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Sniper Elite 5 review: Another sure-fire hit

(Pocket-lint) – In under 17 years, the Sniper Elite series has carved out its own niche with its distinctly British styling and stealth-based gameplay – all with a fraction of the resources afforded to other blockbuster shooter titles.

Now, we have the fifth instalment – the first that fans can play on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S, as well as PC and last-gen consoles.

So, what’s new in this latest outing, and is it worth picking up? We reveal all.

Our quick take

There’s no doubt that those already enamoured by the Sniper Elite series will love this latest addition. We expect it to pick up several new fans, too. It ticks every box, while adding plenty of other highlights of its own.

For starters, the campaign missions are huge, and, with eight of them in total, there’s a heck of a lot of gameplay on offer. Even some of the easier missions took us around one-and-a-half to two hours to complete. Plus, with plenty of side objectives and collectables to find, there’s more than enough to encourage a revisit.

That’s even disregarding the fact that you can play them in co-op with a partner, or invade someone else’s campaign as an enemy sniper in the superb Invasion Mode. The various other multiplayer modes plonk additional icing onto the cake.

As a last-gen and current-gen game, however, there seems to have been some compromises made when it comes to presentation. It looks great on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC, with pin-sharp visuals and high frame rates, but also needs to run well on PS4 and Xbox One, so the overall presentation is a little halfway house. Still, the enhanced kill cams make up for that in part – they never get old.

Certainly, there is something reassuring in Sniper Elite 5’s familiarity, both visually and in play terms. The series is right up there with the most recent Hitman trilogy, as far as modern stealth games are concerned, and Fairburne’s fifth adventure once again proves why.

Sniper Elite 5 review: Another sure-fire hit

Sniper Elite 5

4.5 stars – Pocket-lint recommended

For

  • Customisable weaponry
  • Bigger open-world levels
  • Gameplay variety
  • Plenty of replayability
  • Invasion Mode is great
Against

  • Some graphical compromises to ensure cross-gen compatibility

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Vive la France

In Sniper Elite 5, you once more pop on the well-worn shoes of Karl Fairburne, the eponymous sniper that’s also known as ‘The Shadow’, and a scourge of Nazi generals worldwide. This time, he finds himself in France circa 1944, tasked with weakening Axis defences in preparation for the Allied invasion on D-Day.

However, the discovery of enemy documents alluding to Operation Kraken sets him on a new path – one that, should he fail, could see a depleted, almost defeated Nazi force turn the tide of the war. Cue a series of increasingly difficult set pieces, each with targets to eliminate and information to gather.

The campaign plays this plot out over eight lengthy missions in total, taking us up to D-Day and beyond. Each also sports optional side quests, collectables and other high ranking officers to assassinate, which makes for a lot of gameplay – especially with the magnitude of the open-world locations this time around.

This is easily the biggest Sniper Elite game yet, and you get an idea of its scale from the very beginning. Each mission map is large and cleverly designed to give you a great variety of different paths and ways to complete objectives in the way that suits you best. The game favours stealth more than anything, but, if you fancy trying to kill every enemy in the campaign (and have a week or so handy), you could even give that a go.

We actually found combining play styles the most satisfying – this is a Sniper Elite game, after all, so sniping is always on the agenda – but, if you want to sneak around and silently take out your foes up close, you can. You don’t even need to kill – just incapacitate, if you’d prefer. However, doing so will mean you miss out on the many excellent, enhanced kill cams.

Graphic violence

The series is renowned for its gruesome x-ray zooms when an enemy is shot from afar, and this latest certainly holds no punches. The graphics have been tweaked somewhat between generations, not least for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions, so you really do get a more visceral look at the insides of your targets before they rapidly become their outsides.

Kill cams are also added for pistols and SMGs this time, while close quarters combat – such as a knife attack – can trigger slow-motion effects, too. Of course, you can turn up their frequency (or even turn them off entirely, if you feel your lunch revisiting), but they really do set this gaming series apart from many others.

One thing we will note about the graphics generally, though, is that the improvements for the newer consoles seem to be reined back a tad – else the PS4 and Xbox One versions would struggle. There are still fine details and a general crispness for newer machines that are impressive, but we’d say that there is more of an evolution than a revolution where the overall presentation is concerned.

You definitely notice more foliage and fine details than in Sniper Elite 4 – thanks to scans taken in real-world locations – and the action is very smooth, running at 60fps (it seems). There’s just the impression that we might have got even more visual bells and whistles had it been a current-gen release only.

All said, though, the gameplay is so intuitive you’ll barely stop to enjoy the view anyway.

In with the new

That’s thanks to Rebellion Developments embracing what has made the series so playable over the years, while also adding a few very well received new features.

Its base of stealth, gunplay, adventuring and puzzle-solving gameplay remains as solid as ever before. There’s nothing more satisfying than taking out an enemy from a vast distance and watching the rest of them run around wondering where the shot came from. However, the new additions are cleverly tacked on to make it even more fun.

Weapons customisation is a great example of a new feature that seamlessly fits in well. Before missions, you now get the option to customise each gun, not just choose your loadout.

There are different barrels, sights, stock and even ammo that you can assign to your rifle, SMG and pistol. Some can alter the feel and control of the weapon, while others affect the noise it makes and/or impact on an enemy. You have to balance the options to find what suits you best in that particular mission.

You can even choose non-lethal ammo, or change the aesthetics of a gun. It’s an impressive list of options, that’s for sure.

The movement has more variations, too, with multiple ways to climb or slide your way around the vast open-world levels. Fairburne can also learn new skills throughout with skill points you earn along the way.

Perhaps our favourite new feature, though, is Invasion Mode. This is an online-only mode that allows other players to enter your campaign session as an Axis sniper tasked with hunting you down. They can find you on the map if an enemy NPC spots you, and you can find them through telephone points dotted around each mission.

It becomes a cat and mouse game made all the more fun by you still having to complete your mission. You can, of course, also invade other players’ games as the enemy sniper yourself.

On top of that, all campaign missions can be played in co-op with a friend. Other multiplayer modes include 16 PVP battles and the classic survival mode, whereby you and three others have to take on wave after wave of Nazi soldiers.

This is a big old game that offers plenty of action even after you finish the campaign. We even found ourselves going back into completed missions to try them from other entry points and with alternative loadouts. It’s all great stuff.

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To recap

Sniper Elite 5 takes what’s great about the series and ups the ante with some excellent additions – such as in-depth weapon customisation and the online Invasion Mode. Its campaign is lengthy, with big open-world missions to complete and multiple ways to do so, while multiplayer is as fun as ever. As the first game in the series to feature on both last-gen and current-gen consoles, it does lack some of the full visual finesse that newer machines are capable of, but you’ll likely not care once the action starts.

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Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Conor Allison.


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