The Sniper Elite series has come a long way since its first game back in 2005. With each release, we’ve seen each game become a lot more ambitious, in terms of its scale and the moment-to-moment gameplay. Sniper Elite 5 is the most recent addition to the series and the first game on next-gen consoles. It’s a pretty solid sniping experience which hits the mark more often than not.
Sniper Elite 5, like the last two instalments in the series, commits to a particular location. The third game took us to Africa, the fourth game to Italy and now the fifth game has us taking on missions in France. We are once again placed in the boots of series protagonist Karl Fairburne as he ventures to France to put an end to the top-secret Operation Kraken, the Nazis’ most recent scheme. Shortly after arriving, he meets and teams up with the local resistance fighters, who pop up here and there during the story. The narrative isn’t much to talk about, however; it’s rather quite forgettable and has a few predictable twists. All it really serves to do is provide Karl with a reason to make his way through areas and complete objectives.
Sniper Elite 5 is all about the gameplay and where it shines is with its sniper gameplay. Taking shots from far away and following the bullet’s trajectory as it hits and destroys its target is something that never gets old. It’s a little more tactical than just finding a good spot and letting loose with bullets though. You have to mask your shots by rigging generators or trucks to backfire loudly enough so that other Nazis don’t become suspicious. There are even some levels that feature planes flying overhead where you have to time your shots as they loudly pass by.
Despite its title, Sniper Elite 5 isn’t just all sniping though. There’s a lot of sneaking around that has to be done on fairly large maps; sometimes they feel even too large. Each level that you’ll encounter during the game is quite large and completing the set of missions available on each one can take a fair amount of time. You’re probably looking at about 90 minutes per level and that’s on a playthrough with very little to no backtracking.
While the stealthy approach is often encouraged, the game offers a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to completing your mission. You can hole up in a tower and pick off Nazis as they try to get to you, walk up to them and stab them or even just pull out your secondary weapon and gun down whoever is in your way. It’s really up to you and this is made quite evident by Sniper Elite 5‘s weapon customization.
At the start of each level and also during the course of them, you’ll find workbenches, which allow you to customize your loadout. These ranges from the weapons themselves to their attachments and even different pieces of equipment. The selection is pretty small at first, limiting to two guns per category, however, more will be unlocked as you complete levels. Each weapon can be customized to your liking based on your play style, with each attachment having pros and cons. For instance, an attachment might make your weapon more powerful while also making it louder; It’s something to think about when deciding on the best setup. What’s also pretty cool is that the appearance of your weapon will also change based on what’s equipped. The whole system feels quite extensive.
Sniper Elite 5 also features progression. As you kill enemies and perform actions, you will earn XP. Earn enough and you’ll reach new ranks, which will unlock skill points. These points can be poured into three different skill trees: Combat, Equipment and Body. The upgrades in the trees range from allowing you to carry more ammo to make it possible to revive yourself if you have a medpack. These are pretty great and balance the gameplay out a bit more, allowing you to snipe, sabotage and sneak more effectively.
Karl’s movement is quite extensive, being able to run, mantle, crouch-walk and even climb up vines that grow along the side of buildings. There’s significantly more flexibility for finding a good sniping spot or even engaging in an all-out firefight with a group of Nazis. It can be a bit awkward and somewhat sluggish at times though, especially when linking up with cover. It results in Karl sticking to cover in a very weird way, as if he could get spotted even when it appears as if he’s fully concealed.
Aside from playing the solo campaign, you can also jump into it with a friend. The co-op allows you and a partner to tackle a map together, setting up opportunities to do some synchronized sniping with groups of enemies. Alternatively, one player can get in close while the other provides overwatch if anything goes wrong. If the situation does go pear-shaped, the pair can share resources or even revive a fallen partner. It’s definitely the more entertaining way to experience the main campaign.
Sniper Elite 5 also has a new mode called Axis Invasion and this can make the game pretty tense. Turning on this mode grants more XP, however, you open up your game to the possibility of being invaded by another player. When it happens, it becomes a game of cat and mouse as you and your invader attempt to eliminate each other. The invader has the benefit of playing as one of the Nazis though and being able to move amongst them without having to worry about anything except for the Karl Fairburne that they’re hunting. If you want to play the campaign without having to worry about the possibility of being invaded, this can be toggled off.
Visually, Sniper Elite 5 looks great and runs pretty smoothly. The character models do look a bit dated though, both in-game and during cutscenes. When it really shines is during the sniper kill cam animations; these have become a staple series and look truly fantastic. Seeing a bullet leave Karl’s rifle and then destroying the Nazi in his sights in glorious X-ray vision is amazing. It’s incredibly gory though and you’ll often see bones being shattered and vital organs eviscerated by the bullet. You can even take aim at an enemy’s testicles if you want them to say “auf Wiedersehen” to their Nazi balls. The gunshots also sound pretty realistic and the sound effect of the bullet traveling really helps with the build-up before it hits its target.
Sniper Elite 5 is pretty great. It does tread some familiar ground when it comes to the gameplay, but does tweak things here and there to make the combat feel more balanced. Also, while stealth is encouraged, it’s not the end of the world if you happen to get spotted, allowing for a little more flexibility. Maps are large and rife with opportunities to sneak around and snipe or plant traps and mow down Nazis. The maps can feel a little too large at times though. The sniping is fantastic though and pulling off impressive shots never gets old.
The deep weapon customization and skill trees also help with offering some player agency, allowing you to cater to your play style. However, Karl’s movement can be a bit weird at times, often feeling sluggish or imprecise when it comes to moving around in cover. The game’s co-op and Axis Invasion modes also offer some replayability and a little more variance to the gameplay. Visually, it looks good a lot of time, even if character models do look a bit dated. The kill cams are excellent though! If you’re a fan of the series and are interested in running around in a new location or if you’re a newcomer with an itch for some long-distance warfare, it might be worth keeping Sniper Elite 5 in your scope.
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Reviewed on the Playstation platform
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