Sniper Elite is a seventeen-year-old series about the sniper Karl Fairburne, who takes on the Nazis during World War II. The first part was about battles in Berlin, the third part took Charles to Africa and the fourth part took place in Italy. Sniper Elite 5 uses an even more recognizable setting for many. This time, Karl ends up in Normandy, where he must ensure that the invasion can be a success on the eve of D-Day. Once in France, Karl reveals a mysterious plan that, if one is to believe the Nazis, could decide the war in their favor. To the one-man army called Karl Fairburne, saw the sheer job of thwarting that operation.
With the setting, of course, Rebellion plays on the safe, for the player can return to work in World War II. At least it ensures recognizability, but eventually brand new frameworks would also be nice. Recognition is not only in the framework and the main character, but also in a number of gameplay elements. For example, the special ‘kill cam’, with which the game very explicitly shows what damage the bullet you fired at the body of an enemy soldier, once again steals the show. We’ve known that camera since the second part of the Sniper Elite series, and although the pictures remain spectacular, we got tired of it after a while. The new is worn out and there is a pretty high degree of repetition in it. No problem, more a sign that what was once a cool new feature has lost some of its luster.
That aspect is not helped by the overall graphics level of Sniper Elite 5. The game looks pretty good at times. The third mission takes Karl to Mont Saint-Michel, which also looks beautiful in the game. However, the fictional locations look a lot less inspired, and the other elements, such as the soldiers and the cars, do not make much of an impression either. Admittedly, this did not bother us much while we were playing. The lighting effects do their job well enough to give the missions that take place at night an atmospheric look. The missions are mixed with intermediate sequences that add new parts to the story. They are quite fine, but no more than that. The level of acting is nowhere near today’s leading play, and many roles are far too recognizable. Of course, the general story does not help. A spy who unnoticed and sabotaged a secret Nazi plot in enemy territory in enemy territory is not the most original plot ever.
More originality can be found in the gameplay, at least when you compare that gameplay with the previous games in the series. In Sniper Elite 5, there is a striking shift. Karl has to get up every now and then sniper rifle confidence, but much more often that coarser artillery is a handicap. The game forces players to make frequent use of stealth tactics. Sneaking around, hiding yourself and quietly removing enemies and putting their bodies out of sight is much more important than before. We made many more killings in our missions with our hands or with a gun with one muffler, then with a sniper rifle. The fact, enhanced by the ability to use elements of the environment and even place very creative booby traps, makes the Sniper Elite 5 feel a bit like a Hitman game.
It’s in how you work and in what the game thinks about it. Suppose you think Karl is just a sniper, and therefore choose a tactical place to sit down and open fire. Best chance you can win the ensuing firefight. However, the game makes it clear in everything that this is not actually the intention. Yellow and red colors warn you that enemies are on the trail of you or even fighting against you. It works intuitively as a guiding element; you do not want yellow, let alone red. In addition, the game assesses you at the end of a mission and shows items such as how often you have been seen by enemies and how often the alarm has gone off. So you’re clearly being steered in the direction of stealth, which actually makes Sniper Elite 5 more of a tactical spy game than a pure sniper game.
This is also clearly felt in the gameplay features that players have at their disposal in Sniper Elite 5. If you play in standard mode, Karl can tag enemies so that their position is always visible. He also has a focus mode that allows him to spot enemies through walls that have not yet been discovered. Shooting with a sniper rifle is also easy; an icon shows where you should aim to compensate for the distance, wind and movement of your target.
The game has even more tools on board that make things a little easier for the player. Some of them are Metal Gear-like tricks that are useful, but they do not fit the theme very well. Fortunately, all of these tools can also be turned off, with Authentic being the most difficult option. All of the above aids are lost and you are dependent on your own feeling and intuition. Find out where the enemies are, then continue to observe their patrols for yourself and remember where you saw the enemies. Taking wind, distance and movement into account is therefore a manual task. This logically makes Sniper Elite 5 a much harder game, but certainly when it comes to shooting with a sniper rifle, it’s much more satisfying. Still, we can imagine that most players will choose some training wheels here and there because this approach requires a lot of your skills and your patience. It’s nice that you can adjust the difficulty level per game part, so you have help to, for example, spot enemies, but less with shooting.
If you want to give yourself a little extra help, you can do so by changing your armor and unlocking perks. You do the latter by using experience points in a somewhat limited skill tree† For example, you can give yourself a little extra health or make you automatically unload enemies that Karl takes out with his hands. In that respect, the weapons offer more entertainment. Gradually unlock multiple weapons and attachments that allow you to customize those weapons. Any weapon can be heard in the Sniper Elite 5, but by putting a muffler on a machine gun, you limit the audibility to a few dozen meters. If you want to take some enemies out at a distance before going inside a place, a somewhat limited audibility of your gun is also nice. Shooting enemies one by one is of little use if you immediately sound the alarm and are stormed by dozens of soldiers.
You can limit this effect to some levels by timing images with background noise. For example, in the above example of the level where you have to infiltrate Mont Saint-Michel, planes fly over. You hear the sound swell, and when the sound is at its loudest, you can completely mask a loud shot from a sniper rifle. You can also use this trick on a smaller scale, for example by letting generators roar so that soldiers in that area no longer hear a modest gunshot.
Invade other players’ games
The opponents in the game offer a number of challenges, but not the biggest challenge you may encounter in Sniper Elite 5. This time it is possible to invade other people’s games, as a sniper on the German side. The player who acts as Karl Fairburne is notified that an enemy sniper is nearby, along with an indication of where this sniper is located. There is a telephone system in the game that can give players additional information about where the enemy is. This creates a cat-and-mouse game between Karl and a hostile sniper, which is without a doubt the most exciting moments in Sniper Elite 5. We enjoyed it more as a hunter than as Karl. In your own campaign, such an invasion always feels like an interruption in your progress, while of course you choose it yourself when you start Invasion Mode and go hunting as a Nazi sniper. By the way, you can just turn off the option of having invaders in your game if you do not feel like it, but then you will miss out on some thrills.
In Sniper Elite 5, players can not only play against, but also with each other. It changes the game a lot, to be able to take two goals out at the same time makes several difficult parts much easier. Then an Axis Invasion is definitely extra fun because you can attack the other player or players together. The dynamics change a little when it becomes two-on-one. As soon as you manage to kill one of the two players as a loner, the other player from the team of two has only three minutes left to take you, otherwise you win by definition the duel. It presents a good tactical problem. After all, it pays to try to attack one of the two players quickly, because afterwards you just have to hide and let the other take all the risks.
Sniper Elite 5 certainly has some good parts, but we are not convinced that the game does what it is supposed to. A slightly different course has obviously been chosen. It’s as if Karl Fairburne is not playing the lead role, but Sam Fisher or Agent 47 has entered a time machine for 1944 Normandy. Is it meant as a critique? Well, a little bit. Sniper Elite 5 promises, based on the title and on the basis of its predecessors, mainly to be a sniper game, but it is only limited. Fans of tactical espionage games will love it, and yes, it’s just as satisfying to complete a mission completely stealth or use one of the more creative ways to kill enemies; exactly as it feels in the Hitman games. Sniper Elite 5 is a very nice game for the target group, who are less familiar with the games, and who also do not want a sky-high level of difficulty. Purists will lack focus on shooting skills in real life, but can at least choose a more authentic level of difficulty.
Sniper Elite 5 turns out to be a pretty good game, but not quite the recommended one that many had hoped for. Trying out is still a good idea for many gamers, as Sniper Elite 5 is available for free on Game Pass for PC and Xbox. PlayStation players will have to purchase the game separately.