Review – Sniper Elite 5
It’s interesting to think how much mileage the Sniper Elite series has gotten out of WWII. We are now at the fifth installment of the series, as well as re-releases and remasters of the original that dates back to 2005. You may be burnt out from WWII themed games or even the series trademark sniping focus, but I have to say that Sniper Elite 5 is the best the series has seen. This could be because it has taken some inspiration from other games like Hitman 3‘s open level design or the Souls series invasions, but regardless, it has created a product that I think is worth sniping through more Nazi skulls or testicles, I don’t judge.
I’ll be perfectly honest here, the stories of the Sniper Elite games have never been the focus for me. I’m a simple man that just wants to be put on a well designed map, and then allowed to kill dozens of Nazis. I think Rebellion understands this because while there is a story here, it never gets in its own way or drags itself down. The gist is that you once again are placed in the boots of feared American sniper Karl Fairburne, but this time it’s during the invasion of France in 1944. You will team up with local Resistance to uncover and stop Project Kraken. That’s all the motivation I need, however, if you are someone who wants to be invested in a story, this may be lacking for you. Cutscenes are stilted, the writing isn’t great, and the character model animations still look last gen.
For what Sniper Elite 5 lacks in story and cutscenes, it fully makes up for it with great level design. As I mentioned before, Rebellion clearly took a page out of the Hitman series design book and have created levels and missions with depth. Gameplay freedom is on display here providing the player tons of options on how to approach mission objectives, and each approach seems fully fleshed out to allow every style. I love to be a sneaky sniper, a ghost, someone who will make sure to hide all the bodies and never alert guards, and this play style is fully viable.
With the game offering so much information on how loud each gunshot will be, bullet drop, the various types of ammunition and how they will effect your shot, you can get lost in making sure your loadouts are perfect. Do you want to go non-lethal? There are non-lethal rounds, they’re quiet, but they do not fly as far nor do they pierce wood, metal, or rock. You can of course choose to do lethal or non-lethal close-quarter-combat takedowns as well. Is this mission more reliant on long distance where sound won’t matter but extra distance and bullet drop does? All these options are here.
Alongside your main weapons you have various tools and traps to rely on as well, which offer both lethal and non-lethal also. You have your typical whistle to draw in enemies, as well as decoys, and stun traps that can be used as non-lethal. Then there are the more typical landmines, C4, and grenades for taking down larger vehicles or groups of enemies. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, the maps offer their own ways of dealing with certain things. You may find anti-tank rockets and snipers that deal huge damage. Or there are even options to find poison and spike a targets drink for a stealthy kill. There is also the ability to mask sound using weather, generators, or even loud vehicles in the area, which gives another dimension to how you can plan your attacks.
All of this I believe combines to make each level unique in its own way outside of the general missions, which in of themselves is pretty standard. You will be tasked with finding plans, evidence, destroying facilities, helping resistance members, and of course, assassination targets. None of these will be new to you, but how the mission evolves in each map maps them more engaging than just the standard single mission affairs. As you collect additional evidence, side missions may pop up and lead you to different areas or even additional targets. Exploring is also rewarded by finding attachments to weapons at benches. You can also find additional starting spots in the maps if you replay them.
Unlocks and upgrades are a bit uneven, with attachments having a large selection and the actual upgrades feeling more tacked on. The attachments system is diverse and as I mentioned before adds to the level of load out customization greatly. Various stocks, barrels, suppressors, magazines, scopes are available for each weapon and not all rifles or machine guns will share the same attachments. This system is fantastic, however the upgrades are lackluster. It’s a pretty standard set of upgrades from unlocking additional item slots, holding your breath longer, additional health to being able to use a machine gun if you’re down but not out instead of just a sidearm.
While player upgrades aren’t impressive, the main series gameplay upgrade is. I am talking about invasions. Yes, you have the ability to know opt-in to be raided or you can raid other players games. How this happens is another player will join your match as a Nazi Jager sniper who is tasked with tracking you down and killing you. This all happens real time so no loading screen or interrupting your mission. I must say that this adds a whole new level of gameplay to Sniper Elite that really helps it stand above others.
After you’re notified that a player invades, you can access phones that are located in most major building areas that will pin point roughly where the enemy is. You can then plan from there, however, you can’t just camp and wait. If you camp the game will reveal your location after so long, and if you continue, it will kill you forcing you to start back at an older save. These battles are intense and some of the most fun cat and mouse back and forth gameplay I’ve played. However, the invader does have a bit of an advantage since the AI still aggressively searches you out.
I had instances where invaders came in as I alerted some enemies, which meant I had to try and hide from AI as well as the sharp eye of a real player. In these cases is mostly ended in my death since the AI is fairly smart in this game and will search really well for you. Regardless, it was still a ton of fun and completely optional. You can also co-op every level which could turn the tides more in your favor during an invasion.
So far I have been pretty positive about Sniper Elite 5, and it deserves it, unfortunately though, it is not perfect. This largely comes from the bugs, and a bit of subjectivity on my part. I ran into a few bugs throughout some levels that ranged from enemy bodies not leaving my shoulder after attempting to dump the body. Enemies T-Posing after death. Myself and AI falling through the map, as well as grabbing some ledges that would clip and not allow me to move, drop, or climb. They didn’t happen frequently, but on a few of these occasions I did have to reload a previous save. Luckily, the game does autosave a lot, but the issues are there.
The next issue is a subjective one, but the game likes to stray away too much from its sniper focus. This may be a good thing to some people, but I feel like the close quarter combat isn’t Sniper Elite’s biggest strength. Very often you will have to infiltrate tight quarters where sniping is really only viable in the beginning to pick off the other snipers. Some missions you will be barely sniping at all. This doesn’t ruin the game for me, but sniping is what I enjoy most about the game.
Visually, Sniper Elite 5 is a bit of a mixed bag with certain details like full skeletal, muscle, and vein gore modeling looking fantastic, but with the general character models not looking great. This is sort of the balance that the game always has, at one point you’ll be taken in by some beautiful sunlight streaming in through flowers while you hide from a tank rolling by, and then you’ll cringe when a slow-motion shot zooms in on a characters poorly modeled face. Like I mentioned before, the gore details remain fantastic with the X-ray shots still showing the entry and exit destruction of high caliber rifle. There are now X-ray shots for close quarter combat showing you slicing the muscle and veins of the throat, and for explosions so you can see the bone destruction on. Again, explosions being another area that looks low quality, luckily your eyes will mostly be focused on the Nazi bones being turned into crumpled paper.
Sound design doesn’t offer anything really outstanding other than the gore effects as well. It’s not that various sound effects from gunshots to explosions are bad, there just isn’t anything that really stood out. The gore sounds remain the highlight, but this seems unchanged from the other games. Its soundtrack is there offering some light ambient French styled tunes along with some generic open battle music. Unfortunately, nothing rousing enough to feel the pressure of a Nazi force coming down on you.
Sniper Elite 5 is definitely the best of a series that continues to grow with each installment. I’m happy to say that this one has some of the most meaningful updates to its formula to date. The heavy focus on more involved maps, and gameplay freedom within them is a breath of fresh air and exactly what this series needs. The addition of the multiplayer elements with invasions adds an entirely new dynamic that is exhilarating. While the title still retains the series level of jank and bugs, this is definitely a game for anyone who likes sandbox styled levels, and killing Nazi’s.
Well designed levels along with detailed gore are the showcases here since character models and up close textures can be lacking.
Sniper Elite has never played better with updated controls, gameplay options, and great level design. The new invasion mechanic is fantastic.
Various sound effects from the guns, explosions, and vehicles are fine, but the soundtrack is lackluster.
If you still love sneaky sniper gameplay than Sniper Elite 5 is going to continue to give you what you love. There are some issues with bugs, but I think the level design and new gameplay elements outweighed that.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Sniper Elite 5 is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Sniper Elite 5 was provided by the publisher.