Karl Fairburne and his sniper rifle are synonymous with World War II and the battle against the Nazis. Players must be wondering what Rebellion could bring to the era now that we’ve reached the franchise’s fifth installment. Our Sniper Elite 5 review finds a game that has larger levels that are still packed with optional objectives and collectibles, some of which are new. There is also extensive weapon customization and an improved skill tree. However, the biggest innovation is the Infiltration mode that pits players against each other amidst the chaos of the campaign, and this is where the game really shines.
The year is 1944 and at this time Karl is in France. He’s taking part in a covert US Rangers operation to make contact with the French Resistance. With their help, he’s to weaken the Atlantikwall fortifications on the Brittany coast and leave it open for the Allies to attack. In the process, though, they discover a secret Nazi project called Operation Kraken, and this has the potential to end the war in favor of the Axis forces. And guess who needs to stop that plot?
A wide open battlefield
His mission takes players through individual levels set on large maps akin to those seen in Sniper Elite 4. There are multiple infiltration points to locate and unlock, each of which can put a different spin on the mission. Rebellion has approached verticality in a new way too, adding the ability to climb and use zip lines to Karl’s repertoire even if his ability to climb ladders is still awful. As well as the story-based objectives, there are multiple optional objectives and all of these can be tackled in any order. One of these is the new Kill Targets with associated challenges to kill them in a certain way, which will sometimes make you stop and think more carefully about your approach. However, this is about as diverse as it gets when 99% of the other targets get shot, blown up, or taken down by stealth.
Each map also has collectibles to find, including the stone eagles that are as hard to find as always. New to Sniper Elite 5 are workbenches that can be used to extensively customize any rifle, pistol, or secondary weapon a player has already unlocked. Practically every part can be swapped out, including scopes, stocks, barrels, magazines, and even weapon material. Karl also comes with his own improved skill system. Actions like killing enemies, completing objectives, and finding collectibles will earn campaign XP for him to level up. This time his skills are locked into three skill wheels for Combat, Equipment, and Body. Players can choose in which order they want to unlock the skills depending on their playstyle. Unlike the last game in the franchise, nothing is locked out forever as there are enough skill points to unlock everything.
One of Sniper Elite’s trademarks is the x-ray kill cam that makes its return in all of its grisly glory. This time it has been enhanced to see the full grisly effect on the organs beneath the bones you’re shattering into many pieces. Skulls will explode in a variety of ways, organs will be torn apart, and there is always the option to see a vasectomy in real-time. SMGs and pistols can also trigger kill cams, although their bullets are often fired at close range leading to kill cams that are over far too quickly. Even the stone eagles get their own kill cam.
Rebellion used photogrammetry to capture real-world locations to use within the game and this has led to a beautiful and diverse environment, although one that can be prone to pop in. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the character animations where expressions are often wooden and enemy movements are stilted. Some enemies will even get stuck in the environment or rooted to the spot. One officer’s ability to not only merge into a wall but then fire through it nearly ended one bunker mission.
Not an entirely smooth experience
In fact, the game is full of bugs both minor and major. In one location, my co-op partner got stuck in the reload animation with his secondary weapon and couldn’t use it for the rest of the mission. He also got stuck on the spot after reloading a save because he was searching for items on a body when the autosave kicked in. For my part, Karl once inexplicably squeezed down a gap at most an inch wide instead of stepping over it; here he got stuck under a ramp and the map itself. The worst was when the exfiltration point failed to materialize at the end of a mission because the supposedly optional Kill Target had disappeared off the map. Every single one of these forced a save reload or a mission restart. I honestly can’t recommend an authentic playthrough until the bugs are fixed unless you get a kick out of frustrating experiences.
The entire campaign can be played with a co-op partner once again, only this time the mechanics have been improved. Players can now share ammo and other items, as well as heal each other. There’s also full cross-play between all platforms and this worked seamlessly. While the game will automatically search for co-op players on your own platform, there’s the option to share codes with friends to invite them from other consoles instead. Unfortunately kill cams don’t work quite as well, with the other player being ripped out of their action without warning to watch your kill cam and vice versa.
There are several competitive multiplayer modes that accommodate up to 16 players, as well as a four-player Survival mode where you face waves of enemies. Neither of these bring anything new to the table, but the new Invasion mode stands out from the rest. Of course, game invasions are nothing new, but the chance to invade another player’s campaign as an Axis sniper and help out the enemies puts a new spin on the usual proceedings. On the other hand, Karl has a new enemy that is not as easy to find or deceive. The cat and mouse game will likely keep players coming back time and time again.
Sniper Elite 5 Review – The Final Verdict
Sniper Elite 5 makes small attempts at innovation but not enough to stop it from being a fairly safe entrant into the Sniper Elite franchise. The enhanced killcam, extensive weapon customization, and better skill trees help to improve the experience over Sniper Elite 4. Players will undoubtedly have fun roaming the large battlefields of France as long as they can get over the minor bugs, although we could do without those that can stop a playthrough in its tracks. While the standard multiplayer modes and Survival mode will keep players occupied for a while, Invasion mode is what will keep players coming back for more.
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