Sniper Elite 5 sees Rebellion take the Nazi-slaying escapades of Karl Fairburne to France, and to new-gen consoles. With this being the fifth mainline instalment in the series, coming a whole five years after Sniper Elite 4, and having the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S to work with, I was hoping for a massively upgraded and revamped new entry that would take Sniper Elite to new heights.
Having not touched a Sniper Elite game since SE4 launched in 2017, I expected to notice some meaningful advancements. Rebellion has attempted some new innovations, including an invasion feature to add a Deathloop-y PvP element to your campaign, some new traversal features for navigating the sprawling levels, customisable loadouts with a proper attachment system, and an updated UI.
However, not all of these new improvements and features strike the right note, and while there are a few noticeable additions, the entire game ultimately feels like ‘just another Sniper Elite’. Depending on who you ask, that might be an excellent thing to hear, but I couldn’t help but feel a tad underwhelmed.
Playing on the Xbox Series S, in preparation for the game’s day-one addition to Xbox Game Pass, I found myself occasionally slogging through a campaign that, narratively-speaking, is astonishingly bland. Even the extremely mediocre plot twist I thought might happen, didn’t. While I won’t ruin anything by talking specifics, the ending was also excruciatingly anticlimactic and simple. I know you don’t necessarily play a Sniper Elite game for its plot, but there really was nothing to celebrate in that regard.
Rebellion has, to its credit, worked hard to create bigger and more immersive levels for Sniper Elite 5, and they are filled with various routes to objectives, lots of hidden details, and is packed with collectibles and intel. The third mission, set on a fortress island clearly inspired by Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France, is a particular standout, and navigating through this level was probably where I found the most enjoyment during my entire playthrough.
There are also a handful of side objectives and assasintation targets on each map, as well as the aforementioned collectibles, to keep you sneaking around well beyond the main story objective. Overall, there’s a decent amount of content – probably enough to warrant 20-30 hours of play time.
However, pretty much all of the major new improvements and additions did little to elevate the Sniper Elite experience.
The most disappointing is the new invader mode, where another player enters your campaign mission as an enemy Axis sniper, looking to take you out and disrupt your progress through the level.
On paper this sounds excellent, and is just the shakeup Sniper Elite needs. However, the execution is not great. From my experience, having both been the hunter and the hunted, the Axis sniper has a considerable advantage, being able to tag AI soldiers to become scouts that mark the Allied sniper’s location.
The only ace up the Allied sniper’s sleeve is that they can find phones around the map, and interacting with them reveals the Axis snipers location. However, all you get is a marker showing the Axis sniper’s last known location rather than any kind of regularly-updating tracker, and after a few minutes, the Axis sniper can use these phones too. Plus, the dispersion of these phones is incredibly inconsistent (at least they were on the maps I have played so far where an invasion occurred), phones can be booby trapped or camped, and your own location is also marked when too many phones are used.
On top of this, there is no mention of who has killed you. While you can challenge this invader to a rematch, there’s no way to know exactly who that person is. There’s no mention of a gamer tag, or even what level the enemy sniper was. While this may have been done to stem any toxicity, you can easily turn off having your game open to invaders in the menus if that is a concern.
Another updated feature is traversal, which lets Karl climb up vines and shimmy along ledges. While I hoped this would lend itself to some new verticality, this actually seems kind of underused. A more widespread climbing mechanic akin to Assassin’s Creed games, where the majority of surfaces can be scaled, would’ve been the evolution that was needed. There was also one instance in my playthrough where Karl became stuck dangling on a ledge, unable to drop down and unable to haul himself back up, forcing me to go back to the last save point.
That wasn’t the only hiccup either. Twice I was forced to fully restart missions due to objectives bugging out. The tutorial area, for some reason, loaded in without any enemies, which wasn’t the most egregious thing ever. However, after getting through the entire first level, the final objective asking you to exfiltrate simply didn’t appear for me, and reloading to past save points didn’t rectify this issue either.
There are a couple of technical issues with regards to Sniper Elite 5’s performance, too. Admittedly I was playing on the less powerful Series S, but aiming down very high magnification scopes would cause some frame drops and stuttering.
Also, the graphical quality of this game on the Series S isn’t great. Graphics are always a touchy subject, and it can usually be forgiven if gameplay is tight and enjoyable like Sniper Elite 5’s, but I found it hard to look past during my playthrough. While you maybe don’t notice it as much when roaming around in third-person, cutscenes and the gory kill cams were occasionally laughable because of how jarring they looked. Having also had a look at the game on the Series S’ big brother, I can confirm Sniper Elite 5 does look better on the Series X, but it’s still not up to the standards you expect of a game in its fifth mainline iteration.
While Sniper Elite 5 has done well to curry favour with me with lots of cool little additions, like kill cams for sidearm and melee kills as well as your usual sniper kills, the ones that could have really spiced up the Sniper Elite recipe have hit like a korma, rather than a vindaloo.
That’s not to say this is a bad game by any means. While I haven’t played much co-op or multiplayer action, Sniper Elite games are traditionally a good laugh to play with others, and if you’re a Game Pass subscriber, you’ll be able to have that laugh at no extra cost too.
Rebellion has proven that it can build expansive levels filled with decent content, and by sticking to its guns with its amusing and relatively satisfying gameplay loop, WW2 setting, and main protagonist, fans of the series will almost certainly come back to play, and likely enjoy, this game.
To really become something other than the cult classic the series has become though, some serious shake-ups are needed. Sniper Elite 5 does attempt this to an extent, but the execution sadly isn’t up to scratch.