XCOM 2: The Sniper Who Wouldn’t Snipe

I’m playing and diarising XCOM 2 [official site] on Commander difficulty in Iron Man mode, using characters based on the staff of RPS, replaced by readers as and when they die or go out of action. Full explanation and the story so far here here, and you can download the characters for your own game here.

Perhaps you would blame random number generation. Perhaps you blame my mismanagement of my squad. Perhaps you would blame it on the natural consequences of attempting a mission named ‘Operation Death Tomb’. But I’m blaming this tragedy on Graham Smith, the Sharpshooter who missed 13 consecutive shots.

Graham, seemingly forgetting which hand his gun is in. Again.

Where once Graham was our leader, he’s now a distant third to Adam and Alice, and I’m seriously considering benching him as a result of the tragic consequences of Operation Death Tomb.

The problem began in Operation Choking Prince (n.b. an actual military mission, not an optional extra available in certain saunas), which though without friendly casualties saw our crack sniper lightly wound naught more than a single Sectoid. With long-range support so inadequate, it fell instead to Ian Risingson’s Gremlin, and its aptitude with electro-zapping and hacking the mess of turrets and MECs we faced, to see us through.

Risingson took a hit in the process, and was unable to attend to Operation Death Tomb – a Retaliation mission in which we had to rescue some civilians before Advent could massacre them all.

It was a challenging mission regardless of Certain Snipers’ unwillingness to contribute; we had to make our way through what looked for all the world like a student union built onto a car workshop before we could even reach the main arena of conflict, and half the civvies were dead before we were even on the scene. Once we had made our way to the fight, we still had to push our way through a sort of small canyon, guarded by several Advent troopers, a Viper, a couple of Faceless and Oh God our first Muton. Death Tomb? Death Alley, more like.

Graham missed shot after shot after shot. The aliens did not, though judicious use of Flashbangs and Alice’s heal-bot meant everyone stayed on the right side of dead. Our latest addition, Ranger Ian Forshadow (standing in for the injured Ian Risingson), distinguished herself.

As did Pip with her burgeoning pistol-powers.

Oh, Pip. Trusty Pip.

Dead Pip.

Already wounded by an Advent bullet, she couldn’t survive the toxic spit from a Viper’s maw. But that Viper was supposed to be dead. Graham was supposed to have killed it.

I was too certain of his success, and then too shocked by his failure, to capture images of the events – this is the only piece of evidence I have (click for a larger version):

1. There is Graham. Graham is in full cover. Graham is the only member of the squad with time left to take a shot; every other member of the squad has at least wounded an enemy in the moments before this scene. Graham has a perfectly clear shot to…
2. A Viper, standing in the open and already half-dead thanks to some top grenade-work from Ian ForShadow. Your grandmother could hit this. That’s because your grandmother is awesome. Graham, unfortunately, is neither your grandmother or awesome. He misses, completely.
3. You can’t see her, but Pip is sheltering (in full cover) behind this patch of trees, having just performed an epic take-down of…
4. A Faceless, which was recently in disguise as one of the people we were here to rescue. Killing it was a team effort, but Pip’s snipe (as seen below) was the final blow. Pip is very good with a sniper rifle. Unlike someone else I might mention.

Pip’s demise was a lowly one: spat to death because her boss couldn’t pull off a sure thing. Sorry, Pip. But I’ll always remember you this way instead:

(Er, to clarify, that’s her on the left. I meant that she was a total badass when faced with a giant monster, not that she resembled a pillar of calcified custard).

The cleanup operation sees both Ian ByteJacker and Ian ForShadow taking some nasty wounds, and Graham continuing not to hit anything. At least no-one else dies, and Alice gets to pull off a mission-ending super-shot against a final Faceless.

We go home. We don’t feel good about it. And it’s definitely, definitely Graham Smith’s fault, not his Commander’s for not making enough people shoot that Viper quickly enough or not healing Pip instead of having team medic Alice take another shot at something.

I might fire him. I should probably fire him.

Note: this diary now needs to go on hold for a short while, as in the wake of the first XCOM 2 patch my game is crashing regularly and I just can’t stand it. My guess is there’s a clash with one of the UI mods I have installed, but XCOM 2 prevents you from reloading a savegame made while mods were installed if you turn off any of those mods, so I’m stuck until there’s an update from either end. Boo!

For more on XCOM 2, visit our XCOM 2 guide hub.


  1. mcnostril says:

    There is a mod that gets around the loading restriction (look up Ignore Missing Content) in the workshop.

  2. BlackeyeVuk says:

    Maybe you should start again, and forget ironman, at least for a year or two.

    • SideWays408 says:

      I just finished ironman yesterday on veteran. First half nobody died but then later half i lost 2 and lost 1 more in the final battle. I recorded everything so i just need to edit out the dead time cause i watch tv as i play and then il upload it.

  3. Chem says:

    I think Graham just signed up for naked mindspike duty.

  4. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    John is a terrible healer, now Graham is a terrible sniper.
    It’s almost like RPS aren’t actually military trained badasses or something.

  5. caff says:

    Graham. Frankly, you’ve let your team down. You’ve let Alec down. But most of all, you’ve let YOURSELF down.

  6. preshrunk_cyberpunk says:

    How can Graham possibly redeem himself?

  7. 7vincent7black7 says:

    Sniper no Sniping. Sniper no SNIPING! SNIPER nooo SNIPING!!!

  8. Horg says:

    Three shots in a row? Meh, can happen to the best of us.

    Five shots in a row? You may have a drinking problem.

    Seven shots in a row? Your gun has a drinking problem.

    Ten shots in a row? I now have a drinking problem.

    Thirteen shots in a row? Graham confirmed as faceless.

  9. X_kot says:

    Novel idea: determine staff bonuses by XCOM performance. Real Pip could probably find solace in sim-Pip’s mortuary payout.

  10. icarussc says:

    I note that Graham has nothing to say here in his defense. The silence is deafening.

    • Llewyn says:

      Nonsense. Graham has fired off four or five comments in his own defence. We’re just not sure which articles they’ve landed in yet.

      • icarussc says:

        The comments at this site are as good as the articles!

        • JarinArenos says:

          They really are. I’ve been laughing my ass off all down the discussion, and really wishing there was a like button for posts around here.

      • Thosedarnmonkeys says:

        You just made my morning

      • Phasma Felis says:

        This is fantastic.

  11. King in Winter says:

    Graham needs to be specced into Gunslinger tree. Sending him into situations where he’s up close and personal enough with the aliens to see the whites of their eyes should improve his accuracy. Although, come to think of it, none of them had whites in their eyes.

  12. Kestrel says:

    Not sure I understand XCOM 2’s inability to load saves without certain mods still enabled. Couldn’t we just set a rule that if an asset is missing, default to an asset already in the game?

  13. Ufofighter says:

    Graham is asking for a buzzcut. Or a pink tint until redemption.

  14. Chaotic Entropy says:

    After shot 12, I’ve had suggested he use shot 13 on himself. Then I would have his comrades grenade his corpse.

  15. Premium User Badge

    ooshp says:

    I had a definite Graham in one of my first (failed) playthroughs. Missed 10 shots in a row, all ~90% – all taken from safety on a MEC which seemed to be stuck in a room so I could run back and forth to spot him without putting my ranger at any risk.

    I do believe it’s the only time I’ve ever seen boredom on the faces of my soldiers, leaning against a building while wannabe-Graham reloads his rifle AGAIN.

    Over-reliance on Snipers is definitely a habit I’ve carried over from EU and was directly responsible for my early failures. In my current (and most successful so far) campaign, my sniper has a measly 20 kills from ~13 missions. My lead ranger has 50.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    And in the end, it was a snake that killed the frog :'(

  17. Enkinan says:

    It seems like Snipers just aren’t that great in this one. I really only used one on my last playthrough and when he was hurt I didn’t miss him at all. Once he was maxed out towards the end he was pretty good though. Serial, lightning hands, and faceoff are super fun in the right situations.

    • RealWeaponX says:

      Really? I used two in almost every mission on my last playthrough, only dropping one when I had to through injury. By the end of the campaign they had nearly 500 kills between them.

  18. Elusiv3Pastry says:


  19. ByteRustler says:

    Hey come on, I rustle I don’t jack but I will fully admit that does sounds better. I blame Microsoft and the random gamertag suggestion circa 2009.

    Pleased to see this Mirror Universe version is doing slightly better than mine who fell in his first mission having done the sum total of absolutely nothing.

    • RealWeaponX says:

      This is the same reason I’m RealWeaponX on pretty much everything game-related. 2003 I joined Xbox Live and chose the tag WeaponX, being something of a Wolverine fan. Naturally this was taken, so it threw up some alternatives and I just picked one. Now I’m just too used to it to change it.

      • ByteRustler says:

        Given how common my real name is I ended up using it for a lot of things and now I’m stuck with it.

        I keep thinking about changing it and then I remember the Sony won’t let you change you PSN ID so I drop the idea. Multiple usernames would confuse me and it’s not THAT bad.

        The older I get though the more embarrassing it is to phone up a support line and spell out the username I picked nearly a decade ago.

        Still I could have picked something a whole lot worse.