Recently amongst the usual chores of university such as revising, giving up, getting drunk, and setting myself on fire, I have been playing a game that is technically old, given it came out a year ago. Yes, if you haven’t guessed by the title, I want to talk about Sniper Elite 4. On top of that though, I’m going to compare it to a game that I pre-ordered and played last year: Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. This article is going to discuss what makes and breaks a sniper game by comparing these two games and seeing what they do right.
The first thing you’ll notice as you’re playing Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is that it’s easy as fuck. You’re given a sniper rifle (be a bit weird if you weren’t), a drone, a pistol, an assault rifle, grenades, repair kits and a home base. I think this is actually the first thing that makes it not very enjoyable because all of this modern weaponry in a video game setting makes the game far too easy. I’ll scope out a complex with my drone which can be so high they can’t see it. Then I’ll start firing at them and even if the enemy notices something suspicious, they have no idea where it came from due to the suppressor. If we compare that to Sniper Elite, we notice a very distinct difference. As a newcomer to the series, it was actually slightly difficult to adjust. In this game, I wasn’t supposed to just find a quiet bush and sniper the bollocks off some Nazis from afar, but instead I had to find suppressed ammo, wait for a loud noise, create a loud noise, or I had to move around after every shot so they couldn’t pinpoint my position. This also created a sense of "every bullet counts," which made me survey the area much more closely before taking a shot or, as my friend suggested, trying to find a way past the enemy without killing anyone (but fuck my friend).
Another thing that brought across this feeling of "every bullet counts" was the different enemy types in these two games. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 makes the bold decision of having enemies that are morons who take one bullet to the head differentiated from their equals in intelligence who might take more than one bullet to the head. Exciting stuff, as you can tell. Meanwhile, in the mystical land of Sniper Elite 4, you will find common infantry, officers, radio operators, tank drivers, Jägers (and if you blow up any grenades they have on them they become a Jäger bomb), support Jägers, special Jägers, polyamorous Jägers, gay Jägers, Austrian Jägers, snipers, and many more. They all have different roles, behave differently towards you, and present different threats to your sorry ass. What I liked to do was scout the area and search for the different enemies that existed before making a priority list. For example, before going to an area I may notice a radio tower and I know that I should take out the radio operator there before they call the Nazi buggery squadron. It made me attempt to be much more aware of my surroundings than in other games.
The next point is actually a good thing that Ghost Warrior has over Sniper man, and that’s the way you snipe. I am yet to play on the harder difficulties of Sniper Elite, but when I tried it on normal I found it a little too easy. When you hold your breath to steady the scope, a little dot appears, showing you where the bullet will go which removes any challenge from sniping. On the other hand, Ghost Warrior actually didn’t let me do that unless I was on the easiest difficulty and therefore the game made me adjust my rifle for the distance of the enemy, check the wind speed and adjust accordingly before I took a shot. Then again if I did miss I could take ten more because it’s a semi-automatic rifle. I suppose it’s best for me to try the harder difficulties on Sniper Elite though, before I say anything negative for the game not having that.
Edit: Ok, I went back to play Sniper Elite some more on the harder difficulties and wind speed does actually affect the bullet. There goes the only praise I had for Ghosty Boy out the window.
It’s worth bringing up the way you find information in a sniper game. Sniper Elite is way better when it comes to this aspect of the game, although I do think that it could take a slight hint from Ghost guy. In Ghost Warrior, you can use your drone to scout the area ahead of you which, I shall be frank, is incredibly boring and easy. The other thing you can do is interrogate an enemy to gain valuable information about the enemy, items, and sniper positions (although this mechanic actually allowed me to witness a terrifying glitch where my character just seemed to bum his victim for 5 minutes). I feel like this mechanic could be implemented in Sniper Elite somehow, but only with officers to add to that diversity in the way you deal with enemies that I talked about earlier. Kind of like in the way Metal Gear Solid 5 allows you to interrogate enemies to help you succeed in your missions. This would make the game world much more interactive and can open up more tactical ways of getting information about the surrounding enemy.
My final point is one that is actually going to sound counter-intuitive, but it actually makes sense to most people. The fact is, in real life, sniping is terribly boring. A real-life sniper can wait for hours or days in the same position before taking one shot to take out a target. Imagine how boring that would be in a video game! That being said, it can be fun to scope out a base and find the perfect vantage point from far away to make an accurate shot. This is where I like and dislike Sniper Elite. See the moments at which you may be able to find the perfect vantage point to snipe an enemy from far away can feel very rare, and the game almost cries out saying "this would be much easier if you just used your machine gun against them." Maybe in sequels it would be a good idea to make you a little weaker to bullets so I can’t take a shell to the face and survive. This would make the game harder of course, but it would also be more interesting, given how meticulous you would have to plan your attack to make it through the Nazi hoard.
That’s where I’m going to wrap up today, but I would love to know what you think. Is Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 just a gem that I miss the subtleties of, or is it a steaming pile of garbage like I suspect? Does Sniper Elite 4 feel like too much of a run-and-gun game to you at times? What innovations do you think should be added to make a sniper game great? Thank you for reading, and have fun!