Sniper Elite 5 is the newest installment of Rebellion’s action-shooter series set in World War II. Due to release tomorrow, it once again sees Karl Fairburne take on the juggernaut that is Nazi Germany. And, like the previous title, it relies on familiar concepts and core components that have been the series’ staples.
However, that familiarity might soon wear thin. While there’s an assortment of multiplayer modes that could keep you going, the single-player campaign is a redux of what you’ve come to expect. Hopefully, a few factors might help when it comes to replayability.
Vive La France
From the deserts of North Africa to the hills of Italy, Karl Fairburne’s exploits have taken him far and wide. In Sniper Elite 5, he arrives in France on the eve of D-Day, the grandest amphibious operation undertaken in human history. While the French Resistance and covert operations aims to weaken Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, Fairburne learns of Abelard Möller and the Nazis’ proposed Operation Kraken. Yes, it’s another “wunder weapon” and concocted plan to stymy the Allied advance.
Fairburne is joined by various pals, some of whom are playable only as skins. Missions have short cutscenes and collectibles that provide additional intel for backstory purposes. But, the story remains one of the weakest points of the series, as it still relies on old tropes that veteran players have come to know.
Sniper Elite 4 took the series to new heights with its massive levels, and Sniper Elite 5 follows that trend. The single-player campaign is comprised of eight missions, an epilogue, and the Target Führer mission if you pre-ordered the game. These missions take place on huge maps, from the rolling hills in the countryside to industrial facilities.
While there are main objectives that you need to undertake to complete each mission, multiple side objectives can also appear as you explore or gather intel. For instance, one level might task you with finding documents related to Operation Kraken, culminating in the destruction of a factory. But, there are also optional tasks where you can sabotage a steel plant or blow up a tank. Due to its expansive nature, you can expect most missions in Sniper Elite 5 to take over an hour to complete.
One thing that’s noticeable here, just like with its predecessor, is that Fairburne is still unable to get past hedges or mantle over uneven surfaces. Although levels have sections that are wide open for you to traverse, there are design limitations that restrict your movement.
The Kill List
One optional task in each level is called a Kill List. Think of these as specific assassination targets that you need to find on the map. There might also be a special requirement that yields a weapon if you’re able to eliminate an opponent in a certain manner. For example, an officer in a chateau’s ballroom needs to be taken out by a falling chandelier. Meanwhile, a turncoat in a facility has to get blown up by a “rat bomb.” There’s even an assassination where you can cause an accident, leading to a character’s fall down a cement pit.
Kill List objectives reward you with weapon unlocks and, in a way, you might be reminded of assassination targets in Hitman 3. Perhaps the downside here is that there aren’t enough of these, and the requirements themselves are very obvious and easy to do. Rather than rely on player agency and creativity, the game almost holds your hand throughout.
Weapons of war and the X-ray Kill Cam
Apart from successful mission completions and Kill List tasks, weapons and tools are also rewarded by way of workbenches. These objects correspond to three types (i.e., pistols, SMGs, and rifles), and they’re scattered throughout each level. By discovering and interacting with these, you can unlock new modifications or attachments (i.e., muzzles, scopes, grips, and so on).
These rewards make missions replayable, as you might not come across certain workbenches unless you truly explore every nook and cranny. It’s even possible to spot new infiltration locations so you can start your future runs from another location. At the very least, your exploits do net you a lot of XP, making leveling a breeze so you can obtain skills/perks easily.
Speaking of weapons, almost everything in the game can trigger an X-ray Kill Cam. As usual, long-range, slow-motion sniper rifle headshots (and testicle shots) are shockingly brutal. Likewise, pistols and SMGs can also have a Kill Cam moment depending on the settings. Some melee takedowns could also have this effect. And, of course, grenades and explosive traps lead to these instances as well.
Knowing that the X-ray Kill Cam is a series staple, does it ever get old in Sniper Elite 5? In some ways, yes. Occasionally, I felt compelled to lower the settings or skip the animation completely. Still, there were a few situations when it just felt so right and so rewarding, even though I’ve seen that type of shot countless times.
Noise, noise, baby
One of my biggest pet peeves in action games with stealth mechanics is how noise (or the lack thereof) is used in gameplay. In Sniper Elite 5, it’s possible for enemies to hear the sound of muffled gunshots even through concrete walls (depending on the radius of your suppressor’s noise reduction). Conversely, you can mask noise by sabotaging vehicles/generators, waiting for planes to fly overhead, or chilling until a gargantuan artillery cannon fires its shells. Regardless of how loud your weapon is or how big an explosion is, the noise is always masked.
It can lead to situations where you’re just waiting for a distraction until you take a shot, abusing the AI’s own limitations. And, yes, the AI can still be woefully inept. Soldiers will scurry around if they hear a shot or if they spot a dead body. They’d begin looking for you as you pick them off one by one while camping in a corner. On the bright side, these moments can be downright fun and hilarious too.
Invasions and other modes
My Sniper Elite 5 review experience is predominantly based on the single-player campaign. True, it did retread familiar ground, reusing the tried-and-tested formula that made the series a hit. Consequentially, that “more of the same” mantra has unabashedly moved away from a sniping game to short and medium-range engagements.
As such, I did slightly miss what a competitor, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts and its sequel, had offered. Those had shorter, bite-sized “contracts” that felt unique, as well as “Long Shot” set pieces, allowing you to extract from a level so you can return later on if you wish to farm for credits. Moreover, I noticed the occasional crash and a few bugs (i.e., temporary weapons disappearing through textures and taking damage if you’re standing on a ragdolled NPC).
Thankfully, Sniper Elite 5 has a slew of other modes that might keep you interested. Co-op mode is back for you and your buddy, and there are also competitive modes such as a traditional deathmatch, squads, and “No Cross.” The last one is a 2v2 engagement from long range as the pairs are separated by a barrier. Survival mode, meanwhile, has you defending objectives from waves of hostiles.
Lastly, there’s Axis Invasion, akin to drop-in PvP or Sniper Elite 5‘s take on Soulsbourne fights. If enabled, it’s possible for another player to spawn during one of your mission runs to take on the role of an Axis sharpshooter. Eventually, you’ll play a game of cat and mouse as you hunt for each other’s known locations. Sadly, I wasn’t able to try this during the course of this review.