Sniper Elite series is a gaming guilty pleasure. Seasoned soldier Karl Fairburne has been busting balls since the heady days of the PlayStation 2, and now finds himself slinking into battle for a fourth time. Continuing the property's theme of depicting unexpected but engaging World War II settings, Sniper Elite 4 will whisk you away to the idyllic amphitheatres of Italy – but is this franchise still on target over a decade after its debut?
The studio's not really promising a revolution here: this latest instalment is very much evolutionary instead. But that's not to say that the Oxford-based outfit's remaining as still as a Nazi scout: it's improving all of the right areas. We got to see two levels from the forthcoming PlayStation 4 foray, with a vibrant fisherman's village forming the bulk of our demo. And while all of the hallmarks of the brand are back, the under-the-hood improvements are plentiful.
Levels are designed in such a way that you can use sound to your advantage, by attracting and flanking guards
Take, for example, the artificial intelligence, which has been beefed up far beyond its predecessor, Sniper Elite 3. The iffy relocation system has been replaced by a triangulation mechanic instead; take a shot and enemies will investigate, with subsequent rounds enabling them to pin down your exact position. Levels are designed in such a way that you can use sound to your advantage, by attracting guards towards your sniping spot before flanking them.
And there are more options in this area than ever before due to the inclusion of an Assassin's Creed-esque climbing system. This adds verticality to the levels, as you scoot out of open windows and up the side of buildings to get the drop on German aggressors. The increased awareness of enemies paves the way for new tools, too; you can, for example, booby trap dead bodies – enabling you to turn the tables on the AI's improved intelligence.
You can guarantee that we'll be targeting the todgers of Nazi troops when Fairburne re-deploys this year
These are all subtle but appreciated enhancements, then – and they're all slathered atop Sniper Elite's fortified core. Levels are larger than in previous entries, meaning that sniping lines are longer than ever before – some up to 650 metres, apparently. Anyone that's familiar with the franchise will know that longer shots equate to increased satisfaction, and the extra bonus here is that no enemies are streamed in and out – the transition to native PS4 development means that all of the AI exists in a level at once.
While the pre-alpha code that we were demoed was a little rough around the edges, Italy's clearly going to provide a vibrant and varied playpen for you to experiment in, too. The coastal town setting of the first stage that we sampled, for example, offered a clash of beach-based pathways, rock faces, and higgity piggity housing estates. Optional objectives will offer ample incentive to replay – and the sheer scale of the levels means that there'll be different approaches for you to take.
And it'll all be bound by the XP wrapper from previous games, with campaign co-op and competitive multiplayer also on the cards. Sure, the studio may not be re-inventing the wheel with this outing, but it's building upon what has historically been a very a strong stealth series. And with the title's killcam gimmick still yet to really outstay its welcome, you can guarantee that we'll be targeting the todgers of Nazi troops when Fairburne re-deploys on PS4 later this year.
Will you be taking aim at Sniper Elite 4, or are you done cracking nuts? Pull the trigger in the comments section below.