The following graph is representative of my experience when playing spy in Team Fortress 2.


In English, sometimes when I play spy I notice some people seem distracted (say, a demo or a heavy shooting in a given direction) and I decide to engage them and go for the stab. However, constantly, they seem to have a sixth sense that makes them turn at just the last moment and unload vast amount of lead in me.

This happens at an alarming regularity. I wonder - is it their "sixth sense?" Is it my poor timing? ...or is it my footsteps?

Would sneaking right before giving a backstab help reduce the sound of footsteps, giving the target more time but perhaps less warning?

  • 24
    Holy crap, that picture makes me want to get stabby.
    – Fambida
    Oct 11, 2011 at 0:38
  • Are you decloaking near them?
    – syn1kk
    Oct 11, 2011 at 13:10
  • @TrevorBoydSmith Nope. I use the DR, the Enforcer and the Big Earner, so I typically decloak ASAP, try and stay put while I recharge, flip the watch open and go around disguised. Even if I'm obvious, only poor timing/a misclick/getting stuck/a pyro can really stop me.
    – badp
    Oct 11, 2011 at 13:39
  • 1
    It isn't so much 6th sense as it is paranoia/being aware of surroundings. If I'm pushing a cart with a heavy, I'll be turning around every couple of seconds to spray some lead behind. Good players are difficult to backstab. Try focusing on the targets that aren't so attentive. Anyone that you can get to focus on trying to find you after a respawn is a prime target. Once give up on finding you, they'll go right back to their lazy ways.
    – DHayes
    Oct 11, 2011 at 14:47
  • 1
    Great question! funny too :). Just a side-note: If you're running your own dedicated-server / using sv_cheats on single player you can turn the footsteps off (mp_footsteps 0). Dec 8, 2012 at 15:25

4 Answers 4


As tempting as it is to attack these enemies while they're fighting allies, if you're not already decloaked and near them, they'll likely finish off your allies (or die), then turn around to make sure enemies aren't sneaking up behind them.

Footsteps can be somewhat of a giveaway, but since all players allies and enemies alike make footsteps, they alone are not a giveaway. The problem is, as a Spy, you need to walk right up behind someone to backstab them. Most allies don't get that close unless they're a Medic or running through you when they're a faster class than you.

One more related thing: teammates can tell their other teammates about suspicious looking players over voice chat. Unless it's an all-talk server, you have no idea they're doing this.

You should be more concerned over the noise of your cloaking devices. Cloaking devices make noise both when cloaking and uncloaking. The exception is The Dead Ringer, which doesn't make a cloaking sound. Basically, try to decloak somewhere where no one is around. Yes, this means you're relying more on your disguise than on your cloak.

If you use the Dead Ringer, disguise as a member of your own team until/unless you manage to get successfully behind enemy lines. I find friendly Pyro tends to work best, as it's the only class that has an excuse for not attacking the enemy as soon as they spot them. However, you're largely screwed if an enemy Pyro shows up.

  • As a non-YER dead ringer user I know fully well the pains of the loud cracking noise :)
    – badp
    Oct 11, 2011 at 0:39
  • 1
    Not entirely, if you get lit on fire while dead ringered, RETREAT. You usually have a decent chance of making it back to where your teammates can protect you, although if you're too far deep and can't shake the pyro you might as well check to see if there's anyone you can suicide stab before you go down. Oct 11, 2011 at 0:40
  • @Nicholas1024 Typically the pyro is able to juggle you around making your efforts futile. Sometimes they'll be able to airblast you into them. Typical WTF moment for me.
    – badp
    Oct 11, 2011 at 0:59

It would reduce the sound of your footsteps, but it would make you a much more obvious spy. Anyone on the other team who happens to be looking your way would spycheck you almost instantly. Further, sneaking slows you down significantly. People tend not to stop for extended periods of time - the additional time it would take you to approach while sneaking would lead to a fair amount of potential victims walking getting away without ever realizing you were there.

As a general tip, try to focus on getting in situations where your footsteps will be minimized (like around a corner) instead of approaching an enemy from directly behind. That way your footsteps will be minimized and everyone else on the other team will be less likely to notice you as well.


It could be a few things that is giving you away.

  1. They heard you decloak. This could be from the very loud Dead Ringer or the slightly quieter other cloak watches.

  2. They saw you cloak in front of them a short time ago and know you will be coming behind them soon.

  3. Someone warned him you were coming in voice chat or the in game voice command. "We got a spy over here!" etc.

  4. The player is just smart and knows to turn around every once and a wile to check for spies like you. On a similar note, maybe he was just spy checking and managed to kill you.

  5. Your behavior was out odd. Moving oddly, not shooting, wrong class in the wrong place, etc. caused you to be noticed (see #3)

To prevent this try the following:

  • Decloaking in an area where people won't see or hear you. The Dead Ringer is very loud but putting a natural barrier in the way, like a rock or wall, makes the sound less noticeable.
  • Don't let them know you're a spy on the front lines. Don't cloak right in front of them, they'll know you're a spy and be after you. Cloak behind a wall/rock and then advance. Disguise as your own team at first and sell your death with the Dead Ringer (DR). A sniper charging up the front lines is a dead give away of a DR spy (or a bad sniper).
  • Spend less time on the battlefield. A spy's disguise only goes so far until you either get spy checked, bumped up against or get noticed for being out of place. Hide in the corners, behind walls, on the high ground, etc. then attack.
  • Bad spies walk towards and look straight at their target. Try looking and walking just to the side of your target or strafing to your target and looking sideways then straightening out closer by. Seeing a teammate not shooting and making a straight run at the engineer/sentry is generally a give away of a spy.

Finally, sneaking to your target is a no. Footsteps are hard to hear in a firefight and the sneaking just before stabbing would be a give away to the rest of your targets team to spy check you.


Sounds to me like your "acting skills" are what are giving you away. When I first started using spy class, I kept getting killed a lot.

I suggest "improving your acting".

First suggestion:

One quick thing you can start doing is to "head towards something beyond the target"... so anyone looking at you thinks "oh he's going to repair something" or "oh he's going to attack them". But then at the last moment change your plans to get the stab.

Second suggestion:

If like you said "their sixth sense detects you" then don't go for the stab instead "continue towards your original heading towards something beyond the target". Not going for the stab is very hard (1. because you are like a vampire who is right next to the neck of a victim. 2. you feel like it is a waste of time to not do the stab). But staying alive in enemy base means you can hide... change disguise (because now you are going to be closely monitored because he is suspicious) and go again.

  • those are just TWO suggestions there are many more i won't go into. youtube videos. studying maps. devising general plans of attack on a per map basis. i find studying maps and having general plans of attack to be ESSENTIAL.
    – tbs
    Oct 11, 2011 at 13:59

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