While we’re just a month into 2017, there’s no shortage of promising games set to hit the first quarter of the year. One of the games that can be lumped into that list is Rebellion’s Sniper Elite 4, a continuation of the shooter franchise that surprisingly has managed to carve its own unique path in the crowded military shooter genre.
If you haven’t done so, go check out our hands-on preview from the event last month just to know where the game is now. As part of our coverage of the event, PlayStation LifeStyle was given a chance to speak to Tim Jones, Head of Creative at Rebellion, about Sniper Elite 4.
PlayStation LifeStyle: One of Sniper Elite 3’s main criticisms was its story. How is Rebellion planning to address that? What should we expect from the upcoming title narrative-wise?
Tim Jones: While we felt Sniper Elite 3 made some steps forward with narrative, we have been working hard to offer a deeper story-based experience in Sniper Elite 4. We brought in Colin Harvey as our new narrative designer and he’s worked with properties like Doctor Who and Highlander. He introduced other characters than Karl that play bigger parts in the overarching story than in previous games. And to give you an idea of how much story plays into things this time around, we reckon there’s approximately twice as much dialogue in Sniper Elite 4 compared to Sniper Elite 3. We try to explore some complicated relationships with the very unusual geopolitical situation 1943 Italy is in.
It’s suffered two decades of Fascist rule and the Nazis are now Mussolini’s honored guests. Other factions such as the Partisan Resistance and even the Mafia have a role to play. This is far from a simple war in Italy.
On that note, one of my favorite smaller mechanics in Sniper Elite 4 is the intel you get when tagging soldiers through the binoculars. There are loads of little sub stories to be found just by looking around – you can see whether a soldier managed to survive the North African conflict of Sniper Elite 3, or whether they are a loner who doesn’t get on with their comrades. It’s a small thing that adds a surprisingly meaningful layer to the experience.
PSLS: What other criticisms have the team taken on board and how do they plan on improving upon the last game?
TJ: We try to listen to as much feedback as possible. The most obvious improvement is the sheer scope and the open nature of the maps. Our smallest map in Sniper Elite 4 is three times bigger than our largest in Sniper Elite 3 – and just to reiterate, that’s our smallest map! Sniper Elite 4 maps are built to be explored in full – we’ve tried to create real sniper’s paradises for you to make the absolute most of, however you choose to play.
We’ve now got active AI all across each map, rather than “beaming them in”, as it were, when you get closer. This means you have 100s of enemies all naturally operating within a map, reacting realistically to your long shots and kills, creating a more emergent type of experience.
Then there are things like being able to traverse environments in new ways, such as shifting along ledges or clambering up and down walls. That gives the whole experience a new kind of verticality, and that opens up plenty of new options. Weapons and traps have secondary options now and these can be switched in and out easily, so if you want you try going with suppressed ammo to keep things stealthy, or perhaps a sticky grenade to really make sure you take out a target, you’re free to.
PSLS: What enhancements have been made to the slow motion critical shots? Can we still aim high for the headshot, and low for the… testicle shot?
TJ: For one, we’ve added even more anatomical detail so you’ll really see the muscles impacted, bones shatter and blood spurt in a more procedural way. And there are all the new kill cams, like the ones for melee takedowns and explosive kills. The melee ones are brutal – you see Karl punch Nazis in the gut and their intestines get crushed, or he’ll stab someone through the skull and you’ll see the knife thrust right through into the brain. With the explosive kills, bits of shrapnel pierce enemies – if you create an explosion near a tool box, for example, you might see a wrench fly and dig into an enemy’s shoulder blade. It’s brutal stuff!
You just have to go on YouTube to see how much people enjoy the kill cams, but we know it’s not for everyone. There’s always the option to turn down their frequency or turn them off completely. And yes, aiming “low” will still have you wincing and crossing your legs together!
PSLS: Is the game accessible to both stealth-loving players, and shoot-first-ask-questions-later run and gun types?
TJ: Absolutely – more so than any game in the series. While we’ve got “Sniper” in the name and the sniper rifles are the stars of the show, we’ve created huge open maps which allow you to go loud, go quiet, or do a bit of a both as you see fit. The game is never too punishing if you do get spotted. You’ll always have the opportunity to shake off your enemy and take another approach. Or you can shoot your way through if you think you are up to it – using machine guns, pistols, melee, etc. We’ve always described the bigger levels in Sniper Elite 4 as “sniper’s paradises,” but they really are shooter sandboxes.
PSLS: Has enemy AI improved at all? What happens when your character is spotted?
TJ: The enemy AI has come on leaps and bounds. Like I said earlier, we have active persistent AI across each level, so they’ll react and respond to what you do naturally. They also avoid dead bodies and obvious choke points and can even disarm your booby traps … though not always successfully! If you wound one of their comrades, a soldier will assess the situation to see if a rescue is achievable or not. If your bullet impacts in the scenery next to them, they’ll become alert to your presence, start telling nearby comrades and try to work out your position from the clues you give away. Once they triangulate your position you can find yourself flanked, or outnumbered as they call reinforcements in, so you’ll need good decision-making in the heat of the moment to shake them off.
PSLS: Is there any cool, new equipment we should know about?
TJ: We’ve talked about suppressed ammo and adhesive grenades which are both pretty cool, but one of my favorite new things is being able to booby-trap a dead body. It’s pretty gratifying to do that, be halfway across the map and then see the kill-cam of your explosive trap going off as an enemy unknowingly investigates.
PSLS: How has the multiplayer changed from the last game?
TJ: We’ve expanded co-op and versus modes in Sniper Elite 4. We have returning favorites like Distance King and No Cross. Then there’s Survival, a co-op horde mode that we’ve expanded from a maximum 2-players to 4-players. The larger, open environments make a big difference there because you really have to work as a team to fend off the incoming waves of enemies. You’ll need to spot and tag enemies through your binoculars as well as take them out, otherwise you’ll quickly be swarmed by troops you aren’t even aware of. It’s a really fun, intense co-op experience that I think people will have a blast with.
On the versus side, we’ve introduced Control, a mode which can be a bit more chaotic! Two teams will fight for a control point, rushing in to quickly seize it before they are picked off by the enemy and fighting to retain control until a timer ticks down. We’ve had a lot of fun with it in the office so I hope it goes down well with players too.
And we’ll have new modes and maps for multiplayer post-launch that will all be free.
Rebellion Talks Sniper Elite 4 News - Criticisms, Headshots and Improvements
PSLS: Will the game include any microtransactions? How about a Season Pass?
TJ: Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t include any microtransactions in the free-to-play, pay-to-win sense I imagine you’re referring to. As with Sniper Elite 3 you will be able to buy weapon skins, new weapons and characters to use in most modes but there are no in-game currency packs to buy or that sort of thing.
And yes, there is a Season Pass. It’ll give you access to all the DLC we create, and as we did with Sniper Elite 3, we plan to support Sniper Elite 4 with tons of content after launch, including new campaign content, so there’s something for everyone.
And like I said, all multiplayer map modes and maps will be entirely free for the community.
PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Rebellion for taking the time out to talk to us. Sniper Elite 4 will be out this February 14 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.