The first time I was invaded in Sniper Elite 5’s Invasion multiplayer mode, I was terrified. Invasion drops another player into your game as an Axis sniper, their only goal being to mess with your best-laid plans.
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For me, the fear comes from two places: firstly, you don’t know how good the human-controlled sniper will be or what his methods will be. You might get killed with a single bullet to the head at any moment, or you may be caught in a staircase by a human-controlled commando with ice in their veins and an MP40. Every time you’re spotted by German forces, your bloodthirsty foe is given information on where you are, so it’s almost impossible to guess where they’ll be and how they intend to ruin your day. The second issue is that, as someone who plays stealth games like a teenage joyrider in a stolen Peugeot 206, I don’t really make good plans. There’s going to be bad ideas, it’s going to go fast, and people are going to get seriously hurt.
While this sort of slap-dash commando action works great against a predictable AI that you can manipulate and exploit, it sadly fares much worse against a human player who is happy to wait you out and can clearly see the Teller mine you’ve slapped down next to a truck as an explosive surprise.
My first invasion took around 40 minutes, taking place shortly after I’d sabotaged the game’s first big target. After wiping out a big radar tower, I skedaddled into some bushes to patch up my wounds and take stock of my ammo count. Then I was informed another player was hunting me. This Jager – German for hunter, so who said games aren’t educational? – could be anywhere in Sniper Elite 5’s huge map, and so I led the sniper on a merry little dance, blowing up targets up and down the coast, before I moved inland and finally caught the Jager out as he investigated my last known position and met the business end of an MG42 I’d liberated from its German owners.
The elation I felt after being hunted for so long was staggering – I’d been unable to pause for the entire Invasion and so took a minute to breath, use the bathroom and have a glass of water. Then I decided that roping humans into a starring role as Sniper Elite 5’s most terrifying antagonists was Rebellion’s smartest move with the snipe-’em-up sequel.
Since then, I’ve mostly been the invader, charging into other reviewers games to take them out at long range. While Dark Souls or Deathloop’s own Invasion mechanics feel like urgent time bombs, speeding you toward immediate combat, Sniper Elite 5’s is a little slower paced and more investigative: as the invader you can spawn in media res, often surrounded by corpses and burning vehicles, or in a part of the map that hasn’t yet been hit by the player, with German soldiers chatting amongst themselves. Then, you’ll have to try and find a vantage point and start scouting for signs of devastation while you hope for the player to be revealed and hoof it towards them with your sluggish move speed.
As the defending player, this happens in reverse: you’re told there’s an enemy sniper hunting you and then it’s a careful balancing act of keeping on with your mission while being aware that you could come under concerted attack at any time, no matter how stealthy you are. Players can use phones on the map to get the Jager’s position at any time, but use it too many times and they’ll become suspicious, with both you and the Jager being alerted to each other’s positions.
You can turn invasions off at any time for your single-player campaign, but it’s something that adds a real bit to a campaign that isn’t really all that challenging. I’d recommend giving it a go, and not shying away from trying a few invasions of your own, too. Sometimes it’s fun to play the bad guy, right?