Sniper Elite 5 brings the franchise to the western theater of World War II, the Allies are beginning their assault on mainland Europe. This is after Germany has made strides into France and begun fortifying the coast.
Players take on the role of Karl Fairburne, a US Marksman who’s been ordered to make contact with the French resistance and soften the Reich’s defenses in anticipation of a frontal assault by the Allies. It’s a sobering and grounded war story, even using real WW2 footage in the game’s opening cinematic. But does Sniper Elite 5 bring the gravitas that World War II deserves?
Sniper Elite 5
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: May 26, 2022
The first thing the game does is prepare you with a simple mission and a bit of tutorial, as well as setting the difficulty. Thankfully I’m a game journalist and so I shamelessly chose Easy. Just kidding, I decided to go for the hardest mode Authentic just to see what it’s about.
I’m glad I checked it out, I can’t earnestly advocate for Authentic mode. It’s there if you want an immersive experience, but it stops becoming a game and becomes a half-baked war simulator where you’re basically Rambo, but can’t see anything. It’s a test of patience not to have the HUD there to tell you well… anything.
Rather than being the sniper, you’ll be the one getting sniped. By a gatling gun. That’s my Authentic experience. I was only a third of the way through the first mission after fifty minutes but I went through the whole mission in Authentic just to say I did before scaling it back to hard mode.
Hard mode maintains the difficulty of Authentic, but it feels more like a proper stealth game with its quality of life mechanics. In Authentic, there’s no audio cue when spotted, there’s no radar at all, marking targets is virtually worthless.
With my gripes about Authentic mode out of the way, I feel confident in saying I enjoyed my time with Sniper Elite 5 once I stepped down to Hard mode. With the feedback of the HUD, it felt more like a proper stealth game.
The HUD makes things 10x easier, you can mark objects, vehicles, and targets with your binoculars which allows you to see an indicator of their position. Not only that, but you’ll see a hollow exclamation point when aiming your weapon to know if they’ll be able to hear your gunshot. Authentic mode is just frustrating trial and error, Hard mode is a fair challenge.
In Sniper Elite 5 you have three weapons: your rifle, an SMG, and a sidearm. That covers all your bases whether that’s actual sniping with the rifle, spraying down an enemy who’s on your trail with the SMG, or going for precise takedowns in close quarters with your pistol.
Not only do you have your guns, but of course there’s tools like grenades, proximity mines, and even empty bottles can become useful as a distraction. Which also reinforces how important the HUD is because it tells you when enemies are looking for you, where you were last spotted or heard from, and also if you’re even in combat. I swear this is the last time I’ll say it: do not under any circumstances play on Authentic difficulty.
Sniper Elite 5 also introduces a new form of multiplayer PvP (FromSoftware fans will love this) in the form of “Invasions”. Exactly like it sounds, players will be able to invade the games of other players as an Axis sniper.
The invader will basically be a super soldier among the NPCs. The invader will be notified when an NPC finds the host player and they can also give NPC enemies a temporary buff to their detection.
To compensate, the host player can use phones hidden around the mission area which will allow them to see where the Axis sniper is. These phones can be booby trapped by the invader though, so be careful!
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to test this feature, since we received an early review copy, there wasn’t anyone to invade. But from what Rebellion has shown of the invasion PvP feature, it’s an ambitious and praiseworthy integration.
The game also features multiple PvP modes in the form of co-op campaign, Survival mode against waves of enemies, and classic multiplayer modes like Team Death Match. Among these, we got a look at Survival since it can be played Solo.
Survival doesn’t feel like it was designed to be played alone. There’s no real way to protect yourself from multiple angles except for the scant few mines that you’re given. I imagine it’d be more fun with friends.
But the real meat of the game is the campaign, and there’s a surprising amount of it. Players might be shocked to discover that there’s only 9 missions, but when the first one loads up they’ll understand why.
Missions take place on an expansive map with multiple points of interest and multiple missions. While you could just do the required mission and run in guns blazing, you’ll miss out on the collectibles and unlocks you’d discover if you took your time to do everything.
Not to mention that will it is seemingly easy to run in and just spray down everyone with your SMG, at its core this is a stealth game. If you’re too flashy, enemies will sound the alarm and draw in reinforcements, turning what a quick blitz for the objective into a meatgrinder of wary Axis soldiers.
Now moving from the meat of the game to the frills, the music is good but it’s a bad idea to even have it. Or at least have it at anything higher than 25%. In a game about stealth you want to be… you know… stealthy.
Not that the NPCs can hear the game’s music, but you can, and you can be sure that NPC enemies will sneak up on you (to say nothing about Invaders). So turn that music down ASAP or else you’ll want to toss your keyboard after some jackbooted, SMG-wielding, guy just unloads on you from point-blank because you couldn’t hear him coming.
The graphics are passable too, this isn’t a game that needs perfect graphics and even at Ultra some stuff looks a little off (mainly enemy models). The X-Ray killcam is really cool though and players who want to try and get fun screenshots of their best kills will enjoy this feature.
Personally I turned the X-Ray off because the stupid faces the bad guys make when you kill them are worth watching. Their dead and unexpressive eyes are comical while they collapse into a ragdoll heap of gore.
I’m going to be 100% honest with you. I have never played a Sniper Elite game. Whether that diminishes my opinion in your eyes, or validates it because I’m looking at it with fresh eyes, that’s up to you. Personally I’d like to think it’s the latter.
So if you like immersive sniper combat and the satisfaction of landing those sneaky headshots, then Sniper Elite 5 is a game for you. The game is nothing but wall to wall tactical and precise sniping, bombing, and assassination. There’s some running and gunning, but if you play the way the game is designed, you won’t be doing much of that.
Our Sniper Elite 5 review was done on the PC using a copy provided by Rebellion. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Sniper Elite 5 is now available for the PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.