The much-loved, Nazi testicle-destroying franchise is back, as Sniper Elite 5 delivers another sharpshooting adventure for players to indulge in; but is the face-shooting formula beginning to wear thin, or is this under-the-radar series finally making itself known?
The enjoyable nature of the Sniper Elite games has always been down to its simple premise. Much like a WWII Hitman, you’re dropped into a sandbox environment and tasked with taking out a VIP, planting some bombs, stealing documents, or a variety of other primary and secondary tasks. You’re free to go about doing these in any order and how you see fit, and that freedom of choice is where the game shines.
You once again take control of series hero Karl Fairburne as you set out to stop Project Kraken — some sneaky plan those pesky Nazis have cooked up. Each location you visit, which are all spectacular and range from a Nazi-occupied castle to a quaint farmhouse, delivers its own challenges and edges you closer and closer to finding out what Kraken is, and how to stop it. They’re all excellently designed, have numerous paths and ways to take out your targets, and make exploring and getting lost a joy rather than a chore. Instead of going through the front door, you could wander around the surrounding beach and find an under-construction wine cellar entrance that gives you access to the target’s office or bedroom. These moments make exploration feel satisfying and worthwhile.
And as for the overarching mission, instead of the ‘destroy this because it’s bad’, you get a bit of a mystery around what Project Kraken is that evolves as the game progresses. This, along with the developers adding more of a story-element to the campaign, gives some background to the behind-closed-doors moments of what the baddies are up to, talking about ole Fairburne like he’s a real thorn in the side of the Nazis, which does make you feel that much more of badass.
Of course, the shooting is what Sniper Elite is all about, and that is as polished and enjoyable as ever. The sniping mechanics of finding the enemy’s distance, adjusting for wind and bullet-drop, and getting your timing right while holding your breath is always satisfying. The series’ famed X-ray death cams have been enhanced too, giving you more detail and some improved ragdoll physics when enemies are popped-off, but the most improved area of gameplay must be when using other weapons, which always felt like an afterthought in past releases.
This time around, machine guns, silenced pistols, and even pulling off violent melee moves (with the accompanying gory x-ray vision) feels slick and in line with the other elements of the game. The real benefit of this is that it makes going in loud or taking other options to sitting back and sniping feel like viable (and enjoyable) alternatives.
Enemies are also a bit sneakier, and seem to be able to spot you from much further away, while also coordinating to rush you when spotted. Those virtual Nazis have definitely had a boost in their AI, so you’ll need to be sharp when picking them off one by one.
No shot-in-the-dark World War II mission is perfect, though, and Sniper Elite 5 does have some awkward invisible walls and the odd choppy animation, but nothing that breaks the experience. Thankfully, everything that was great about the series has been beefed-up, with replayability at an all-time high thanks to the bigger and denser levels. Fans will love it, and it’s a great (albeit challenging) jumping-on point for newcomers.
Sniper Elite 5 is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, and PC; and it’s also included on Xbox GamePass, so it’s a no-brainer to play it if you’re a member.