Karl Fairburne is locked and loaded and ready to tangle with the Nazis once more. Sniper Elite 5 is the newest entry in the mainline portion of the famed sniping franchise, and whilst it fires a blank in certain respects, it retains many of the qualities that make it a surefire hit.
Several years after Sniper Elite 4 and it’s time to insert another cartridge into your rifle and get ready to pop some heads from two towns away in stealthy, yet loud, World War 2 action.
Sniper Elite 5 is pretty much what you’ve come to know and love about the gruesome series that makes sniping so indelibly satisfying. Rebellion hasn’t done anything too drastic to alter the core fundamentals of the game, nor have they managed to make it any less fun.
Sniper Elite 5 – Key details
- Price: $59.99/£54.99
- Developer: Rebellion
- Release date: May 26, 2022
- Platforms: Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 & 5, Steam, and Windows Store
Sniper Elite 5 trailer
Sniper Elite 5’s story takes a backseat
There are certain games and franchises where the narrative is not the be-all and end-all and while Sniper Elite 5 does its best to tell a fresh tale in a war that has had practically every conceivable angle covered, there’s always a sense that the story is an afterthought here.
This feels evident in the minor amount of cutscenes and exposition in-between missions, and even more apparent in just how little characterization there is here.
It may not be the first run-out for Karl or some of his other comrades, but in Sniper Elite 5, he’s nothing more than a world-class marksman with a deep voice following orders. Operation Kraken is interesting, but the game’s plot and substance can be covered in about 5-10 minutes and the villain is your prototypical evil Nazi.
Glorious gameplay is the series’ bread and butter
On the other hand, if you’re here for the gunplay, then it’s good news as Rebellion absolutely delivers in this department with surprising changes to the franchise’s formula.
As I’ve come to expect from Sniper Elite – wielding a sniper rifle is immensely fun and satisfying, as are the gory and grizzly X-Ray Killcams that result in viscera being scattered around your screen.
There are tons of customization options for the game’s deep selection of guns and attachments that would give Call of Duty’s Gunsmith feature a run for its money. You can unlock more by finding hidden workbenches in each level, along with other collectibles to expand upon the lore of Operation Kraken and gain additional intel towards mission objectives.
Maintaining stealth and secrecy are the real keys to success and Rebellion gives you bottles, whistles, and various other distraction tactics to ensure you’re capable of pulling off a mission without a single enemy ever even getting a sniff.
As good as all these options are, it still feels that if you have anything other than a sniper rifle in your cool and collected palms, then it just feels…off. General gunplay with pistols, SMGs, etc, just doesn’t feel like the game’s forte and never really has done.
I also can’t escape the dichotomy of the game’s movement as Karl is pretty spry but still feels more than a little flat-footed, particularly when it comes to clambering vertical sections of a map.
Not only that, but how does a game like this not have a jump button in 2022? Even Elden Ring has one, and the focus on reaching vantage points could have really done with that input.
This can be overlooked to an extent as Rebellion does a great job of giving you meaty Hitman-esque maps filled with side missions, Kill Targets requiring unique death executions, and the aforementioned workbenches and collectibles.
As you progress through the game you unlock more useful attributes and equipment that encourage you to keep replaying levels, made appealing thanks to the core mechanics.
Each of the 8 main levels can take you upwards of an hour, and fully completing one will take you much longer. Not only that but the franchise’s multiplayer and Invasion Mode allow you to test your skills against other real-life, long-range enthusiasts.
They are both engrossing, more so the latter as the dicey level you’re in becomes way more dangerous given the addition of another player looking to put you in their sights.
A mixed bag of sound and design
It’s remarkable, but Sniper Elite 5 manages to catch the eye with some piercing lighting and reflective beams that make a level feel so alive. Conversely, cutscenes, character models, and animations can be so janky and unnatural that it can feel like Sniper Elite hasn’t quite been refined for that next-level of immersive gaming.
I also encountered a few sketchy mishaps such as my gun not reloading, weird invisible barriers preventing me from reaching the top of a ladder, and probably more clipping than one should expect really.
On the plus side, it’s the booming, slow-motion explosion of a bullet leaving the chamber and barreling at incredible velocity towards an unwitting foe’s face that gives you a supreme adrenaline rush.
Sniper Elite 5’s sound design is spot on, though, and dialogue is utilized correctly — whether it’s Karl’s inner monologue or the frantic pitter-patter of hostile German infantry. He’s not as profound as BJ Blazkowicz of Wolfenstein, but it works.
When Sniper Elite 5 hits right, it’s every bit the long-range murder simulator sandbox we wanted. When you’re completely in the zone, balancing stealth and precision and executing your plan of attack with utmost excellence, there are few games like it.
Sadly, minor issues mount up and can harm your experience and tarnish some of what it does so well. Still, with a refined template, it feels Rebellion is on the verge of a bullseye here.
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