The sniper rifle is always my weapon of choice, regardless of the game I’m playing. Without sounding like an absolute psychopath, I take great pleasure in the thrill of knowing my enemy is a 100 metres away without having any idea my crosshairs rest upon their face. It’s the patience and the waiting, the anticipation and the possibilities. When I pull that trigger and a single bullet pierces their skull, I smile and slip away into the shadows, waiting for the next unsuspecting victim to become my prey. Sniper Elite 5 offers a more streamline approach to using sniper rifles compared to the Sniper Ghost Warrior series, but it is in that simplicity that makes it more enjoyable.
Featuring bigger maps and tons of opportunities to wipe out the Nazi threat, Sniper Elite 5 is by far the best the series has been. On PS5, the environments are gorgeous. Whether you’re infiltrating an industrial complex or hunting down an officer in a lush chateau, the locations across France are delightful. Not only does it look great, some of the maps are massive. The first mission alone took me well over two hours to finish. I worked my way from a beach to a nearby town, crossing farmlands and infiltrating Nazi facilities buried underground. The final moments saw me making my way through a quaint village populated by multiple soldiers, and I was free to approach them however I wanted.
Sniper Elite 5: Play your way
There’s plenty of freedom to play how you want. You’re more than welcome to use your sniper rifle, but doing so may attract attention due to the sound it makes when fired. Within your arsenal are grenades, teller mines, TNT, and even rat bombs, not to mention the different guns on offer. If you want to be quiet, you can plan your attack by whistling to beckon unsuspected enemies to your location and take them down in silence. There’re decoys to confuse soldiers, schu mines to lure them to a location, and subsonic ammo that provides a quiet kill. They’ll be times when you try the silent approach, but if it all goes wrong, there’re tons of weapons and explosives at your disposal to get you out of a sticky situation.
By successfully executing enemies, completing objectives, and getting impressive kills, you earn XP to improve your character. The skill tree is utilised across both the campaign and multiplayer, branching across three areas: Combat, Equipment, and Body. Combat will provide upgrades to how you act in combat, improving everything from how steady you shoot and automatically searching enemies for bullets, bandages, and explosives. Equipment will give you extra capacity for carrying explosives, bullets, and more. Finally, Body will help you lengthen your focus or regenerate health faster, among other things.
The path of the bullet
Enemies are surprisingly smart, and at times it can be difficult to get past a heavily populated area. Sniper Elite 5 reminded me a lot of the Hitman series due to how much patience is rewarded. Waiting an extra few minutes can be the difference between being obliterated in a wall of bullets and efficiently executing a whole unit of Nazis. Yes, it can be infuriating after spending so long being as cautious as possible only to be spotted by an unsuspecting enemy, but that’s why you’re given so many chances to plan your attack. You can focus to reveal nearby enemies, and use binoculars or your rifles scope to tag them as well. Watch how enemies move, choose your moment, and keep on moving.
The crown jewel of Sniper Elite 5 is obviously the use of the sniper rifle. Another reason I love using these precision-focused weapons is down to how they rely on science. Each shot is a mathematical equation waiting to be solved. It’s not as simple as point and shoot. There’re so many factors to consider, such as bullet drop, wind speed, distance, and noise. Some shots can make use of surrounding surfaces, with bullets ricocheting off metal walls or penetrating wooden barriers. With each rifle, you can adjust the range to limit bullet drop from long distances. Zooming in will also get you a clearer shot, and paying close attention to everything in the vicinity of a target will help you to decide when to make the shot.
Sniper Elite 5: A masochist’s dream
When you do pull the trigger, Sniper Elite 5’s kill cam is glorious. Witnessing the bullet leave the barrel, glide on the wind, and penetrate the flesh and bone at slow speeds provides instant gratification. The level of detail in this feature is worryingly accurate, as teeth, bone, and blood dance from the wound and spray across the screen. This can be skipped, but if you’re a deviant like me, it can also be slowed down for your viewing pleasure. To improve everything from the range of your zoom to the rate of fire and recoil, workbenches are scattered across the levels to swap out scopes, barrels, magazines, and more. You can also pick up temporary weapons from fallen soldiers or inside enemy territory, ranging from sniper rifles, sub-machine guns, and pistols.
Along with an enjoyable campaign, the story regarding the secret German weapon known as Operation Kraken kept me invested. I wasn’t a huge fan of the over-the-top ‘America against the world’ mentality, though. I get Karl Fairburne is an elite marksman and an American hero, but sometimes it was a bit overbearing. The voice acting was a bit hammy, but I’m not playing for it to rival the stories told in movies like American Sniper or The Longest Day. Sniper Elite 5 is strong in its gameplay, and I thoroughly enjoyed how layered the combat felt throughout.
Become the best
For the perfectionists among you, Sniper Elite 5 offers plenty of collectibles to find, and various medals and ribbons to unlock. Some of the medals focus on mastery of your weapons, in turn unlocking new cosmetics or gear for your rifle. The ribbons are achieved by completing passive objectives like killing a certain amount of enemies in silence or firing bullets into vital organs so many times. These extra achievements help to improve your overall rank as a marksman, and are great for players who get a kick out of becoming the ultimate sniper. There’re multiplayer medals and ribbons, but unfortunately I didn’t get to try it due to a low player count during review. I’m sure when it’s live, this will be something players will spend their time doing, along with the opportunity to take part in various online modes and invading other player’s games to cause mischief and mayhem.
Sniper Elite 5 is an impressively layered shooter, where the wealth of options for how you tackle a level is vast. You’re rewarded for getting the job done however you choose, but following the quiet path of a sniper will be more beneficial when it comes to earning XP. While it’s authentic in how patience is key to get that perfect shot, you’re not punished for your mistakes, so if it does go south there’re tons of options to help you get out of a sticky situation. It may be a bit cheesy at times, and some of the voice acting isn’t great, but there’s definitely a solid gameplay loop, and the sense of freedom is what I loved most about it.
Plenty of ways to approach missions
Kill cam is glorious
Voice acting is wooden
Patience is always required