In defense of sniping in FPS games.

This is going to be a very lengthy entry on sniping in video games which a lot of you are probably going to find boring so I’m sticking it into the extended entry. If you’re a gamer and want to read it then click on the extended entry.

I don’t normally write entries that respond directly to editorial opinions on video game websites, but I’m going to make an exception here. The editorial in question is titled Jakub’s Rant: Sniping and it’s posted over at the Firing Squad website. The article itself is basically a lengthy bitch session by the author on why sniper rifles in first person shooters suck and why anyone who uses them is a skill-less noob. As the article is a rant I’m willing to cut the author some slack over his habit of stating his opinions as being indisputable facts as well as the rather snobbish air the whole piece has. Being an avid FPS player myself who does a fair amount of sniping in the games I play I’ve had to listen to similar whines from frustrated kids on various servers and I wanted to address some of the points raised by the author in his article. So let’s see what we have to work with:

There, I said it. Deal with it. Let me say it again – sniper rifles suck. Don’t like it? Tough, because odds are that if you’re annoyed, you don’t have the skills to use any other weapon. So go back to humping the dirt in Call of Duty or camping the bridge on de_aztec with all your l33t skill.

This is a common claim by a lot of frustrated players who have fallen victim to snipers in their favorite FPS. “Sniping takes no skill” and “snipers don’t have the skills to use any other weapon” are almost a mantra for the run-and-gun player who feels cheated if he can’t charge full-bore into the breach without worrying that someone might be laying in wait with a sniper rifle. It’s been my experience that the players most likely to hold this opinion are the big fans of straight death match-style game play which defined most of what the early years of multiplayer first person shooters were all about. Death wasn’t an issue because you re-spawned almost immediately and the best players were usually the ones who could master running around seemingly at random while laying down a nice spread of shots to increase their odds of hitting anything that was moving. Notice I used the phrase “seemingly at random” in that sentence, the truth is there is a certain level of skill involved in straight death match game play and watching a true master of it can be an impressive sight.

As the first person shooter has evolved over the years new game play modes for multiplayer were developed such as capture the flag, team death match, king of the hill, round based matches, objective and so on. As these new modes added more to the multiplayer experience than simply shooting anything that moved it changed the type of strategies involved in successfully winning a match. The run-and-gun style of play is still pretty useful in some of these newer modes, particularly if re-spawning is part of the game play as it is in capture the flag, king of the hill and team death match games. Re-spawning also acts as a limiter on the effectiveness of snipers in these games and as a result there tends to be less whining on the part of the run-and-gun crowd. When you get into game play modes where death means sitting out till the end of the round the impact of sniping takes on a sharper focus and the run-and-gun approach becomes less useful if you want to win the match. This is where a lot of the whining from the run-and-gun crowd starts to show up.

Having said all of that, let’s address the points raised in the author’s first paragraph. The author makes two points here, one a direct statement and the other an implied statement. Let’s start with the implied statement which is that it doesn’t take any amount of real skill to use the sniper rifles. This isn’t an entirely inaccurate statement depending on the game you’re talking about. Some FPS games do make sniping ridiculously easy, but as a blanket statement it doesn’t hold water. The author even ends up debunking this point later in his article when he mentions a couple of “games that do sniping right.” For most of the popular shooters out there a skilled player using a machine gun will almost always win in a showdown with an inexperienced sniper and against a skilled sniper he’ll probably stand a decent chance if he’s halfway intelligent on closing range. Against the typical run-and-gun style of play a skilled sniper can lay waste rather quickly because that style of play doesn’t involve a lot of consideration beyond rush into an area and start spraying bullets.

Probably the best example of a currently popular game that makes sniping easier than it should be is Call of Duty and I even mentioned as much in a recent review I wrote of the game. The distance you can see across a map in CoD is amazing and the sniper rifles are ridiculously accurate as well as being almost always a one-shot kill regardless of whether you hit your target in the head or in the big toe. This is especially true if the sniper is prone as that eliminates all gun sight sway making lining up a shot very easy. That said just about all of the weapons in CoD are ridiculously accurate and I’ve been “sniped” by players wielding both sub and full machine guns from the other side of the map who had the skill to squeeze off only one or two rounds at a time and who escaped my attention due to the limited field of vision you have when looking through the scope. CoD is also one of the few first person shooters where suppressing fire actually seems to make a difference. A little thought on the part of non-snipers in CoD can be very effective.

Now let’s address the second point of most snipers not having “the skills to use other weapons.” Personally, I don’t know of any truly effective snipers that I’ve seen that didn’t have at least adequate skills using other weapons in the game. The game I’m probably the most sick at sniping in is Medal of Honor on the PC and I can rack up quite the body count on some maps such as the less-than-popular Omaha Beach which is a sniper’s wet dream. On most other maps, however, I easily rely as much on my pistol as I do on my sniper rifle and I’d hazard a guess that at least a good third, probably more, of the kills I do rack up are with my pistol in a close range face off against someone armed with a submachine gun. There are several maps on which I won’t use a sniper rifle at all because most of the fighting takes place indoors such as the V8 Rocket map and I am still often one of the top scorers for the map. The same is true of most of the other truly effective snipers I’ve ever come across as there is no benefit in relying on a single weapon. Before my obsession with MOH I used to play Counter-Strike and I could be pretty sick at sniping in that game as well, but I always made sure I had a good pistol ready and relied on it often. On more than one occasion I’ve been challenged by pissed off opponents to prove I can use other weapons beyond the sniper rifle and I’ve happily obliged. Hell, against particularly unimaginative opponents in Counter-Strike I’d often eschew everything outside of a Desert Eagle, a couple of grenades and some armor and go to town. I don’t claim to be one of the best players to ever pick up a virtual gun and there are many out there who can easily own my ass, but the claim that snipers generally lack skills in the use of other weapons is not borne out by my personal experience. Moving on:

That sniper rifles are the bane of first-person shooters is an indisputable fact, yet people choose to dispute it anyway.

I always find it amusing when people try to pass off their subjective opinion as an indisputable fact, but let’s take a look at his reasoning here.

Why? Because everyone has the little fantasy of being the lone wolf, the deadly, stalking sniper who hits without being seen, goes 10-0 every round and by the time the map is over he’ll be hailed as living god by the peons he’s slain or saved from certain death. Sniper rifles exist in games because they appeal to the Munchkin inside all of us, because we all want to run around with the BFG 9000 and lay waste to earth, heaven and hell. And make no mistake about it, if there is a BFG 9000 in a game, odds are it fires one shot at a time and has a big huge zoom on it.

This motivation may be true for many gamers, but again making such a blanket statement is foolish at best. I can attest that this isn’t the reason I use the sniper rifle when I do in the games I’m playing. My reason? Because it’s the best tool for the job at hand. Allow me to clarify that a bit: When I go looking for some multiplayer action in MOH, CoD or CS I always filter out any servers that are straight death match, team death match or round based because the primary focus of those modes is the simple annihilation of either everyone else or everyone else on the opposing team. I’d rather play maps that have some objective as a component above and beyond merely wiping out the other side. Depending on the map and the objective the use of the sniper rifle may be the best tool for the job, particularly if your side’s objective is the defense of some target. If the map or mode doesn’t allow for immediate re-spawning then the need to take out your opponent before they have a chance to take you out becomes that much more important to winning the round. Going ten to zero for a kill ratio isn’t even really a consideration for me and isn’t usually what my score tends to look like anyway. In my experience more often than not the people who have the attitude described above tend to come from the run-and-gun crowd who seem to value high body counts as some sort of validation of their “l33t skillz” and they have a hard time dealing with someone who plays intelligently racking up a better score or kill ratio. Scoring 10-0 doesn’t mean much if your team still loses the round because the other side completed the objective.

Every other ‘reason’ for the existence of sniper rifles – realism, historical accuracy, weapon diversity, giving players identifiable roles – is a lie. There’s nothing realistic about sniper rifles as they appear in games, nothing historically accurate, they not only don’t improve weapon diversity they make it worse, there is NO skill involved, but yes, scoped weapons do give a new role to players – the dirt-humping camper.

Wow, pardon me a moment while I pull on my hip-waders as it’s getting a little deep around here. Our author expounds upon each of these points so I’ll address them individually as well.

So let me dispatch these myths and send them to hell before we tackle the reasons why sniper rifles should never, ever be implemented in any other game again.

1. Realism. No, sorry, there’s nothing realistic about taking a shot every second with your scoped Mosin-Nagant or Springfield. They’re bolt-action rifles and need to manually load the next bullet, meaning losing sight of the target. The guns also aren’t one-shot kills. If they are, so would be the MP44 Sturmgewehr or AK-47 at shorter distances, which use similarly sized ammunition. As it is, most games set sniper rifles to be the Finger of God – simply look at your target, twitch your finger and boom, he’s dead. Forget that it’s called “sniper rifle” and imagine it’s called “Finger of God” – would you implement a weapon with that name, as a designer?

I’ve always felt the realism argument was pretty weak as well, but then there’s very little that I’d describe as being realistic when it comes to most of the weapons in your average FPS. If you’re going to use the argument that sniper rifles are unrealistic then it’s safe to say that there’s no reason to include any of the weapons in most first person shooters. We can sit here and argue comparisons between real world weapons and video game weapons all day and you’d probably find that most real world weapons don’t function anywhere near the way their video game representations do and as such realism isn’t a very good argument for the inclusion of any weapon in a FPS.

As for whether or not most games make sniper rifles into the equivalent of the “Finger of God,” again, that’s a subjective opinion. Most of the FPS games out these days take into account hit location wherein a headshot by any weapon regardless of range is often a one-shot kill. Again I will point to Call of Duty and the fact that there are a number of players already skilled enough with the machine guns to effectively “snipe” with them from across a map racking up many one-shot kills in short order with a weapon not normally associated with that ability. Combine the ability to “look down the sight” with the fact that a sniper’s best position is prone on the ground making their head the most likely hit location if they’re facing their attackers and some might argue that sniper rifles in CoD have more disadvantages than advantages. The point being that in the truly skilled hands of a thinking player just about any weapon in current FPS games can seem like the “Finger of God.” Back when I played CS there was one guy on our server who was so skilled with the .45 USP Tactical pistol that it was all he ever seemed to use and he was accused of cheating constantly because he would so often own your ass like no other with that stupid pistol. Having LAN partied with him I knew for a fact that he didn’t have any hacks or cheats on his PC, he just played CS way more than any sane person really should. Sniper rifles in most modern first person shooters have as many disadvantages as they do advantages, but it is true that they can be very effective against players who only do run-and-gun style of play.

2. Historical Accuracy. Sorry son, the battlefield just isn’t comprised of 50% snipers. Yes, limiting their use to 1 or 2 people per team is possible, but that has other drawbacks, like making 1 or 2 people on each team 5:1 kill ratio gods, while everyone else suffers.

Historical accuracy hardly seems applicable to games like Tribes and Halo so I’m not even sure why this would be used as an argument. While it’s true that in history most battles weren’t fought with a high percentage of snipers the fact is that snipers were indeed present and often played major roles in quite a few major battles throughout modern warfare’s history. Battlefields weren’t often comprised of 50% rocket launchers either, but that situation will crop up at times on various MOH servers. There’s a weapon that doesn’t even have to directly hit you to be a one-shot kill in most games. You just have to get it close enough for the splash damage to do its job. CoD, to its credit, does a good job of limiting the rocket junkies.

I notice that our author here seems to be hyping up kill ratios quite a bit as though that were the most important indicator of skill and therein lays what I feel is the biggest problem in his argument. It seems to me that the folks most likely to complain about sniper rifles, rocket launchers and shotguns in FPS games are also the ones who rely on the kill count as some sort of validation of their skills. In a straight death match there might be some truth to that belief, but as I said earlier a 10-0 kill ratio don’t mean jack shit in an objective map if the other side wins the round. No one on your team is going to care if you got hot lead spraying skillz with your SMG if you spent your time trying to hunt down other players instead of planting, or defusing, the bomb.

3. Weapon Diversity. No, when a sniper rifle makes it into a game, everyone wants to use it. All other weapons lose a tremendous amount of appeal. Who wants to rush with the MP40 or AK when you know you’re going to run into a veritable wall of lead – why not just snipe back?

I don’t know what servers our author is playing on, but this hasn’t been my experience as a general rule. Certainly there are maps in some games that do result in a lot of people deciding to go with the sniper rifle, CoD’s Hurtgen for example, but even then there are still plenty of people huffing it with SMGs that often make quick work of an opposing side made up of mostly snipers. Given the limited rate of fire sniper rifles in most FPS games have how is anyone going to run into a veritable “wall of lead” if the opposing team is mostly or entirely snipers? The only time I could see most of the opposing team having sniper rifles being a problem is when most of the opposing team is actually skilled with them. Usually I find I can ignore roughly half to two-thirds of the people wielding sniper rifles on the opposite team as long as I pay attention to where I’m going and how I get there as a lot of them suck at sniping.

Incidentally I used to love to demoralize the opposing team in Counter-Strike by “sniping” with the AK-47 which can be deadly accurate if you can master getting off a single round with it. Plus if they get too close you can always just open up with it and clean the room.

4. Skill. Yeah, right. Sorry buddy, but poking your head out every few seconds to take a cheap shot before moving to a new location isn’t skill. All you need is the most basic semblance of aim and reflexes to get a sniping kill. In a sniper duel, it’s just a matter of who’s faster and more accurate – just TWO basic, basic abilities get exaggerated in importance.

A classic sour grapes argument here. “How DARE you play intelligently and take advantage of cover to keep from getting hit! You should be out in the open like a REAL MAN and, ideally, standing still as though stunned by my Mad L33t Skillz as I rush straight at you like a REAL MAN would!” I believe the Russians used that very same strategy during World War II and they have the casualty count to prove it. They did prove that it’s a viable strategy to win quite a few battles as long as you have enough men in your army, but it’s not the smartest nor most effective way to win a war. It’s not the most effective way to win rounds in most first person shooters either. If you want to just spend time rushing headlong into your opponents without much thought and have them do likewise then why not stick to servers with straight death match or team death match where the re-spawning function will minimize the impact of snipers? I’ve yet to see snipers dominate a straight death match server.

Having accepted the fact that the sniper rifle is the single most powerful, abusive weapon in the game, we can logically assume that most people will want to use it. Moreover, those that do NOT want to use it, will often end up doing so in order to not look like they suck compared to their ‘l33t’ teammates who must be so damn good for racking up at 4:1 kill ratio.

Again with trying to make a clearly subjective opinion into a “fact” beyond dispute. It’s almost amusing. I’m sure I could work up some halfway decent arguments for why several other weapons in any given FPS are more powerful and abusive than the sniper rifles. I’ve already mentioned the rocket launchers in MOH as a prime example of a weapon that requires less skill than a sniper rifle and yet can yield amazing kill ratios especially if the user is fortunate enough to happen upon several opponents bunched together. I’ve seen upwards of five people go down from a single rocket to a doorway in MOH and CoD. Snipers wish they could take down five at once. Grenade spamming can be just as powerful and just as abusive.

As for those folks who don’t want to use a sniper rifle, but feel like they have to in order to not look like they “suck” compared to the snipers. Well, all I can say is that perhaps they should look into some counseling for the self-esteem issues they seem to be having. 

What happens when two thirds, half, or even a quarter of the team has sniper rifles is that the game slows down to a crawl. All the players without scopes would rather wait for the snipers on their team to thin out the snipers on the other side, rather than poke their heads out and die. Depending on the map, the minute or two is a waste as the two sides carefully dance their sniper duels, until one side is so strong it can rush, or until the snipers on the other side are thinned out sufficiently to permit the real play to start.

This is the first halfway decent point our author has raised so far, but even here the truth of this statement is largely dependent on which particular game (and game mode) you’re speaking of. It’s true that snipers in a game can slow down the pace of play in some games, again I’m specifically thinking of Call of Duty here, and some folks might argue that’s as it should be. Overall, however, it has not been my experience that the presence of snipers results in situations as described above. On most of the MOH servers I play on where they’re familiar enough with me and my style of play to know which maps I’m likely to snipe on this hasn’t resulted in the other side waiting until I’m either dead or one of the last people left before rushing. In fact, holding back and mulling around is one of the best things you can do for a sniper as you may as well be a herd of cows out in a field. An intelligently planned dash from cover to cover is one of the best defenses against a sniper in order to close range. Believe me, I don’t want to have to pull out my pistol to defend myself if I don’t have to and putting me in a position where it’s my best chance for survival is, in effect, your best chance for survival. Especially if you’re as good with your SMG or rifle as you like to think you are. Even at range, though, a whole bunch of snipers won’t easily take out a team of opponents that are working together as a team and laying down good suppressing fire.

I will agree that it can be annoying as hell when someone who is the last person alive on one side will ignore an objective his team is supposed to accomplish so he can camp in one spot, but that’s something that occurs regardless of the weapon the player may be using.

So, putting that together, what we have is a collection of unskilled munchkin noobs who pick up scopes, waste half the match shooting at each other and padding their kill count until only the unskilled munchkin noob with the best aim is left and the real game can begin. Odds are he’s not a good player, despite the score – oh he can aim like crazy, but what else can he do? Does he understand the flow of the game, would he be able to survive a regular firefight, can he move in combat? Probably not – unless he’s one of the good players whose ego forces him to pick up a scope and maintain a respectable kill ratio.

Because there couldn’t possibly be any “good players” using sniper rifles simply because it’s the best tool for the job at hand. No, it’s only because our egos can’t take the idea of having a low kill ratio. This is a spurious argument at best based more on the emotionalism of hurt pride than any objective reality. I also find it amusing that the author appears to be implying that the ability to “aim like crazy” isn’t itself an important skill in a first person shooter. This type of thinking seems to be common among the “spray and pray” crowd of FPS players. Don’t bother to aim, just rush in and spray the room and let God sort ‘em out. I’d hazard a bet the author prefers to play on servers where friendly fire is turned off so he doesn’t have to worry that his rush ‘em and flood ‘em tactics will harm his own team. In all honesty, a server with friendly fire turned on is one I’m more likely to pick up a sniper rifle on simply because I don’t want to be around the spray and pray crowd when the shit hits the fan.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s certainly a definite sense of satisfaction in crossing a room where the bullets are flying like so many mosquitoes and coming out of it alive if not entirely healthy, but I know that’s as much to do with pure dumb luck than any amount of skill at moving in combat on my part and I’m not going to pretend it’s anything else. If I’m trying to win the round then I’m also not going to try and push my luck with such stunts unless I don’t have any other options.

Does anyone besides me see something wrong with that – that the least skilled, most chickenshit, predictable players will dominate a match. They engage in their own little private game, stamping out each other sometimes, but mostly focusing on the easy kills – the people actually going for the objective. All the while these skill-less ingrates are being protected from the few rushers who make it through Sniper’s Alley by the people actually trying to play the game.

You’d think that the least skilled and most predictable chickenshit players would be the easiest to take out. I know they are for me, especially using a sniper rifle. Talk about a self-defeating argument. I can hear it now: “YOUR BAD ASS RUSHING SKILLS ARE NO MATCH FOR MY CHICKENSHIT EASILY PREDICTABLE LACK OF SKILL!!!! I SHALL DEFEAT YOU WITH THE OVERWHELMING POWER OF MY MEDIOCRITY! WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE IN THE FACE OF MY TOTAL LACK OF GAMEPLAYING TALENT?!?! ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO ME!!!”

Does anyone besides me see something wrong with the total ludicrousness of this guy’s argument? ‘Cause ya know dem damned snipers never go for da objective demselves! Please.

Just how reflective is Pavlov or Hurtgen of World War II warfare? Would a sniper who slowly moved into position during the night, hid himself perfectly to take shots at lone targets or small groups, really be able to get 20 kills in the span of a few minutes? No. He doesn’t know the same three routes that everyone is taking at the start of every round. He doesn’t know if there will be a squad on patrol behind him or beside him. If he’s part of an assault, he’s a support item – not the heavy artillery. And yet in games, snipers are given a ludicrous advantage over everyone else.

Um, that’s why it’s called a “video game” and not “real life” because it’s not like real life at all. I realize this is somewhat of an astonishing revelation, but there ya go. I honestly don’t see how snipers have anything approaching a ludicrous advantage over the guy who manages to use his heavy machine gun to shoot people in the head from across the map. Nor do I see how they have more of an advantage over the guy who lobs grenades over the tops of buildings at random into the paths he knows the rush will be coming through and manages to take out half a dozen people at once without ever seeing his enemy. Or the guy who runs around with his rocket launcher and manages to survive shooting it into an enemy who’s two feet away from him taking out three other people at once. For that matter I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of “rocket jumping” that’s possible in some FPS games, which is a damned useful trick that even a noob can pull off.

There are two and only two popular games that have done sniping correctly. The first is Enemy Territory. Snipers are inherently limited by number because they are a class. Moreover, the weapons aren’t one-shot kills, it almost always takes at least two to take your opponent down, and your opponents move fast enough to be difficult to hit. Battlefield 1942 keeps the effectiveness of snipers down because they are actually vulnerable, not just in theory. The wide, open spaces expose a sniper and give his foes many ways to move around him. That still doesn’t prevent one third of the players on each team from thinking they’re SFC ‘Hoot’ Gibson (Eric Bana) from Black Hawn Down or Pvt. Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) from Saving Private Ryan. But you may just be fruity enough to be the film version of Vasily Zaitsev.

I have no real problems with the opinions expressed in this paragraph. I’m no big fan of Battlefield 1942, but that has more to do with the vehicles than anything to do with the sniping and I’ve not played enough of Enemy Territory to have an opinion on it.

So what makes snipers balanced in these two games? Well, besides the fact that they can’t rack up sick kill ratios without any apparent skill, the most important thing is that they don’t disturb the flow of the game. Unlike Call of Duty or Counter-Strike, the game doesn’t stop to wait for the snipers to duel it out, or the smart players don’t have to wait for the dumb ones to rush out to die in the first, lethal barrage. Nobody is afraid of the snipers – they’re not going to take your one and only life, and even if BF1942 and Enemy Territory were limited to one life, the snipers just aren’t enough of a threat to worry about. You won’t die a useless death.

Here again we come back to my argument that game modes that allow re-spawning reduce the impact of snipers considerably. Both BF1942 and ET allow for re-spawns and that removes totally eliminating the opposing team as a way of winning the round which in turn naturally lowers the impact snipers will have in the game. Is this a sign of better game design in those games? Again, that’s a subjective opinion and I’ll just say that if that style of play appeals to you then you should probably be playing one of those two games or seeking out servers running in team death match mode for the other games. There are a lot of us who do like the way that CS, CoD and others play when in objective modes as well as the fact that the sniper becomes more of a factor in these games and for us that means the game design is just the way it should be.

I’ll also say again that I have yet to see a CoD or CS game where everyone waited for the snipers to finish dueling it out before everyone else got busy shooting at each other and if that’s a regular occurrence on the servers our author is playing on then I would humbly suggest he seek out new servers populated with fewer dumbasses.

Is the solution to nerf the sniper rifle, like in CS? No. Matches are still slow – probably slower than before, actually. Now I know I’m going to get a flood of posts on the forums telling me I want Quake – that’s BS. I play Call of Duty because it’s fun, because I enjoy the style – and because I can find servers without sniper rifles.

Nerfing the sniper rifle won’t really matter in the hands of a skilled sniper. I started playing CS way back in the 3.x days and they nerfed the sniper rifles in that game several times since with no real impact beyond a few days worth of getting used to the new way the rifle works for the skilled player. Head shots, after all, are almost always fatal in CS. Sniper’s motto: aim high.

It seems obvious the author doesn’t enjoy Call of Duty’s style or he wouldn’t be complaining about it. Still, he found a solution to his problem in locating servers that don’t have sniper rifles on them which leaves one to wonder what the author is bitching about. I could possibly understand it if it weren’t possible to turn off sniper rifles in most FPS games, but that’s clearly not the case for any of the ones I can think of. I don’t care for all the “realism” mods that tend to be so popular, but I don’t sit around bitching about it. I just find a server that isn’t using one and play there.

Is the solution to limit the number of scopes? No. It may work for competition, but on a public server it means 2 or 4 people are gods and the rest chumps. Yes, the game flows better but it’s not worth pissing off the rest of the server to make one guy on each side look good.

This guy makes it sound like putting a sniper rifle into the hands of any random yahoo suddenly makes them invincible and turns everyone else into blathering idiots who couldn’t tie their own virtual shoelaces without falling over dead. As a good sniper I will dominate some maps that play to the strengths of that role, but not all maps and not all rounds played on even a favorable map. The argument that snipers always dominate the map just isn’t borne out by experience especially on maps such as the aforementioned V8 Rocket Facility in MOH.

So, I dare anyone – snipers, people who hate snipers, and those who snipe to maintain a respectable kill ratio – to find yourselves a server with scopes disabled and play. You’ll be amazed at how much faster and more exciting the game is, at how useful even the basic rifles are (and how well you can snipe with them, without slowing the game down.) Suddenly, craptastic maps like hurtgen and to some extent rocket become playable. You can rush, you can actually put pressure on the riflemen, because as good as the unscoped rifles are – and they’re damn good – they’re not the Finger of God and it’s actually possible to make it across the map.

I’ve already taken that dare. Depending on my mood I will play on a number of different servers some of which don’t allow sniper rifles and my kill ratio is largely unaffected. Am I amazed at how much faster and more exciting the game is? No, not at all. Call of Duty in particular doesn’t seem any faster or more exciting when sniper rifles aren’t allowed as it’s still possible to get off some stupidly ridiculous shots with any of the guns so it’s still not worth it to engage in the run-and-gun style of game play.

Personally I think the standard rifles in CoD are all but useless against the SMGs and MGs. Learning to use the rifles in MOH paid off in the increased stopping power and accuracy they possessed versus the machine guns and they were still pretty effective to use even in close combat, but the machine guns in CoD are (in my opinion) overpowered. The result is that rifles aren’t worth having for close combat and looking down the sight isn’t useful enough to make them desirable for much in the way of long-ranged use. I’m still relatively new to playing CoD though and it’s possible my opinion of the standard rifles may improve, but for the moment I’m more inclined to resort to my pistol than I am any of the standard rifles with the possible exception of the M1.

And that’s the whole point. Everyone who says that snipers are balanced because they’re weak up close is wrong. Get enough snipers on a team in CS or CoD, and rushing is suicide for 80% of the people trying to do so. Almost anyone who moves, dies. The routes are too predictable, there are too many scopes, and too few rushers because half the attacking team snipes back.

Well, that’s his opinion at least.

It’s arguable whether “rushing” should be the standard tactic of choice and I must admit that I take great satisfaction in mowing down idiots who use it as their sole strategy with my sniper rifle. You’d think that they’d wise up after a few rounds of this, but most of them don’t and that’s where a lot of that kill ratio discrepancy this guy is bitching about comes from. Rushing sometimes has its place, but teams that work together and think about what they’re doing don’t have much to fear from the average sniper and even skilled ones can be overcome more often than not. And therein lies the rub: If the author were less concerned over the “bigger dick” bragging rights a high kill ratio supposedly brings and more concerned about functioning as a team member he’d probably find it doesn’t matter how many snipers the other side has. In anything outside of death match modes a high kill ratio doesn’t really mean a whole lot, especially if you’re on the losing team.

Just the same, if you are the sort of player who insists on using mindless tactics there’s certainly enough servers out there that agree with that approach that you could play on if you’re willing to look for them. Instead of sitting around smugly telling everyone who enjoys a style of play you don’t what chickenshit skill-less noobs they are as though you were some divinely appointed authority on how games “should be,” try playing on those servers that cater to your tastes and leave the rest of us to enjoy the game the way it was designed to be played.

15 thoughts on “In defense of sniping in FPS games.

  1. I’ve long enjoyed long-distance sniping (usually coupled with taking unusual routes to destinations across maps).  A little quiet recon and tapping from behind takes at least as much skill as charging in, chain-gun ablazing.  Hell, going back to the old Doom days, my main most common tactic was distance sniping with the shotgun.

    Does that mean that I can’t do that sort of thing, Rambo-ing my way in with a Dean-esque yell as I mow down anyone who tries to stop me?  No.  As you point out, it’s the rare scenario that only lets you snipe.

    Now … I don’t do much, if any, multi-player gaming.  That’s an addiction I know I can’t afford (timewise if nothing else).  So I’m usually in single-player mode, up against the game AI.  I’m not sure if Anonymous would object to that …

    Sniper rifles exist in games because they appeal to the Munchkin inside all of us, because we all want to run around with the BFG 9000 and lay waste to earth, heaven and hell.

    That actually sounds more like the Rambo types.  Particularly since RoF and ammo supplies on sniper rifles are usually both low.

    And make no mistake about it, if there is a BFG 9000 in a game, odds are it fires one shot at a time and has a big huge zoom on it.

    Well, the original BFG9000 was, in fact, a single shot—but very wide dispersion. And it didn’t have a zoom at all.  It was the Rambo run-up-and-jam-it-down-the-Boss’s-throat sort of weapon.


  2. Hell I’d snipe if I could. It takes skill, and it’s a skill I don’t have. Maybe I should play single player on a game or 3 and practice. Currently, the only way I have a chance of having any fun is to play the king of the hill or capture the flag type games. I don’t get angry when I get sniped, except at myself. Mostly for not being able to be that guy. Err, girl.

  3. I loved the way you pulled apart this idiot’s ‘argument’.  Being a sniper rifle fan I understand that it can’t be used in every situation and that to achieve your objective you do need to switch weapons according to the situation.  I don’t play many FPS games so I am hardly an expert, but I think this guy is just whining because he has come across too many players that have learnt to be adept with the weapon, whilst he hasn’t been able to master it.  Sour grapes indeed.

  4. Les,
    I applaud you of your disembowlment of the Author. He obviously is one of those whiney FPS’ers that prefers the “10-0” and “fools rush in” approach to gaming. He must have gotten spanked one to many times for his “10-0” Ego to handle. I play quite a few FPS games, Ravenshield, Ghost Recon, UT, Q3, BF1942 + Expansions, Halo, & COD to name a few. Do I have l33t $k177s, no. I suffer as many do with medium skills, because I play for recreation & not for the accolades of other online server zombies that live in Mom’s Basement and can’t get a date on Friday nite without paying for it (ok, breath). I admit that I would rather play on a server with people that I know, but that is personal preferrence. Depending on the game, depending on the map, depending on what my “need for thrill” is determines what type of gun I use. I am prone to the “rush in with guns a blazing” technique in most games & after a sniper “spanks my monkey” a few times, I slow down and start using tactics. I rather enjoy bouncing from different weapons classes, but I have fav’s (example of preferred weapons: Ghost Recon is the OICW, Ravenshield is the L85, Halo is Pistol with sticky grenades). COD is a good game for fraggin. I won’t go into the physics of guns, range, or stopping power; but it possible in most maps to use the landscape to navigate the area and sneak up on that scope jockey (I rather enjoy planting a shot mafia style in the back of their head). It takes skill to use a sniper rifle and it takes skill to use a “limited site weapon” to take down a sniper.

    Side Note:
    Pick a game any game that uses Omaha Beach as a map, it is a b*tch to get up that hill. Snipers have the advantage. Live with it, deal with it… It is only a map in a video game.

    I agree with everything you said, good players have skill regardless of the weapon. I have been on the other side of your scope and I have died. Killed by sniper or not, the game is meant to be fun and for frell’s sake, it’s only a game. I admit that I have made that “frelling snipers” comment, it means nothing more than “stupid, change your tactics”.

    In online gaming, I take more issue with Team Killing than anything else. I don’t see the point other than to be a dick. An accident is an accident, but TK is BS. Another small gripe is those guys that are always “whining” about team balancing (of course, they only whine when they are doing poorly or on the winning side).

    My comment to the Author of the original article:
    Leave the sniper’s and their toys alone. If you don’t like it, go to another server or learn some tactics.

    Les, you are a fine gamer and are always welcome at my place for gaming. Did Diane mention to you that I am planning to hold gaming on the 1st of Feb?


  5. According to the author of the rant I was responding to I managed to totally miss his point:

    Except you totally missed the point. I don’t mind dying to a sniper. What I do mind is when half my teammates and half my opponents are snipers, prolonging a match with their sniping, absolutely denying *any* opportunity for rushing, not going for objectives, etc. etc. Of course you didn’t actually read my point, you saw your pet style of play being attacked and wrote the same kind of pointless rant I tried to prevent by focusing on the QUANTITY of snipers in games.

    So my reply to your “counterpoint”: whatever.

    This actually made me laugh out loud, literally.

    Chris, I did hear from Diane that you were planning something. My wife’s B’Day is on the 30th so depending on plans I might not be able to make it, but I’m a definite tentative right now.

  6. Hmm….

    I may be mistaken, but he seemed far more interested in talking about the kill score, and how being a good sniper required zero skill (which is patently untrue) than he was the quantity of snipers.

    What a whiner.

    Some games aren’t made for you to rush in.  Deal.

  7. I hardly ever play FPS anymore - I’m more of a strategy player - but I do agree with two things :

    1. use the right tool for the job
    2. play as a team, not as an egotripping maniac

    Combine those two and you’ll win, again and again.

  8. Personally I prefer to use the rush tactic as a distraction for my team to get their job done or as a way to take out a few opponents (especially in games without respawn like CS).  I understand that I may be sniped, unlike this fool I live with it. 

    Addressing the volume of snipers.  Even if everyone but myself is carrying a sniper rifle, I stick with the rush tactic, but use cover.  A sniper up close is a much weaker target, especially without any gun diversity to back him up.

    Concerning realism, in the real world you get hit with a bullet most likely the pain would keep you incapacitated, no health bars, no respawn, no next round these are video GAMES not the real world.  The purpose of a game is to have fun, not having fun PLAY A DIFFERENT GAME!

  9. Someone please recommend Operation Flashpoint to him. That is definately the most “real” FPS to date. Bullets have velocity and trajectory (not to mention front and rear sighting alignment to simulate “unfocused sniping/ hip shooting”). Many natural laws of physics are even incorporated into OFp’s gameplay. The ability to snipe the driver of a moving jeep or truck is a perfect example:

    The speed at which the bullet travels (velocity), the arcing slightly upwards after leaving the barrel and gravity bringing the round slowly back down (trajectory), and the speed and direction in which the target is moving… all these factors come into play to lay a single accurate 7.62mm round into the face or torso of some unsuspecting Ruskie 400 meters away. Guessing when the lines of bullet travel and target travel intersect can prove too daunting a task for the average player (who simply wishes to waste time until the day ends and soft-core cable porn begins.)

    Lying prone and not moving the mouse still won’t promise a dead-on shot. The game does an excellent job of simulating breathing and involuntary hand movements. If winded from a sprint or wounded in the arms, your sights will show it, especially if standing straight up. No need to even touch on the subject of recoil.

    Has anyone else everplayed Flashpoint? Did it also take you a few hours to drop the habits of HL, MoH, or countless others shooters? Oh and Les, I’d say the vehicles issue in BF1942 is solved with this game.

    To Matthew Bania:
    HOO-fuckin’-RAH my friend. I share your approach. But I must say my typical form of play is “Suppressing Fire”, but the fact that your life isn’t truly at risk when crossing “No Man’s Land” does diminish from it’s overall effectiveness. Although, numerous times on CS (with my M249 SAW and Dual Berettas) have I been able to keep a “tangos” head down long enough for someone to put a flashbang or a grenade at their feet and quickly follow up with an “iron curtain” of Kalashnikov fire.

    I’ll take hitting everyone at least once over a single kill anyday.

  10. Operation Flashpoint is one of those games I keep meaning to try, but haven’t heard enough about to make it a high priority yet. After reading your description, however, I may bump it up the list. Sounds great.

  11. Hey Les,

    You might want to take a look at the Far Cry demo that’s just come out. Apart from being beautiful, it also has a well-implemented sniper system with something i haven’t seen before. Once zoomed in, you can hold the space bar which holds your breath, steadies your aim and provides an extra burst of zoom. Once you fire a shot, the rifle recoils, sending off your aim, & you zoom back for a second before zooming in again. You can also only hold your breath a limited time. Great thoughts on sniping, btw.

  12. I spent about 18 minutes downloading the Far Cry demo last night (at 495MB thank goodness for 4mbps cable service) and I must say it’s a damned pretty game. Had some sound issues, but otherwise it ran fine and it does have a nicely implemented sniping system.

    I’d written up my anticipation for this title awhile back after reading up on what the engine was going to be capable of and the SP demo definitely makes me look forward to getting the full game.

  13. I don’t agree with you, but well argued Les.

    No I don’t believe the sniper rifle is a skilless weapon, but a map full of snipers is very slow and painful to play.  As a sniper you may not agree with this but when you’re a standard rifleman or MGer then you can really feel it when 80% of the teams are made up of snipers. 

    Luckily, since the CoD 1.2 patch only the most skilled CoD snipers are able to use the scoped rifles and the number of snipers has reduced considerably.  This has made the game alot more enjoyable (plus the they got rid of Bunny Hopping too!!!).

  14. Fantastic article. I love sniping, and I always will. If you can’t beat it, you probably need to think of a new strategy and stop whining. Every time you complain, I laugh, because I know that you aren’t thinking about tactics—you just want to rush me and pump my body full of lead. I’m quite happy with one bullet doing the job for me.

    Again, great article. Nice one.

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