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Sniper Elite 5 (PC)

Sniper Elite 5 (PC) - Review

by Miles Gregory , posted on 26 June 2022 / 1,175 Views

I begin atop a muddy hill. Cold rain trickles down, drenching my clothes. The sweat, blood, and grime coalesce into a single wet substance as I hike my way towards the objective. I find a two-story cabin overlooking my destination, which will serve as my point of reconnaissance. I make my way to the second floor of the cabin, paying close attention to indications of the enemy. Conveniently, an open window faces a war torn chateau. I use my binoculars to survey the area. I note two armed guards near the grounds of the entrance, two spotlights above the entrance, four guards making their rounds across the courtyard, three guards walking the battlement, and a sniper located in a watchtower about 30 meters away from the entrance. I pay close attention to the alarm system located in the middle of the court yard, the repetitive movements of the guards on their rounds, the gas generators providing the Nazis with electricity, and the height of the parapet above the castle grounds. 

The wind is blowing approximately five miles an hour to my four o’clock, and the distance between myself and the chateau is about 180 meters. To calculate for bullet drop, I have to aim about a meter above where I want to shoot, and about one tick to the left. I hold my breath, steady, and slowly pull the trigger. The sound explodes out of the end of the barrel and rips through the air headed directly for the target. The bullet pierces through the head of the unsuspecting guard. Starting with the jaw, it shatters through his teeth and through the back of his head. Muscle and sinew are ripped from the bone as his head explodes in a bloody mess, but the bullet is not done. With enough velocity it continues a slightly deviated trajectory and pierces the stomach of the man behind him. Though it does not kill him, it leaves him incapacitated. Satisfied, I begin to take aim for another guard when I notice the footsteps of nearby enemy soldiers inspecting the sound of gunfire. As one soldier steps into the cabin, an explosion is set off. Silently thanking my proximity mine, I climb down the stairs and leave through the back entrance to find another vantage point. 

If this dramatization doesn't sound interesting to you, I recommend saving yourself a few minutes and putting this review down. Circumstances such as the one I’ve described above occur a lot. Sniper Elite 5 is quite the repetitive game, but that may not be as bad as it sounds. So, if what I’ve written thus far has piqued your curiosity, then stick around as you may uncover a very solid stealth-action game with some great open world sequences within the repetition. 

The Sniper Elite series began in 2005 on the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox as a relatively linear WW2 themed shooter, in an era when WW2 themed shooters were as common as open-world games are today. The series has centered around the use of “realistic” ballistics. To that effect, it hasn’t changed much, though there have been some iterative evolutions of the gameplay throughout the series' life. Series fans will be downright comfortable with Sniper Elite 5, as it continues its established gameplay loop while fine tuning the experience.

You continue as Karl Fairburne, an American operative, after the events of Sniper Elite 4 (though weirdly before the events of the second game - Sniper Elite V2). Your task is to aid France by finding a way for Americans to infiltrate the country more securely, thus providing much needed assistance to the resistance. You discover a Nazi weapon known as “Kraken”, built to attack America, and your task changes from merely helping the resistance to saving America. The story is nothing special, and I’d argue downright forgettable. In addition, it’s not really veracious with regard to history, if that’s your interest. There are some references to real WW2 events, such as the Battle of Normandy, but most things are merely historically based. That said, I highly doubt many people are playing these games for the story. 

There has been a substantial improvement to the graphical fidelity in comparison to Sniper Elite 4, particularly texture rendering. Rebellion, the developer, is now utilizing phototelemmetry. That is, Rebellion is using real-world pictures in the rendering process to make textures and models look more realistic. Cliff faces, grass, trees, dirt, brick, stone, and other materials look fantastic, bringing the country of France to life. Lighting looks more realistic as well. Crepuscular rays will shine through the tree leaves in the early morning. Moonlight causes cascaded shadows which appear subdued by the light coming from street lamps. It’s both realistic and artistic. There's also greater attention to detail; water behaves more realistically, explosions may leave a billow of dirt trickling down depending on the environment, and even shooting sandbags causes sand to “pour” out of the sandbag (though no actual effect happens on the mesh - it’s just a texture). These tiny details may not have an effect from a gameplay standpoint, but they serve to really flesh out the environments and make the world feel more cohesive, reactive, and realistic.  

The game appears to be well optimized as well. My PC contains an RTX 3070 and a Core I9-10850k, and the only real limitation I encountered was in VRAM, which is pretty common for the RTX 3070. Still, I was able to run the game at max settings, 1440p, with AMD FSR set to quality, and the game easily settled between 120 and 144 frames per second. I recommend changing the graphics API from Direct X to Vulkan within the menu, as the game ran about 10% better on Vulkan than Direct X 12 in just about all scenarios. When using Vulkan I did note a few crashes when exiting the application. However, since updating my graphics drivers to the newest version, I haven’t encountered this. Hopefully it's just a driver issue, but it was worth noting nevertheless. 

Gameplay wise, it’s a pretty standard stealth title. There's a mini-map which shows the enemies' general location, with a “focus” ability that allows you to “hear” their location too (thus providing visibility through walls and on the map). Running causes noise, as does shooting, so unless you want everyone knowing your location you must stay quiet and crouch. Visibility is a concern as well. Luckily there are large patches of grass to hide in on occasion, as well as simply staying prone or taking cover. Though the game centers around its use of the Sniper rifle (it IS in the name after all), there's plenty more offered here. Heavy firearms, stationary machine guns, silenced pistols, satchel charges, pressure mines, and even TNT are all at your fingertips as you make your way through the open-world environments towards your objectives. 

While the core gameplay isn’t that far removed from the last Sniper Elite game, there are some notable upgrades. The weapon customization system is much more robust than in Sniper Elite 4, with multiple workbenches strewn across each level. Finding these workbenches, along with accomplishing other tasks, will allow you to customize your weapon to the nth degree. Provided you’ve unlocked the necessary attachment, you can add or remove attachments to change the power, spread, volume, bullet drop, reload speed, bullet capacity, etc. 

You can even choose to change the type of bullet you would like to use, far beyond Sniper Elite 4’s suppressed ammo. Armor piercing rounds allow you to pierce through hard surfaces, such as rock and metal. Soft-point bullets are more deadly, but can’t pierce armor. There are even non-lethal bullets for pacifist runs. In addition, there appears to be some adjustment with the gameplay overall. Karl Fairburne moves more nimbly, which allows you to play more aggressively. Running and gunning is more of an option than it ever was before, and you can climb up ledges and buildings for unique vantage points. 

Levels are built in an open-ended manner with not only multiple ways to make your way toward your objective, but also multiple ways to finish your objective. For example, to kill a specific target you can utilize the environment, your sniper, or you could take them out in a more scripted way, such as poisoning them. Destroying an objective can be done the old fashion way or, again, in a more scripted (and possibly non-explosive) manner. The difference between blowing something up and just disabling it typically amounts to which button you’ve pressed, though. Sneaking up behind a target and poisoning them doesn’t feel much different either. As far as I can tell, this makes no effect on the overall narrative or adventure, aside from a one or two line mention from the protagonist as it’s occurring. I felt that this lack of any significant impact was a bit of a let down. It would have been nice to have seen a decision made earlier in the game change the behavior or objectives later down the line, providing more replay opportunities.

This improved customization and more flexible gameplay really shines on a few levels of the game, most notably the third one: Spy Academy. The narrow corridors with embrasures leading to open ended areas are perfect for laying down some traps, picking off a few people with your rifle, and cleaning up everyone else with some more aggressive tactics. Looking back at past Sniper Elite games, I’m not entirely sure if it's the level design itself or the gameplay that is increasing my enjoyment, but the effect is the same; it just feels great when things go exactly as planned.

However, things don’t always go as anticipated, and it’s most often not going to be your fault, but the fault of the enemy AI. Had Nazi soldiers been this dull during WW2, the war would have been very easy to win. I understand that the use of soundmasks will naturally make what you're doing harder for the enemy to hear, but when an enemy soldier has no idea his buddy blew up 15 feet away from him because an airplane flew overhead, it just becomes ridiculous. On one notable mission I was tasked with blowing up a furnace. I was able to sneak around the Nazi soldiers working on the furnace and overload it, causing an explosion at the top, ruining the entire machine. I then waited for them to set off my traps at the entrance as I picked them off one by one, but instead of noticing something was wrong they KEPT WORKING ON THE BLOWN UP FURNACE. I understand that enemy AI is difficult to program, but this type of behavior really takes me out of the immersion. 

This AI, as well as the overall structure of the game itself, leads us to Sniper Elite 5's biggest flaw: repetition. The Sniper Elite series hasn’t exactly been one with a lot of variation, and that trend continues here. The mission structure tends to remain relatively the same throughout the entire game. You have a main objective to destroy something, a side objective of killing someone, and several optional objectives which are variants of these two. Though optional side quests can be uncovered via intel in a variety of ways (finding papers, overhearing conversations, etc), they still amount to the same basic tasks. Because the tasks are the same and the AI is as dull as a rock, you’ll find yourself repeating the same strategies over and over again, particularly in more open levels. 

One other nitpick I have is the kill camera. Though the graphics in Sniper Elite 5 are a step above its predecessor, I found that the kill camera was actually a step down. In Sniper Elite 4, killing someone displayed significant detail and damage to skeletal meshes, with bones shattering and gigantic holes emerging where the bullet passed through. However, through my time with Sniper Elite 5, I noticed that the damage just felt less impactful. While initially I thought that most damage was simply covered by the rather obtrusive “blood and bits” (as I call it) graphical effect, it actually appears the level of damage has simply been reduced, despite the skeletons and organs themselves looking much better. This was a very disappointing change for me, and I hope they adjust this for the next installment. 

There are two cooperative modes within Sniper Elite 5: campaign and survival. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try out the cooperative mode, but I’d imagine they could be quite fun. There were times during the campaign where I felt having an extra pair of hands would have helped immensely. Having a friend join you during the campaign - provided you coordinate with each other - could allow for interesting tactical executions and, of course, a lot of amusement. There are a few options for online multiplayer as well. The standard PvP and team PvP matches are present. There's a “no cross” mode where you cannot cross over to the enemy side of the map, meaning sniping is really the only option here. You can also adjust the rules for each of these modes to provide some unique variance (e.g. emphasize kill distance, not just kills).

The newest mode is the Axis Invasion mode. This isn't a traditional multiplayer component, but it’s one you will nevertheless be familiar with. This is essentially Dark Souls mode, and if it's activated during your campaign, an axis member can invade you. These are real players, often skilled, and they're determined to find you and eliminate you. Enemy soldiers can notify them of your last known position, and staying still too long can cause you to be killed. It really feels like a game of cat-and-mouse, as you attempt to find the axis before they find you. If you have a really tough time finding their location, you can use phones scattered throughout the game, but using these too often can have dangerous consequences.

Overall, Sniper Elite 5 doesn’t necessarily break the mold of repetition present in past games. Those who have played prior entries likely know what they're getting already. However, it does feel like a much more fleshed out and flexible experience thanks to the gameplay updates. If you enjoy stealth-based action games or are interested in sniper games, you’ll likely find some quality gameplay here for you. The repetition certainly hinders the experience, but the overall gameplay can mitigate this somewhat, especially when paired with clever level design.


VGChartz Verdict


7
Good

This review is based on a digital copy of Sniper Elite 5 for the PC

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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10 Comments
Kakadu18 (on 26 June 2022)

Played Sniper Elite 4 and it's one of my favorite games. Repetition has never been a big problem for me.

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Doctor_MG Kakadu18 (on 26 June 2022)

Oh absolutely, if Sniper Elite 4 didn't feel repitious for you I doubt this one will. Again, this game is an improvement over Sniper Elite 4 in almost every way, so I bet you'd like it.

  • +1
Kakadu18 Doctor_MG (on 26 June 2022)

Glad to know.

  • 0
SuperNintend0rk (on 26 June 2022)

I haven't played any of the Sniper Elite games but I've heard good things. Sounds like a great option for stealth lovers.

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Kakadu18 SuperNintend0rk (on 26 June 2022)

Having cleared an entire map of all over 100 enemies without ever getting spotted is a great feeling.

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SuperNintend0rk Kakadu18 (on 26 June 2022)

I can imagine! Not sure I have the patience for that level of stealth but I can see why so many love it.

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Doctor_MG SuperNintend0rk (on 26 June 2022)

I'm a huge stealth fan, but you do have some cool run and gun options in this game of you are impatient. Though, it does make the game a little harder at times when you do that.

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SuperNintend0rk Doctor_MG (on 26 June 2022)

Oh good to know. I assumed you were pretty much limited to sniping in these games.

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Kakadu18 SuperNintend0rk (on 26 June 2022)

No you have pistols and automatic guns.

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SuperNintend0rk Kakadu18 (on 30 June 2022)

Thanks for the info. I'm pretty sure this is on Game Pass so I should try it out.

  • +1