I'm back filling the steel-toed boots of Karl Fairburne, this time in the latest slice of Sniper Elite 5 DLC. I'm camped behind a crumbling brick wall on the coast of Marseille, it's dark, and the island I've just breached on my dinky two-person speed boat is packed with Nazi soldiers. They are, naturally, armed to the teeth and on the lookout for someone hell-bent on wrecking their nefarious plans. The fact that I've now snapped the necks of several of the surviving soldiers' peers en route to locating Hermann Kraus has made my presence even less welcome – but my orders to execute the Nazi Chief Engineer on the archiepelago are pretty firm.
After snaking around the narrow halls of a hillside Mediterranean villa, vaulting drain pipes and scaling networks of flowering vines, I've silently murdered my way to Kraus' quarters. He's locked in conversation with a subordinate, and I consider letting them finish, sneaking up behind them and slitting their throats. Instead, I flip the script. I toss a grenade into the low-ceiling room. Both men fold like a deck of cards. Smoke and flames belch through open doors and windows. And then all hell breaks loose. Sniper Elite 5's new paid-for expansion is a mixed bag of new content, but it nevertheless underlines what makes Sniper Elite 5 great.
The cost of war
Priced at £11.99/$14.99, Sniper Elite 5's Landing Force Mission and Weapon Pack DLC admittedly isn't great value for money, but if you're after more of the exemplary duck-and-cover chaos found in the base game, then I reckon it's worth your consideration. The Season Pass One might be a better shout – which includes this latest offering, the previous day one 'Wolf Mountain' mission, and three as yet unreleased portions of DLC – for £29.99/$34.99, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
In the meantime, Landing Force is the stuff of dreams for the stealth fighters among us. With claustrophobic interiors and narrow hilltop passages aplenty, getting the drop on foes is almost always the best approach here, not least because navigating a quick escape in such tight confines is often far from straightforward. As outlined above, I speak from experience on that one. Things do open up after the early run-in with Hermann Kraus, but by then I was firmly in the sleuthing mindset – to the point where I found myself almost exclusively stalking enemy soldiers from the tall grass under the cover of darkness, as opposed to sniping them at range. I barely saw the series' signature slow-motion kill-cam, besides the scant occasions it portrayed me puncturing lungs with a steel blade from behind, or snapping neck tendons with my bare hands in close-quarters.
The downside of a map so well-suited to stealth, however, is its linearity. In order to promote shuttling between cover spots in attack, there are often fewer open areas, which means the player is less able to approach kills from different angles. As with any sandbox mission, Landing Force still offers a degree of scope for variety – but given the strides the Sniper Elite 5 core offering made over its forerunners regarding choice and multiple paths to success, this portion of DLC feels like a sidestep to that end, if not a slouch backwards. Luckily, the level itself is so well-designed and credible that these perceived restrictions feel natural and organic, and, crucially, never forced. You can go in all guns blazing if you like, but doing so within a cramped space that has so many blind corners, wherein masking sound is nigh on impossible, is hardly a wise move.
As for the expansion's weapons, the introduction of the D.L. Carbine rifle and the PPSH submachine gun are welcome, but given the fact both firearms have appeared in previous Sniper Elite games, they feel more like reskins here as opposed to fresh material proper. Despite unfolding in Marseilles in western France, some players have pointed out that the Landing Force map is reminiscent of Sniper Elite 4's Italy-set missions, and, certainly in structural terms, I'm inclined to agree.
Nevertheless, I'd still place Landing Force up there with Sniper Elite 5's most intriguing and engaging ventures. Like the base game, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, or even expand on the new features introduced there, but it's definitely another solid serving of what's already proven successful. Download size (44GB) and price may prove sticking points for some players, but those desperate for more Sniper Elite action won't be disappointed.
The best stealth games will have you sneaking all over the shop.