Sniper Elite 5 Review

Richard Walker

I've always had a soft spot for the Sniper Elite series. Maybe it's because it lets you shoot all of the soft spots of Nazi soldiers, then revel in the grisly, cutaway gore as it unfolds in agonising slow-motion detail. Developer Rebellion knows that people get the same kind of sickening pleasure as I do, watching as Nazi entrails and dangly bits rupture, but it's worth remembering that Sniper Elite is so much more than stomach-churning X-ray killcams and pulsating guts exploding. Sniper Elite 5 offers a cracking series of sandbox missions, taking a cue from Hitman, albeit with a lot more firepower.

It's not going to end well for this Nazi.

Also, Karl Fairburne remains a real American hero. He's got a tight haircut that never changes, a determined look permanently etched onto his rugged face that lets you know he's got this, whatever it might be. His voice is pure gravel, his woollen sweater is pristine, and he can wield a sniper rifle like nobody's business. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves, our Karl. Few video game protagonists have offed as many Nazis as Fairburne, whose exploits have earned him the fearsome moniker of 'the Shadow'. The very utterance of 'the Shadow' puts the shits right up the Hun, and as such, it’s empowering to inhabit the role of the ace sniper.

That said, you can spend a lot of time in Sniper Elite 5 doing very little actual sniping. You could conceivably blast your way through all eight of the game's open-ended missions with nothing more than an M1911 pistol and an MP40 submachine gun, but to do so wouldn't really be in the spirit of SE5's long-distance shenanigans, and, frankly, you'd be missing out. Regardless, where, last time round, Karl Fairburne foiled a Nazi plot in Italy, this time he's tasked with foiling a Nazi plot in France, working alongside the French Resistance. This one involves something dubbed 'Operation Kraken', spearheaded by a sneering Nazi general named Möller, which leads Fairburne to key Axis strongholds, which you'll have to infiltrate, and, in some cases, sabotage.

Across nine massive missions, you can veer off the beaten path to carry out optional objectives, like blowing up a steel mill, toppling a radio tower, destroying AA cannons, or executing a Nazi on your kill list, and it's all enormously rewarding. Sniper Elite 5's environments are among the best the series has mustered to date, its rendition of rural occupied France - replete with grand chateaus, rustic barns, bombed-out church spires, and rolling fields - is excellent. Occupied villages give way to floodlit trainyards, secret factories, beachside fortresses, and battle-ravaged streets; every map offering numerous pathways, opportunities, and approaches. As ever, you can set your loadout prior to each sortie, but in Sniper Elite 5, you can also locate workbenches to unlock new attachments and switch up your weapons.

This additional flexibility keeps things pretty fresh throughout SE5's campaign, but it's the inexplicable, eternal appeal of the killcam and the reliably robust shooter mechanics that will keep you playing. Fundamentally, SE5 is more of the same, although with numerous new things to shout about, like the Invasion mode, which seemingly tips its hat to Deathloop's own invasions, wherein a rival player can drop into your game at any time. In this case, an invading player enters the map as an Axis Jäger sniper, tasked with tracking down and eliminating the Allied player. As the Axis sniper, you have a series of unique abilities to help you get the job done, which is to ruin the Allied sniper's campaign. Naturally, you can toggle Invasion mode on and off.

Beyond the single-player campaign, the twelve-wave Survival mode makes a comeback, offering horde-style action for up to four players, while the usual suite of multiplayer modes round out the online options. Invasion mode is the banner addition here, though, offering a shedload of replay value, alongside the alternate mission-insertion zones, which you can unlock through exploration. What's on offer here is superlative stuff, then, even if some of the visual presentation could perhaps do with a little refinement and attention to detail. There's something smirk-inducing about watching an enemy being blown up in slow-mo, the flurry of shrapnel and the engulfing fireball doing nothing to change their expression. There's a wee bit of clipping, too, and such minor shortcomings are open to scrutiny thanks to the lingering killcam. Enemy AI can also be hilariously inept at times, Nazi troops often running right past you, or standing oblivious while their mate has just had his eyeball explode in front of them. It's not the best.

Out you go!

Minor niggles like these do little to diminish what is otherwise another wonderful slice of visceral World War II action, Sniper Elite 5 building upon the previous games with some meaningful new features, and another diverse selection of sandbox missions brimming with objectives and opportunities. Granted, the killcam remains one of the main draws, the splattering blood and organs tickling some sick little centre in my brain each and every time it happens, but there's so much more to SE5 than that. Rebellion evidently knows what it's doing with the continuing adventures of Karl Fairburne, and Sniper Elite 5 sees the studio in fine fettle, working well within its comfort zone to deliver an unapologetically entertaining and remarkably varied bullet-riddled experience. And shooting Nazis in their fleshy bits remains an unbridled joy. Obviously.

Sniper Elite 5

Another opportunity to eviscerate Nazis, Sniper Elite 5 is by no means perfect, but it is a wonderfully robust and consistently enjoyable sandbox shooter that's good, reliable fun. And, as if you need reminding, you can put a bullet through a Nazi's scrotum, which will never not be brilliant.

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Karl Fairburne's gruff VO? Check. Typically dramatic score? Check. Whizzy bullet sounds and wince-inducing brain-bursting noises? Check. This is a Sniper Elite game alright.


Not exactly a huge leap over its predecessors, Sniper Elite 5 still looks pretty great, with some of the most picturesque environments Rebellion has created to date.


Every bit as solid and playable as you'd hope, with expansive sandbox missions that encourage return visits. It's hard to fault what's on offer here.


The new Invasion mode is an interesting and worthwhile addition, extending the life of the game's campaign, while the online modes are plentiful. A generous package.


A solid list, as usual, although there is some overlap with the one from the previous game. Prepare to shoot all of the different organs again. Perfectly fine.

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