Sniping in FPS games has a terrible reputation. On one side, you have the meme of the “46 shots, one kill” Widowmaker in Overwatch, or the bad sniper who can’t hit any shots and ends up being more of a liability than a carry for their team. On the flip side, sometimes there’s a sniper on an opposing team who’s so oppressive that they make you rage quit in despair.
Apex Legends’ eleventh season launched recently, bringing a host of updates, changes, and new content. The new season introduces the game’s fourth map, Storm Point, which is notable in that it’s 15% larger than World’s Edge, the previous largest map. (Apex Legends has some huge maps, as any good battle royale should.) Storm Point is also interesting in that it plays with height and distance quite a bit: it’s easier than ever to climb to high points and get the drop on an enemy before they even see you’re there. It’s a great map for players who prefer using long-range or marksman weapons (Apex‘s version of midrange accuracy-based guns), which of course means that professional players, content creators, and high-profile streamers are already complaining about the amount of snipers on Storm Point.
Sniping in FPS games has a terrible reputation. On one side, you have the meme of the “46 shots, one kill” Widowmaker in Overwatch, or the bad sniper who can’t hit any shots and ends up being more of a liability than a carry for their team. On the flip side, sometimes there’s a sniper on an opposing team who’s so oppressive that they make you rage quit in despair. These snipers come out of nowhere, are hard to counter, and frequently feel unfair to play against. While many games offer sniping as an option to players, the higher popularity of close-range auto-fire weapons and shotguns in FPSes goes to show how many people prefer to fight up close rather than snipe. As someone who’s been a sniper main for almost a year now in Apex Legends, I’m here to explain why sniping should be a more respected activity in FPSes.
I’m not a patient person. I’ve discussed this before. It might seem surprising that I enjoy sniping, which is generally a slower, more careful experience than going in guns blazing. I surprised myself with how much I enjoy it, honestly. I’ve played more front-line damage roles in FPSes past: I was a Junkrat main in Overwatch, mostly because I didn’t grow up playing CS:GO or other precision aim-based games and I couldn’t keep up with the master aim of all the Soldier: 76es and Widowmakers around me. Playing Junkrat meant that I didn’t really have to think about aiming beyond saying to myself, “Hey, someone’s over there! Let me shoot in that general direction.”
There’s a reason running and gunning is so popular in these kinds of games. Everyone wants to feel like an action movie hero, dropping in on an unaware enemy team and blasting them with style before they even know what happened. These sorts of moments also make for cool, engaging content, which content creators need to boost their follower count and advertise their channel. In Apex Legends in particular, the movement is designed to feel smooth and fun. The game is the spiritual sequel to the Titanfall series, which was widely praised for its extremely fun movement and maneuverability, so Apex had to live up to that legacy. Lots of its characters have movement and pathing abilities that are designed to get you in and out of a fight quickly; an extremely popular hero is Octane, who’s all about running and jumping far. There are thousands of clips that simply feature Octane players diving into battle from great heights and wiping out teams in the blink of an eye.
That’s all well and good, but I like the calm and care that comes with sniping. For one thing, it gives me time to line up my aim correctly. I also like that it fosters team coordination: if two of my friends are going in guns blazing, I can sit back and watch for third parties, ultimate usage, and the incoming Ring while I (attempt to) click on heads. It helps with spreading out the team, too, meaning that if both of my friends die, I can sometimes finish off the remaining enemies because they don’t yet know where I am. Even if I’m playing with randoms or by myself, sniping is a fairly self-sufficient way to play – as long as I have a sidearm with me, of course. (I prefer holding one sniper and one auto weapon, like a Volt or an RE-45.) I play Apex slowly, taking my time to loot and find a good position to watch for others coming. The game might be all about movement, but it’s also all about positioning, and I find that sniping forces me to think about that.
Learning and Growing
It’s natural to want to be good at an FPS right away. When I started playing Apex, I avoided snipers and precision weapons like the plague. Slow-firing shotguns? No thanks – I’d take the close-range auto weapon. Weapons that fire quickly and repeatedly, like SMGs, pistols, and assault rifles, are always some of the more popular weapons in FPSes. For one thing, they work well with the run-and-gun mentality that I talked about earlier, but they’re also generally easier to use. Apex‘s RE-45 is a very common floor weapon with a very common ammo source. Does it hit hard? No, but it does enough damage to be viable, in my opinion. Once players get the hang of some of the easier auto weapons, they frequently graduate to guns like the Flatline, a full-auto assault rifle that has a serious amount of kick but is extremely strong at close range, or the R-301, a rarer but powerful sustained-damage gun. If their aim is good, they might grab a shotgun, but in my experience, the majority of players stop here. Though there’s space to improve with these short-range weapons, I find that climbing the skill ladder of a more unwieldy type of gun is more satisfying in the long run.
After I figured out which end was up when I started playing Apex, I picked up a Triple Take one day to just give it a try. At the time, the gun was classed as a sniper rifle. Even though I knew my aim was nothing to write home about, I figured I’d give it the ol’ college try. To my delight, I found that I could hit targets with it. I wasn’t hitting them sometimes, either: for some reason, I immediately understood the way the gun worked and was quickly landing repeat shots on long-distance targets. It simply clicked. My friends were stunned! They usually had to carry me, but if I had a Triple Take in my hands, I could carry them. Every time I found one of the rifles on the ground, I slurped it up, skimming the nearby area for a scope and preparing to actually deal damage for once.
I found out later that the Triple Take was originally part of the energy class of weapons, which have very little bullet falloff. This means that their bullets fly straight for farther distances than other categories of weapons, even other sniper rifles. (That was why I was hitting targets so consistently – I wasn’t having to lead my shots very much.) When the Triple Take was removed from floor loot and made into a supply drop-exclusive special weapon, I was devastated. The gun that had made me feel powerful and effective for the first time in an FPS was now no longer mine to use, at least not unless I found a lucky care package.
Instead of constantly diving for packages, I tried every other sniper in the game. Slowly – very slowly – I learned their handling differences, rates of fire, and damage potential. Over time, I learned how to aim and lead shots, and at what distance I was lethal. This season, the Triple Take returned to floor loot, but I find myself not needing it anymore; in fact, I actually prefer other snipers with higher skill ceilings. I feel more confident in my solo play, my aim has improved immeasurably, and I have a lot of fun, simply because I decided to try sniping.
The great thing about a lot of FPS games is that they allow you to approach combat in whatever way feels best for you. Lots of folks like to run and gun, to feel instantly powerful when they run over an enemy and move on without looking in the rearview mirror. Personally, I feel most powerful whenever I land that god shot from a hundred yards away, that amazing kill that makes me feel like a pro gamer. I don’t think sniping should be universally disparaged, nor should it be a playstyle that’s discouraged: it’s almost always a viable role for decently-skilled players in FPSes, and it’s a great way to work on your aim if you want to get better. It’s also a great way to learn how to position effectively and play effectively against variety of play styles.
Just remember to watch your head if you see my team coming.