Sniper Elite 5

The Sniper Elite franchise has become something of an institution in the video-game industry. The original Sniper Elite launched back in 2005, and Rebellion has churned out four mainline sequels, each taking place in a different theater of World War II. The latest entry, Sniper Elite 5, brings us to the shores and countryside of a war-ravaged France circa 1944.

Although I still hold the first Sniper Elite as the high watermark for the series as far as the open-world sandbox design and pure sniper simulation, Sniper Elite 5 has managed to take the top spot for my favorite game in the Sniper Elite pantheon overall, oftentimes not only meeting, but greatly surpassing, my expectations.

To be clear, the review copy I played contained a pretty hefty amount of jank, even after a late, pre-launch update. I encountered things like wonky pacing during cutscenes and odd transitions in and out of them, goofy character animations (most notably while running down stairs or dropping enemy bodies), hideous NPC models, and antiquated design choices that sort of come off as lazy at best. Although, for the latter, without having insight into the production schedule, I don’t want to castigate these shortcomings outright.

My favorite bit of jank is a line of dialogue that would randomly pop up after picking up an item. Karl, a native English speaking American, would mutter to himself, “This will come in very useful,” a head-scratchingly mangled piece of grammar. I think it’s a weird combo between “This will come in very handy” and “This will be very useful.”

Sniper Elite 5

Thankfully, these issues are mostly isolated and are quickly overshadowed by the tight controls (aside from my usual gripes with snap-cover mechanics in general), brilliant sniping mechanics, decent enemy A.I., a thrilling and even spectacular soundtrack, and overall incredible level design. 

I have always loved Sniper Elite’s reliance on actual historical wartime footage to help set the stage before missions and to give these games a feeling of authenticity — it’s as if you were watching the History Channel (well, back when the History Channel was actually about history). I am happy to report that those elements are still intact in Sniper Elite 5, though not as frequent as I would have liked. Pre-mission scenes still come with that documentary-style voiceover and its matter-of-fact cadence, narrating plot points to help players make sense of exactly where and when this story takes place. 

Unfortunately, the in-engine cutscenes leave a bit to be desired, with an almost PS3-level of detail for almost every NPC, with some fairing only slightly better than most. This is even more jarring when one of these monstrosities shares screen space with Karl Fairburne, the series protagonist and player character, as his model is far more detailed and more closely resembles what most of us would consider acceptable for current-gen capabilities. I personally wasn’t too put off by this; I noticed it, certainly, but it didn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the game. But I point it out because true graphic mavens might feel slighted by this.

Sniper Elite 5

But once you are set loose in one of the many campaign sandboxes to do your sniping thing, all of those gripes mostly melt away. Especially considering how lush some of these levels are, and also because of the well-implemented lighting effects. You pay far less attention to the Cupie-Doll-like faces and dead eyes of enemy NPCs when you are treated to one of said eyes getting blasted out of the skull in highly detailed X-ray fashion thanks to the series’ staple Kill Cam. And let’s not mince words here: That Kill Cam does quite a bit of heavy lifting, softening the repetitiveness of the endless parade of Nazis you’ll dispatch along the way.

In Sniper Elite 5, you are tasked with guiding Karl through the 1944 Paris campaign of the European theater, helping secure beaches for the arrival of Allied troops and advancing further in-country. To accomplish this, you’ll be infiltrating strongholds to eavesdrop on secret high-level meetings, and even sabotaging entire factories that would otherwise continue to manufacturer and pump out machines of war for the Nazi regime.

Sniper Elite 5

Every mission has a primary objective that can more or less be completed in order to advance the story. However, there are also side objectives that you can tackle to increase the size of the proverbial middle finger you’re waving at the Nazis, and which can also bolster the XP you accumulate along the way, which can then be used to unlock more skills. 

Most of these skills are perfunctory, and, if you play more stealthy like me, are pretty much useless. You might be able to carry more grenades or heal yourself faster (“ghosts” like me never need to heal because we are never seen by enemies). I admit that there’s a small handful that at least makes more sense, like being able to move faster while in Sniper Mode or the Sniper Elite 5 equivalent of Detective Vision.

In addition to side objectives, there are also high-value targets on your hitlist, which you will need to locate and make short work of. I found these challenges to be my favorite, because you never know where you might find one at first, and some of them can be taken out in some pretty out-of-the-box ways, like using a rat that has been fashioned into a bomb.

Some of these side objectives are given to you at the outset of each mission, while others can be uncovered while in a mission based on newly acquired intel — or by just stumbling upon a big-ass cannon that should probably be blown the hell up.

Sniper Elite 5

I mentioned this in my early impressions for Sniper Elite 5, but you can also find things like safe combinations or keys to locked armories by rifling through the pockets of dead soldiers. These will highlight the designated lock or safe on your map, which could be conveniently placed along your current route or pretty far out of your way. 

For my stealthy playstyle, I was far less incentivized to seek out more bullets or grenades or decoys, simply because I was never at risk of running out of ammo and typically only relied on my rifle and silent pistol. But in some of these locked rooms, or in other out-of-the-way locations, you can find armory workbenches. These workbenches allow you to swap out components on your current weapons. From barrels and stocks to grips and sights, there are plenty of customizable categories you can tinker with in order to find your perfect arsenal. In fact, some of these parts are only unlocked by interacting with specific workbenches, which feeds back into the exploration loop that is at the heart of Sniper Elite 5’s level design.

You can also pick up and use any of the weapons you find along your journey, from the standard-issue stuff enemy soldiers bandy about to some unique and customized weapons in more isolated places. What I like about this is that, unlike so many other action games, picking up any of these weapons doesn’t result in dropping the ones you came in with. You simply holster your pistol or shoulder your rifle, and carry these one-off weapons in hand; once you run out of bullets or no longer need or want to use them, you simply drop them and go back to your personal weapons. It’s a nice touch that rewards experimentation without penalizing you by leaving you stuck with something with limited use cases, like a rocket launcher.

Sniper Elite 5

I wasn’t a huge fan of Sniper Elite 4’s mission structure, and I outright hated the opening level that served as the tutorial stage. The pacing was slow and hand-holdy, which absolutely killed any replay value. In fact, it’s that opening level that caused me to bounce off my most recent attempt at playing Sniper Elite 4. Thankfully, even though the first level in Sniper Elite 5 very much serves as a tutorial, it has far better pacing and a more palatable overall structure.

In fact, for the most part, every level in Sniper Elite 5 feels leaps and bounds better than those from any of the previous games. Take, for example, Colline-Sur-Mer (which I touched on in my initial impressions). There are so many alternate paths and routes that you can take in the moment-to-moment gameplay, like cutting through open buildings to avoid enemy patrols or to search for valuable intel (or those precious workbenches).

In more compact levels like Beaumont-Saint-Denis, which has less overall acreage than Colline-Sur-Mer but is densely packed and interwoven with various corridors, tunnels, courtyards, and a whole frickin’ castle to explore. What might initially seem like a small level quickly reveals itself to be a labyrinth that took me several hours to explore and decode. And much like the recent Hitman series (which Sniper Elite 5 resembles in a number of small ways), there are various access points you can find and unlock while in a mission, which you can then choose as your infiltration point on subsequent playthroughs.

Sniper Elite 5 - Stealth Gameplay

However, there are also some antiquated design choices that can shatter immersion at worst and just induce eye-rolling at best. Early on, during the opening Colline-Sur-Mer mission, these cut corners were immediately evident. While roaming a bit through the farmland countryside, making my way toward a small village I needed to find a safehouse in, I came across an enemy checkpoint guarding the main road into the village. To my left there was a fence and some shrubs, the fence being no higher than maybe three feet, and the shrubs spaced about a foot apart, nothing that should immediately impede my passage. 

But when I tried to leap over to the fence, I was unable to scale it and continue my approach because this was basically an invisible wall. So even though I had already clambered over numerous walls and fences up to that point, some of which stood as high as Karl’s shoulders, this waist-high fence was insurmountable by design. And this wasn’t the lone instance of this type of funneled design — it was just the first one that I encountered, which means it was the moment I realized these big sandboxes are only sort-of-open. Thankfully, these unnatural gated access points only really popped up here and there while transitioning between the somewhat larger areas of each level, almost like a loading area. 

At the end of the day, though, the name of the game is sniping, and those mechanics in Sniper Elite 5 more than make up for any level design issues or downright silly character animations. Wind direction, bullet drop, target distance, and whether or not you are trying to mask your shot — all of these factor into whether you pop some pink mist or burst apart an unsuspecting scrotum, or if you’ll miss by a hair and alert enemies to your presence and location. 

Sniper Elite 5 does a great job of letting you decide how many of these factors you wish to decipher yourself and how many you would like the game to assist you with. By clicking the L3 button while aiming, Karl will hold his breath and time will slow down, bringing up a larger diamond-shaped reticle that turns from white to red when you have a kill shot or are aimed correctly at a truck’s fuel tank or some other object that will result in an explosion. At this point, you only need to squeeze the trigger and watch the gore or mayhem unfold, usually in brilliant slow-mo, up-close-and-personal detail.

Sniper Elite 5

This is made all the more thrilling by Sniper Elite 5’s soundtrack. In some areas while you are simply exploring the countryside, an accompanying subtle rhythm of timpani drums reminds me of the shootout in The Way of the Gun, building tension with each successive rumble. And then when things pop off, the music becomes more bombastic and heroic, all within an appropriate militaristic theme. It’s really good stuff, and I felt it’s worth highlighting.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun with Sniper Elite 5, and I see a lot of potential for replayability. I’m already of thinking of going back to tackle some of the side objectives I missed and clean up the collectibles that are scattered about. I also wouldn’t mind monkeying around with more of the gun mods that can be found across the game’s maps.

I had high hopes for the latest entry in this long-running series, and Rebellion mostly hit the mark, delivering a fun experience that’s better than any of the games that came before it. Sniper Elite 5 builds on the core features that work, while also introducing smaller additions and tweaks that move the series in the right direction.

Ultimately, Sniper Elite 5 is a glass half full of Lager, it isn’t flashy or trying to be anything it’s not, but it also excels at delivering exactly what you wanted (and then some).

I was given a review code for Sniper Elite 5 on PS5, but the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sna
Sna
1 month ago

So you’re not willing to talk about how clunky and bugged the movement is when you get near the edge of a path or try to climb or jump a small ledge, i see. Do you have some agreement to hide the bad stuff?

Josh Wirtanen
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Sna

This is literally the third paragraph in the review:

To be clear, the review copy I played contained a pretty hefty amount of jank, even after a late, pre-launch update. I encountered things like wonky pacing during cutscenes and odd transitions in and out of them, goofy character animations (most notably while running down stairs or dropping enemy bodies), hideous NPC models, and antiquated design choices that sort of come off as lazy at best

And later on, this:

But when I tried to leap over to the fence, I was unable to scale it and continue my approach because this was basically an invisible wall. So even though I had already clambered over numerous walls and fences up to that point, some of which stood as high as Karl’s shoulders, this waist-high fence was insurmountable by design.

Did you even read it?

2
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x