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When I play FPS games, I find that I can rarely kill people before they kill me; often a whole SMG clip doesn't take them down, while they hit me with a few pistol shots and I die.

I think this is just me being very poor at aiming. I go for the neck, so the recoil hits the head... How else can I kill people more often?

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I've made the question a bit more general, I think this can benefit more players than only those of CS:S. – user56 May 8 '11 at 16:38
I meant to give it something of a general feel. – The Communist Duck May 8 '11 at 16:46
In just about everything besides CS, I aim for the chest. It seems like these less-damaging shots are far more likely to hit (for me) so the kill comes faster on average. – Puddingfox May 8 '11 at 17:17
Somehow I don't feel qualified to answer this – badp May 9 '11 at 6:57
use aimbots lol – Esq Feb 21 '14 at 8:59

8 Answers 8

up vote 21 down vote accepted

It depends on the game of course but here are some rules that you may find helpful:

  1. Don't spray, make every bullet count.

    For shotguns and sniper rifles it means that must be confident that you are going to hit your enemy when you shoot. At first it might become even harder to kill someone but it's a proper way to improve your aim.

    For assault rifles it means that (again, depends on the game) you should shoot in short bursts making a tiny half-second breaks to decrease the spread.

  2. Learn shooting techniques like drag-shot or twitch-shot

  3. A good mouse and mouse sensitivity that suits you. I think majority (debatable I guess...) of professional gamers use rather low mouse sensitivity. They use the whole arm and the whole mouse carpet to turn 180 and use their wrist for precise movement. It is also important to have enough space to move your mouse. I feel extremely uncomfortable when there is something fragile on the same table where I sit...

  4. Turn off mouse acceleration. Everywhere: in mouse drivers, in OS settings, in the game. Most people agree that it helps but there are a few guys who like to have it on.

  5. Turn off vertical synchronization, tune your network settings. For source games cl_interp, cl_updaterate, cl_cmdrate etc can make a difference.

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+1 though I don't agree with turning off vertical sync, that it actually helps anything is a myth. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 8 '11 at 20:55
Well, vsync usually causes problems with fps so I like to disable it and when I enable it I don't see any difference. – Lauri May 9 '11 at 6:04
Since you grouped vsync with the net settings, it might imply that it is related to the netspeed/tickrate in UT (interesting read whether you've played the game or not). Personally, I don't think having it on or off really makes a difference in any game (gameplay-wise). – Jeff Mercado May 9 '11 at 6:22
Could you try and summarise drag-shot and twitch-shot for those of us who may not be able to watch the youtube video (or perhaps simply do not want to)? +1 anyway! :) – Matthew Iselin May 9 '11 at 8:14
It's all about moving your crosshair onto an enemy in one drag/one twitch using your muscle memory even if the target isn't in your field of view anymore. For sniper rifles it goes like this : 1) spot a target, 2) get it approximately in the center of your screen, 3) scope and calculate the distance to the target 4) drag your mouse and shoot before you even see the next frame. It allows to fire rapidly and to move freely because most of the time you're going to be not scoped. – Air May 9 '11 at 20:46

This is entirely dependent on the game, but learn whether your guns are hitscan or projectile.

Hitscan weapons have their bullets travel instantly; a hit or miss is calculated as soon as you pull the trigger. Don't rely on visual feedback alone to determine if a weapon is hitscan -- depending on how the bullets are animated, they may appear to be slower than they really are. The most important thing here is that you shouldn't lead with Hitscan weapons, as doing so will only make you miss.

Projectile weapons, on the other hand, have actual projectiles that need to hit the target to do damage, so you do want to lead your shots.

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caveat: You shouldn't lead with hitscan only if you have a decent ping with the server (I'd say ~80 and below). Otherwise you have to compensate for the lag. – Jeff Mercado May 9 '11 at 4:28
@Jeff - oftentimes, the game will attempt to do this for you. – Raven Dreamer May 9 '11 at 5:56
also pullets; pellets + bullets = pullets. >.< – Raven Dreamer May 9 '11 at 5:57

Play a lot. Play often.

The only way to get better is to play. At first it may seem that you are not getting any progress. There isn't any tricks to getting better. You just need to play.

Deathmatch servers can be more efficient as you don't need to wait for the next round to train your aiming.

On the strategy side, you can watch some pro games. Watching good players playing can help you understand the high level strategy and overall idea of what is good to do.

It's also important that your sensitivity is perfect for you.

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Take the time to practice all of these things by yourself, in a practice game or against bots

  1. Mindset - protect yourself first and be unaffected by enemy gunshots
  2. Control - every movement in battle needs to be deliberate, and perfectly executed
  3. Take Cover - a single mistake here will cost you your life
  4. Dodge Bullets - know how to sprint from cover to cover, with the right timing
  5. Aim and Shoot - specific strategies to improve your aim (covered in video extensively)
  6. Kill Entire Squads - practice your skills in a live situation against multiple enemies

REMEMBER: where is the enemy? how many are there? do i have good cover? can they see me? will i get hit? where am i looking? 360 degrees? or tunnel vision? can i get a shot in? shoot to scare or kill?

position, safety, and awareness is infinitely more important than trying to "kill someone before they can kill you" - a common mistake to make especially if you are not thinking clearly

I made a video series with some serious tactical and training/practicing strategies to help you get better at shooting games. It's a 4-part training series about an hour in total.

This one is probably what you're most interested in...

Part 2: (practicing strategies)

If you like that video you should watch the rest because they will help you even more.

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Please summarize at least some of the advice in the video. – kotekzot Mar 3 '14 at 0:01

Three tips that I have not seen explicitly mentioned yet so I thought I would pitch in:

  1. Unless you've been spotted know you will hit before you shoot. If you're not 100% confident you can land the shot, the only thing you will net yourself is a reveal on the enemies map or general awareness (from enemy's perspective) that they have been spotted. The element of surprise is extremely beneficial in shooter games.
  2. Use your team mates as distractions so you can flank or set up a better shot. I became quite proficient at several shooter games because I would wait for the reveal of an enemy on the map while I was in cover - now aware that I'm not the one being shot at, I exit cover and take down the enemy shooting at the team mate (this works well provided the team mate in question is not between you and the potential target, otherwise you show up in the enemies line of sight).
  3. Learn to read map flow. This will be the hardest concept to master as it comes with quite a lot of experience with a specific game. Countless hours of Call of Duty 4 have taught me that there is a flow to the battle on a map - meaning that enemy spawns are away from hot spots and usually safely away from the opposite team spawns (not completely random). This facilitates flanking as you can read where the engagement is and anticipate where enemies spawning in and stragglers will be and pick off the "sickly gazelle."

That sums it up for what I have to offer outside of what has already been stated..I +1 the practice against bots as, at least in terms of CS:GO, I had never played an online match (this has changed) but never lost a 1v1 against my Gold Nova friend due to practice against the highest difficulty of bots.

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Drink caffeinated drinks and rest beforehand if you're tired!

Use every advantage you can by learning the levels, predicting other players, laying traps or attacking when they're busy. Players that shoot first or more accurately are not always the ones that kill and shooting at the first enemy is not necessary the best plan, especially in games such as CS:S where players are so fragile.

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Caffinated drinks could cause you to twitch when trying to aim a shot. I wouldn't recommend it. – Zibbobz Jan 16 '14 at 21:32

You could you use a cross-hair overlay, that way always know where the centre of the screen is when your aim spreads or disappears while wielding a sniper.

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This answer is aimed at non-realistic FPSes. This info is designed to assist anyone playing games like anything from the Tribes franchise, Quake, Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, etc.


This one is in all caps, header font and fully-written because I can't emphasize it enough. In fact I'm frankly stunned it hasn't been mentioned already except in Chase's answer and he only listed it as number 3, because this one is universal. I've been playing shooters since Doom when I was five, and I can tell you that the one thing that is consistent across all shooters -- and this includes realistic/pseudo realistic non-arena shooters like Counter-Strike or Call of Duty -- is that map knowledge will allow you to dominate anyone that does not have map knowledge. Period, end of discussion.

The importance of knowing the map layout becomes even more prominent in the arena shooters I'm targeting with this answer, for a couple of very important reasons:

  • Movement is a crucial skill in these games -- a defining feature of arena shooters -- which means that terrain knowledge is a crucial skill, because it affects how well you move.
  • Except in some games like Tribes, weapons and powerups spawn on the map in arena shooters. Knowing the spawn locations of these pickups is absolutely crucial. In Tribes, knowing the location of your nearest inventory station (or generator when it goes down) is just as important.

Knowing the map in shooters is the difference between coasting along the top of the map geometry at ~40 miles per hour grabbing every armor and weapon pickup along the way before everyone else can and walking around aimlessly looking for someone to shoot. The latter tends to end in loss.

2. Get good at spatial reasoning.

Arena shooters are also usually defined by their lack of hitscan (instant hit from the moment you press fire -- no projectile) weaponry. This adds another thing you have to get good at; leading your target. And your projectile's behavior is likely going to be very different depending on the weapon you use. This one is especially important in Tribes because of the combination of wide-open areas, breakneck speeds, and non-hitscan weapons -- new players sometimes have a hard time hitting anything at all in Tribes.

My advice to you is to pick one weapon and stick with it for a while. A common example is using the rocket launcher in Quake. The RL is a very versatile weapon because it has splash damage, which allows you to aim less precisely to score damage, and it can boost your mobility in a pinch -- the ubiquitous rocketjump. This makes it a weapon that is both good for newbies to pick up and highly rewarding to master. On the flipside, learning the railgun first might be a poor choice because it doesn't offer anything beyond being able to do good damage at long range, and it's also highly unforgiving when you miss (long refire time). Also, limiting yourself to one weapon whenever possible like this allows you to eschew having to learn everything at once, making the game more enjoyable while you learn it; as opposed to trying to learn every weapon at once and being terrible with all of them for a long time.

The other thing you should focus on learning when you're new to a shooter is the movement mechanics. Moving around affects your shot just as much as moving your crosshair, and it also doubles as your primary defensive measure. Fortunately, movement is usually a constant thing that doesn't change (notable exceptions include class-based team games like Team Fortress and Tribes -- in those cases I also highly suggest you stick with one class until you feel comfortable), so you only have to learn movement once to start applying your skill to each weapon.

3. Most importantly... try to have fun even when you're doing poorly. Or you'll never truly enjoy the game.

This sounds like an oxymoron if you were to apply it to most modern military shooters like Call of Duty, because when people get ahead in that sort of game, they really get ahead. Killstreak bonuses being used against you, spawning in a worse location, being spawn-camped by vehicles, even racking up money in Counter-Strike... these are all things that don't make a game fun for someone that's losing an FPS.

The easiest way to avoid this is to play team-based gametypes, with a focus on objectives instead of kills. Deathmatch being "the basic gametype" of most shooters is kind of a misnomer; I think that deathmatch is actually better described as the arena for experienced players who have achieved a high level of mastery with the fundamentals of the game like map knowledge, weapon usage, and movement mechanics. Games like CTF, attack-and-defend, king of the hill, etc. allow you to contribute to your team winning without being good at killing players. Additionally, they allow you to be helpful without knowing all of the map because objectives are usually clearly indicated on the HUD. Tribes is extremely strong in this regard, offering the entire home base defense/offense "side-objective" that anyone can pursue at any time to give their team an advantage.

Over time, you will become familiar with the fundamentals of the game, and as you enter intermediate player status you may crave "the kill," what many consider to be the purest form of competition between two players. You might find yourself stopping your pursuit of an objective just to have an intense 1v1 duel with another player. Then you can truly elevate your status to that of one who racks up ridiculous killstreaks and pulls off the occasional amazing trick-shot. Try to avoid having this attitude at the beginning of the game until you learn the basics.

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