Let me preface with the following:
Sniper rifles are cancer and people who main them shall be purged in Dante’s Moronic Inferno. Or they should convert themselves to the cult of DMR-goodness (I mean there’s the dragunov and the scar ssr, win-win).
Assimilate or Degenerate. Let this become the rallying cry for the non-corrupted members of the PF community.
Alright. Let’s begin.
As some of you are aware, there was a forum topic about OP-ness a month back. I posted something in that thread that I feel is unrelated to it, and deserves a topic of its own. I’ll detail that part of the conversation in full, with several reformats. let’s not make this an assault on the eyes, right?
Here’s the link btw: What do you think is OP in PF?
My argument was about how sniper rifles are a broken game mechanic in its current state. Here’s the post. I’ll copy-edit more of the text when I have the time, but this is the first installation. If you can’t/don’t want to read, please refer to the TL;DRs in bold text
Sniper rifles in general aren’t traditionally ‘OP’ like meta weapons and such, but they exert a disproportionate amount of influence on gameplay compared to other weapons. If there are (assuming equal skill and experience) 4 players of each weapon type on each team, the snipers basically dictate the tempo of the game. They might not always win games (BFG) but you cannot just ignore them, a sniper rifle will get you anywhere. And people who say sniper rifles have a balancing ‘drawback’ are pretty ridiculous, in my humble opinion.
I’ll borrow a term that people use in pokemon: centralization. While sniping is a perfectly viable and enjoyable part of PF gameplay, sniper rifles are extremely intrusive and they contribute to the complete opposite of dynamic, equally fun experience for everyone.
TL;DR this was my intro.
To elaborate on how a sniper rifle can overcentralize the game, let’s use a gameplay model to demonstrate how an entire class of weapons can buzzkill everything. (I need to be more clear, sniper rifle apologists will stop at nothing to call “leaks” a gaping cavern)
I’ll be writing this while sleep-deprived and possibly stoned so bear with.
your average PF game
For some ground rules, we’ll simplify the pacing of your average Phantom Forces match so that it resembles X-COM, where movement is turn-based. More importantly, stuff like shooting and reloading are represented as action points. In this particular example, a limited set of movement and action points are given to each player on the board. Also, movement and action points are not mutually exclusive, you can use both at the same time (since you can shoot and move in PF).
We’ll then combine this with a scenario in which Player 1 meets Player 2 in a firefight, while Players 3/4/5/6/7/8 are elsewhere. This is meant to represent what happens in the most ideal situation for everyone (brain farts/ignorance of game mechanics need not apply). Let the fight be set in the Desert Storm map (because everyone seems to like it). Now we go into what the sniper rifle basically is.
So the sniper rifle is this high-powered, accurate rifle. As a high-powered rifle, it shares a trait with the shotgun, high damage and shock value. It also has virtually infinite range, and it’s extremely accurate. Also assume that bullet drop is negligible; every semi-competent fool knows how to adjust for bullet drop. You don’t know if you’re being targeted until you hear the crack of a near-hit, or you get hit yourself. If you aren’t killed by the first shot, your new priority as the victim is suddenly completely shifted. Forget capping or holding a strong-point, you’re dead if the next shot hits. Basic psychology.
TL;DR snipers hit you from anywhere, and hard. Getting hit hard from nowhere is a pretty big advantage
A sniper rifle completely interrupts the “flow” of a game because what it essentially does is incur a fatal penalty for moving (other weapons do this too, but the sniper rifle is especially infuriating for reasons I will explain later). In X-COM terms, this means that for every 2 movement slots that a player might take, they have a good chance of getting deleted. Evasion and flanking are movement slots that can address this…but not really. Taking movement slots to Evade slows you down when you could be doing better things with your time. Flanking also takes a while; moreover, Desert Storm and all but the most CQC-oriented maps don’t give a many options. Why do I say this? Well, look at all the maps, and tell me how many strong-points are in each map that enjoy long-firing lanes, open ground, or are quite simply chokepoints. There are many, and for better or worse those kinds of things are inevitable in even the best map designs where you need to hustle just to take on a sniper. Like, even Mall Construction provides powerful niches for sniper rifles at the top floor (and common knowledge is that with Mall, all fights funnel towards the top floor). Your action points are pretty worthless against a sniper because sniper rifles out-fight you at the range game. Shooting there and such seems like a pretty bad choice since that leads to getting rekt by high-alpha. So let’s try using movement points. Your only choice is to keep moving forward into its range (which is time-consuming and risky), or avoid the sniper rifle altogether. You can’t fight back on equal terms as long as you’re playing in a sniper rifle’s playing field. And as basic mathematics dictates that “short-range” is a much smaller playing field than using the entire map as a buffer. You must move in order to respond. At the same time, the sniper rifle is allowed to respond while you’re moving, as long as you’re in line of sight.
TL;DR sniper rifles are great at map control, which means that making sniper rifles unfavorable to maps is extremely hard. A waste of effort for both players and developers
Why does this matter? Well, I like to believe that people like to feel in control during a game. In the 1v1 scenario I’m using, Player 2 needs to be able to respond to Player 1, using the available tools at hand. Action 1 causes reaction 2–> reaction 1–> reaction 2 until there’s some victor. Push and pull. Give and take. So consider this, I already explained that a sniper rifle by nature uses its range to deny an equal playing field for non-snipers. And if you ignore it, the sniper rifle is allowed to take you out at will. As such, Player 2 must respond. Player 2 can move and relocate to find a blind spot, but this takes time, and in that time Player 1 can also relocate. During this “dance” Player 1 always has the advantage as long as range is played with, which is Player 1’s natural response. Player 2 cannot address the threat without moving in, while Player 1 can always address Player 2 by moving away. Kiting.
TL;DR Gaming is all about action <–> reaction. Being able to fight back. It’s also about making every tool equally viable, making competition diverse and not contingent more than several OP sets or weapon classes
Even in a less than ideal scenario, Player 1 can rely on the team for support. At the end of the day, Player 1 cannot cede superiority without making stupid mistakes. At the end of the day, we haven’t even considered Player 2’s original strat, which is definitely sidelined by the necessity to eliminate the threat of a long-gun that can touch everything with impunity and security. At the end of the day, Player 2 has done little that fulfilled his/her objectives, while Player 1 has succeeded with minimal effort. Further into the future, Player 2 may choose to account for these snipers by choosing “safe” routes (the underground, avoid the center, etc) or by using a long-range weapon too. This is what overcentralization is, when a huge chunk of Player 2’s decisions are dedicated to addressing 1 threat (Player 1) much more than the other threats (Players 2, 3, 4).
Perhaps Player 2 can get the drop on Player 1 with a surprise attack, providing first-strike advantage. That is indeed true. However, this is equally true with the sniper rifle, which has two things going for it. First, the sniper rifle’s capacity for first-strike isn’t restricted by movement very much, it can be done anywhere. Second, it’s first-strike is powerful and accurate enough that it will always warrant a response, if a headshot doesn’t eliminate the target outright. A sniper rifle will more often or not have the better first strike. And its first-strike can end the skirmish in an instant.
TL;DR sniper rifles are pretty OP in their element. And sniper rifles have only one element, in long-range. This is why the player isn’t bad for using a sniper rifle, but it also means that sniper rifles are literally SATAN
My last salient point is that unlike a DMR, a sniper rifle is by nature overspecialized in its role, both IRL and gameplay-wise. A player using a sniper rifle is at a disadvantage in close range (though not always; high-damage weapons have a tendency of pulling crazy things at the 40 studs and under), and the exact opposite is true at long range. It makes sense that the sniper rifle dude is encouraged to min-max like heck, leveraging long-range and alpha strike. To heck with the cap, or the flares. As long as you stay in a point overlooking all the movement paths and firing lanes you’re golden. And there are a LOT of open firing lanes in every single map. Many sniper rifles also slow you down pretty badly.
TL;DR sniper rifles encourage you to play like a shitter, for lack of a better word.
This is what the gaming folks call overcentralization
This gameplay isn’t just shitty for the person getting shot at, it’s an exceptionally monotonous deal for the sniper, where the only reward is killing players. If any of you have played a game called World of Tanks, then I’ll just say the sniper mechanic is a marginally more interactive version of World of Tank’s arty mechanic. One handed gameplay. Along those lines, people defending sniper rifles sound like people defending WoT artillery. Hear that and quake with irrepressible nerd-rage.
TL;DR this is just a personal comparison. It’s ok if you don’t get it.
Now, this isn’t specifically a problem with PF. Every terrible, trashy triple AAA FPS shooter involving sniper rifles grapples with the Sniper Rifle Question.
But, this doesn’t excuse the developers for following on a bad trend. Though Lito and Co. have been better than the lowest common denominator for adding bullet drop and distance modifiers and sway, those are just bandages. Maybe it’s just impossible ‘fix’ sniper rifles since they are so at odds with the nature of a fast-paced, map-constrained FPS shooter.
Conspiracy? No. Cancer? YES
In which case the real question is why sniper rifles are considered an equal weapon class with the others to begin with. Sniper rifles are not equivalent to the rest of the weapons in PF. In fact they operate entirely outside. There’s a reason why snipers IRL are classified outside of the usual military hierarchy (inside they would be designated marksmen.)
EDIT: As a disclaimer for some, this argument doesn’t really extend to DMRs. DMRs are faster firing, its damage is more negatively affected by long-range shooting (I assume, I’d have to look into stats again), it has less alpha-strike to start with. It encourages smart snipes (headshots/crits for days) while incentivizing players to move, since DMR gameplay is closer to the frontlines. The DMR is, after all, a frontline weapon.
EDIT 2: Why use a sniper when you can run shotguns with slugs for double the fun. Or DMRs, which don’t outright cripple you when someone gets in your face.
Addendum: There are good snipers and bad snipers. But I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about sniper rifles. At any rate, players can snipe with any weapon, while sniper rifles are min-maxed to fit that role.
Addendum 2: There are sniper rifles that are good and there are snipers rifles that are bad. But I’m not arguing that sniper rifles are OP, I’m arguing that they are broken.