Sniper Elite 5 is the latest in the stealth action series from Rebellion that has you fighting your way across Nazi-infested Europe. You play as legendary sniper Karl Fairburne, who’s found himself stranded behind enemy lines after a botched mission in France. Luckily, Karl is in his element while alone and in the shadows and gets wind of a secret Nazi weapons project called Kraken. Now with the help of some old allies, he’s got to find out what it is and how to stop it.
While the plot is thin, it does enough to explain what’s happening moment to moment outside of the historical context of World War II. The game takes for granted that you know Nazis are bad, as you’re strangely able to get short snippets of insight on any enemy you tag. The info serves no gameplay function but rather humanizes enemy combatants by telling you things like they tried to keep a stray dog or want to open a bakery after the war. It’s bizarre information to impart to players actively lining up headshots.
Karl himself is quite wooden as a character, and his gravelly voice performance hearkens back to ‘80s action flicks. But his single-track mind is set to “kill Nazis,” and that alone makes him likeable. His allies don’t have much screen time, but I thoroughly enjoyed how little I could make out from their spotty Scottish and French accents.
Gameplay has you stealthily taking down Nazis, sabotaging equipment, and infiltrating camps to steal enemy plans. Each of the nine campaign missions drops you on a sizable map with a few main objectives and discoverable side ones, like assassination targets or document retrieval. Karl is loaded up with highly customizable sniper rifles, pistols, and submachine guns, as well as a handful of explosives and gadgets to get creative on the battlefield. He can also pick up enemy weapons as limited-use items. Grenades and mines can be used to booby-trap bodies or alarms for satisfying kills that also keep you incognito. However, making noise can draw surrounding enemies to your last known location, and the enemy AI is good about fanning out and searching the nearby areas, creating tense cat-and-mouse scenarios where, the more you fight back, the easier it is to be surrounded.
The difficulty is also highly customizable, so if you want more assistance for sniping but tougher enemy encounters, you can do just that. I did not get to try any of Sniper Elite 5’s multiplayer options, but the game boasts full campaign co-op, as well as an invasion mechanic that will allow another player to jump into your game as an enemy sniper. In addition to a four-player wave-based survival mode, there’s a full suite of 16-player multiplayer game types as well.
Visually, Sniper Elite 5 looks great. It won’t drop any jaws, but its environments are heavily detailed and benefit from realistic lighting, shadows, and sound design. However, the X-ray bullet time effect is still one of the most impressive visual treats in the series. Watching the cinematic flight of a shot crash into a human skull and explode on impact is mesmerizing and beautiful, while also horrific and grotesque at the same time. It can also be triggered by pistol shots or explosives, which is a fun way to learn your mine was tripped by an enemy. Aside from a funny bug that forced me to play most of the entire first mission with a Nazi on my shoulder, I did not run into any issues with performance or mechanics.
Sniper Elite 5 may not be the most profound take on World War II, but as far as using its backdrop as a fun sandbox for player-driven stealth action, it hits all its marks. The game is out May 26 for $49.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S and is included with Xbox Game Pass.
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