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Interview: Rebellion On Sniper Elite 4's Many Ways To Play

Rube Goldberg would be overjoyed.

Sniper Elite 4 is a game with a lot more ambition behind it. Yes, at it’s heart it’s the same sniping action as the previous entries in the series, but wrapped around it you have so many more gameplay possibilities and opportunities to take as you work your way through the much, much larger levels of its gorgeous Italian setting.

Then beyond that there’s new mode. Campaign co-op is joined by a new four player horde mode called Survival, and the mainstays of the multiplayer are joined by the much faster paced and action packed Control.

There’s a lot more meat on the bone here, and you can read our hands on preview or see the game in action in our video preview, but seeing as you’re already here on this page, why not read our interview with Tim Jones, Rebellion Head of Creative, and Paul Wright, Lead Designed on Sniper Elite 4?

TSA: One of the things you spoke about was having more of a story in the game. I think it’s fair to say that previous entries haven’t been too story-driven, so why has that been a big focus this time around?

Tim Jones: I mean, we always try and improve on every aspect of a game. By it’s nature, Sniper Elite doesn’t have narrative as its main driving force, it is very much gameplay driven and mission driven, and the narrative is there to sort of serve up that kind of gameplay that players are after, but it was certainly called out enough times in critical response to Sniper Elite 3 that people were looking for a little bit more depth to the narrative and the character. Perhaps that’s more through critical response than from players themselves, but it’s something we were aware of and there’s always more that we can do and more stories we can tell.

We tried to do that in Sniper Elite 4 in ways that aren’t too heavy handed. It’s not a cinematic heavy game where we take you out of the action, we try and do it in ways that are supplementary for the player. So you’ll meet characters who you can choose to talk to and they’ll offer up more background on what’s going on, but also stories told in letters you find talking about back home and little details you get from the binocular target focus.

TSA: That’s one of the things I quite like, actually, that you can zoom in and get more information on that person. Something like that Franz has never had a bratwurst before, or whatever! [laughs]

Tim: Have you considered writing for games?

Paul Wright: Sometimes, when you find a letter, you might find that it was Franz writing home to tell his wife about the bratwurst, and stuff like that!

TSA: [laughs] I’m seriously hoping this ends up in the game!

Tim: But yeah, there’s a lot of interlinked details for the observers that really want to get into it.

Ultimately, Karl Fairburn is in many respects a faceless avatar as a sniper, so it’s not a story about his personal journey. There are elements of that, but not to the extent of your typical Hollywood fare.

TSA: You’ve kind of embraced some of the silliness that people get up to in the game, I think it’s fair to say. Sniper Elite 4 really gives you a lot more ways to play with the sandbox. Was it intentional that all these new secondary items would let you push the boundaries and almost act out within this game?

Tim: Yes and no. I think it’s a function of our general approach to Sniper Elite, which in a fairly trite way is to let you play it your way. There is a genuine intent behind that, so while it’s most obviously a stealth focussed game, it does support going loud and being a bit more guns out, at least for short periods.

The more options we give, the more variety we give to how the player can interact with the environment and the enemy, the more emergent things we see happen. You might shoot a grenade on a guy’s belt, which then triggers a truck explosion, which might kill someone else. When you set up systems and allow them to interact with each other, you get interesting things happening. Certainly, I’m the sort of player that tends to test the limits of what’s possible, and those are the most entertaining when you see people online playing the game.

Paul: As part of the Sniper Elite series, there’s a certain realism to the game. Everything you played with today is authentic and it existed; we take certain things a little further than was possible, but try to stay within the bounds.

That’s why we went with dual functionality early on. There’s only so many mines and hand greandes that had been invented, but if you create something a little bit different about it, then someone thinks, “well, how can I use this?” and then maybe they see on the internet that if you do one thing here then this other thing happened… You get back to, if you want to call it, the silliness of it, where someone’s set up some elaborate trap that’s killed 20 guys in one go and all he did was throw one rock!

You get to watch this Rube Goldberg kind of event happen, and yeah, we love all that kind of stuff!

TSA: One of the interesting things you said when we were playing the co-op, was that a lot of the weapons had been unlocked for us. You had some progression and unlocks in previous games, but how is that different in Sniper Elite 4?

Tim: Yeah, we’ve added further depth to the progression and unlocking stuff through the game. As you build up your XP, you’ll be able to upgrade your weapons in terms of their stats, but also unlock further options for your loadouts. So a machine gun you’d been using at the end of the campaign will be more powerful and more effective than one you started with.

That makes a difference when you drop into Survival mode or multiplayer, you’ll have an easier time there than if you’d jumped in before you’d progressed at all through the campaign. Those progression systems apply whether you’re playing multiplayer, single player or cooperative, so we don’t require that you play the single player in order to progress, you can do it all in multiplayer.

Paul: It’s just based on our XP system. XP you earn there builds up your character, and you get currency that you can spend on weapons and items, unlocking them however you want. Use those weapons and items in certain ways to complete challenges, and you’ll unlock their abilities. Then we’ve got character skills that unlock every five levels.

None of these are game winning, they are boosting you, and because you have a choice of skill, you can’t get everything, it’s one or the other. Even when it comes to the weapons, you ultimately have to aim, point and pull the trigger, and if you can’t do that, you’re not going to win!

TSA: Looking at the new multiplayer mode, Control, it’s… interesting how action packed it is. You do have a straight up sniper battle mode, as well?

Paul: Yes! And that map you were on, Riviera, if you play that in No Cross, it’s a completely different experience. You’ll see hardly any movement, just bushes moving a bit and every now and then a scope glint. It’s a totally different experience, and then you put it in Team Deathmatch, and it’s completely different again!

Tim: Control mode, though, it’s the most faced paced of the modes, because everyone has to rush the control point that you’re fighting over. Yes, you can hang back and support your team by sniping, but it is a very deliberately fast paced mode, just for the variety of it and because it was fun!

Paul: Yeah, when we were developing it, we wanted a way to get people into certain areas of the map, and this was the idea that worked for that, and allowed you to snipe, and allowed you to use your machinegun. It involved every single aspect of Sniper Elite, so we ran with it and it’s now one of the favourites in the office.

Tim: It is, though I fully expect No Cross to remain the perennial favourite…

Paul: I’m camper. I’m the sort of person that likes to sit in a bush for twenty minutes and not move!

TSA: The four player Survival co-op mode, it’s easy to just roll your eyes and say it’s another horde mode, so what helps this one stand out?

Paul: It’s a tough question to answer, that. I worked on the horde mode in Zombie Army Trilogy, and you’ve guys running in front of you, it’s one shot kills, and it’s this action packed fun. With this, you’ve seen the size of the map, and I could put myself miles away from the Command Poing and just pop people off all day. But I won’t get any more ammo, so I’ll have to search the bodies and it turns into a different beast, whereas the horde more in ZAT was just pure survival, there was nothing else to do.

Tim: It’s not like you’re hemmed into a small area with enemies coming over the fences. You’re dealing with a big open map in which you can freely go wherever you want, as can the enemy.

Thanks to Tim and Paul for chatting with us. Be sure to check our written preview and video hands on with the game’s many modes. Sniper Elite 4 is out for PS4, Xbox One and PC on 14th February.

One Comment
  1. aerobes
    Since: Aug 2009

    What a great read. I was already very excited for this and the write up has compounded that.

    Comment posted on 19/01/2017 at 17:26.