The secret to Sniper Elite's realism is a slower pace and 'strategic choice'

Sheltering behind a wall from gunfire
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Sniper Elite is an iconic and long-standing third-person stealthy shooter that has been refining what it means to get the perfect shot since 2005. It may not be as popular as competitive shooters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but it has a dedicated following that has embraced the realism developer Rebellion strives for and the high-stakes action that has enabled countless players to get creative in trapping and killing opponents. 

TRG talked with Rebellion’s associate head of design Ben Fisher about Sniper Elite 5’s newest DLC and how the third-person shooter stands out from competitors with a unique foundation that promotes thinking first and acting later. 

“There’s somebody perched at the top of a tower, and you think you're creeping up the top undetected when you suddenly trip a wire at the bottom of the staircase and realise that the whole place is lined with traps”, Fisher recalls, giving an example of how Sniper Elite allows players to outwit opponents that don't pay attention. “Even if you disarm the traps, they can hear you doing it, and then they’ll ambush you before you get up there. Your plan completely falls apart; it’s so much fun when that happens.”

Mind games 

Firing from behind a barricade

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Sniper Elite titles have little leeway; the slow and methodical pace of the fights means that accuracy is necessary, and strategy is critical in besting your opponents. However, the extra leeway does have its benefits. “The pace of something like Sniper gives you more room for strategic choice”, Fisher says. “It’s a very high-pressure game. There’s big risks but big payoffs; that's what makes it enjoyable. But it's stressful.”

Multiplayer Sniper Elite matches tend to have a mental element where players must predict their enemy's moves and second-guess every decision they make. Snipers are naturally “drawn to high points because they can see more. But that means other players know that people are likely to be in those high vantage points”, Fisher says. Meaning that the “manipulation of knowledge is a major factor” for Sniper Elite 5 multiplayer maps.  

When the player is under lots of pressure, they find it harder to learn; they find it harder to track what they're doing because their attention is split

Ben Fisher

These stressful situations didn’t develop by accident; in actuality, Rebellion spends a lot of time creating maps that’ll cause equal parts joy and pressure. “When you're making multiplayer Sniper maps, you need to make sure that there's a fundamental level of very basic geometry that the player can picture to understand”, Fisher says. “When the player is under lots of pressure, they find it harder to learn; they find it harder to track what they're doing because their attention is split.”

This is why the new Multiplayer map for Sniper Elite 5’s DLC Kraken Awakes stands out. Instead of the classic high-ground and vertical geometry, there’s an open space in the centre of the Abandoned Quarry. The new map is like “a siege instead of being a pitched battle”, meaning that more intimate fights are encouraged this time.

Not like other shooters 

Two characters firing from behind obstacles

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In a world where most competitive shooters favour quick reflexes and hectic fights, having a title that relishes strategic choices and playing the long game is refreshing. 

“Call of Duty is about refining your instincts. So it's very hard, fast-paced, you play the game a lot to be very good at it. If you're playing in that way, you have to rely on instinct, because your brain is being pushed in that direction”, Fisher says. 

While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a good candidate for our best FPS games; it does take a mental toll. Getting shot in the back repeatedly by an enemy that just so happened to turn a corner as you look the other way can be incredibly frustrating. This problem got so bad that I was forced to almost cheat my way through maps like Shipment by acting like a snake and crawling around from one pile of dead bodies to the next in the close-quarters multiplayer map.  

Someone shooting another player on a zipline

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I was surprisingly successful in this method thanks to the chaotic fights, which meant that enemies rarely looked at the floor; they didn’t have the time. While this cowardly strategy worked for me then, I took no pleasure knowing I wasn’t winning thanks to skill. Luckily, this plan wouldn’t fly in more strategic titles like Sniper Elite 5

Besting your opponents in skill, accuracy, and strategy is infinitely more rewarding than leaving kills up to luck and reaction time. There aren’t a ton of competitive shooters that offer such a methodical approach to killing off your enemies, but the Sniper Elite series has stayed strong in this conviction for almost two decades. Even if waiting for the right shot may be painfully stressful, remember that patience is a virtue.  

Sniper Elite 5's newest DLC, Kraken Awakes, is out now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. In the meantime, check out the last of the Prime Day Gaming deals.

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.