Here's a quick situational guide to playing the Sniper in TF2. Adapt the tips to fit your own play-style.
Unless stated otherwise, I'll be using 2Fort for my examples of placement within this guide.
Note: This was written back in 2013. Some details may not be accurate anymore.
- Don't drink obsessive amounts of coffee whilst playing sniper. I find it causes my hands to shake when I'm paying a lot of attention, and I become a horrid sniper.
- Do not get cocky. If you spend more time talking trash, people will want to kill you more, and you'll notice that you walk away from TF2 with a negative feel.
- Be polite. Complement other skilled snipers and tell them you look forward to playing against them again in the future. This ensures that even if the other sniper is better than you, he'll respect you and probably compliment your own sniping skills publicly on the server as well. (Unless the other sniper is BM, in which case other players may come to your defense)
- Do not strafe in front of other friendly snipers.
- Do not use the razorback. Use Jarate instead. See Jarate section below.
- Use the Bushwacka.
- Do not be useless when all's quiet in the base. Melee/Jarate friendly members to ensure they aren't spies, and keep a watch for incoming enemies. (And actually call it out)
- Be vocal in a useful way - if you can call out useful information, do it.
- Disable mouse acceleration and vertical sync. This ensures a consistent sniping experience.
- Sniper Rifle: This rifle is best for most situations. There are no damage penalties, no special effects, and is dependable in most situations. I use it 90% of the time.
- Machina: This rifle good for defense positions where you're not likely to need to no-scope other players. At full charge, it can penetrate more than one enemy. You cannot shoot it unless you are scoped, and it leaves bulet trails in it's wake, alerting enemies to your location. Deals 15% extra damage at full charge.
- Sydney Sleeper: I personally find this rifle useless in most situations. While it does charge 25% faster, it cannot perform headshots.
- Bazaar Bargain: I don't use this weapon at all. Initially charges take 120% of the normal charge timer, but drops by 10% for each additional headshop, up to 7. If you miss a scoped shot, you lose a charge.
- Hitman's Heatmaker: A weapon I use when goofing around. Headshots cause a decapitation. Charge damage doesn't increase for 1 second after scoping, and has a special focus effect. Once you kill three people, you gain the 'focus effect', which enables you to shoot without unscoping for the duration of the effect; you also gain 25% faster charges during the effect. It's only downside is that it deals 20% less damage on a body shot.
- Jarate can be used to put out fires on you and your friendly team members. If you see a friendly team member on fire, Jarate him!
- Jarate can be used on spies disguised as friendly players to expose them. If you Jarate someone who appears to be on your team and he turns yellow, kill him.
- If you suspect a someone to be a spy and he's on fire, still proceed to use your Jarate on him. It will not put out the fire and it will cause all future damage to mini-crit him.
- When camping, throw Jarate as far as you can at random times. You never know who you'll hit.
- With the Bushwacka, you can one-shot most classes once they are coated with Jarate. (Two hits are required on heavies) The only downside of the Bushwhacka is that you take 20% additional fire damage.
Why not the Razorback?
You shouldn't use the Razorback because spy checking isn't hard. As long as you check your back every few seconds between shots, you should be fine. The benefits of Jarate far outweigh the one-time use of the Razorback.
- Once you die, you're dead for the round. Preserve your life and don't be stupid.
- Dispatch enemy snipers, engies and medics first. This ensures that you can operate without fear of being sniped, enemy structures stay broken, and that your enemies will have to outreach to small medkits to regain health.
- Use sit-out time for bathroom breaks.
Capture the Flag (CTF)
- When your intelligence is stolen from the intel room, pay attention to the directional indicators for where the EFC (enemy flag carrier)is going. There are usually only 2 ways to exit an intel room, and it isn't difficult to predetermine which exit the EFC will use to escape. Book it to a vantage point for said exit, and wait there to dispatch him when he exits the room. If you or your team manages to dispatch the EFC, stick around the intel until it returns to the intel room.
- The intel is more important than anything else. When the intel is within your base's borders, do your part to ensure the EFC cannot escape. If he has escaped your base, do not pursue him; instead, resume your general duty.
Capture Point (CP) and King of the Hill (KotH)
Capture Point and King of the Hill really straightforward. Dispatch enemies, assist in caps where you can. Take down snipers, engies and sentries first, then use logic to do the rest.
- Offense: Pretty straight forward - dispatch enemy snipers, engineers and sentries first, then spend the rest of the time ensuring the people on the cart aren't hindered. You can't camp as an offensive sniper in Payload after the first point, so keep moving and be elusive. (Also, watch for spies)
- Defense: Payload is one of those wonderful game modes that lets you be a lazy sniper. Randomize your sniping spot ever so often, be on the lookout for enemy snipers, and overall, keep enemies off the bomb. If you see a friendly engie beeing terrorized by a spy, do your part to dispatch the spy. (Use your Jarate!)
For special delivery, your first task is to pick off anyone who might try to pick up the Australium before your team can. If no one on your team is alive/available to cap the Australium, attempt to pick up the Australium no matter what, even if it'll kill you. At the very least you'll buy your team some time before the enemy runs off with it.
After that, your task is to stay back near spawn and dispatch enemies from afar. Your primary target is the EFC, Engines and Sentries.
Sniper vs Sniper
Fighting other snipers is by far one of the most rewarding and at the same time stressful experiences I've had in TF2.
When the enemy team only has one sniper:
A good enemy sniper will:
- Become familiar with a pattern in your strafing and pop you in the middle of a strafe.
- Charge while you strafe sporadically and pop you as soon as you stop and scope in.
- Use his larger teammates as a distraction.
- Not use a huntsman.
The solution to these tactics is:
- Strafe sporadically and randomize your location to ensure there are no simple patterns to your strafe. For instance, on 2Fort, hide behind the middle structures of battlements from time to time and pop out for a surprise shot.
- If you notice the enemy sniper is more of a slow-charger than a strafer, observe his laser dot on the wall. The longer it stays active without disappearing abruptly, the higher the chance he can simply bodyshot you and drop you dead. When you see the laser disappear (not move away, but actually turn off like he unscoped), peek out and then dispatch him when he peeks out again. You can also use your teammates as human shields while waiting for the dot to disappear -- if he dispatches a friendly player, now's your chance to peek out and get a shot in before he charges his rifle again.
- It is nearly suicide to attempt to pick off snipers whilst sniping from battlements if they are accompanied by soldiers, heavies or wranglers. Even the smallest bullet from a heavy displaces your aim, and can actually lead to mental stress causing your performance to wane. Instead, if your base entrance is clear, drop down and pick off the assaulting member as tactfully as possible.
- If the enemy sniper is using a huntsman across the map, simply wait for an arrow to fly past you, then peek out and dispatch him. Huntsman Snipers are usually very easy to kill.
When the enemy team has multiple snipers:
This is a tricky subject, and depends on how good your enemy snipers are. Some enemy snipers are so bad that you can literally drop them in one second flat (or even completely ignore their presence altogether), and then proceed to engage the other snipers who know what they're doing.
In most cases, strafing and peeking out for medium-long periods of time will result in your immediate death. Instead, focus on randomizing your location to impose a sense of fear on the other snipers. A sniper will be much less effective against you if he has to watch multiple areas of the map. (Especially when he has no guarantee how/where you will kill him.)
Fisticuffs, Aussie Style
Skill hardly plays a part when meleeing another sniper. Jarate him and bushwhack him before he does the same to you. Strafe while throwing Jarate, and then go in for the kill.
If he gets you with Jarate first and is within close range, ignore your own jarate and simply bushwhack him. At the very least, you'll damage him with the potential to crit him.
Sniper vs Spy
In close combat, spies are incredibly irritating. (Especially when a frontal stab registers as a facestab.)
- Always ensure that you are facing the spy. Follow his movements and do not leave your back unprotected.
- Jarate him. In most cases, you've won at this point. All damage will mini-crit him, and your next Bushwacka strike will kill him dead. Even if he uses the Dead Ringer to feign death, you'll see his jarate-coated outline as he runs away. Follow him (smartly) and dispatch him if possible. (Even if you can't kill him while he's coated, any other class can kill him with ease at this point, and you'll get an assist)
- No scope him at medium range if you can't strike him reliably. (You can try to quick-scope him if the situation permits)
In the event that two or more spies are in the immediate area, there's a good chance you'll die. Do your best to Jarate them all and strike as many as you can. Even if you die, a teammate will likely notice them and finish them off for you. (Any class with burst will drop them instantly)
Sniper vs Pyro
"One shudders to think what lies behind that mask."
A battle with a pyro is not fun. You usually have less than three seconds before the fight is over.
- If the pyro is far enough away to likely miss with Jarate, attempt to snipe him once.
- Jarate him. Try to no-scope him at this point while moving backwards. This is the one time when backpedalling is acceptable.
- Fake him out - if he's coated in Jarate, almost within melee range and you'll probably die anyways, charge him and try to strike him with the bushwacka. This effect is surprisingly effective against pyros who are used to others simply 'giving up' at this point.
Sniper vs Heavy
At far range, heavies are pretty easy to kill. (Provided they're alone)
If they have a medic, it will require a full charge to dispatch a heavy. (Sometimes another uncharged headshot after that)
If the heavy is within close range, you're probably already dead. If there's an escape route, by all means get out of there. If it's just you two, and there are other friendly teammates in the area, Jarate him before you die. If it's likely that the jarate will wear off by the time he meets the next friendly teammate, try to get a quick headshot in. (Or noscope)
If he has a teammate with him, try to kill him instead. (If you dispatch the medic before your demise, you've done your team a huge favor)
In the very rare event that the heavy isn't firing in your general direction, Jarate him and strike him twice. (Three times if he's fully overhealed) He should drop dead.
Sniper vs Scout
"Here lies Scout - he ran fast and died a virgin."
Scouts are regarded by many as the "anti-sniper".
At far range, they can be difficult to snipe due to their small frame and quick reflexes. Do your best to get in a body shot - their low health means that a headshot isn't always required to kill them. (Although it is much more rewarding)
At medium range, Jarate them and do what feels best. You can charge him and bushwhack him, or you can no-scope and try to drop him that way.
At close range, don't bother with Jarate. A scout can drop you before you know it at close range, so just melee away - 1-2 hits usually drops them.
Sniper vs Medic
Medics are simple to kill in most cases - their limited offense and well-contrasted appearance makes them an easy target.
At medium-far range, just headshot them. End of story.
At close range, Jarate and Bushwhack.
Don't be stupid - try to avoid their needles/arrows if at all possible. Those can kill you.
Sniper vs Engineer
Engineers themselves are another easy class to kill.
At far range, do your best to kill him with a headshot before attempting to shoot down his structures.
Once he's dead (or otherwise gone), it's sentry first, then teleporter, then dispenser.
At medium range, either quickscope or noscope him - if you miss the second shot, he'll probably kill you with his shotgun or pistol.
At close range, just bushwhack him. His wrench packs a punch; by the time you jarate him he'll probably kill you.
Sniper vs Demoman and Soldier
Soldiers and Demomen are pretty straightforward - at far range, kill them like you would anyone else.
At close range, they risk killing themselves with their explosives, so they'll probably switch to a melee weapon. Be tactful and try to get in one strike at least before they switch to their melee weapon.
When you see a demoman/soldier rocket jump in your direction, do your best to evade their landing. If they are going to land near you, try to time a jarate in their general landing zone so that you can bushwhack them as soon as they land.
Snipers are a very powerful class in that they can one-shot most other classes, they are mobile, and they can prevail in most situations if one uses the right technique.