Once upon a time in 2012, I shot a Nazi right in the Wienerschnitzel. To my suprise, delight and also pain by proxy, an X-ray killcam then showed me his taters exploding. Vividly, I can recall saying to nobody in particular: “oh man, this shit’s never gonna get old!”
Fast forward 10 years, 3 sequels, 1 remastering, 4 zombie spin-offs, plus one VR experience later, and yeah…Sniper Elite is starting to get old. The stuff around the killcam, I mean—if anything, playing discount surgeon from half a postcode away has become gorier and extra satisfying. Even still, that feature is returning with legacy problems. Frustrating elements that are enough to make you get teste…in a bad way.
So, why are you a man in WW2 having a series of long-distance relationships that end in castration? It’s because Sniper Elite 5 is the continuing tale of Karl Fairburne a lone wolf OSS type who gargles gravel and whisky every morning, before going to murder high ranking Reich targets (and often a small army of grunts who are stupid enough to get between him and his breakfast).
Sniper Elite 5 Review
As the game’s logo has already spoiled, this fifth outing takes place in France, 1944, when the writing is very much on the wall for the fascist war machine. Rather than capitulate, however, they’re planning a secret counter-attack that the Allies will Nazi coming. More specifically, some Wunderbar, table-turning weapon called Project Kraken is about to be unleashed.
With the help of local resistance who are only passably voiced, Karl must infiltrate a series of impressively large compounds to sniff out intel and snuff out ze Germans. With very few twists on that formula, your quest to turn Kraken into calamari will run ten missions long in a very paint-by-numbers fashion—with the primary colour used being Arterial Spurt Red.
This is all so far, so standard for the Sniper Elite series. Truth be told, this franchise was never lauded for its writing and VO work. What’s on offer is about as utilitarian as a jeep – it shuffles you from A to B to C that guy over there? Go turn his head into a canoe.
That being said, Sniper Elite 5 does have a few new tricks up its turtleneck. Developer Rebellion has looked over the fence at Hitman and tried to ape some of its cooler features. More than before, you can now eavesdrop on grunt conversations that reveal the comings and goings of key personnel. If you know where they’re going to be, there’s a very good chance that you can set up where the brass is going to be in order to cause a lil’ accident’.
You might use the sound of an aircraft, boat or sabotaged generator to mask a shot into a poorly cemented gargoyle overhead. Alternatively, that might be a frayed chandelier rope or a clasp holding up some steel girders. Hell, maybe it’ll just be a good ol’ fashioned collection of red barrels that some fascist intern decided to park next to a command post. Bottom line: the Nazi party’s OH&SS standards aren’t for shit.
To support this increase in player choice, level size has not only been broadened significantly but also supports multiple extraction points and unlockable infiltration points to let you retry later from a different angle.
These levels are also generously packed with side objectives, hidden collectables, shootables and bonus kill list targets that can organically pop up as you’re slogging cross-country. I dig how you’re constantly drawn off from your main route by juicy opportunities, but it has to be said that the objectives all tend to fall into the same old requirements – putting daylight through somebody’s face or sending big guns into orbit via satchel charges. Mind you, I also found a lot of keys, safe combinations and sneaky side entries off the beaten path that allowed me to stealthily secure main objectives, as opposed to blitzkrieg my way through, in a devil may Karl fashion.
Unfortunately, while Sniper Elite 5 does have a lot more going on than it did in 4, it’s never cleverer than its big bald inspirations. With Hitman, you’re overwhelmed with non-obvious possibilities to understand and exploit a complex sandbox that lets you cleanly get away with murder. The enemy AI systems here are nowhere near as robust (or competent) to ever really allow for emergent solutions beyond the one designed. Rebellion has made a step in the right direction here, though. I do hope they continue to evolve along this path in subsequent sequels.
Beyond those broad stroke improvements, Sniper Elite 5 has a host of smaller upgrades that all add up to a better sequel. Bad situation escaping ziplines are common, as are collectable/erectable decoys. I used the former lots and never once felt a need to cobble together the latter. Even on Authentic difficulty, you can easily bait Jerry to his doom, because they have a burning need to leave cover and make a bumbling beeline to your last known location. You can simply relocate, then install a blowhole in them from a new eagle’s nest.
Weapon customisation has expanded quite a lot and you can unlock better parts through XP progression or discovering the three Workbenches hidden in every mission. You can tinker with and upgrade virtually every aspect of your weapon – change scopes, stocks, barrels, mags and more. Rifles, secondaries and pistols all have a huge variety of options. On top of that, you can select the ammo to suit your target, from armour-piercing, subsonic and even non-lethal (for reasons I can’t fully comprehend).
All this customisation exists to better provide you with some latitude for some attitude – to go stealth, guns blazing or, as it says on the game tin, saddle up and be The Long Ranger. The sniping is excellent – especially with the return of Scope Zeroing, a dpad thing that lets you dial in a range to negate bullet drop and just shoot to target (providing you’ve first scouted the distance with your binocs).
I still can’t wholeheartedly recommend the closer quarters combat options. When the fighting gets CQC, the controls are still a mite cumbersome. Admittedly, it’s markedly better than previous games, thanks to the inclusion of iron sights.
But yeah – even though there’s a see-through-walls focus mode that can give you better tactical awareness of interior areas, by far your greatest enemy in this game is still a snug corridor and the cameraman. My advice: continue to play this like a moody teenager – keep everybody and everything at a distance.
Like the last game, the entire Campaign can be played in 2-player co-op, which is easily the best way to play this thing. I’d recommend somebody being on the binocs as a spotter, while also using an SMG to protect your sniper and to ensure those Germans stay Hanz off. As you’d expect, players can share items and ammunition, place icons in the environment to make each other aware of threats or points of interest and revive each other.
The most exciting new inclusion, and sadly one that I’ve had very limited exposure to – thanks to servers being pre-launch – is the totally optional INVASION MODE. It’s essentially Dark Souls meets big holes in the back of your head. Because some jerk has materialised in your world as an Axis sniper and has used the AI (by tagging them to heighten their awareness) as a means to discern your location and ambush you.
Conversely, the hunted can become the hunter by interacting with special Invasion telephones to get a fix on an invader. The downside, overusing these can figuratively backfire on you by sometimes revealing your own position. They can also literally backfire because that invading prick has booby-trapped it with C4.
Snuffing people in this mode comes with a host of rewards and unlocks, including weapons, items and skins for both participants. I had fun with it and, being a creature of pure malevolence, can see myself investing a lot of post-credits time doing it.
Speaking of longevity increasers, adversarial multiplayer – the most criminally underloved element of this franchise returns as well. Once again, I had limited chances to sample this, but what I did see was very encouraging stuff that’s probably in no danger of dethroning the CODs or Battlefields of the world. This is especially true of the fairly vanilla modes like Deathmatch, 8v8 Team Death Match and Squad Matches of 4 teams of 4.
That being said, you don’t need X-ray vision to know that I have a soft spot in the sub cockles of my heart for this franchise’s unique No Cross mode. Think two teams separated by a line that cannot be traversed. Victory is determined by combined Kill Distance as opposed to body count. It’s the gaming equivalent of your local Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore – a bloody campers paradise.
So let’s scope the pros and cons. On the iffy side of things, Sniper Elite 5 did irk me in the areas I expected it to – serviceable but uninspired storytelling and that AI. For starters, when under fire, they lack a certain terror. If somebody blasted my helmet off, I’d put my head down and keep it down until, oh, I dunno the end of the war – these guys pop their melons up in the exact same position again or get up and sprint to lateral cover. Even on Authentic.
Visually, the framerate is nice and stable, the level designs are bigger, bolder and more intricate, but there’s still an overwhelming sense of being a step behind what’s out there, especially on the PS5 version that I played. This overall lack of polish isn’t helped by an animation system that can get a little whacky from time to time, be it unintentionally hilarious slow-mo cartwheels during explosive kills, the odd body dropping through the floor, or guns and even whole other enemies clipping right through your victims.
Also, and this is a minor irritation, I’m not impressed that the crouch sprint from Sniper Elite 4 was ditched. Having to constantly do these little stop-start dashes and button taps takes some of the flow out of your infiltrations.
All that being said, there are way more good things to say about Sniper Elite 5 than bad. The increase in player choice and the imperfect work done to make the short-distance gunplay more viable still pays dividends. Playing this purely as a Silent-Scope-like shooting gallery is even more fun, now that you have greater means to fuss and obsess over your boomstick. And I think invasions have the potential to keep me grinding and blasting well beyond the 10-hour campaign (18 or so if you’re a fiend for bonus objectives).
Also, three cheers for personal progression being no longer doled out in a linear fashion as you achieve certain ranks. This time around you can easily earn skill points to invest how and when you please into 9 combat skills, 9 equipment skills or 9 body skills. Picks of the litter include being able to second chance rez yourself or downed-state defend yourself with an SMG – perks that will keep the newbies happy.
Personally, there’s no one skill I really lusted after. Because playing on authentic removes the Focus mechanic and enemy tagging abilities, which both represent considerable chunks of the perks pool. So yeah, depending on how you play what’s here could be a skill tree with ignorable fruit.
Does Sniper Elite 5 aim higher than Rebellion’s last outing? A bit more than slightly. Without a doubt. It’s definitely trying new things, even though it doesn’t bullseye said ideas as cleanly as the competition.
As all long-term fans of this franchise probably already know and accept, Rebellion is a small outfit with limited means. Series improvements tend to be incremental rather than seismic formula shifts that will blow your mind out your butthole. Stalk this target with that mentality, possibly at a budget price, and Sniper Elite 5 is well worth a shot.
Sniper Elite 5 was reviewed on PS5 using a digital copy provided by the publisher.