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Sniper Elite 5 Review: Slow, controlled chaos

Karl's back for more Nazi crotch-killing.

The Sniper Elite series has been killing it of late, first attracting my attention with Sniper Elite V2 way back in 2012 before impressing with with each new iteration. I’ve performed headshots in Sniper Elite 3 and ballshots in Sniper Elite 4, noticing a subtle improvement upon each release. Sniper Elite 5 is certainly no different, bringing silky smooth sniping to the current-generation of consoles.

Our hero, the brawny American sniper Karl Fairburne, is once again the focus of play after helping the Allies deal with the Nazi threat inside North Africa and Italy. As per usual, Fairburne finds himself deep behind enemy lines in France and needs to go all one-man army to survive. With occasional team-ups with a multitude of accented resistance fighters, Fairburne’s ultimate goal is to shut down the Nazi’s Operation Kraken.

If you’ve never played a Sniper Elite title, you’re missing out… and likely have the wrong idea as to what the franchise is about. Regardless of experience, you’ve likely been exposed to its flashier parts, almost certainly connected to its infamous X-ray killcam. Make a great shot and you’ll be rewarded with a slow-mo, Mortal Kombat-like look into your prey as you send pieces of their jaw flying or pierce their eyeball, heart, lung or testicle.

It’s admittedly cool — so much so that non-sniper weapons like SMGs can trigger the killcams this time around — but that’s surface level stuff. Sniper Elite is more a puzzle game than a simple shooter. I said it back with Sniper Elite 4, but it’s equally as true here: true delight comes from embarrassing your opponents with a series of well-placed headshots or, better yet, a bullet into a vehicle’s gas tank that takes out a larger group of Nazis.

Much like Hitman, there’s no one right way to complete a series of objectives; the world is your oyster and you can chain things together however you’d like. A generous checkpoint system encourages exploration and experimentation, and manual saves and reloads only bolster that idea.

This new iteration has nine missions total, each taking place in a sprawling map that lets you choose how to best attack it. Numerous vantage points let you scout what’s ahead, helping you to identify tools that will help you succeed, including trucks and generators to sabotage so you can create sound masks to cover noise from your rifle.

Exploration will rewards you with flashy weapons, ammo and explosives, or optional collectibles that will not only flesh out the narrative but help identify optional objectives and opportunities to take down high-ranking Axis figures. Each mission will take players around 1.5 to 2 hours to comprehensively complete; missions can also be played entirely in co-op, so that number lessens if you’re working as an efficient pairing.

Karl has a snife, a sniper rifle and some close(r)-quarters firearms at his disposal. The sniper rifle is obviously your best friend; bringing up the scope provides a plethora of visual data (that can be limited with higher difficulties). Expel the air from your lungs and you’ll be presented with a lovely red diamond that shows exactly where your bullet will strike. Closer to an enemy, the same aim and fire controls allow you to pepper Nazi’s with automatic fire bullets or a stealthy, silenced bullet to the brain.

If you can get the sneak on an enemy, you can also trigger a one-button kill (or incapacitate) and drag the body out of sight. Or, you can leave the body out in the open, instead placing a booby-trapped grenade to then surprise an unsuspecting colleague. Like I’ve said before, this is your playground and you get to decide how to function within it.

In terms of franchise improvements, Rebellion seems to have tigthened up the dumb AI that I flagged in the SE4; they’re tough but fair this time around, providing more chase when you’re spotted. Fairburne’s stats are better integrated onto your HUD, meaning it’s quite easy to tell when he’s puffed out from running (and you don’t want that, as that means he won’t be able to empty his lungs and line up a good shot). Fairburne’s elevated heartbeat is reflected quite well on an Xbox controller, so I’d imagine this is a title that has a real, proper use for the DualSense’s haptic feedback too.

I encountered some consistent bugs in my time with it, but thankfully nothing’s too worrisome. Most are tied to verticality; Karl will repeat the same climb and fail animation if you’re on a portion of a map that’s a little too steep to actually be climbed. While that animation sequence can easily be stopped by moving in a different direction, I’ve also encountered a looped falling animation that meant I’d need to revert back to a previous save. You’ll occasionally put a bullet into the head of an opponent in a motorcycle’s sidecar only to see your target manage to climb out of the vehicle and then decide to react (aka die).

Despite these hiccups, animations — and the entire experience, really — is otherwise smooth and stable.

Sniper Elite 5 is stupid fun and a joy to play. Rebellion hasn’t made any giant leaps in terms of new functionality, but it doesn’t need to. Instead, the studio continues to refine and polish an experience that sets itself apart from other shooters.

If you haven’t tried this franchise before, now’s the perfect time — Sniper Elite 5 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 26 May 2022, part of Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass. What have you got to lose?

8.5 out of 10

Sniper Elite 5 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox Series S & X, as provided by the publisher. Due to timings, multiplayer was not tested for the purposes of this review. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

Sniper Elite 5

26 May 2022
PC PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist nearing twenty (TWENTY!?!) years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.