Review of Sniper Elite 5: Even after five games, sniping Nazis is still a blast. Sniper Elite’s schlocky long-range action, whether it’s a well-placed bullet in the back of the skull, or a shot right through the iris of an unprepared enemy, remains deliciously enjoyable. Sniper Elite 4’s enhanced stealth tactics and vast, open-ended environments have made the franchise more compelling in the times when the sniper isn’t looking. With some clever new innovations and a more ambitious emphasis on player agency and experimentation, Sniper Elite 5 is yet another spectacular Nazi-hunting journey in which sniping is king. Sniper Elite 5 doesn’t feel groundbreaking in contrast.
Karl Fairburne, an American marksman, is once again forced into your mud-caked boots, this time deep behind enemy lines in occupied France. After the D-Day assault on June 6, 1944, the events of Sniper Elite 5 take place in the days and weeks immediately following, during, and immediately following D-Day. For the time being, your primary objective is to obstruct the enemy’s plans to invade France by destroying AA guns, disrupting communications, and detonating explosives in coastal defences. In little time at all, Fairburne finds himself in the middle of yet another nefarious Nazi operation that has the potential to tip the balance of battle in his favour.
From a gorgeous chateau in the centre of the green countryside to a ruined coastal hamlet where the Loire river heads inward, you’ll achieve this by sniping, bombing, and slashing your way across northern France. A sniper rifle’s bursts of bloodshed contrast starkly with the beautiful landscapes found here, especially in the early stages of the game when the stakes are low and the action is fast-paced and intense.
Shooting Nazis with your crosshairs trained on their heads is still exhilarating. Line your shot, adjust for distance and wind, and then wait for your bullet to fly across the battlefield until it slams into something in the most gruesome manner possible. X-ray vision reveals all the gruesome details in Sniper Elite 5’s cinematic bullet camera, with each shot culminating in a chaotic cacophony of fractured bones and shattering eyeballs. For close-range fighting, you’ll find that pistols and SMGs do the trick, and you may switch to a first-person view and aim down sights to improve your accuracy slightly. The movement of Fairburne, unlike Snake in Metal Gear Solid V, isn’t as quick or fluid as Snake’s, thus there will be a few uncomfortable moments where you struggle to get into the correct position to perform a takedown or mantle.
A sophisticated weapon customization system makes combat feel more personal in Sniper Elite 5, though. Throughout each mission, you’ll find workbenches where you can customise your weaponry with a range of different attachments and upgrades. There are a wide variety of scopes, muzzle attachments, ammo, foregrips, and other accessories to pick from. I enjoy playing with weapons until they’re just right for my playstyle, even if they may not all be period-appropriate. When using subsonic ammo and a silencer, it is possible to reduce your sniper’s audible range without the need for a misfiring generator or loud roar of an approaching Luftwaffe to hide your bullets. The downside is that long-range shots will be more difficult to hit, although you can mitigate this effect by donning other attachments that boost the properties of your weapon.
With that said, you’re free to go in guns blazing or mix and match the two distinct playstyles to your heart’s content. Sniper Elite 5 is more willing than previous games in the series to give you more control over how you complete a level. Intelligence gained from reconnaissance planes and French resistance fighters might help you plan your next move in a level. The west bridge may be poorly secured, but there is a semi-regular activity from patrolling vehicles, whereas the east path through the forest is strongly patrolled, but the long grass around the location provides greater options for sneaking around. Alternatively, you might put mines on the road to prevent any vehicles from reaching the bridge, or you could snipe each foot soldier from a distance from the top floor of a home overlooking the forest. Regardless of how you choose to approach a given scenario, there are numerous options.
A single level may have everything from sandy beaches and deep woodlands to broad fields and small communities. The maps themselves are enormous. However, before you can even sniff its walls, there are dozens of German patrols and checkpoints barring your way, as well as abandoned farms and homes just waiting to be explored, as well as prime spots for sniping and assassination targets to take down.
The platforming abilities of Fairburne have been enhanced to give you more alternatives while navigating these vast environments. Vines are now a viable way to scale walls, ledges, and open windows, and ziplines can be used to quickly evacuate a compromised sniper position or cover a broad area in a few seconds. As a result of this expanded repertoire, there is more variety in the design of each map. It is possible to get into a building from the outside by detecting vines crawling up its outside, rather than having to blow up an underground door or push through the front door with a Thompson in hand.
If you’re looking for a truly immersive experience, you’ll have to put up with the occasional stumbling block, whether it’s a waist-high wall that you can’t scramble over or a thin row of shrubs that prove impossible to breach. Even though the maps aren’t linear, these obstacles can give the impression that you’re being led on a specific path. When you’re trying to get away from an enemy patrol and find yourself stranded on either side of a path because of greenery, it can be irritating.
For the most part, the AI is fine, but the Nazis you’re up against may go from deadly to stupid in an instant. Sniping allows you to take out an enemy when he or she is surrounded by others, causing a chain reaction of fear and confusion among the others. It’s here that they feel most human because they have no way of knowing where you are without hearing the shot or seeing you in person. If they hear the gunfire, they’ll be able to figure out where you are and try to put you out of your misery. If you want to make quick work of the AI, you should experiment and come up with fresh tactics that take advantage of the AI’s tendencies. Unless you’ve been caught by an exceptionally sharp-eyed soldier or your cover has been blown with no clues as to how it happened, this isn’t necessarily the case. There are a handful of times each year when your plans are derailed by a computer’s erratic behaviour.
A multiplayer invasion mode akin to that in the Souls games or Deathloop helps make up for some of Sniper Elite 5’s flaws when played with another player in co-op. The more XP you collect while in this mode, the more you’ll be able to spend on other upgrades like better health and a more expansive inventory. However, you’ll be vulnerable to an Axis sniper invasion from another player. This creates a heated cat-and-mouse game in which you both try to outwit one other. Fairburne’s last known location may be revealed to the invader by calling a scout, however, the invaded player has the option of using AI to find him. An invasion can be handled in a variety of ways, including luring the other player into open areas, planting traps where you believe they might go, or hunkering down in a safe location and hoping you can outsmart them before they can hone in on your position and shoot you. Invasions are a nerve-wracking new element that plays into the series’ strengths with a focus on stealth and the pleasure of long-distance shooting. Regardless of which side of the coin you’re on.
Another enormous open-ended sandbox awaits you in Sniper Elite 5, following in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor. From the architecture of each expansive area to the addition of a wide weapon customization system, there is a fresh emphasis on player freedom this time around. It can be difficult to fully immerse yourself in a game when there are invisible limits, and the AI can be extremely picky. While Fairburne isn’t the most graceful character, the joy of shooting Nazis in the face from 300 yards away isn’t diminished by these flaws. As a sniper, Sniper Elite 5 has a mastery of long-range combat.