“Snipin’s a good job, mate! It’s challengin’ work, outta doors. I guarantee you’ll not go hungry, cause at the end of the day, long as there’s two people left on the planet, someone is gonna want someone dead.” -The Sniper on his profession, Team Fortress 2
Sniping is generally the most sought-after skill set in virtually every FPS involving long range, scoped rifles. Whether it is Halo or Team Fortress 2, there appears to be very few experiences in a game like getting a headshot at long range.
- In Halo, sniper rounds have a slight delay in reaching their targets. Halo veterans recommend using the 5x magnification to hit targets reliably at mid ranges, and to constantly remain on the move to avoid revealing their position: both the sniper rifle and beam rifle leave behind a distinct trail that reveals the position of the sniper.
- There are two types of snipers in Halo: the human sniper rifle, and the Covenant beam rifle. The sniper rifle has a larger carrying capacity (i.e. more rounds carried) and does not overheat, while the beam rifle can fire two shots in rapid succession and is quieter.
In reality, snipers are highly trained marksmen that typically work in pairs, from concealed positions, to take down single high-value targets. Snipers train vigorously to ensure that they are capable of making every shot count, and must continuously take into account environmental variables such as gravity, wind speed, air temperature, relative humidity and (yes, I’m pulling this straight from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) the Coriolis effect at longer ranges.
- Snipers in Team Fortress 2 have the distinct ability to ‘charge’ their rifles: by remaining scoped, the rifle charges and increases the damage an individual round until full charge is reached, whereupon it becomes possible to kill any class with a single headshot. The ability to one-shot any class is offset by the sniper’s low health, and being scoped also reduces a sniper’s awareness, making them prime targets for spies. Defensive snipers will carry a razorback to defend them from a single backstab attempt.
- There are five sniper rifles available to the sniper at time of writing: the stock rifle is a good all-around weapon, the huntsman is bow meant as a closer range weapon, the Sydney Sleeper cannot headshot but covers opponents in Jarate (an agent that causes all damage taken to be mini-crits) and is an excellent support weapon. The Baazar Bargain is a weapon ideal for marksmen who can land consecutive headshots, and the Machina is a highly powerful support rifle. Players usually pick the rifle that suits them the most: for me, it’s the Machina.
In video games, sniper rifles are designed to fire a projectile in a straight line or else act as hit-scan weapons, ignoring most of these elements altogether to ensure that the weapons are effective at long range without the same training snipers undergo. That said, sniping in video games is also challenging, as other players are constantly moving, and players must carefully lead their shots to ensure that their shots hit their target.
- In Battlefield Bad Company 2, the campaign offers two sniper rifles, while there are seven rifles in multiplayer. The Type-88 is a semi-automatic rifle with a reasonably large magazine, making it highly useful as a designated marksman rifle. Most wielders find that its rate of fire and magazine size make it more viable at medium ranges, where more enemies are likely to be engaged. Moreover, beginners should have an easier time getting two body shots off.
- The M95 sniper rifle is a bolt action rifle that offers more stopping power than the Type-88 at the cost of firing rate and magazine size. In general, each of the rifles have a different set of characteristics that appeal to different players.
Every game has a different set of mechanics for its sniper rifles and as such, require a slightly different adaptations to ensure they are wielded effectively. For instance, snipers in Battlefield 3 need to be aware of bullet drop and use the markers on their scopes properly to compensate, while snipers in Team Fortress 2 need to be cautious of spies and play carefully to avoid death, as they have less health than most of the other classes. While I’m not totally familiar with all of the sniper weapons in every FPS per say, there are a general set of guidelines that seem to apply to all players interested in sniping.
- Aim for the head– This is probably the most common thing posted out there on almost any guide about playing effectively as a sniper. While headshots are one-hit kills under almost all circumstances, the head presents a smaller target than the body. As such, aiming for the head is usually done only if there is sufficient time to line up a good shot. Otherwise, two body shots will usually be most effective.
- Move constantly– This is another classic tip and usually involves either strafing constantly if one’s cover is blown to avoid taking fire, or moving from location to location to avoid being engaged at close range.
- Secure a good location– A good place to snipe is essential. Many guides will emphasise finding several good hiding spots that offer a good vantage point while simultaneously providing cover.
- Compensate for target movements– Depending on the game, some sniper rounds will travel more slowly than others. Players are typically told to lead their shots by a certain factor to ensure that they hit the target where they are expected to be, rather than they are.
- Choose a suitable rifle– Most games offer several rifles with varying attributes. Sniper rifles can be grouped into two main classes: semi-automatic marksman rifles have slightly less damage and range but compensate with a higher firing rate, whereas bolt-action sniper rifles are slower to fire but have greater range, accuracy and stopping power. Players choose their rifles based on their preferred combat styles: the former is more suited for mid-range combat, while the latter is better for support roles.
- I’m not too familiar with the Battlefield 3 sniper rifles, but here is the SV98, a Russian bolt-action rifle. In Battlefield 3, all sniper rifles are affected by bullet drop; moreover, different scope magnifications affect drop compensation. As such, guides recommend that players choose equipment that they are both comfortable and suited for the situation.
- The Dragunov SVD is another sniper rifle found in Battlefield 3. One of the more interesting aspects in Battlefield 3 is unlockable customisations for rifles. These customisations allow players to choose a rifle and further modify it to suit their game style.
These are the five main points I’ve seen discussed time and time again by veterans to new players. Generally speaking, they are effective in the sense that they increase a sniper’s survivability. On the other hand, getting kills is a little more challenging for beginners, who have yet to find their ideal look sensitivity and learn the game mechanics with respect to where bullets land after being fired. Once players are familiarised with these essentials, they can work on their reaction times to ensure they are more combat effective. Of course, we are discussing games here: for players seeking a good time, sniping is but one of these means of do so.