Sniper Elite 5 review: Familiar gameplay with a fresh coat of polish

Yes, you can take out Hitler with a testicle shot.

Sniper Elite 5 Screenshot. Karl Fairburne fires a WW2 era marksman rifle from a boat in the dark.
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Verdict

Sniper Elite 5 takes the foundation of the of the familiar franchise and builds upon it with improvements to world design, historical accuracy, and accessibility.


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    Accessibility improvements

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    Campaign replay options

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    Axis invader gameplay


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    Limitations of WWII-era setting

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Sniper Elite returns with its fifth installment as veteran protagonist Karl Fairburne integrates himself deep within the French Resistance to 1944’s Nazi invasion. Beginning just prior to the events of D-Day, players will take up arms to work their way through several semi-open world missions as they collect Nazi intel regarding “Project Kraken” and take out high-ranking officers of the Reich. While Sniper Elite 5’s formula for story and gameplay will feel familiar, there are some new innovations to change how players approach the game.

The main campaign for Sniper Elite 5 features nine missions, however a 10th mission wherein players hunt down and kill Hitler himself is available as a pre-order bonus. Each mission can be completed in approximately an hour, but that run time is also largely dependent on the player's thoroughness and willingness to explore. 

Sniper Elite 5: Campaign and multiplayer gameplay

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Sniper Elite 5’s campaign missions are presented as semi-open world environments filled with multiple solutions for completing the objective as well as adding side quests that can be activated. In one particular mission, players are tasked with collecting intel regarding Project Kraken, but may find that the information Karl needs is locked behind closed doors where high-ranking officers are holding a meeting. At this point, it is up to the player to decide how to proceed. It's just as viable to use a satchel charge and blow the door off the hinges before killing the officers in a blaze of glory as it is to unlock the door quietly with a key looted from another enemy before sneaking around to quietly grab the intel without ever being noticed. 

Opening doors is not the only way to determine your approach, however. Rebellion has included new traversal methods for Sniper Elite 5, including climbing and zip lines. Players can position themselves below open windows by climbing up a wall of vines, then wait patiently for the enemies inside to leave before clamoring in and scooping up valuable collectibles and intel. While strategy is important in Sniper Elite 5, sometimes things don’t go as planned. That’s when a well-placed zip line can lead to a swift escape so the player can exfiltrate and end the mission.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Players can make use of situational awareness to help them navigate their way around the enemy AI. Tricks like sabotaging vehicles and generators can be useful in masking the sound of a gunshot, but there are other moments when the game provides unique opportunities, as well. One of my personal favorites takes place in Mission 3, when players are presented with long range sniping opportunities prior to infiltrating a spy training academy. While there are limited sabotage items around, there is the continued flyover of airplanes overhead and players can time their shots to those flyovers to mask the sound of gunfire as they pick off threats.

Like with Sniper Elite 4, Karl Fairburne comes equipped with three weapons in his loadout at any given time including his trusty sniper rifle, a SMG for mid-range combat, and a pistol. While players can customize their loadout prior to starting a match they can also come across workbenches during their mission that will allow them to customize their weapons with any newly unlocked equipment. Players can also customize newly found weapons that they have picked up from enemy soldiers, as well. When customizing your weapons, pros and cons of the changes being made to firearm behavior such as slower reloads, or improved stability are all laid out for the player so they can know what to expect from their choices.  

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In addition to firearms, players can utilize additional equipment including grenades, TNT, and Schü-mines. These can be accessed from a quick swap wheel by pressing LB and then used once equipped. While this menu is up, players can also see what other items may be on Karl’s person, including bolt cutters and keys. These tools can be used to open supply boxes, unlock safes, and infiltrate bunkers. 

The various ways to approach each individual mission, along with variations from weapons and loadouts, helps increase Sniper Elite 5’s playtime without making the game feel stale. Each mission features a 3-star challenge system, with one star for the optional objective for players to discover, one for an optional high ranking kill target, and one for completing the main story objective. There are also collectibles and optional starting locations for players to scout out. If that’s still not enough variety, there is the option to allow Axis invasion of your campaign.

Sniper Elite 5: Familiar but improved

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The first Sniper Elite title was released by Rebellion in 2005, and there are certain elements to this long-running franchise that have become staples. We’re talking about nut shots and X-ray killcams, folks. That’s what everybody’s here for, and Sniper Elite 5 does not disappoint. The latest installment of gratuitous gore features enhanced X-ray cams with the development team taking special care to emphasize bullet trajectory, internal ricochet mechanics, and extra detail around the damage inflicted by a shot.

Rebellion's developers have spoken at length about their efforts to be historically accurate, going so far as to record the sound of WWII-era weaponry from multiple distances to ensure that realism makes its way into Sniper Elite 5. Everything from the environment to the soundscape to weapon behavior and enemy reactions feel familiar to past Sniper Elite titles, but simultaneously improved for a new generation of gaming.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

This dedication to improving upon the foundation laid by previous releases is evident even in Sniper Elite 5's accessibility menus. Subtitles can be customized in both size, color, and opacity while colorblind players can also adjust UI elements to be visible depending on their type of colorblindness. 

Aim assist is an option for all players, even those using a mouse and keyboard, and can be adjusted in its sensitivity and usage scenarios. Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely rebind your buttons on a controller. There are six different controller layouts to choose from, however, including three for left-handed players. Players opting for mouse and keyboard inputs can rebind them to their liking.

Sniper Elite 5: Should you play it?

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Sniper Elite is one of those long-running franchise that feels comfortable when you launch it. The titles are consistently good from the get-go, and Rebellion manages to build upon the foundation by improving each subsequent release. Sniper Elite 5 is no exception this formula.  Everything from the solo campaign to the multiplayer just feels right when you launch the game. 

However, Rebellion's insistence of sticking to this formula — no matter how effective it is — does mean that if you've previously decided that Sniper Elite is not a series for you then Sniper Elite 5 will not do any favors toward changing your mind.  The familiar World War II-era setting only lends itself to so many potential storytelling opportunities, and it's hard not to wonder where the franchise can go from here. For right now, though, there's a Führer just begging to have his testicles shot off. 


 Sniper Elite 5

The latest installment of the third-person shooter brings back elite marksman Karl Fairburne as he attempts to uncover a secret Nazi plot that threatens to turn the tides of World War II.

Download from: Xbox

Cole Martin

Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.