Shooting Nazis never felt so good. It was the penultimate mission of Sniper Elite 5. Explosions engulfed every surrounding and the enemy had cornered me into the back of a wooden crate, where I was taking heavy fire. Quickly I see one trying to outflank my position. "Nice try," I utter to myself while readying an SREM-1 sniper rifle. I let loose with a one-in-a-million shot that takes the soldier's head clean off just as he slides out of view. Wunderbar.
Following a five-year gap, heroic marksman Karl Fairburne returns to thwart more Nazis from either afar or up close and personal. It's a simple premise – essentially, kill all opposition and recover whatever MacGuffin you need to propel the story forward – but is that a bad thing?
What intrigued me most was how methodical the combat is, taking into account gravity, wind and even Karl's own heart rate to make the perfect shot. With new "immersive" maps, expanded weapon customisation and the introduction of a new mode where you can invade other people's games, Sniper Elite 5 had my curiosity.
Sniper Elite 5 review: Price and Release Date
- What is it? A third-person tactical stealth shooter that is the fifth entry in the Sniper Elite series starring protagonist Karl Fairburne
- Release date? May 26, 2022
- What platforms can I play it on? PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC
- Price? $59.99 / £54.99 / AU$89.95 (PS / Xbox), $49.99 / £44.99 / AU$69.95 (PC)
Sniper Elite 5 review: What is it?
Sniper Elite 5 is a third-person tactical shooter that heavily leans towards stealth combat, though going in all guns blazing is an optional, yet typically less effective method. Across the course of nine levels, you are dropped into a sandbox open world-like area with a list of main and side-missions to complete before then being required to exfiltrate.
Transitioning between sniper to machine gun often feels like a mistake, punishing the player as such via heavy resistance. Trying to hide behind cover or make a run for it was fruitless too. It was better just to cut my losses, return to the previous checkpoint and go again. Basically, the game penalises using anything other than a sniper and stealth kills (knife) with bigger firearms seen as a last resort. For me, just take the option out altogether, instead of giving an unnecessary temptation.
The story takes place from May 1944 to July 1944 (around the time of D-Day) in France, where Karl comes across Operation Kraken, a new Nazi superweapon. Headed up by the malevolent Abelard Möller, it's up to the French Resistance and the US elite sniper to uncover what the Axis forces are planning and put an end to it altogether. It's something that's been done to death narrative-wise, therefore very forgettable and something that's just there to get our lead from A to B. That shouldn't be an issue for returning players who will be aware that story has never been the main focus, whereas newcomers hoping for more should look elsewhere.
The main campaign can be played in single-player or in co-op with a friend, alongside several online modes: Survival, Multiplayer and Axis Invasion. The latter is where you invade another person's game and must hunt them down. Meanwhile, Survival has you defending against waves of enemies (up to four players) and Multiplayer (up to 16 players) has the typical match types you would expect, such as Free-For-All and Team Match.
Additionally, a day-one DLC level known as 'Wolf Mountain' will be available for those who pre-order Sniper Elite 5. It can be purchased separately for $6.99 / £5.59 and like previous entries, has the player trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This was unavailable to play during the review process and I'm never keen on content being held back like this, especially when it's a full-priced release so this is a little disappointing.
Sniper Elite 5 review: How does it play?
Sniper Elite's core gameplay is fantastic. It's slow, structured, requiring patience – Call of Duty, this ain't – most closely resembling the Hitman series. Generally, I found myself approaching a new area and tagging enemies via the binoculars. I'd then look to pick said enemies off one-by-one with subsonic (quiet) ammo, or look to carve a path where I could sneak up and make some stealthy kills.
Each kill has the chance of being shown on a cinematic X-ray kill cam, which sees the bullet erupt out of the weapon's barrel before ripping through the air and pulverising the enemy in a glorious, grisly fashion. Mortal Kombat, eat your heart out! One unexpected delight was attaching a grenade to a dead soldier and then sometime later, I'd be on the other side of the map, only for the killcam to suddenly rear its head and show me another brutal Nazi death.
Outside of your trustee Sniper rifle, the weapon wheel can feature SMGs, handguns, explosives, decoys and health packs. A weapon wheel is a pretty standard feature in video games these days, however, this one was not nearly as susceptive as it needed to be. The number of times I went for one thing only to bring up another was increasingly frustrating, causing a few unnecessary deaths.
On the other hand, weapon customisation via Workbenches scattered throughout the map is incredibly well done. Everything from scopes and barrels to muzzles and magazines is accounted for, all helping to tailor the sniper of your dreams. Playing on PlayStation 5, the DualSense's adaptive triggers give off tremendous tension while shooting, making for a fun push and pull dynamic with the controller whenever trying to send off another shot in quick succession.
Additional modes such as Survival have their moments but likely won't have the longevity many would be hoping for. Axis Invasion is pretty enjoyable, creating a cat and mouse scenario as you carefully listen for sounds and pick up clues from fellow comrades as to where the player is. The odds do feel heavily steeped in the invader's favour, though, so I eventually toggled the option off due to time constraints.
A day-one patch is said to be on the way from developer Rebellion that will supposedly solve a number of prevalent bugs. That said, I did endure NPC voice acting not working, enemies stuck in walls, my extraction point not appearing and an endless reloading glitch. All of which needed the game reloading to the previous autosave. Perhaps it's worth hanging on a couple of weeks or so to get these ironed out.
Sniper Elite 5 review: How does it look and sound?
Visually, Sniper Elite 5 is an interesting one. The actual gameplay looks great, whether that be the soaked trenches of the English Channel or the achingly beautiful heights of Beaumont-Saint-Denis (based on Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey in Normandy). Death animations are a little goofy, yet I think that helps as the game would become far too serious without them.
Supporting 4K and 60FPS on PS5 and Xbox Series X, I did experience one major frame rate issue that slowed down the game to borderline unplayable. Aside from this one-off hiccup, it ran relatively smoothly for the most part and, by launch, it should hopefully be even better. Bonus points for the inclusion of a photo mode and a decent selection of accessibility options: colourblind mode, aim assist, scope sensitivity, motion blur, etcetera.
Cinematics are the most disappointing, being lifeless and marred by generic patriotic music. One felt out of place as I ended the mission by jumping into a jeep only to see Karl now piloting a boat – did I miss something? Likewise, voice acting is very cheesy, often spurting stereotypical Army talk with character arcs so thin you know their endgame the second you meet them.
Sound is an essential gameplay component, smartly utilised. One example is by destroying a generator which masks Karl's footsteps or weapon shots. Another is by striking whenever a bomber plane passes overhead. It's very cool and I wish certain mission tasks leaned into this idea more.
Sniper Elite 5 review: How long to beat?
It took me 13 hours to complete the campaign in Sniper Elite 5 on PlayStation 5 with each of the nine main levels (excluding the finale) ranging somewhere between 90 minutes to two and a half hours to beat. This was extremely refreshing after investing almost 200 hours into the likes of Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring in the months prior. Sniper Elite 5 never outstays its welcome, and for that I'm glad.
Online multiplayer, Axis Invasion and Survival, in theory, offer limitless playtime depending on how much time you want to invest. Again, once I've played more I'll update this review.
Sniper Elite 5's gameplay is slow, methodical and richly satisfying. While suffering from a few bugs and a forgettable story, it still has a lot to offer for newcomers and veterans alike, thanks to its extensive range of weapon customisations and newly added game mode in Axis Invasion. Sniper Elite 5 never outstays its welcome, providing a decent bang for your buck and proving that shooting Nazis in all its glory is still damn fun.
Surprise, surprise: I'm recommending Hitman. Yes, if you've not dived into the world of Agent 47 then do yourself a favour and get that rectified immediately. The latest entry in the globetrotting series, Hitman 3, features the same delicious stealth gameplay with trips to Berlin, England, Argentina, Dubai and more. Replaying these levels over and over until mastering every assassination is insanely addictive, creating the most spy-like experience on consoles. It's really no wonder then why developer IO Interactive has partnered with MGM to make an original James Bond video game.