Half a minute ago my world as a sniper was fine. For a while I’ve been sneaking along the French Atlantic coast, which in 1944, even before D-Day, was less idyllic than the words make it sound. A light rain is still falling from the cloudy sky and makes the crouching advance over muddy roads, small fields and isolated properties not exactly a fair-weather hike. But I successfully turn off the small guard squads in order to then destroy the machine gun nests and rocket positions they are guarding.
It suddenly says another player has appeared in my game. Well, that didn’t come as a surprise, after all I had activated the so-called invasions. Nevertheless, the leisurely clicking of heads gained a lot of tension. Up to now I only had to make sure that the AI Wehrmacht didn’t snip my skull off my shoulders, but now I have a completely unpredictable hunter on my heels. After all, anyone who breaks into a foreign party can do whatever he or she wants there, since you are doing it in the role of a German and are therefore not bothered by the guards.
My first thought: “Keep calm!” What can happen if the other person doesn’t find me at all… Well, unfortunately the game notices when you’ve been camping for a while and then marks the position where you are. No wonder, then, that a little later I hear rapid footsteps that clearly do not belong to the unsuspecting AI. Now I don’t want to annoy you at all with how I snuck around the rural yard for several minutes so that my opponent couldn’t take the first and often decisive shot. Let me tell you that this game of hide-and-seek, made up of careful listening, anticipating and carefully working out the decisive advantage, easily replaces a good espresso. And that it feels damn good when you have your sights set on the right door at the right moment and pull the trigger early enough!
Clearly, this intrusion into foreign games is not new. This is the case both in the Soulsbornes, including their new class leader ‘Elden Ring’, and in the game-mechanically related Deathloop. As a big fan of classic stealth action, I’m particularly pleased that you can now compete with other players in this way. It’s not only fun in the context of the campaign, but also in the role of the intruder, especially since you as such also adjust your character to the preferred approach via the choice of weapons and the corresponding attachments, so you can play your way into the role a little. And as I said: if you don’t feel like such competitive stress, simply disable the invasions.
It’s also nice that both players can demand revenge after an invasion. It adds that extra bite to the second encounter when one of them has an unfinished business. You either repeat the complete invasion or continue at the last checkpoint. By the way, I like the save system in general, because you not only keep track of the game status yourself at all times, but the program also automatically saves a game before each battle. Such little things are important and show how much care the developers have worked on it. That doesn’t mean Sniper Elite 5 is bug-free. But more on that later.
I don’t want to anticipate where the campaign will lead this time, but basically part five is also characterized by what the predecessor did well. You move freely in very extensive, often downright romantic locations and complete some optional tasks in addition to the primary goals. Destroying the MG nests in the mission described above is just as much a part of this as eliminating high-ranking officers and simply collecting various information or valuables so that they do not fall into the hands of the Nazis.
The story of a secret German project is hardly worth mentioning. Karl “The Shadow” Fairburne once again operates behind enemy lines and meets familiar faces in the process, but neither the staging nor the story are the focus here. However, because developer Rebellion takes the interactive scenario seriously, all characters speak in their national language, given that their dialogues often sound strangely crooked, that the classic translation errors on the usual posters (“Morgen… Volle Sieg!”) don’t even bother me anymore elicit a curled-up mouth and that there are no subtitles that lyricize everything but the chosen language.
Lots of nasty traps
Apart from that, part five of course also playfully picks up where part four left off, and mainly highlights hits with a sniper rifle with x-rays filmed in slow motion of the shattered organs. To be honest: not my cup of tea. So I turned it off completely.
My case is rather the infiltration itself, in which, as the title suggests, you eliminate distant sentries with a sniper so as not to be targeted by them yourself. On the other hand, you are on the road rather secretly over long distances, since you are otherwise quickly grabbed from several sides, especially on high levels of difficulty. So I sneaked around a lot, taking out enemies with silenced pistols or from behind in melee combat. Submachine guns are used especially when you get caught despite all your caution.
I really like the many ways in which you can mine dead people, unconscious people, cars, generators and other objects, or place booby traps anywhere. Lure guards with whistles, distract them with a thrown bottle, and search through corpses or crates to find enough supplies to use these consumables without fear of imminent shortage.
You can even defuse unused traps to save additional material. It’s also cool that the Germans carry their unconscious comrades out of the danger area or wake them up and that you can manually set when explosive devices explode after they have been ignited. There are different types of ammunition, you can carry off the unconscious and dead, in some places you can see through holes in the wall, in others you can shoot chandeliers from the ceiling to bury baddies under them and more.
Sniper Elite 5 isn’t the most demanding of stealth action, as the guards don’t run elaborate patrol routes and basically all paths lead to the objective in the same way. Although the big scenes and numerous possibilities are similar to a hitman, the variety is manageable overall, especially in the reactions of the opponents. This is what makes Sniper Elite seem more monotonous in comparison. Experimenting is always fun! It’s just not the grand school of clever immersive action.
At least on the highest level of difficulty it is a challenge to progress unseen and, in the best case, not even to kill anyone. It has nothing to do with authentic, as the level is called, if you chase someone through the head with a bullet of the brand tranquilizer ammunition over 600 meters, after which they will only be knocked out. But even the “authentic” sniper isn’t about realism – which is quite unfortunate in some places. For example, I’d like to see the amount of ammo left in the magazine on the weapon rather than going into the weapon menu. As an Insurgency player, I miss this.
There are hardly any HUD displays on the hardest setting – which is basically great, but unfortunate where you can’t even see which of the many pieces of equipment is currently active. As such, I wish Rebellion had taken a closer look when fine-tuning Authentic, and instead of removing real-world information, removed the audible feedback on kills.
Oh, yes: If you prefer to take it easy, you can of course lower the level of difficulty or adjust several dozen settings to the desired level using precise controls. This is what a menu should look like – also with regard to other settings, including the controls! So if you prefer to aim in slow motion or want to be shown where a bullet is going to fly while aiming, you will find it here. Where even authentic is ultimately far from a hardcore experience and all in all represents a rather manageable challenge.
For more, the AI would have to do more, because as well as the guards are placed to put pressure on from several sides when the alarm is active, they often run around aimlessly, just stand still or run directly past Karl. They also don’t work together in a recognizable way, which is why it often happens that after an alarm has been triggered, individual stragglers keep running for several minutes, with whom you have an easy game, which can often be quite boring. In return, they shoot through dense growth without being able to see through it – the German eye is probably a very special one!
Technically, Rebellion doesn’t mix with the upper class and that’s okay. You can also see this when animations are only completed before those hit by a bullet finally go down. Or when you can’t load a weapon because the process is repeated over and over again. The fact that you can’t lean around every corner because the automatic cover doesn’t work on all walls is actually really annoying at times. I would have preferred manual leaning to the side anyway, but unfortunately there isn’t one here either.
It’s more the big picture that Rebellion does so well, because if you want, you can experience the campaign cooperatively with a friend, defend various maps in survival mode either online or alone against waves of attacking Nazis and plunge into various PvP variants the online fight. As usual, it’s not possible to get a good impression of this before a game’s release, but with Free for All, Team Deathmath for up to four squads and a mode in which two teams only fight over long distances, ambitious snipers should also be able to do so for a long time Always have a goal in mind.
Sniper Elite 5 Review – Conclusion
The bottom line is that Sniper Elite 5 has become really good, especially since the exciting infiltration and nasty sniping is fun. Rebellion never stages the really big stealth action because the behavior of the opponents is quite one-dimensional and is characterized by conspicuous AI errors. To do this, you complete numerous tasks in spacious locations, experiment with different traps and weapons and even observe how enemy guards carry their wounded to safety. The real clou, however, is only the intrusion into the campaign of other players or if that happens to you yourself, because as soon as another person is involved, the ordinary sneaking around quickly becomes a wonderfully exciting thriller! As said, add the waves mode, the extensive PvP as well as the cooperative campaign and you know what you have in this year’s edition of the sniper adventure.