A near-perfect run in most stealth games involves the player moving with confident purpose, weaving through scenery at speed, dodging NPC patrols, stealing silent through the shadows. There's reverence to the purity of a clean run, where no hair on a single enemy's head can be harmed lest that run be tainted. Most contemptuous of all are those moments when all hell breaks loose and bullets set sail with reckless abandon.
Sniper Elite 4 isn't like those other stealth games, though. Rebellion's long range shooter revels in the act of pulling the trigger, and it wants you to do so all the time, to the point of rewarding your kills with murder-porn x-ray kill-cams and points by way of prizes. Whether it be the muted thud of suppressed rifle fire, or the booming clatter of artillery used advantageously to drown out the sound of your shots, the emphasis here is on inflicting violence on your enemies and doing so with clinical accuracy and perfect timing.
They've made aggressive play more feasible by tightening up on some mechanics. The bullet physics have always been decent in this series (as they are again here, especially for those who turn off the various assists that make the game more accessible), and leading man Karl Fairburne feels more natural to control than ever before, and this improved responsiveness makes him more useful in a pinch, in those moments where everything goes wrong. And they will go wrong.
But it'll probably be fine, because even if the shit does hit the fan, Rebellion has given you everything you need to defend yourself. The gruff-voiced protagonist is capable at close, mid and long range, and he's got a variety of tools at his disposal, from traps to tricks and everything in-between, most with alternative functions to further boost diversity. As the name of the game so subtly implies, the emphasis here is on long shots of skill and daring, but at least it's good to know that when the action draws closer and you need to mix it with an onslaught of enemy soldiers, Sniper Elite 4 still stands up.
It helps that loading times between failed attempts are lightning quick, so even if you do mess up you're back in the action in no time at all. Similarly helpful is the fact that the AI isn't the sharpest. At times you can see guards scurrying around, patrol patterns all activating in unison, movement coming in short concerted bursts (it's most notable when guards are on high alert). Using your binoculars you can tag patrolling soldiers, granting the boon of seeing which way they're facing when consulting the intuitive mini-map. The enemy moves and behaves in a largely predictable way, and at times it can be a little exploitable. When things do get chaotic it's often easiest to retreat behind the nearest bottleneck and wait for trouble to come to you.
Rebellion's shooter certainly looks good, no longer held back by the shackles of old-gen consoles. The enemies aren't the most interesting you'll encounter, but given the period that's hardly a fault of the developers. You notice the lack of personality in the guards more because you spend so much time tracking them with either scope or binoculars. The levels they exist in, however, look good, are interestingly decorated, and are distinct from one another. There's surprising variety in terms of locations, something that becomes even more pronounced if you recall the dusty excursion to North Africa from the last outing.