You’ve played Sniper Elite 5 before. That sounds like a damning criticism, but for years developer Rebellion has traded on familiarity in order to make this shooter series a success. It’s the game that you can boot up, pick up a sniper rifle, and watch a fascist’s testicles be obliterated in a slow-motion spectacle of exuberant viscera. It never gets old, for better or worse.
Despite how familiar it appears on the surface, after spending a few hours with Sniper Elite 5 it does feel like a meaningful evolution over previous entries, if only a slight one. A greater focus on player choice and loadout customisation allows each mission to feel like a sprawling playground filled with possibilities instead of walking us through a campaign dictated by derivative set pieces. Taking clear inspiration from Hitman with its mission structure, this feels like a comfortable yet ambitious shooter that hits all the right targets.
For the hands-on preview I was given free rein over an entire level, invited to step into the shoes of a fairly generic soldier as he’s ordered to infiltrate a sprawling noble residence turned Nazi compound in search of some secret plans. It’s your typical, super generic World War 2 setup that provides enough narrative agency to justify the goal of each mission, but nobody is going to be playing Sniper Elite 5 for the story. If you are, please take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Still, it was enough to keep me intrigued as I formulated a plan and waltzed into the hostile countryside to be promptly murdered by an onslaught of enemy soldiers.
I’ll admit it took me a little while to find my bearings, largely because Sniper Elite 5 isn’t designed to accommodate intimate encounters with enemies. Even going up against two armed infantry units will see you meet a swift end if you're not careful. So the emphasis is placed on stealth, on taking foes out one by one until they’re none the wiser. If caught, the best course of action is to take shelter in a nearby building and let the mediocre artificial intelligence come to you. I lined a staircase with mines and managed to murder about 20 people because they were obsessed with climbing the damn thing and roasting my ass. Eventually the map was completely devoid of threats, meaning I could walk up to the objective and leave without so much as a whisper. This is silly, but I’d much prefer a WW2 shooter that is keenly aware of its own absurdity rather than trying to play it straight.
The map itself is massive, offering more than enough variety in terms of explorable buildings and traversable environments to make exploration feel rewarding. Your objective is always rather obvious, but you’re encouraged to abandon the beaten path in search of optional battles and secrets to discover. Given Sniper Elite 5 takes place in the real world, this normally means stumbling upon small houses or abandoned farmhouses, all of which are now occupied by fascists waiting to get their teeth kicked in by yours truly. It’s great fun, and even after playing through the level twice over the course of two hours it feels like there’s still more to see. This is where the Hitman comparisons start to feel more distinct.
After completing a mission once you can choose new starting locations, shaking up how you approach each objective instead of following the same tired pattern each time. However you will still be shooting, stabbing, or incapacitating your enemies when all is said and done, so aside from a differing loadout there is only so much variety Rebellion can bring to the table. The development team was keen to stress the new addition of non-lethal attacks, allowing you to incapacitate enemies and hide bodies instead of murdering them outright. But they’re Nazis, I’m not interested in letting them have a surprise nap, I want to curb stomp their skulls into ashes. You could argue these are just soldiers working for their country, but it’s a shallow excuse to think of the humanity behind the men in a game where you can also slo-mo shoot someone’s cock off.
Replayability also comes in the form of unlockable characters and customisable loadouts, which I assume will carry across the entire game and allow the once glacially paced stealth sessions to evolve into a cacophony of wondrous explosions. My personal highlight was sneaking atop a watchtower overlooking a bridge leading into the estate. It was a regular spot for tanks and trucks to pass through in order to transfer resources and relief troops, meaning I could litter the road with landmines and bide my time until they passed by. Upon one truck exploding another came out to investigate, allowing me to pick off soldiers one by one as my once stealthy approach turned into chaos. You have to dynamically react all the time, which is only brought down by irksome enemy behaviour that seldom reacts in a way that feels satisfying to take advantage of. It tries to emulate Hitman, but doesn’t make it.
Sniper Elite 5 is fun. It’s the predictable shooter action the series is known for with a few worthwhile twists. Rebellion isn’t going to change the world or reinvent the genre with this one, but it does enough new things and has enough clever ideas to be worthwhile. That, and murdering Nazis never, ever gets old. Screw the non-lethal option, they’re all going down.
Source: Read Full Article