GAMETECH: Taking aim to join the elite

LIKE Cristiano Ronaldo, Karl Fairburne enjoys shooting from distance. Except in this case, Fairburne isn’t placing his boot on a football, but on the arses of Nazi war criminals, writes Ronan Jennings.

Fairburne is the hero of Sniper Elite 4, one of the year’s most surprising games. For a series that began life as a rudimentary shooting game, full of cheap thrills, Sniper Elite has (like one of Fairburne’s bullets) come a long way. The first Sniper Elite was just an excuse to pick off enemies from distance and watch their deaths in ‘x-ray’, as bone shattered and organs exploded. It was a kind of grindhouse for snipers, a fun but extremely limited reason to pull the controller trigger from the safety of distance (and your couch).

Sniper Elite 4 is a completely different game. While sniping is still a core tenet of the series, you now have an open world to explore with many different options to approaching an enemy camp. You can get up close and personal, using stealth to pick off enemies with melee or short-range weapons, or you can use a variety of mines and explosives to creates traps. Better still, of course, is the option to scout your area, find the perfect sniping point and take out enemies the way Fairburne was trained to do, from distance.

The game’s cover art implies that Sniper Elite takes inspiration from Modern Warfare or Battlefield, but the reality is that Hitman and even Metal Gear Solid are the bigger inspirations. Karl Fairburne and his colleagues might talk like Ghost Squad, but they think like Agent 47 and Solid Snake. Fairburne can even hide corpses and take a full on stealth approach to missions, though that approach is more difficult.

The enemies belong in a different category too — not quite Metal Gear Solid intelligence, but clever enough to stay sharp when you have been detected and surround you when the possibility presents itself. They will investigate noises and notice when patrol partners have gone missing.

In that regard, Sniper Elite 4 is much better ‘game’ than Battlefield or Call of Duty, at least when comparing single-player modes. While the big-hitters focus more on set pieces and large-scale cinematic moments to enjoy on a scripted path, Sniper Elite gives the player more freedom in a literal and mechanical sense. We much prefer the option to ‘role-play’ Karl Fairburne and create our own success or failure, than to wade through elaborate pop-up shows.

In saying that, Sniper Elite can’t match the slick presentation of games with larger budgets and it can sometimes show. This is especially true of the story, where Fairburne turns his sights (or his scope) to Italy during World War II, as the Allies are on the verge of invading. He joins forces with the resistance and proceeds to hunt down both Nazi and Italian enemies, foil weapon programs, single-handedly destroy enemy encampments. The dialogue and scenarios aren’t poor, but they aren’t memorable either, which seems like a missed opportunity. And if there’s one thing Karl Fairburne doesn’t do often, it’s miss the mark.

Sniper Elite 4 is a refreshing addition to the shooter genre. The series has grown from a simple, but fun gimmick into a well-rounded and unique game that has earned a lot of fans. It’s still a long way from toppling Hitman or Metal Gear Solid, but that’s OK — Karl Fairburne likes to keep his distance.

Far Cry from what proceeded it

Sniper Elite 4 might be a far cry from the first game in the series, but Far Cry 5 could probably rival it for evolution. Judging by teasers trailers that were released this week, Far Cry 5 will be set in the exotic climes of … Montana, USA. For a series that has been set in jungles, snow-capped mountains and among Neanderthal tribes, this could be a very big departure. But it’s one we’re exited about.

Witcher moves to TV

Finally, another series that has come a long way is The Witcher. Over a decade ago, only a handful of hardcore gamers and Polish readers knew much about the monster-hunter Geralt and the world of fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski.

The amazing Witcher 3 game changed all that — and now Netflix are taking the world one step further. They have revealed that a Witcher TV series in development, with Sapkowski as consultant.


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