Review: Sniper Elite 5 Has Refined Its Formula to Near Perfection

Screenshot: Sniper Elite 5

I’ve been playing Sniper Elite games since I stumbled across the first game on Steam during a sale or possibly in a Humble Bundle. Either way, I was hooked on Sniper Elite’s blend of action and stealth, though it has never before been a game series I felt I could wholeheartedly recommend. But, with Sniper Elite 5, it feels like the series has gotten to the point where the gameplay has reached a new level of polish and I no longer feel the need to preface my recommendation with “hear me out, but…” That might seem harsh, but despite my love for the Sniper Elite series (and its sister Zombie Army games) they aren’t exactly the first titles that come to mind when I think of stand-out games—until now.

Sniper Elite 5 is a third person stealth shooter. In it, you take on the role of Karl Fairburne, the gravelly voiced super-sniper with a penchant for Nazi killing. His sniping tour across the European theater of World War II has brought him to the beautiful countryside of France in the waning days of the war. The Germans still have a lot of fight in them, however, as you work your way through each location, finding targets to dispatch and ways to bolster the French resistance as you wreak havoc on the Nazi war machine across nine large open missions.

Screenshot: Sniper Elite 5

Each of the levels in Sniper Elite 5 are giant, open-world sniping sandboxes.  There are often multiple side objectives as well as the main objective(s) to keep you busy. While Sniper Elite 4 followed roughly the same formula, my brain never made mental connections to the latest Hitman games until now. Karl Fairburne isn’t changing outfits and blending into crowds like Agent 47, but each one of the levels in Sniper Elite 5 lets you choose how you’re going to approach each objective. You can go in guns blazing, or you can hang back, gather intel, and silently slip in like a ghost--my gameplay style hovers between the two. You don’t have to just dispatch targets at long range with a rifle—you can get in close and personal, or you can even set explosive traps for Nazis to stumble into. Each level also has a fair amount of replayability, especially with the ability to unlock different spawn points that allow you to approach the scenario differently in the future.

Since sniping  is a marquee feature of Sniper Elite 5, it’s important that it’s handled right. While I still take issue with the incredibly short distances Sniper Elite thinks are long distance, the open world maps and French countryside has done a ton to add to the illusion of distance. Sniping foes at a distance is handled well, with the X-Ray killcam (now a series staple) gorily glorifying your violence. You can also target vehicle weak points to disable or destroy them, however, the ability to wholesale destroy vehicles with a bullet or two has been reduced a tad.

Screenshot: Sniper Elite 5

The X-ray killcam makes a return in Sniper Elite 5, and it’s as gory and gratuitous as ever. While I used to merely tolerate these cinematic interludes that feature the destruction of a Nazi soldier’s internal structures, I’ve actually come to appreciate them a bit. While you can disable them or skip them, sometimes I’ll let the footage play out after making a particularly challenging shot. Added to the killcam now are melee kills, and more variations on explosive kills—among others.

Sniper Elite 5 gives players a fair amount of control over the weapons they bring into battle. Each weapon can be customized via a workbench to change out grips, sights, muzzles and more in a level of customization usually reserved for player versus player multiplayer games. This comes at a bit of a tradeoff, however, as you can no longer carry around enemy weapons as your main gun. It’s a strange design decision, but you can only borrow an enemy’s gun until it runs out of ammo—no more switching out your crappy rifle for a superior German variant—at least, not permanently.

Screenshot: Sniper Elite 5

Sniper Elite 5 has lots of multiplayer options for you to try out, with the biggest change being the ability to invade other snipers. I don’t mind games taking cues from Dark Souls, though when other games add an invasion mechanic it feels gimmicky. Here, it’s a little more natural. The idea of a battle between snipers has been a staple of video games since (or maybe before) the film Enemy at the Gates, and having an invading player play as an opposing sniper is a great idea that adds tension and chaos.

The other multiplayer options are a little more mundane, but still essential. You can play through the entire campaign of Sniper Elite 5 in cooperative mode, which is one of my preferred ways to play. There is also a survival mode which challenges you to fight against waves of enemies in the effort to hold out as long as you can.

Screenshot: Sniper Elite 5

I’d like to say that Sniper Elite 5 is a watershed game for the series—and while it’s definitely the best so far, that’s only because developer Rebellion has taken the existing Sniper Elite formula and polished each one of its systems to near perfection. If you want to snipe Nazis in World War II, you can’t find a better game.

Sniper Elite 5 will be available today on PlayStation and Xbox (and is also coming to GamePass) and will be available tomorrow on PC via Steam.

A Steam key was provided to us for this review.

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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.