Sniper Elite 5 skirts the danger of being more of the same

Sniper Elite 5 isn’t a radical reboot: the long-running WWII shooter once again challenges you to shoot, shoot, and smash your way to victory over the Nazis in a succession of open-world missions, on large maps dotted with hidden objects and secondary objectives. As in Sniper Elite 4, it supports two-player drop-in/drop-out cooperative play, as well as a 16-player adversarial multiplayer mode and a three-person cooperative multiplayer mode called Survival. However, the Rebellion developer is adding important new features to its proven plan.

Sniper Elite 5’s biggest new feature will be familiar to all Dark Souls fans: if you’re playing the new Invasion mode, you can jump into another player’s campaign as an enemy sniper and engage in some PvP action. Rebellion also uses the same system for co-op play, so you can now call on another player for help if you get stuck in the campaign – you can still play an entire campaign with a co-op companion if you want.

Another change that shows how the series has drifted in recent years is that you now switch to first person whenever aiming a gun. Before, the only weapon that had this perspective was your trusty sniper rifle, with the rest of your arsenal remaining in third-person.

There are many more ways to customize your weapons in Sniper Elite 5. Whenever you find workbenches in missions, you can spend resources to change most of your weapons’ items, such as magazines, sights, guns, stocks, silencers and ammunition types. New traversal methods also allow you to traverse missions in new ways. You can flank and surprise enemies in new ways with ziplines dotted around the levels and climbing vines. Plus, Rebellion somehow figured out how to make Sniper Elite’s trademark Killcam even more forensically sinister.

A return to France

You return to the front lines as Karl Fairburne, the American Rangers sniper from previous games. Sniper Elite 5’s action is set in France in 1944 – covering events before and after D-Day, Rebellion tells us. The story opens with Fairburne on a mission to weaken Atlanticwall’s fortifications along the coast of Brittany in preparation for D-Day.

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A soldier hides behind a wall in Sniper Elite 5

(Image credit: Rebellion Developments)

Fairburne connects with the French Resistance, but the plot quickly picks up steam when he meets Sniper Elite 5’s main antagonist, Obergruppenfuhrer Abelard Moller, and unearths information about the secret Operation Kraken project.

We don’t know much at this point – how many missions include the single-player campaign, for example, or how long it will take you to get through them all. But Rebellion has redoubled its efforts to achieve authenticity, using methods such as photogrammetry to reconstruct real-world locations and working with partners like the Imperial War Museum to obtain items such as weapons, vehicles and uniforms.

Crawling in the undergrowth

Our mission opens in a rural clearing in a wood just outside a sunny French village, with a cutscene in which Fairburne, accompanied by another Special Operations Executive agent, connects with some Resistance fighters . The Resistance official reports that SS officer Abelard Moller is responsible for a recent series of local attacks and has taken the Château de Bérenger as his headquarters. Moller and his entourage are elsewhere, but there are rumors that he is in charge of a covert operation, so Fairburne agrees to infiltrate Moller’s office in the castle and gather relevant information.

A soldier hides from the guards in Sniper Elite 5

(Image credit: Rebellion Developments)

After scanning the map – also marked with an optional objective involving the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi officer – we head to the castle through the countryside. The environment is incredibly modeled, with authentic-looking vegetation that turns out to be a handy cover to hide from German patrols. We can sneak through tall grass to pass the enemy unknowingly. Practically, if Fairburne is crouched and we click on the left stick of our controller to make him run, he will then return to crouch. It’s a small detail, but welcome.

If you love Sniper Elite 4, you’ll find Sniper Elite 5 reassuring and familiar. It has an open-world, play-as-you-want feel, enhanced by noticeably larger levels than previous games, at least if the one we’re playing is representative. In general, the AI ​​(even on medium difficulty) was rigorous – German vehicles on a nearby road would stop and fire at us if we entered their lines of sight, for example, which reinforces the need for a stealthy approach.

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Using Fairburne’s binoculars to illuminate, we encounter a pocket of enemy guards and our first chance to see Sniper Elite 5’s Killcam in action. If you land a single shot with a sniper rifle, you are rewarded with a graphical visualization of your bullet damage, showing the bodily organs your shot penetrates and the bones it bounces off. Under fire, we shoot another enemy, then run to loot the bodies – another familiar mechanic from Sniper Elite and a crucial one for replenishing ammo, grenades and medkits.

A soldier performs a stealth kill in Sniper Elite 5

(Image credit: Rebellion Developments)

Reinforcements arrive, alerted by fire, allowing us to test out Sniper Elite 5’s stealth kills and close combat using the submachine gun. Looking down on iron gun sights comes in especially handy with the silenced handgun, adding accuracy when looking for single-bullet headshots with a small-caliber weapon.

Riddles and secrets

We weave our way into the chateau, scrambling over a vine and climbing through an open window. Inside, our gaming headset earns its living, as we can identify the sound of incoming footsteps allowing for multiple stealth teardowns. The door to Moller’s office is locked, but Rebellion tells us there are several ways to get in: if we had killed one of Moller’s lieutenants, we would have found a key on the body; or we could pick the lock (although we risk being discovered); or, as we do, access by climbing up one floor to the dusty attic, then descending through a hole in the floor. Moller’s office yields valuable information, but not what we were looking for, and Fairburne realizes there must be a hidden room. You have to figure out how to open the secret door by fiddling with different objects in the office, and behind the false wall, there is a file on Operation Kraken.

A soldier shoots behind a low wall in Sniper Elite 5

(Image credit: Rebellion Developments)

Somewhere an alarm goes off and we have to escape the castle as waves of enemies assault the country mansion. Even when we reach our exfiltration point, we have to make sure we’re not being tracked (read: kill everyone nearby). It’s a satisfying end to the mission.

Develop your skills

Everything you do in Sniper Elite 5 – spectacular sniper kills, takedowns, uncovering secrets and information – earns you skill points. We progressed through our demo mission, which allowed us to explore the RPG-style skill tree. It is divided into three components: combat, equipment and body. We’re spending our first point on a combat skill called Back In The Fight, which lets you use a medkit to heal when downed, granting a second life. Other combat skills on offer include the ability to throw back grenades, different levels of enemy marking, and quick setting traps.

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A soldier mows down enemies in Sniper Elite 5

(Image credit: Rebellion Developments)

Our first part of the Occupied Residence mission lasted over an hour, we approached it at a leisurely pace, taking in as many opportunities for exploration as possible. On our second pass, we took a different approach, literally, entering the castle through secret escape tunnels and limiting ourselves to stealth kills as much as possible.

Our new route through the mansion leads us to new secrets and collectibles, suggesting there will be plenty to reward for replaying all of the missions in Sniper Elite 5. We can’t speculate how long it will take to play through the campaign without knowing how many levels there are in the final game. Still, hopefully it’ll be a meaty experience for those who want to find all that lurks in his missions.

Focus on details

Rebellion has improved Sniper Elite in many subtle ways. Graphically, it’s also a cut above its predecessors, with plenty of time and care given to period detail that makes the fictional storyline believable. Throughout the missions we play, we hear conversations between enemies, for example, which provide useful information and a wealth of knowledge that anchors you in the history of the time.

WWII Europe has always fascinated many gamers, and Sniper Elite 5’s depiction of the defining events in France in 1944 is oddly plausible. Factor in Sniper Elite’s classic third- and first-person action gameplay, and you’ve got the recipe for a game that should delight fans of the series. It’s set for release on May 26 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S, and we’ll bring you more details as they emerge.

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