STAFF REVIEW of Sniper Elite 5 (Xbox One)

Monday, June 13, 2022.
by Brent Roberts

Sniper Elite 5 Box art One of the greatest weapons ever used in any shooter game is the Sniper Rifle. Being able to send a round down range that normally would be impossible to shoot is one of the greatest thrills we can experience; and Rebellion Developments have been working hard at bringing that very experience into your life with their Sniper Elite series. Recently their latest installment of the Nazi hunting sniper game, Sniper Elite 5, aims to shatter organs with greater detail and provide new features that breathe new life into this series. Is it enough though to make this game a crack shot at a distance or does it miss wide on the target and reveal the flaws that keep it from succeeding?

For those new to the Sniper Elite series, you play the role of German sniper Karl Fairburne who has defected to the United States to fight against his homeland during the events of WWII. The stories told throughout the series are ones filled with dramatic moments and this one is no different. While on mission you discover something about Operation Kraken and then the game opens its sandbox up to take you through multiple missions to uncover some of the German's most devastating and secretive operations that, if successful, will hand the Nazis and other Axis nations an almost certain victory in the war. The story itself is done well in unfolding throughout the levels and you can definitely see similarities to the Marvel faction, Hydra, to the point where it's almost time to get some IP lawyers involved. Some issues that were faced during the pre-launch of this game were severe stuttering of the screen during the loading sequences but those seem to have been remedied.

The campaign consists of eight missions and a ninth that is setup as your 'ending'. Each one of these first eight missions plays out in a massive sandbox area that, even though incredibly massive in size, Rebellion Developments ended up finding ways to direct or funnel your movements, so while the map size may be very large, your actual traversal will be very limited. The best way I can describe this would be to imagine the map broken into 'sections', and while these sections are separate, there are multiple paths to go from one to another. While this greatly narrows down your options I would have liked to have a little more freedom in my movement choices. If you decide to go through the maps you will discover secondary quests that will allow you to earn not just XP, but in some cases weaponry and achievements as well.

These secondary quests are purely optional and the game does a great way of outlining that for you. Yellow targets circled on the map are primary targets where blue markers equate an optional mission objective. You'll also notice a red marker which is the mission's "Kill List" objective. This objective is also optional, but fulfilling the Kill List by completing the kill challenge requirement, will unlock a new weapon for your use. In one instance, fulfilling a Kill List objective by completing the kill challenge in one mission will automatically net you a weapon you need for a kill challenge in a later level.

These levels are unique and visually there are some distinct differences which make every level feel special in their own way, but for the most part Sniper Elite 5 seems to switch between lush, beautiful scenery such as countryside and woods with meadows to broken down and destroyed as you go throughout the war efforts and see the outcome of them. While you may be thinking that these maps are limited in movement, and with only eight, rather short for a game, and you'd be right. Having these limitations could be forgiven if it weren't for the gameplay mechanics that you have to deal with every moment you play. Let me explain.

You have your basic controls as before, and similar to ones you'd find in third and first person shooter. With limited customization options, your Left Bumper can bring up a wheel for quick selection of your weapons and items. 'B' button crouches and held can lay prone if possible. Your empty lung is now more prevalent than ever. With different rifles reacting differently under various conditions, it's almost critical to make sure you have the right weapon for the mission, but not really. You see, this is a tactical game, well, it should be played as one. Granted yes, you can use your SMG and start emptying clips left and right and clear out areas loud and violently but being an army of one is where this game's soul resides. Being able to throw bottles, whistle and incite little distractions that will grant you an upper edge in battle can make all the difference and therefore make weapon selection AND your perks completely irrelevant. Here's why...

One mission I did a stealth kill takedown, now this enabled me to lay a grenade trap on the body, then a wandering soldier came by and saw the body, went over to it, examined it and blew himself up. Being nearby this allowed me to go search the new dead body, find a grenade and lay a trap on that one. Now with the explosions being very loud this naturally sent surrounding guards into investigating mode. So, they wander off and what do they find? A fresh dead body that they go to examine. As you can guess, the body got blown up by the trap. Which again sent more people looking, however, this time I loaded up subsonic rounds which are quiet and enable you to fire the Sniper in close quarters without risking much in terms of detection. Up comes the first muppet to look at the body, he kneels down and BAM, headshot. No one hears the round and they continue their search until another discovers the body and kneels down and BAM, another headshot. Tactics such as using your own enemy's body almost as a beacon can be highly effective. With tactics like this you can easily dispatch numerous enemies throughout the levels so there's no reason to really ever use your SMG. While you may have the weapon, I never found much use for that or the pistol. Think through your missions and you'll just need your rifle and some good aiming.

That's not to say that the gameplay is perfect mind you. Flaws definitely exist within. For example, you will need to hide and find cover from the enemy from time to time, however when your character goes into cover you run a high chance of the character failing at this move which can cause your character to be seen. The same inconsistencies apply to the foliage as well. While you may have bushes that are above your head, your character is somehow visible, yet go into some tall grass and they're not. Shipping crates act as an object you can hide behind, however, metal plates along a walkway that block you from the enemy's field of view do not. While these situations do exist, like the statement above, if you are tactical in your thought process of how to bait enemies, how to maximize your silence while getting the most eliminations, then none of this is really an issue to contend with. Remember, if you have an enemy 90m away and your gun can only be heard from 60m or closer, then have fun.

Finding that audible range though is all part of the customization of the weapons which are done via the workbenches in the level. Each level contains three workbenches (1 for rifle, pistol and smg) and throughout their discoveries you'll unlock new attachments that will give you the ability to shrink the weapon's audible range. Suppressors can dampen the sound, but overpressure chambers can increase your damage, so finding combinations that work well together can truly make you lethal. Get yourself a 'Kar 98 Rifle' and you can have a weapon at max damage and an audible range of 60m, combine that with the M1911 which you can equip a 6x scope and with more power than any other rifle than the Kar 98 and nothing will ever touch you. Sound plays another important role in the game by allowing you to mask your actions so that you can actually go as loud as you want and not worry about it. There was a time I even was able to destroy a tank under a raid siren and have the sound completely masked so no surrounding guards were ever alerted to the explosion. This is why tactical approaches can lead to quicker and quieter mission accomplishments.

While going through these missions you can play through the campaign or co-op but the new addition is the Axis invasion mode which means you can have an enemy player jump in and act as a Jager Sniper who will have a set amount of skills and can see their own troops, so this is a good thing, however, when pinpointing the sniper location you can also see which troops are being dismantled so you can get a feel for the direction and location of your target(s). You will find a phone in various locations which you can use sporadically to call out a general area where the enemy sniper is located but in turn can also give away a general position of you.

One of the best things that I love about this is how the game forces you to actually move to avoid giving away your location. While some will say that snipers don't move much and are more stationary scouts than frontline warriors and, in this game, though movement will keep you from being detected. Even if you camp thinking that you will get the enemy Jager Sniper and see them running the game will actually punish you. Rarely do we see games punish you for camping and being stationary, but this game does which is a refreshing aspect that forces action. If both of you never moved, then none of you would ever find each other. Sniper Elite 5 also offers your basic compilation of multiplayer options such as team death match etc, but the most excitement is felt in the Axis invasion, especially if you invade a co-op game. Good luck with that.

There is a lot that Sniper Elite 5 has going for it that makes it a quality experience. There are some graphical glitches though such as weapons being invisible and some other shortcomings that ding it, and one of the biggest gripes is the actual in game audio. There are moments when you need to listen in on a conversation to get intelligence for something nearby, but the music becomes a dramatic loop of annoyance that if it weren't for subtitles, I probably would have missed out on the information. This applies to every level but can be avoided should you be tactful like I mentioned earlier, but should you go loud and proud, your ears are going to hate you for listening to the same dramatic loop over and over and over and over and over again. Despite all of that however, Rebellion is well on their way to turning Sniper Elite games into tremendously enjoyable sniper experiences and one that I'm personally looking forward to seeing where Sniper Elite 6 takes us.

**Sniper Elite 5 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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