I have been a fan of the Sniper Elite series since I first played Sniper Elite V2 on my PS3 many, many years ago. I have always been into sneaky sniper gameplay (I still run sniper rifles in Battlefield and Call of Duty), so the series was an immediate hit in my view. I played Sniper Elite 3 and Sniper Elite 4 when they were released and had a ball, so I was very happy to dive into the 5th (numerical entry, anyway, there are a couple of offshoot titles in between) entry to the series and see what’s what.
Karl Fairburne is back again, and this time we finally get to sneak around the fields and villages of France for the first time in the series. You’d think, for a series that is centred around World War 2, that it wouldn’t necessarily take us until the fifth entry to visit one of the most important locales in the conflict. But, alas, Sniper Elite 5 takes us there now and that’s what’s important. Karl is tasked with uncovering the details and logistics of a Nazi program called Project Kraken and joins members of the French Resistance in doing so.
It’s a serviceable plot and does the job of moving Karl from location to location, allowing the true star of the game to shine. The environments in Sniper Elite 5 are absolutely spectacular. With a lot of recent games pushing towards an open-world environment, this game bucks the trend by going back to individual levels for each different mission.
This allowed Rebellion to really put a lot of time and thought into each level, with some of them sprawling, what appears to be, multiple sq/km. Every location looks like it was pulled from a history book, from the Nazi propaganda posters scattered on the walls, to the rubble-filled streets of tiny villages, there is no question that war-torn France has been perfectly depicted.
Gameplay in Sniper Elite 5 hasn’t changed all that much from the last entry in the series. The biggest addition is the use of the adaptive triggers on the PS5. This actually became one of my favourite features of the game. For example, when using your secondary weapon, and you press the L2 button a little until you get resistance, that will let Karl aim in third-person view, but when you squeeze L2 all the way down, the aim view changes to first person, like Doom. I find the third-person aiming view to be much easier to use and see what I am shooting, but it really comes down to your personal preference.
“Every location looks like it was pulled from a history book, from the Nazi propaganda posters scattered on the walls, to the rubble-filled streets of tiny villages…”
When it comes to gameplay without a gun in hand, Sniper Elite 5 stumbles a bit. In close quarters with another object, whether it’s a wall, door, ammo crate, or an NPC, Karl tends to have to rotate himself to be able to interact with the given object. Karl…isn’t particularly graceful in his movements, so I spent an unfortunate amount of time walking away from the object in question and approaching again at, hopefully, the right angle to prompt the interaction button to appear.
This also pertains to when trying to get items out of a box. If you aren’t looking directly at the object you want to pick up, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be forever looking at the ammo NEXT to the med kit you actually want.
I never thought that any of the previous entries were terribly difficult, although cranking the difficulty up to authentic is a Demon’s Souls level of hard. So, it may just be me, but it feels like Sniper Elite 5 is harder than its predecessors. I generally tend to play on normal or easy for the first playthrough, so I can experience the story worry-free.
This time around, however, I found that I was getting overwhelmed even with easy difficulty. So, I dropped it down to civilian difficulty (very-easy, if you like), until I felt like it was too easy. It was an interesting experience, to be sure, so make sure to take extra care, as the NPC’s are smarter than you’d expect.
“When it comes to gameplay without a gun in hand, Sniper Elite 5 stumbles a bit.”
Invasion mode is a fun drop-in style of PvP multiplayer, where you can invade another player’s game as an Axis sniper and hunt down your opponent in a cat-and-mouse style of interaction. At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed, but after playing it for a few rounds, I was hooked, and it became as important to me as the campaign itself (and if you know me, I am all about the campaign in games). Sniper Elite 5 also features your standard multiplayer online mode, where you can test your skills in a 16-player battle, and a co-op Survival mode, where you and a friend can try to survive waves of opponents, sharing ammo and healing items between you.
Similar to the more recent Mortal Kombat titles, Sniper Elite has become synonymous with grisly, x-ray kill cams and Sniper Elite 5 is no different. This time though, your secondary weapons can also trigger them, which I came to really appreciate. I like to consider myself a purist when it comes to stealth-like gameplay, so my default secondary weapon was always the silent Welrod. The issue with the Welrod though, was always it’s range. I was never sure if I got the kill when using it, so having the Welrod trigger a kill cam became a saving grace. Plus, they look awesome, so it’s a win-win in my book.
The sheer amount of customization that Sniper Elite 5 has to offer is actually pretty ridiculous. Not only is there a staggering amount of weapon customization offering everything from stocks, ammo types, muzzles, etc. for all of your weapons, but the customization extends to your accessibility and difficulty settings as well.
Starting with the difficulty settings, there are your typical 5 settings, ranging from civilian (very easy) to authentic (very hard). You could be forgiven for thinking that was all there is to it, but you’d be mistaken. Each setting within the difficulty settings is changeable to give you what is called “custom” difficulty, but even then, that’s not all.
When you go down to advanced difficulty mode, waiting for you, there are a myriad of things you can change. Everything from how much info is displayed in the HUD, to health regeneration and AI behaviour can be set exactly how you want. This makes the Sniper Elite 5 experience unique for every single player out there.
Moving from difficulty to accessibility, the customization levels are fairly big here too. Everything from colour-blind settings, subtitle size and colour, and left-handed variations on the controls, makes Sniper Elite 5 a game that is accessible for most people.
Despite some clunky movement that takes me out of the experience, I can still recommend Sniper Elite 5 to anyone who is a fan of stealthy games. Customization, challenging gameplay and great kill cam shots make Sniper Elite 5 undoubtedly the strongest entry in the series thus far.