Sniper Elite 5 is the latest installment in the tactical shooter Sniper Elite series developed by Rebellion and releases May 26, 2022 on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. It’s been five years since Sniper Elite 4 which I only played a little bit of, so my main memories of the series are dating back to 2014’s Sniper Elite 3. As you can imagine, the visuals of this game are incredibly detailed, though some side characters seemed to have less detail than the main character Karl Fairburne, which is fair enough given he’s the poster boy and main playable character. I played this game on both Xbox Series X as well as PC and performance has been outstanding.
The game’s campaign is set in France in 1944 and centres around the events of D-Day. Elite marksman Karl Fairburne uncovers a Nazi plot called Operation Kraken that could turn the tide of the war back in their favour. Working in the shadows behind enemy lines, Karl must use all the skills at his disposal to destroy Operation Kraken and the mastermind behind its Abelard Möller. The campaign is also playable in two-player online co-op which I am excited to try once the game releases. Multiplayer is not restricted to the campaign either with four core game modes each with a host of customisation options allowing players to create their own matches.
Like I do in most stealth and tactical games, I start each story mission perfectly, by watching the cutscene. It’s when I get into the gameplay and see my first enemy that tactics often go out the window. I do try my best to scout the battlefield, identify targets, and move into position for a gruesome slow-motion bone-shattering head or nut shot. To this end, Sniper Elite is famous for its gruesome kill shots dating back to 2012’s Sniper Elite V2, and the gory details have been further enhanced in this game. The slow mo kill shots can trigger quite often, sometimes shot after shot which tended to break immersion a little. Thankfully the frequency of the kill cam can be adjusted less or more in the game’s options which is a great feature.
I love these games for their versatility in how you can approach each objective. I just plain suck at the stealthy and quiet kills approach, and always end up in a run-and-gun shoot out. In most instances, I would end up dying, or burning through my limited supplies of medkits and bandages. On the occasion though, the Axis soldiers that needed slaying were isolated and out of ear shot of the next engagement, so I could just take some out with my silenced pistol and switch to either my SMG or sniper rifle to take out the rest. The sound indicator at the top of the screen, as well as the exclamation mark when you scope scout them, will tell you if your shots will be heard or not, allowing you to adjust position or use a silenced weapon.
Looting some of the officers, and even general soldiers often netted you a key to a safe or something similar which would add an icon to your map. Listening in on enemy conversations as you sneak around, and collecting intelligence from safes or lying on officer desks will reveal more details about these missions and the overall plan for Operation Kraken. In some missions, there were multiple side quests options as well as the primary one, and I felt a little bit like playing Tomb Raider or Witcher 3 deciding which side quest to do next. This isn’t a bad thing and puts control totally in the player’s hands. There were times I couldn’t find a gap in a fence, and despite picking up some bolt cutters early on, I had to risk being caught in the open trying to find an entrance into a complex or field. It’s probably just my lack of proper scouting the battlefield and map, no doubt.
One cool aspect that has been added to Sniper Elite 5 is Axis Invasions. You can enable these to be on while you’re playing the campaign, and it means another real player can join your campaign as an Axis Sniper and hunt you down. Being Australian and given the time zones I played in the review period; I didn’t have anyone join my game, but you do get alerted when someone has joined yours. The invading player can make use of AI Axis soldiers to help them find Karl’s location, creating a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Meanwhile, Karl can utilise wall-mounted phones placed within the level and indicated on the map to gather intel on the invader and their last known location. I’m excited to give Axis Invasions a go when the game releases and more people will be available to play with in my time zone.
The environments in Sniper Elite 5’s missions are incredibly well detailed, having been recreated using photogrammetry techniques, and I didn’t notice any framerate issues on both the Xbox Series X and on PC. Weapon customisation has also been greatly enhanced when you come across workbenches hidden within the levels. You can change a weapon’s stock, magazines, receiver, barrel, scopes, and iron sights as well as its materials, and compare the changes before committing which is fantastic. This allows you to modify your favourite weapons to suit your playstyle.
Overall, Sniper Elite 5 is the best in the series as it continues to build on the mainstay elements and enhances them perfectly. The kill shots are as gruesome as ever and the environments to explore are impeccably detailed and gorgeous despite the harrowing circumstances. Weapon customisation gives the player control over their playstyle, and the addition of Axis Invasions should add an interesting intensity, keeping you on your toes whilst playing out the campaign.