World War II is slowly coming to a close, and the Allies force the Axis to retreat. Players will take control of the sharpshooter Karl Fairburne with another group near the French coast. Soon after, the game starts as you'll find yourself stuck behind enemy lines and with only the French Resistance to assist you.
Despite not having played any Sniper Elite game until Sniper Elite 5, the story was told coherently and simply enough that even I — as a newcomer — was able to comprehend it all. I quickly understood how the dynamic between Karl Fairburne and some of the characters presented throughout the campaign worked. The story mostly consists of a cinematic at the beginning and end of each campaign, with shorter ones presented throughout the middle after completing some main objectives.
That said, I want to bring attention to Sniper Elite 5's gameplay, as it far more than makes up for the game's lack of in-depth story (and it is clearly a gameplay-first sort of title). The campaigns work by throwing you into a pseudo-open-world where you'll be able to explore and find which way you want to tackle your objectives. These vary greatly throughout the nine (or 10, if you count the unreleased DLC mission), as they'll range from standard town-turned-battlefield to lush, green forests. Whenever you tackle individual campaigns, your playstyle should change accordingly, as you might not be able to find a tall vantage point to snipe your foes. By the second campaign mission, I could see a vast change in the environments and playstyles required to traverse them.
Spread throughout each environment are numerous things to do and complete. Main objectives will guide you throughout the operation that Karl Fairburne must finish to weaken the Axis forces, while side missions will task you with different goals to ensure the safety of the Allies. You'll want to explore each campaign thoroughly, as gaining intel will unlock the side missions, and spread throughout the map are 19 total collectibles for you to find. The collectibles are totally optional, as they only show you some glimpses into the life of the French, but it is a great way to encourage exploration while not forcing it. Finally, each campaign mission will feature a kill mission, where you'll receive an approximate location for a target in Karl Fairburne's list, and you'll be tasked with taking them down. These are far easier said than done, as often your target will be smack in the middle of countless Nazi soldiers ready to foil your plans. Whether you choose to tackle these quests head-first and go in guns blazing or try to stealth your way through, these missions are exhilarating and gratifying to complete.
Completionists will have a field day with Sniper Elite 5's numerous completable objectives. Not only can you finish each campaign individually and ensure that everything is completed, but you also have unique achievements to attain in the form of medals. You'll be able to focus on finishing each of the 118 medals, most of which you can complete three times for the bronze, silver, and gold iterations. Once you're done with the staggering amount of medals, you'll be able to tackle ribbons too, with 47 campaign/survival and 56 multiplayer ones; these are stackable, so you'll be able to gather them and show off your expertise.
To get the campaign/survival ones, you'll need to kill foes with numerous weapons in different ways; whether that's killing them with snipers from long distances or through stealth with melee takedowns, you'll be rewarded with a medal. Shooting through the battlefield hellbent on killing every Nazi is made extremely fun because of the weapons the Nazis drop, indicated by an orange hue in the HUD. These weapons cannot be stowed away and replaced with one of your three standard ones, and Karl drops them for practically every action he does; this indicated to me that it was intended for me to simply use them. Instead of giving me the tools to stow them away and save them for more difficult encounters, Sniper Elite 5 encouraged me to use them whenever, which allowed me to massacre the Axis forces with their very strong weapons until I ran out of ammo. This system was incredibly fun, as it allowed me to just play the way I wanted without having the compulsive need to carry my weapons until the end of the campaign.
Once you've finished with the campaign or want a break from killing Nazis, you'll be able to join one of the four PvP modes available. You can choose between No Cross, which is a sniper-only mode where there is a barrier in-between that you can't cross. Free-For-All, in which 16 players will fight for the victory. Team Match, where players will be split into two teams of up to eight players. And finally, Squad Match, where the players will instead be placed into teams of four.
This isn't the only instance of PvP in Sniper Elite 5, however, as the developers incorporated a phenomenal invasion mode much akin to DEATHLOOP or DARK SOULS and ELDEN RING. If you opt in to fight Axis snipers, players will be called to find and kill you, which offers an exhilarating battle of sharpshooters. If you're overwhelmed, you can call a second sniper to assist you in finding your foe, which offers a nice balance since the enemy will have all of the Axis forces at their side. I highly encourage trying the game with invasion mode on first, as if you end up wanting to disable it, the game gives you accessibility to do so at any given point.
In fact, Sniper Elite 5 is easily one of the most accessible games I've had the pleasure of playing, as the game offers you five different difficulty modes alongside the customisable difficulty with 29 options to tweak. Not only can you change these mid-game, but they range far more than your typical damage and resistance sliders. You can tweak how smart the Axis forces are, you can tweak whether gravity and wind affect your bullet, and you can even tweak HUD elements to make the game feel more realistic. There are numerous things you can change, and this will open up room for challenge runs and second, third, perhaps even fourth playthroughs.
Plainly put, Sniper Elite 5 not only managed to meet my expectations but far surpass them. What I thought would be a fun game for a couple of hours at most became quickly a phenomenal release I couldn't get more of. Whether I charged in guns blazing or tried to be the ideal sniper or I did the side quests or main objectives, I had fun.
Sniper Elite 5 (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
With so much to do, collect, and kill, I don't know how I'll be putting down Sniper Elite 5 any time soon.