“Sniper Elite 5” Review

 

At a time when tired anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are being updated and mainstreamed — I’m looking at you, “Jewish space laser” lady — it’s nice to be able to vent my frustrations by shooting virtual Nazis in video games. And few games make this as satisfying as Sniper Elite 5 (Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), a third-person, open world, stealth action World War II shooter that’s as deep and compelling as the best WWII gun games.

Set in May of 1944,

Sniper Elite 5 once again casts you as Karl Fairburne, an elite sniper from the U.S. who, over the years, has run missions in Italy, Germany, and Northern Africa on behalf of Britain’s secret service (“Fairburne, Karl Fairburne”) and America’s O.S.S. He even faced an army of the undead in the spin-off, Zombie Army Trilogy, and, in what might’ve been a happy dream, splattered Hitler’s brains all over a small boat.

For Sniper Elite 5, though, Karl is headed to France to identify, locate, and ultimately eliminate “Project Kraken,” a top-secret Nazi project not to be confused with the U.S.S. Kraken, a real U.S. Navy submarine launched, oddly, on April 30th, 1944.

But enough with the history lesson; let’s get to killin’ them Nazis, which is best done in the game’s story-driven campaign. For the most part, Sniper Elite 5‘s gameplay is the same as it was for 2017’s Sniper Elite 4. The action is set in large, open areas — think Wolfenstein: Youngblood or Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands — with each presenting Karl with multiple objectives both assigned and optional, the latter of which often have to be discovered.

In the opening mission, for instance, he has to destroy a radar dish. But, as he discovers, it would also help the Allies if he took out some bunkers before fighting his way to the extraction point. Oh, and do you mind killing some Nazi officers as well? Great, thanks.

Good thing Sniper Elite 5

gives you plenty of ways to lower the jerk population. Along with your sniper rifle, you also have access to pistols, machine guns, and explosives. You can even get creative and, say, sabotage a generator, causing it to explode when someone comes to fix it, or use a grenade to booby trap the body of an enemy soldier you just shot.

Though be warned: your enemies are reasonably intelligent, a little jumpy, and react accordingly if they find a dead body.

This is not the only way Sniper Elite 5 compensates for Karl’s considerable skills. The game not only has multiple difficulty options — adjusting the game overall, specific aspects, even how fast you’ll bleed out — but it also, much like such racing simulations as Forza Horizon 5, has options to make the sniper shooting aspects as realistic or as forgiving as you’d like.

It’s a level of detail that permeates the entire game, making it as much a role-playing game as it is a third-person shooter or stealth action game. Granted, you can’t customize Karl, but you can upgrade his skills and attributes by spending points earned through experience. You also loot bodies and boxes for ammo and other helpful things. And there’s the whole “open world with random combat encounters” aspect. It’s as much Outriders as it is Gears 5 or Splinter Cell.

Or, to put it another way, it’s The Last Of Us: Part II if you swapped the zombies for Nazis and the trigger-happy survivors for, uh, trigger happy soldiers.

Sniper Elite 5

What makes Sniper Elite 5‘s campaign truly engaging, though…

is how Karl is a rather sneaky bastard. Using his ability to hide, to move swiftly and (relatively) quietly when crouched, and to quickly take someone out with a jab of his knife or a twist of their head, you’re able to thin out the herd while playing a compelling (albeit somewhat stressful) game of cat & mouse. And that’s doubly true when, while sneaking around, you spot someone in the distance just begging to have a bullet from your sniper rifle surgically implanted into their brain.

That said, there are some mechanics in Sniper Elite 5 that not everyone will enjoy as much as I do. And no, I don’t just mean people who hate sniping. Or sneaking. (Those two are deal breakers.) I’m talking more about how you don’t grab ammo off dead bodies automatically; you have to take a couple seconds to search them (and the longer you do so, the more you find). Similarly, some will grow frustrated that Karl takes a couple seconds to reload his gun, or to use a bandage when he gets hurt — seconds that could mean the difference between life and death. Well, life and having to reload from a checkpoint, that is.

It’s also odd that, for a guy as prepared and careful as Karl usually is, he never remembers to bring bolt cutters and a crowbar when he starts a new mission despite always needing them.

Still, if you have the patience for a game in which you have to perfectly line up your shots after taking a moment to reload or stop yourself from bleeding out, and then have to slink off before someone gets where you were just standing, you’ll find the story mode of Sniper Elite 5 to be as exciting and satisfying as the campaigns in Call Of Duty: Vanguard and WWII, the ones in the Wolfenstein games, and, not surprisingly, Sniper Elite 4.

While playing the lengthy and varied story-driven campaign in Sniper Elite 5 provides plenty of virtual relief from the real irritation you have over hearing thinly-veiled anti-Semitism coming from our elected officials, political commentators, and idiots online (though, obviously, never enough), the game also offers a lot for people who prefer to play with or against other people.

Sniper Elite 5

For starters,

Sniper Elite 5‘s campaign is fully-playable co-op with a friend, as well as competitively with an option called “Axis Invasion,” in which someone jumps into your game as an enemy sniper; something you can do to someone else if you feel like ruining their day. It’s an idea with a lot of potential, since it can add even more tension and unpredictability, but only if your opponent is especially skilled or are themselves unpredictable.

As for a more traditional competitive experience, Sniper Elite 5 has four multiplayer modes: “Free-For-All,” which is your basic “Deathmatch”; “Team Match,” which is “Team Deathmatch”; “Squad Match,” in which four teams of up to four people play “Team Deathmatch” (think Call Of Duty: Vanguard‘s “Champion Hill”); and “No Cross,” which is like “Team Deathmatch” except the two teams are kept apart by a barrier, and thus have to use stealth and their sniper skills to win.

Not surprisingly, “No Cross” is the best of these, in part because it’s the most unique (well, unless you played it a bunch in Sniper Elite 4), and in part because people playing “Free-For-All” and “Team Match” use assault rifles more than sniper rifles, which makes these modes feel like they do in every other WWII shooter.

Then there’s “Survival,” which is Sniper Elite 5‘s version of “Horde” from Gears 5. Except unlike “Horde,” the battlefields in this mode are clearly designed with sniping in mind…and with ways for the numerous German soldiers to get so close that you’re forced to switch to your assault rifle.

Sniper Elite 5

Still,

the highlight of Sniper Elite 5 is its compelling and effortlessly fun campaign. While it’s not dramatically different from Sniper Elite 4 (which was a big improvement over Sniper Elite 3), its new missions are enough to make this feel fresh and new…unlike some stupid anti-Semitic comments I could mention.

SCORE: 9.0/10

 

 

2 thoughts on ““Sniper Elite 5” Review

  • June 5, 2022 at 10:56 am
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    I’ve just recently purchased Sniper Elite 5 and I’ve never played these type of games before, but watching gameplay I just had to go and give it a go, and now I cannot put the game down. I love it when you aim your sniper shot and time slows down executing the x ray kill which is really satisfying, watching the bullet pass through the skull shattering the jaw and watching blood and teeth fly. And I’ve just purchased the rest of the sniper elite games to, which I cannot wait to try those has well. But the developers have done an incredible job in making this game.

    Reply
    • June 5, 2022 at 2:33 pm
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      They also made the spin-offs “Zombie Army Trilogy” and “Zombie Army 4: Dead War,” which are different but still fun in much the same way. You can read my review of the latter here.

      Reply

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