Sniper Elite 5 Preview
As if the Holocaust and other atrocities weren’t enough, movies and video games have added all sorts of invented evil to Nazi Germany in World War 2. Sniper Elite 5 is about Hitler’s plans to attack America. Hitler’s supernatural leanings were real enough, but his actual plans probably didn’t feature zombie hordes. So, is the game’s premise based on truth or fiction?
The Truth Behind Operation Kraken
Somewhere in between, actually. Hitler did indeed have plans to attack America, or at least thought it would become inevitable. He had his war machine construct super battleships that could operate from the Atlantic coast and reach the United States. He tried to build something called the “Amerika Bomber,” which would be capable of flying to New York and back without refueling. It proved to be beyond the capabilities of 1940s technology.
Although it’s a presumably invented name, Sniper Elite 5’s narrative is focused on Operation Kraken. In the game, Kraken is the code name for Hitler’s secret plan to attack America. The game takes place in France in 1944, around D-day. You play as Karl Fairburne, tasked with gathering intel about and stopping Operation Kraken. The game has Fairburne exploring a semi-open world French countryside, picturesque villages, and Nazi strongholds.
In terms of narrative, Sniper Elite 5 is similar to the previous game in the series. Sniper Elite 4, set in Italy, tasked Fairburne with investigating a new Nazi superweapon. The new game once again has Fairburne gathering information and killing a roster of high-ranking officers critical to Project Kraken.
If you’ve played earlier games in the Sniper Elite franchise, this fifth entry will seem comfortably familiar. There’s sniping, of course. You can also dispatch enemies with all sorts of other weapons, like pistols, shotguns, and knives. There’s also the good old-fashioned silent takedown. The weapons are authentic–there are no fanciful invented guns. In terms of sniping mechanics, Sniper Elite 5 straddles the line between simulation-level realism and accessible fun. Locations, in particular, are well-researched and believable.
Traversal relies heavily on stealth, of course. While this isn’t exactly Assassin’s Creed, Fairburne can do his share of climbing to reach inaccessible high places and secret entrances. Probably the most compelling element of Sniper Elite 5 is the wide range of approaches to enemy encounters. Let’s say you need to infiltrate a heavily guarded chateau. While attacking through the main gate is possible, it isn’t a likely route. Sneaking around the back includes dealing with a great many guards and soldiers along the way. Anything less than stealthy takedowns results in a whole bunch of Nazis beating the bushes looking for you. It gives Sniper Elite 5 a puzzle-like element that can be challenging. Enemies are unlikely to give up pursuit and do a good job of flanking you.
In the demo level I played, enemies were pretty reactive and stayed vigilant for a long time after being alerted. They easily flushed me from hiding or dropped me with a bullet from distance. Even at the easiest difficulty, however, enemies were unrealistic bullet sponges. In a game touting authenticity, some of the shooting felt pretty arcade-like. I would assume even super-soldier Nazis couldn’t survive several shotgun blasts like they do in Sniper Elite 5. Of course in the demo, my character didn’t have all the upgrades and abilities that come later in the game.
X-Ray Kill Cam Makes a Return
Sniper Elite 2 introduced the X-ray Kill Cam, a slo-mo effect that explicitly illustrates the power of high-powered ammunition to destroy bones and internal organs. Of course, the X-ray mayhem is not restricted to guns. However, it’s been ten years since Sniper Elite 2. Other games since have used similar visual effects. The Kill Cam is still visceral, a bit disturbing, and a nice reward for a well-executed shot, but the novelty is starting to wane.
I was playing the demo via Parsec, so when it comes to performance and graphics, I’ll give Sniper Elite 5 the benefit of the doubt until I play a build myself. Graphically, the game looks very good if not totally amazing. There’s a bit of a dip into the uncanny valley with characters, but the level design is excellent, affording a wide range of approaches to an objective. The voice acting, environmental audio, and weapon sounds were effective, too.
Although it doesn’t seem to represent a ground-breaking evolution, Sniper Elite 5 takes what has been impressive and fun about the franchise and improves it in lots of meaningful ways. The demo was an enticing preview of what looks to be another solid and entertaining chapter to the story and entry to the series.
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