Sniper Elite is a series that has been going on for an absolutely shocking amount of time. Five mainline games have been released in the series since 2005, which is a lot of games for a series centered around one war and one sniper, but is the newest installment in the series, Sniper Elite 5, worth a damn? Does it stand up to the best of the series, or is it destined to take a dive from here on out?
Each level is almost a mini open-world in how it functions. There's multiple layers and multiple areas to every mission, with numerous optional objectives and a ton of enemies to either take out or avoid entirely. Objectives themselves aren't linear too, giving you a minimum of two different ways to complete a task.
You're dropped into this huge map, given multiple objects then sent off on your way to either die or just barely live. There's even vehicles that move throughout each mission that you can sabotage or use as highly elaborate traps, but this can also cause you to turn into swiss cheese. You're able to change your loadout at the start of each mission, which really boils down to "which of these weapons is quieter or does the most damage", then you're thrown to the wolves (the wolves in this situation being a mix of normal soldiers, snipers and elite soldiers).
You're trusted fully by the game to find your own way to your objectives, and are given multiple different routes that you could take, all with their own dangers. Some routes have snipers waiting for you, others have tanks -- it's up to you which you think you could deal with most efficiently. For me, at least, I found it fun to try to weigh my options and work out the odds of surviving each path.
As an example, one of the first missions of the game requires you to sneak your way through a Nazi camp and your first step is to mark every single enemy you see so that you won't be caught off guard. All of your guns make varying degrees of noise, so your best bet until you absolutely have to fire is to use the stealth takedown at your disposal (stabbing an enemy in the back). You then make your way to an area with multiple Nazi's and it's up to you to figure out which enemy to take out first and how you want to do it.
After this section, however, you're let loose on the full level and told you can go in any direction you want, meaning that some players will have vastly different experiences to others. Personally I beelined it to my main objectives, taking out any snipers along the way and avoiding large amounts of enemies by sticking to foilage and trenches. If your chosen method goes wrong, you usually have around a split-second to decide whether you want to say screw it and start firing, or if you want to run away and try a new approach -- so you've always got options.
Of course the game is nothing if the sniping doesn't feel good, so does it? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that every single shot you take has weight behind it, every single kill is utterly brutal, and you're required to constantly watch every single angle in case somebody comes around and sees you. You can create carnage with a single bullet and watch as your hard work causes everything to turn into flames.
The realism settings are utterly incredible too, in that you can play with wind and bullet-drop to fully emulate the act of actually being a sniper, or you can change the frequency of your kill-cam so that you’re constantly seeing your bullets just tear their way through your enemies. You can make your game as difficult as you want it to without ever feeling like you're backed into a corner.
It’s as satisfying as ever to see a bullet tear through Nazi testicles and cause chain reactions as you take out two enemies with one shot, or ricochet a shot off a generator to shred through the kidney of a Nazi standing in front of said generator. The haptic feedback on the PS5 controller makes every shot feel really good, with the triggers requiring a firmer squeeze to fire and just factoring in wonderfully to the game experience, without being something that draws attention away from the game itself. Even without messing in the settings your shots still feel rather weighty and pretty hefty, so these are just quality of life additions.
Obviously, this is a game about being a one-man army, and in order to do that, you need to be incredibly stealthy. The stealth works really well and needs you to basically check every possible level or risk being spotted. It's all based on line of sight and on how much noise you make in a location, with enemies quickly swarming you if you're too noisy or stay out in the open for too long. Too many times have I used my binoculars to mark what I thought was every enemy and every vehicle in a section (if you're spotted by a tank, it's basically an automatic death sentence), only to be spotted by a sniper in the distance and watch as my carefully laid plans are immediately set alight.
Most of the eight missions give you multiple ways to complete them, with one being noticeably louder than another. For example, in one mission you have the option to either sabotage an enemy base or just entirely blow it up, with the latter making your escape a whole lot harder. You don't really do a lot other than sniping and sneaking in the game, so it's good that the game manages to nail these elements so hard.
While the shooting and the stealth within the game are honestly incredible fun, the story and characters are much less so. It’s an extremely generic World War II story, one that every single previous game in the series has basically done. Luckily the story is extremely bare-bones, with a cutscene introducing each mission and debriefing you at the end of each mission, and not a ton else. The characters are also just so completely and utterly boring, very one-note in their dialogue and in their motivations. Your character, Karl Fairbourne, is tasked with taking out a Nazi superweapon at the tail end of the war in 1944, and weakening AXIS defenses so that the Allies can win the war.
The biggest issue here is that the game doesn't give any real time at all to the story, and completely forgoes natural character development. All you really know about Karl by the end of the game is that he really loves sniping and he really hates the Nazis, and that's it. If the game focused on these elements then it’d be much more of an issue than it is, but as it stands the game prefers to let the gameplay talk for itself, and the gameplay talks plenty.
There's also a pretty big cooperative element in the game, but I sadly only had a chance to take a look at one mission in co-op. With this being my first foray into the co-op elements of the series, I had high expectations and to my shock, it's basically just a standard story mission with an extra player. Due to this, it makes the game a lot tougher and yet also a lot easier, since you have to balance having two players and watching your corners with the standard patrol routes. However, tagging enemies pops up on both players' HUDs, so it also makes it easier if you coordinate with your partner.
The game also adds the brand-new ability for other players to invade your game as an AXIS sniper, something that I didn't have the chance to do myself, but the one co-op game I played had a player invading us, and it's a pure adrenaline rush of sheer panic, something that'll make you reconsider every single move that you take.
In terms of glitches, the game isn’t exactly perfect. In my experience playing the game, there were pop-in issues, texture issues, several AI issues, clipping issues, and in one extremely bizarre co-op glitch, my partner found themselves actually dropping through the world. Personally, I never had anything as big as that, but it led to us completely losing that co-op mission and having to restart from the previous checkpoint, which thanks to the game lacking a checkpoint system, was a decent amount of progress before the point we died at. It’s impossible to say whether all of these will be picked up during the course of the day one patch, but they’re too big to not mention in this review.
Sniper Elite 5 Review | Final Thoughts
Sniper Elite 5 is a really fun time that is mildly bogged down by some graphical issues and an incredibly boring story. If you’re looking for something that’ll engage you, you’re just not going to find that here. If you’re just looking for something fun and easily digestible, then this is the game for you. Just do yourself a favor and skip every cutscene and ignore every single line of dialogue from the blandest protagonist in years.
Sniper Elite 5 was provided by Rebellion for review, and was reviewed on PS5.
- Really fun gunplay
- The co-op mode is shockingly well made
- Doesn't outstay its welcome
- Extremely glitchy at times
- Story and characters are mind-numbingly dull