The Sniper Elite series always felt like a game that put being a video game first and everything else second. The staple X-Ray kills have been cemented into gaming just like the gory X-Ray hits in Mortal Kombat. That is what you come to for the series, and what you want to see first and foremost. Everything else feels like a topping or extra you don’t mind seeing. Which I think is a bit of a detriment to the series now.
Sniper Elite 5, continues the ever evolving story of Karl Fairburn, a German born American who kills nazis for a living. Being known as “The Shadow” he takes on missions of the utmost importances to rid the world of Nazi leaders and thwart their diabolical plans of world dominations and super weapons. And that’s basically what you get, with each game in the series taking place in a different country, Karl has traveled the world and ended up in France, after being in Africa in three and Italy in four. Now he is tasked with finding out and destroying the newest Nazi death war maching code named “The Kraken”.
The story itself, I found to be utterly boring and really pieced together odd. While a V2 rocket program named “The Kracken” sounds cool in theory, it really is just that. A rocket launch that needs to be sabotaged and the base where they are being built destroyed. Which happens on the last level. Everything else around it is built up and told in some very obscure pickups that are scattered around the unbelievably immense maps.
Sniper Elite has picked up a lot of gameplay mechanics from Hitman, and really has turned into a stealth action hybrid. This newest game really shines a spotlight on it, as you run around the massive map, you can find new starting locations that allow you to restart the level in a different location, along with different loadouts to let you tackle the mission in a different path. However, the level really plays out the same, and while there are plenty of ways to take out enemies, the tried and true method of finding a good vantage point, highlighting and tagging as many opponents as possible and meticulously taking them out one by one with a long range sniper rifle without being detected is always the most satisfying and fun.
It really is a shame because the game tries to set up so many different avenues for taking out the nazi soldiers you come across, but it just didn’t ever seem like the proper way to do it. I spent most of my time sniping as many as I could off the bat, advancing forward in stealth, taking out anyone I could and then getting to a new vantage point and doing it all over again. Until I completed all the objectives, killed as many people as I could find, and then end the mission. There were a few times where alarms were raised, or I got into a massive shootout with pretty much no way out other than to fight my way with a customized silenced tommy gun, but that never felt very fun. I’m supposed to be “The Shadow” getting in and out undetected. So when I constantly was being found, and shot at, and hunted down, felt like I wasn’t playing the game the way it was designed.
One really interesting twist of gameplay, that I admittedly did not get to try out, is the addition of invasions. Good ol’ Dark Souls invasions from other real world players to make your life more miserable as you play through the game. While I am certainly no fan of Dark Souls, the invasion system is an interesting addition. It’s nothing I’m interested in at all, as I find playing with real world people in a competitive nature never is fun unless I personally know them. I casually played this game and didn’t take it too seriously when I did. I’d play for 45 minutes, get up and deal with things around the house, take dogs out, work on another project and then maybe come back later on in the evening or the next day. If I got invaded by someone who already completed the entire campaign on the first day of release, and already is leveled up to max, and just kept getting snipped, I wouldn’t find myself enjoying the game as much. So, again, it’s not something I personally enjoy, but having another player load into the game, as an option, to make it more interesting/challenging… sure, there is nothing wrong with giving that option to people, as long as it can be turned on and off at will.
I’m not sure what went wrong, or if anything even did go “wrong”, but Sniper Elite 5 really just kinda showed up, let me play more levels, and then finished up without me feeling like I accomplished anything. The story is mostly told through vague pickups you can easily miss if you don’t spend over 2 hours per level meticulously killing every single person and rifling through each and every nook and cranny of every building. And the few cutscenes that are there are some very bland back and forth between Karl “wet blanket” Fairburn and some rebels. I never felt really engaged in the story and nothing felt like it mattered in the end.
Each level is so massive and big that it did take me roughly about two hours per mission, some even more, as I ended up with around 20 Hours all said and done. With eight real missions and a final ninth mission being a single 30 second sniper shot, it was more than worth playing through and especially it being on Gamepass, it’s an easy recommendation if you like the other games in the series. It really is the new Hitman formula applied to a third person shooter. Stealth takes precedence over loud frantic shootouts. Planning proximity mines layouts, that pay off way later, when you have forgotten you even placed them down, only to be pulled out of control to watch some soldier get blown sky high in slow motion is always a treat.
Sniper Elite continues to do the things it's known for well, and the new additions of invasions and alternative starting points will really allow people to spend more time playing the game than if it didn’t have those options. But I found this newest game in the continuing series lacking in… something. I honestly can’t put my finger on it either, as something about it just felt off. Sure we could all blame the pandemic, and how every game under the sun has had issues, but it’s been two and a half years, it’s not the scapegoat it was in 2020, This newest game just feels off in a way that just seems like it didn’t do enough new things in the right way. I think the story and characters need a major overhaul. Karl is really bland and boring as an Elite Sniper codenamed “The Shadow”. No flair, No Personality at all, just straight and by the books, which sure, is something you’d expect a military sniper to be, but this is a video game after all. It’s that flare that makes these games appealing. You can only get so much out of the same x-ray shot of shooting a nazi’s testicles.
A revamp of the story, and or characters would do a world of good to the game. With my reviews, I’m finding myself wanting more and more to give a example at the end, to maybe show what a new game in a series could do to win me and more people over, so here is my idea for Sniper Elite 6:
The first mission finds Karl getting intel about Hitler’s new war machine super weapon. Karl goes off to thwart the plan and gets captured, and interrogated by Hitler and his goons. Karl isn’t heard from for a few weeks, and so a team of new sniper recruits are tasked with going behind enemy lines and finding him. Allowing each map to either be explored as a single person of the new task force, or lead a team (Rainbow Six 3 style) to learn more about Karl and what happened to him. With each level advancement, you get deeper undercover and start making your way up the Nazi ranks to learn more about Hitler’s secret weapon and also find Karl.
At the end, Karl has been brainwashed and turned into the Nazi’s permiere Sniper, and you and your team either have to capture him and try and help him, or take him out. The choice being up to you, and with metadata and metrics, if more people chose to kill him, that could influence the direction of Sniper Elite 7. This is just an idea I thought of just now as I typed it, and nothing more than that. A fun thought exercise to see if I could find a new way to make the series feel reinvigorated and breathe some new life into it. Sniper Elite 5 isn’t a bad game, it just doesn’t do enough to really keep my interest more than going through the same fun environments and see how far I could snipe people from, it’s enjoyable, and certainly worth playing on GamePass for free, but spending money on it is a lot harder recommendation than I’d feel like it should be.