author: Giancarlo Saldana
Sniper Elite 5 Review: Sharp Shooter
Sniper Elite 5 takes Karl Fairburne to the French countryside to thwart some Nazi plans once more. Gameplay improvements and new features make this installment feel familiar but still just as fun.
When playing a stealth game, there are usually the types of players who are meticulous about staying in the shadows and do their best to not be seen by the enemy. Distract them, use environmental traps, or throw something to get them off your radar and then sneak behind them to take them out. It’s satisfying—but so is a timely shot to the head from a safe distance.
These are the kinds of choices you will have to make when playing a level in Sniper Elite 5, a game that features Hitman-like gameplay with lots of sniping, sneaking, and a sleek X-ray killcam that zooms into Nazi bodies each time your shots land. The game may feel familiar and the story may feel unimportant at times, but new additions and refinements here and there make this installment feel robust and surprisingly engaging.
Set in 1944 at the peak of World War II, Sniper Elite 5 once again follows protagonist Karl Fairburne as he now travels to France to join the Allied forces in their attempt to stop a Nazi threat known as Project Kraken. The story unfolds as you play through the game’s nine chapters, with each one getting you closer to Doomsday as you thwart various Nazi plans along the way. While it may sound interesting, there’s only so much you can write about WWII, even if it’s fictional, for it to feel riveting—and in this game, it really isn’t.
- Varied, immersive chapters to play;
- Plenty of freedom to complete objectives how you want;
- Axis Invasion amps up the difficulty and creates a more dynamic experience.
- Storyline isn’t exciting;
- Cutscenes lack charm;
- Technical and graphical issues can mar the experience.
One of the issues with the dull storyline is that cutscenes really don’t emphasize the importance of what you are doing or who your friends are. Most characters you encounter lack a certain charm to them to make them memorable or appealing. Compared to Karl, with his iconic voice and Batman-like personality, these allies are pretty forgettable and lack personality. Visually, cutscenes won’t blow you away either.
What did keep me somewhat engaged, however, is the German voice acting you hear throughout the game. Whether you understand the language or not, the Nazis just sound better and more believable than the English-speaking characters. Maybe it’s due to their evil intentions or their passion for what they are doing, but the enemy trumps the good guys here when setting the mood.
Snipe or Stealth
As with most Sniper Elite games, chapters will see you infiltrating Nazi bases and essentially putting a wrench in their plans by disabling certain technology, sabotaging equipment, or killing an important target. The great thing about these levels is that they offer you a varied array of environments that differ in elevation, aesthetic, and most importantly, design.
One mission will see you infiltrating a Nazi factory to sabotage various facilities like a giant furnace or a steel mill. This mission is pretty straightforward, but what I loved about it is that it offers you plenty of areas to hide. Its map almost makes you want to play it from a sneaky perspective, and your sniping skills are not really needed unless you don’t mind making some noise. Another mission, in contrast, takes place near a seaside spy academy and requires you to travel even further inland to make it inside and ascend even higher until you find your target. Both levels offer their own set of challenges but create a sense of depth in their own way that keeps the action and the tension going through the end. The addition of new actions like shimming along ledges and using zip lines to get to various vantage points also adds some dynamism to Karl’s arsenal of moves even though he still can’t roll for some reason.
Levels also give you an impressive amount of freedom right from the start. Despite your protagonist being an elite sniper, you don’t have to kill anyone if you don’t want to, and you can simply plan your moves and take down enemies without alerting anyone. You can use binoculars to target enemies in the distance as before, but you can now also use a focus feature that lets you detect enemies in your vicinity, something most open world games have been offering for years now. This new feature gives you another tool to use when taking the stealth approach to completing a mission but it doesn’t completely make the game a piece of cake. Sniper Elite is still quite challenging even on normal difficulty.
Despite feeling familiar, there are plenty of improvements here that make the feel more dynamic and challenging at the same time. Sniper Elite 5 gives you the tools for you to make tactical decisions and offers you a generous amount of freedom to make mistakes and take the approach you want when completing missions.
The AI is actually quite good here so if an enemy spots you, they most likely will alert other guards and may start running for the alarm if you are not careful. I also noticed that it’s really easy for enemies to detect you so if a car is patrolling the area and they happen to drive past you, you will notice your detection meter slowly fill up. Fully filled, the enemy will stop, get out and search the area. Shooting your gun can also obviously get you detected so you have to be strategic when firing any shot.
Freedom to Fight
Of course, if stuff hits the fan, you may have to resort to aggressive maneuvers, and Sniper Elite doesn’t disappoint with its array of weapons it offers you. Yes, you can still snipe enemies from a distance and target various organs for a gory—and educational—X-ray view into their bodies, but you will also get some cool camera action when pulling off melee attacks or shooting them with other weapons. Sniping still feels amazing, and you can now customize your various weapons and create custom load-outs for each mission you play. This allows you to tinker with your guns to make them more quiet, hold more ammo, or reload faster for more control over how you play.
You still have to meet certain requirements to unlock parts to upgrade them all so this gives you more reason to replay missions to unlock everything you may have missed. Once you finish a mission, you get a score and a recap of how many enemies you killed and your overall playstyle. Despite the option to play stealth, you actually get more experience by killing Nazis which is an odd choice considering how much more risky it is to not kill anyone.
Now, the game isn’t without its flaws which mostly come from technical glitches and input lag. Sometimes when attacking an enemy from cover, Karl would teleport to where the enemy was or simply stood up for a second and then took down the Nazi creating this weird lag in between. I also found myself phasing through various textures and once even fell through the floor in the middle of a field. Except for the last one, none of these were game breaking, but they did remove some of the realism from the game so hopefully they are patched soon.
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Campaign mode can be played solo and offline, but you can also play it co-op with someone else to offer each other additional support. Playing it online and lets you turn on the game’s Axis Invasion mode, which lets other players invade your game and put a mark on your back. This amps up the difficulty even more as you will essentially be up against another human player who can track your movements and kill you off if you aren’t careful. Playing as the Axis sniper also lets you unlock various gear so it gives you an incentive to play it and also transforms the game’s intimate stealth atmosphere into an adrenaline-filled thrill-ride.
In addition to co-op mode, Sniper Elite also offers plenty of multiplayer modes that feature up to 16 players where you can rank up and gain experience to unlock even more character and loadouts. There is also a survival mode that lets you play with three other players to outlast waves of Nazis throughout various maps. These modes break up the steady, more strategic pace of its campaign mode and truly put your shooting skills to the test.
Despite feeling familiar, there are plenty of improvements here that make the feel more dynamic and challenging at the same time. Sniper Elite 5 gives you the tools for you to make tactical decisions and offers you a generous amount of freedom to make mistakes and take the approach you want when completing missions. It may not win any awards in storytelling and it may suffer from a few technical issues right now, but the game plays smart and offers you a good amount of offline and online content to keep you busy long after your war is over.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com