Going Non-Lethal In Sniper Elite 5 Is Pointless

During a recent hands-on preview event for Sniper Elite 5 I was told about a slew of newly implemented non-lethal options available to me in the ultra-violent shooter. This is a series that for decades now has defined itself with slow-motion kills designed to tear fascists to pieces in excruciating detail. So this suddenly coming along feels a tiny bit silly.

Murder is the name of the game, so being encouraged to be extra nice to the fascists as I lower their unconscious bodies to the ground feels a bit silly. They’re Nazis, I’m not supposed to care about their safety, I’m meant to obliterate them. Which is exactly what I did as I eviscerated each one with bullets, grenades, landmines, knives, rocket launchers, machine guns, and even my bare hands. It was a good ol’ fashioned Nazi kilin’ time.

Sniper Elite 5 takes plentiful inspiration from Hitman this time around. Rebellion apes IO Interactive with open levels filled with multiple objectives and ways to solve them. You’re able to select a starting location and venture forth using your own devices. It’s a compelling twist on the series as it takes a fairly linear campaign experience and turns it into something freeform. The potential is clear to see, and the satisfaction of blowing off Nazi testicles and murdering countless evildoers remains despite an increased level of complexity.

But much like Agent 47, your arsenal has grown to accommodate such a change in trajectory. This means silent attacks, and non-lethal ways to deal with adversaries so you don’t make a sound and risk alerting the wider army. Approaching foes from behind allows you to slit their throats or knock them out, meaning there’s a chance they will awaken later on in a state of confusion, ready to trigger an alarm and let their comrades know that they’re not alone. I never took the risk, sticking a knife in their backs and watching them bleed out to save myself the trouble. Movement in Sniper Elite 5 is slow enough that I seldom felt compelled to kill all of my enemies like this anyway, with close encounters often being more contextual than absolutely necessary. This negates the usefulness of the new mechanic, and the AI isn’t smart enough for it to be abused for entertainment either.

You could argue that there’s some humanity behind non-lethal takedowns, and how many of these soldiers are little more than pawns in a larger political system. I’d believe that if Sniper Elite 5 made any attempt (at least so far) to flesh out its story and characters beyond ‘Nazis are super-duper bad and we need to stop them’ which has underpinned almost every game in the series since its inception. This isn’t a nuanced WW2 drama on HBO, it’s a goofy shooter where entire body parts can be blown to pieces with a well-placed bullet. I murdered 30+ Nazis as their behaviour glitched out and all of them sprinted out a single staircase into a barrage of gunfire. This game is deliberately silly, and I’m going to treat it like that whether the developer intended such a thing or not.

Completionists can also find further value in running through levels without ever being caught or hurting a soul, earning extra points for no bloodshed. That’s something I can see the value in, but for the average player who will be picking up Sniper Elite 5 for a good time, I can’t recommend anything other than putting on a silencer and blasting your opponents to pieces like the fascist scum they are. Embrace the slapstick slow-motion murder porn and have some fun with it all, otherwise Sniper Elite 5 won’t be nearly as fun.

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