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Welcome to France, 1944, where you assume the role of Karl Fairburne, and your main objective is to find and end Operation Kraken. Karl Fairburne, if you are not familiar, is the long-running protagonist in the series.
Since its debut on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as early as 2005, Sniper Elite has had its ups and downs. The last entry, Sniper Elite 4 released in 2017 with mostly positive reception since it was considered the most well-rounded experience in the series. So how does Sniper Elite 5 fare compared to what was arguably the best entry in the franchise? That's a great question, and we have an in-depth answer for you. Welcome to our review of Sniper Elite 5.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of gameplay elements, I wanted to cover the visuals before anything else. Sniper Elite 5 is the first game in the franchise to dip its toes into the new generation of consoles, including the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The fifth entry still uses the same Asura engine as the previous games. With every new title in the franchise, the engine receives different tech upgrades. However, if you want to witness a mind-blowing, next-gen Sniper Elite, then I am afraid that will not be the case with Sniper Elite 5. You will simply have to wait for the next installment, assuming that there is one.
The release of new consoles is exciting, but it's also a slow transitional period. It takes a few years for the old-generation systems to be completely dropped before new-gen systems become the baseline for development. Essentially, cross-gen games will always be held back by previous generations. I do not care if you are a trillion-dollar company such as Microsoft; your titles will still be held back in the visuals and technical department no matter how much money you throw at them.
Many gamers don't realize how older systems do hold back their games. God of War Ragnarok, will be an excellent-looking game, don't get me wrong, but it will still be forced to run on the PlayStation 4. It won't be the true next-gen God of War that you and I want it to be. The same goes for fans of any series, including Sniper Elite 5.
This franchise is mostly known for its wide-open fields and impressive scale. With every entry, the levels got bigger and bigger, and bigger levels mean more stress on the hardware. The series is also known for its unique X-Ray system, a staple ever since the original game. The X-Ray system lets the player see how brutal their kills are by showing the bullets fly through the Nazis, hitting their eyeballs, brains, or even their small pee-pee nutsacks.
Even though we are currently discussing visuals here, it's worth noting that the level design plays an integral part to the gameplay loop of Sniper Elite 5. This is the most sandbox-like sniping game you'll ever play. Having access to more powerful tech is extremely important for a franchise that heavily relies on open-ended level design as it can allow the developers to create more complex levels than ever before. It's worth saying, however, that bigger worlds don't always mean better gameplay, but Rebellion is a developer who usually utilizes its open gameplay space quite well.
Sniper Elite 5 levels are quite large, even larger than the previous entry. They are also better looking, but at this point, you can easily see the engine's age, and the amount of improvements that can be made to it is about null. The character models look decent, but you won't find insane-looking facial animation and realism. You can easily tell it's a game that was made for previous generation systems and uses a much smaller budget than something like a 1st party developer. That is completely fine because Sniper Elite was never a franchise you played for a nail-biting story or drop-dead gorgeous visuals in the first place. What I do like about Rebellion, as a developer, is that with every entry, they've consistently improved their tech and made things better and better with time and experience.
The X-Ray system has also improved from Sniper Elite 4. It is even more satisfying to watch than before, more detailed and gruesome. The best part about this system is that it never gets old. You'll be busting way more nuts than any well-known pornstar actress, such as Angela White has in her adult entertainment career, and I call that a win! With the nut-busting comments out of the way, let's talk about the game's performance.
After spending many hours in the game over the last week, I am happy to say that it plays very well on Xbox Series X. I have not encountered any freezes or crashes. There was, however, a weird visual glitch where the entire screen flashed, and the visuals went all over the place. It was only for a split second and didn't bother me that much. Nonetheless, I still have to mention it and be honest with you. The game was also running at a silky smooth 60 frames a second without any weird hitches during actual gameplay time at 3840x2160 resolution, which is 4K. While we do not have access to the Xbox Series S here at our office, the developer has confirmed that the game is running at 60 FPS but at 1440p resolution as opposed to 4K on the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5.
The only time I saw a frame-rate dip was when a new in-game cut-scene would start playing. In the beginning, the FPS would be noticeably lower and then stabilize after a few seconds. I'm not sure why that is happening or what's causing it, but I am going to assume it might have something to do with the level being loaded in the background for the first time while the cut-scene is starting to play. But then again, I am not a technical expert, and that is just my assumption. Also, the foliage in this game, such as trees and bushes, look quite horrendous, if I'm being honest. Either way, those are the only small issues when it came to the performance and visuals of Sniper Elite 5 on the Xbox Series X that I've noticed during my playtime.
With the technical and visual stuff aside, let's talk about where Sniper Elite 5 truly shines. The gameplay.
Sniper Elite is an interesting franchise. When I first heard of it, I thought it was an ultra-realistic sniping simulator which did not sound that appealing to me. My first entry in the franchise was Sniper Elite 4, and I liked it quite a bit. Despite the game trying to be somewhat realistic when it came to the sniping mechanics, it still felt arcadey and gamey enough to where I enjoyed it. If you've played Sniper Elite 4, then you'll feel right at home with Sniper Elite 5. It has larger levels, and they can take a while to complete depending on your playstyle. Observe, plan, and execute was always the motto of the franchise, and that doesn't change here. As a matter of fact, it's probably more true than ever before.
I liked the many different ways to tackle each objective in every mission. The levels are designed in such a way that there are multiple pathways for you to complete an objective. You can either try going in gung-ho, which I don't recommend, or you can take the much more strategic and methodical route.
Exploration can be a lot of fun because you might bump into a safe that includes documents that give you intel on your main objective or a hidden collectible, such as a document or a statue that you need to shoot. The intel can give you the information you need to plan your next move. Other times you can completely bypass the intel, and not even realize you are ahead of the game.
It's also worth noting that even just completing objectives can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on your playstyle. Secondary objectives are not necessary to complete, but I feel unsatisfied unless I finish everything a mission has to offer. After all, the more there is to do in each mission, the better. Sniper Elite 5 will also punish you if you try to rush and play recklessly, and in my book, that is a good thing.
The game rewards players when they play strategically and at a slower pace. There will be plenty of times where you'll be forced into close-quarter combat, but the majority of the time, if you set off an alarm, then you're in for a world of hurt, whether it's a long-range battle or getting pinned down inside a bunker. The AI are quite aggressive, even on the default difficulty, and getting killed is pretty easy. You need to use your wits to survive and plan all your actions accordingly.
The stealth in the game hasn't changed much since the previous entry. You can use the tall grass to sneak around and snipe away at every single Nazi that you see. Or you can take a more personal approach, and melee stealth your way towards your objectives. This freedom is what has always been good about the Sniper Elite games. Just like in previous games, you can sprint, walk, crouch, and go full-prone.
Sadly, the multiplayer features were not accessible during the review period. The only multiplayer feature I was able to access is the survival mode, where you and your friends sit and defend an area of a map against the constant waves of Nazis. The only reason I was able to play the survival mode is because the game let me do a solo hosted match. Playing by yourself wasn't that fun. There was no one else to rely on or anyone to communicate with, so it got old pretty quick.
One of the newer features of Sniper Elite 5 are the invasions where you can spawn in as a Nazi into someone else's campaign and try to ruin their day. I wish I could have tried it because playing as the enemy in a game like this sounds like a lot of fun. The mechanic is inspired by Dark Souls. In Dark Souls, players can use specific items to invade other player worlds, and their objective is to find where the host is and eliminate them.
Do you know what's also really fun in this series? Playing with your friends in co-op. I have played Sniper Elite 4 from start to finish with a friend on authentic difficulty. We completed every mission, collected every possible collectible, and got 100 percent of the trophies, including the base game and the DLC. I am pretty confident that it will be just as fun playing with your fellow sniper buddy in Sniper Elite 5, especially on the highest difficulty.
Speaking of difficulty levels, Sniper Elite 5 does have a fully customizable difficulty slider. There are a total of three different sliders - Combat, Sniping, and Tactical. Combat changes the skill, perception, and resilience of your enemies. It also controls the availability of items and ammo throughout the level, which means you'll have to be a lot more conservative with your bullets and items. The sniping slider changes things such as bullet drop, wind effect, and the lungs. Authentic difficulty makes the sniping more realistic, while cadet gets rid of certain mechanics, such as the wind or bullet drop. Then there is the tactical slider which controls the amount of information that is available to you on your radar and gets rid of your HUD elements depending on the difficulty you choose.
Difficulty options like these are bliss because they can accompany any kind of player. Maybe somebody wants to sniper their way through the game real quick and experience all the missions as fast as possible. Someone else might want to play on the highest difficulty while attempting a world record speed run. Bottom line is, play how you want and have fun! There are plenty of medals and ribbons to chase in both multiplayer and single-player. If you are a completionist, there will be a ton of gameplay for you here, and trying to finish the game on authentic difficulty will take you quite a bit.
One new quality of life change that I really like is the ability to switch aim down sights shoulder sides. If you are in a corner, you can press the Y button while aiming down sights to your shoulder views. In a third-person shooter game, that is extremely helpful because you can now use any corners and use the additional shoulder view to your advantage.
In conclusion, Sniper Elite 5 is a worthy and well-executed cross-gen sequel that offers more of the same that you know and love. If you enjoyed Sniper Elite 4, then you'll be happy with the new entry. If you've never played any of the titles, then you have no excuse not to try it. The game is also available on Xbox Game Pass on day one, so if you do not want to spend the $60, then you can play it for free, thanks to your Game Pass subscription.
The game plays and feels smooth, shooting feels quite impactful, and the improved X-Ray camera shots are a joy to watch. I will be honest. If you are looking for a completely next-gen Sniper Elite experience, you are not going to get it here. There are no massive changes here, nor is there anything that will blow your mind. The story is serviceable and just exists as plot armor. The visuals are decent, but you can see the engine's age. Also, this game has some pretty ugly-looking trees.
At the end of the day, I believe Rebellion did a great job with what they were able to work with. I am hoping to see what the next entry will offer when it's made purely for next-gen systems. Kudos to you Rebellion. You did well. Sniper Elite 5 will be receiving a final verdict of 8.5 out 10.