Back into the breach
I generally approach matters of shooting digital Nazis in the face with avid gusto. However, fate conspired to delay my spree through Sniper Elite 5. A storm ripped through my neighborhood and thoroughly savaged the power grid. The electricity is still down, and I’m writing from a hidden bunker in a remote location. Be thankful, Fritz. You’ve been spared a few more days to tighten your helmet strap.
In the meantime, I can give you the rundown of what I have played in the dim light of my underground lair. I doubt any of it will be very surprising.
You’re once again dropped into the boots of Karl Fairburne, OSS guy and sniper-extraordinaire. This time, Karl’s vacationing in France in advance of the Normandy invasion. When his ride home is sunk, Karl links up with the French Resistance and decides to lend his scopin’ eye to their cause.
I’m only a short way into the campaign, and I can tell you that it’s probably, once again, about a Nazi secret project that got glossed over in the history books. I’m hoping UFOs.
Along the way, you need to soften up Nazi targets and repatriate treasure, among other objectives. If this sounds like a re-tread of previous Sniper Elite games, yes, I very much get that feeling too. The landscape and architecture are different, but the song remains the same.
As before, you select your loadout, drop into an environment, and proceed to shoot Nazis in the face. The biggest new feature that comes to mind is the Axis invasion mode. It’s a little bit of Dark Souls where some jerk is allowed to come into your game and slip on a pair of jackboots. Their goal is just to try and kill you, which nets them some rewards.
Returning is improved co-op and survival modes. Unfortunately, there’s no split-screen. Bummer.
When it comes to new things for single-player, I’m drawing a complete blank. That’s not to say the game hasn’t been upgraded in ways, they just haven’t in a way that significantly alters gameplay. It’s almost so similar to previous experiences in the series going way back to Sniper Elite V2 that I’m distressed. I’ve been shooting Nazis in the face since about the time that we finally moved away from hitscan. It’s still fun, but isn’t there something we can do to make it fresh?
It probably wouldn’t feel so bad if the story didn’t feel just as routine like everything else. Again, the Nazi superweapon plot is stale. Karl Fairburne wasn’t an interesting character to start off with, and that hasn’t changed. The characters flanking him aren’t any archetypes we haven’t really seen before either. You can get a lot more creative with World War II historical fiction without even thinking that far past formulaic creations. You can do more with the characters without straying too far into fantasy. Fairburne is boring. He isn’t attached to the game’s name, so why are we still playing as him? He isn’t Sam Fischer, he isn’t even B.J. Blazkowicz. We can do better.
I don’t know where to go from here. The environments look nice, the stealth is as satisfying as ever. When your stealth is blown, it’s still a bit of a pill to throw down. Leading up to release, it sounded like Rebellion was going to reach further to accommodate people who prefer the assault approach. However, unless I had a lot of reach to work with, I never found myself very capable of fighting.
I guess this is where we point out that it’s Sniper Elite 5 and that expecting anything more balls out than removing Fritz’ childhood memories from 300 meters isn’t really in the game’s scope, but I feel it’s important to point out.
To be fair to Sniper Elite 5, I still have a ways to go before I bump up against its credits screen. It’s also possible that its multiplayer is a riot. It wouldn’t be the first time that a game changed my mind about it midway through. However, as it stands, I’m not entirely sold. I’m not telling you to avoid it entirely, just that you should keep your expectations in check. We’ll see what I have to say when I crawl out of my bunker for the final review.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]