World War II is the single greatest setting for a video game, especially one that involves the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of people. The reason why is quite simple - there is nothing in this world more fun to kill (virtually, of course) than Nazis. They're the epitome of human scum and an exemplification of the dangers of far right wing politics. As a cherry on top, their skulls also pop like balloons if you're playing a Sniper Elite game.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Sniper Elite is a series of sniper-centric shooters taking place in World War II developed by Rebellion. The series spans now four games (seven if you include the Nazi Zombie Army spin-offs) on a whole range of platforms. I, for example, have Sniper Elite on Wii, Sniper Elite V2 on Wii U, Sniper Elite 3 on PS4, Sniper Elite 4 on PS4, and Zombie Army Trilogy on Steam and PS4. In the fourth main series installment, you play as an OSS sniper in Italy who is working with the anti-fascist Partisans as well as the Mafia to clear the way for the Allied invasion of mainland Italy in the latter portion of 1943. You're still fighting Germans, but this is because the Italian army was basically non-existent after Operation Compass and Operation Torch and the subsequent collapse of the Axis North African front.
Sniper Elite, especially the more recent games, really is the greatest series for stealth/sniper combat. Rebellion has done a masterful job of balancing the game to appeal to literally all skill levels, and they do this in large part with one single feature - custom difficulties. The game already has a handful of difficulty settings ranging from hella easy all the way up to "Authentic" which is a legit sniping simulator complete with gravity effects, wind effects, extremely perceptive and accurate enemies, and no HUD whatsoever. What makes Sniper Elite so great and unique is the inclusion of a "custom" difficulty that you can tweak to your heart's content. My custom difficulty, for example, was to set the bullet physics on bitch mode (since I'm total trash at shooters, ESPECIALLY sniping-with-physics shooters), enemy perception on one notch above normal, and enemy aggression and accuracy on normal. You can also modify your character's health, frequency of ammo drops, your HUD information, sniping aim guide (it's not auto-aim but it shows a red diamond where your bullet will hit when you hold your breath to help you learn the bullet ballistics). It really does ensure that the game can appeal to the most hardcore of the hardcore as well as the most novice of scrubs alike and provide tools for the latter to improve.
One of the neatest aspects of Sniper Elite is the different types of kills you can get. Depending on what part of the body you shoot, you may get a special kind of kill which will net you a little more xp. The coveted Testicle Shot is, of course, the most awesome, but you also have the classic Headshot, the more specialized Eye Shot, the Lung Shot, Heart Shot, Liver Shot, Kidney Shot, and even a Grenade Shot if you happen to shoot a grenade on the dude's belt and blow him into tiny bits of Nazi paste that way. If you just shoot them in the toes or something until they die, it will just say "Infantry Kill," but I'd wager that at LEAST half of your kills will end up being some special kind of kill. And really, that's basically the coolest thing in the world. The confirms for you that you LITERALLY shot him in the dick. And that's not all - Sniper Elite has some of the most metal af melee kills I've seen in a long time.
Obviously, the graphics are pretty. It's certainly not as stunning as something known for placing graphics above all else like Call of Duty or Battlefield, but it's a pretty good looking game. Especially the Nazi skeletons as they shatter from the force of your weaponized freedom. The music isn't particularly outstanding, but it uses the Sniper Elite theme that long-time players have come to know and love, and the sound design, while subdued (other than the gunshots, obviously), is all around very fitting for the game.
One aspect of Sniper Elite that I absolutely adore and simply must point out is that the game lets you play however the hell you want. Obviously it's easiest to play with stealth and long range kills - the game's called SNIPER Elite, after all - but if you want to Rambo it like a dumbass (like I do), you can do it. You better be good at it, but you can make it work. What I typically did was creep around, kill a couple Nazis, creep to a different spot where they weren't looking for me, kill a few more, rinse and repeat until they found me. Then I'd run around with my SMG or revolver until I found a nice little hallway or some similar such structure and massacre everyone who came for me until no one was left alive. Okay, so I left out 30 deaths and a stubborn refusal to play the game like I'm not slower than a nonagenarian in mid-January, but the point is that I did, in fact, shove my head against the brick wall until it broke. And it was freaking awesome.
Pretty much everything I've said so far could be described as "Sniper Elite III but more of it," but there is one change that Rebellion made with Sniper Elite 4 that just makes the game kick way more ass. The levels are ENORMOUS. Sniper Elite III had some pretty intricate levels, but these levels are huge. I'm talking the potential for sniper kills at distances of nearly a kilometer if you're a good shot with a good scope. Each mission also includes a whole handful of optional objectives and more collectables than you shake Hitler's decapitated corpse at. I completely ignored the collectables and just focused on the optional objectives, and it still took me about an hour on average to complete each of ten missions. They're gigantic physically, and they're packed full of Nazis to kill, objectives to complete, collectables to find, and democracy to spread.
I don't know if the horrible mutilation of Nazis that the game makes possible is coloring my vision or if it really is a damn masterpiece, but I just had endless fun with Sniper Elite 4. The difficulty is so perfectly done that ANYONE can find a setting that they're comfortable with, and the levels are so big that there's legitimate exploration you can do. You might find a little inconsequential Nazi camp to liberate and pilfer, you might find a bunker tunnel that leads to a shortcut you wouldn't have otherwise found, you might find a collectable or a room with a normally locked weapon, etc. The game's also very fair. With only a couple of exceptions, I always knew exactly why I died (it was usually because I was being a dumbass). There are a couple times when I seemingly died out of the blue, but 99 times out of 100, you'll know exactly why you died. Utter bullshit moments are few and far between here. If you're into stealth shooters or third person shooters in general, I definitely recommend you check out Sniper Elite 4. It's a rootin' tootin' Nazi shootin' good time.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.