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Go Team! Part 5: The Sniper

I don’t know about you, but The Sniper seems a little, well, disconnected. I mean I’m there in the fight alright, but I’ve usually got something on my mind. That thing is usually the other sniper.

While Team Fortress 2 happily throws up the “Nemesis!” tag for those enemies you give you a kicking once too often, it doesn’t acknowledge the real battles that are taking place. The most defined of these are the duels between opposing snipers. There’s always one, and he’ll always be devoted picking you off first. And so the sniper respawns and has one target in mind: the guy on the enemy team. The fight devolves from one where the sniper is an element of supporting, long-range firepower, to one where there’s only a single goal: to stop the other sniper being effective. It’s a duel like no other in the game.

Nudge, nudge, round the corner, just a few more pixels – HEADSHOT! Usually me tumbling to the floor, it has to be said. But occasionally I’ll sweep him into my reticle and deliver the deathblow. Sweet, sweet, poetic justice. Of course the power of the sniper rifle means you’ll cap plenty of incidental targets too: charging scouts being a particular favourite of mine. But really you’re going to be making sure the enemy sniper can’t abuse his favourite camping position, and that your slower team-mates aren’t going to find themselves with brains removed as they gallop across open ground.

As the team fights its way through a spammed chokepoint, or holds down a capture point, they are always going to have more firepower than they expect. The sniper’s single shots are just as potent as any raucous heavy’s whirling bullets – more so, perhaps, when you consider that the damage is delivered instantaneously.

Yet, as a sniper, you’re at the back, and you’re alone. You’re exposed, not moving too much, and are the perfect target for more than just that opposing sniper. Scouts, or worse, spies, are going to prey on you. You really need to operate as a pair, with another sniper, because how else are you going to cover yourself when a spy turns up? You’re goggling through a scope and the spy can take his time about stabbing you into that ghost mode in the sky.

When you do see them coming, however, you can be ready for them. The Sniper’s sidearm – a submachinegun – is surprisingly effective. It’s low damage, sure, but it spits out bullets at a rate that will cow a spy and allow you to spray a scout to death in moments. Moments like those are some slight respite to the long, ugly camping session that is the sniping existence. Even on the less symmetrical of TF2’s maps, you’re going to be moving from prime spot to prime spot, seeking the headshots. Other classes may choose to camp, but with the sniper it’s occupational.

So yes. It’s a tough, lonely life being the sniper. No medic is going to come running, no demo or heavy is going to hang around to give you support (although they probably should – a long range and short range amalgam works wonders). It’s just you and the will to headshot. Ha, and the pyro thinks that no one likes /him/.

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Jim Rossignol

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