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Tactics and Habits for Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and other First Person Shooters

Written by: NetworkError, on 13-08-2009 12:36
Last update: 13-08-2009 12:44
Published in: Public, Things that go Boom
Views: 4500


I've been playing first person shooters since I was a kid. Over the past five years, I've worked in offices who encourage employees to play games at lunch. So I've logged a lot of FPS game time. (Over a thousand hours, by my math.) I thought it was time to sit down and document some of the tactics and skills I've picked up over the last 5 years.

This guide is fairly general and parts can be applied to most games. I've based it on experience from games I've played the most: Unreal Tournament (UT), and Quake III. Some can also be applied to games like Left 4 Dead.

What follows is an autobiographical guide to best practices, tactics, and habits to employ when playing first person shoot games. I've broken it down (roughly) into the categories Personal Tactics and Team Play Tactics.

Personal Tactics

These are tactics and habits that work for almost any situation or game style.

Have a Purpose

Don't just run around shooting things. Have a specific goal (or set of goals) in mind. If you have more than one goal, prioritize them.

Good goals include:

  • Gathering health, armor, guns, ammo, and other items.
  • Protecting or offending on a certain area of the map.
  • Guarding a teammate.
  • Killing as many enemies as possible.
  • Going after a certain objective.

By constantly assessing the current of the game and deciding what activities will best serve you and your team, you will be much more valuable and harder to kill.

Pick your Battles

Don't get into fights you can't win. If you're in a loosing fight, run away and patch yourself up. On the flip side, if you see a vulnerable enemy or a prime target, go after it.

Collect Goodies

Typically, your first priority should be gathering health, armor, etc... (Whatever goodies the game provides to make you deadlier and harder to kill.) Don't go looking for trouble unless there is a pressing need, like protecting a team mate or recovering a flag, or if you have maxed out on all the goodies you want. Once you get damaged or run low on ammo, go back into collection mode.

If you run into trouble while you're out shopping, quickly decide if you're out-gunned. If you're not sure you can win the fight, retreat and keep collecting.

You will tend to win more fights this way. Because:

  1. You'll almost always have more health, armor, and ammo than your enemy.
  2. You'll only engage in fights when you're in peak condition.

Following this guideline, you may be accused of cheating since you'll be rather harder to kill than everyone else.

Run Backwards

People naturally want to chase a target. Use that tendency against them. If you're throwing rockets or bullets in their face while they're chasing you, so much the better. Get good at navigating while running backwards. This takes some knowledge of the map, but even running in circles or around a small area is effective. You can use this tactic a number of ways.

When retreating, you can leave a trail of rockets and bullets to dissuade your enemy from following.

When running with the flag, you can clear tailing enemies off much more effectively.

When hunting someone, it's very effective if you can get them to chase you. As you duck around corners, down halls, off jump-pads, etc... chuck some rockets and bullets in your wake. Your enemy is going to run into a lot of it and you'll present a hard target for them to hit. This is remarkably effective. (If they break off pursuit, chase them down and finish the job.)

Don't Chase People

A lot of people know how to pummel someone who's chasing them. Don't chase someone unless you're sure you're going to win, or unless there is no other choice. Remember to pick your fights.

Predict Your Opponent's Actions

People will tend to follow common paths on a map. If you can head an opponent off and have a barrage of fire waiting when they round a corner, they'll often be dead before they know what's happening.

Instead of chasing someone, lob some shots at them as they run away, then guess where they're running to and try to intercept them. (Or just let them go. Pick your fights.)

If you're jaunting along and see an enemy heading in a certain direction, heading them off is a great way to pick up an easy kill.

Don't Present a Target

The best way to win a fight is to take as little damage as possible. The best way to do that is to not present a target. You can do this by sniping, hiding in unusual spots, and flanking. You can also drop in on an enemy or group of enemies from above. (Many players don't look up.) (Note: In Unreal Tournament, use the translocator and double jumping to hurl yourself into the air above an enemy, then rain down fire as you fall toward them. In Quake III, do the same thing with jump pads when they are available.)

Use Cover, but Don't Crowd It

A common mistake newer players make is crowding cover. Using cover is a great way to stay out of trouble. Lobbing some shots at an enemy, then ducking behind a door will minimize damage incurred during a fight. However, give the cover a little space. You'll maneuver easier, avoid splash damage, and have more reaction time if someone rounds the corner looking for you. (And you'll have fewer incidents where you unknowingly have a foot sticking out around the corner.)

Know the Map

Seriously. On new maps, get a feel for the map, then go area by area until you get it down.

Don't Get Tunnel Vision

All too often, players only see what's in front of them. Don't let this happen to you. Always be looking around. Strafe around corners. Do a quick side-to-side look when you enter a room. You should always know what's going on around you. Never assume you're alone.

It helps if you avoid running through big, open areas. Try to keep a wall on one side of you whenever possible. You'll reduce your chance of getting flanked by surprise.

Also, don't get too focussed on a single enemy. He might have a friend. Even when you're fighting, whip your view around as you move to keep an eye out for backup.

If you're doing it right, you should always have a mental map of what the landscape looks like around you, where the goodies are, and most importantly, where the other players are, which direction their heading, and what they're doing.

Use Your Opponent's Tunnel Vision Against Him

If you're being chased and you run through a door, then throw your back against the wall, there are decent odds your enemy is going to blow right past you. (See the note above on players getting tunnel vision.) This is useful if you want to shoot someone in the back, or if you have the flag and would prefer to just follow your pursuers back to your base and kill them at the last moment.

If you're guarding an area, sometimes the best place to stand is in plain sight... but in a spot people usually ignore either because it's not in the direction they're traveling, or there are no goodies over there. You'll find many players who will walk right past you and turn their back on you.

If you're running with a friend, split up a little. Try to get the enemy to attack just one of you. The other can come in and flank, often without being seen.

Always *Look* for Trouble

Always have your gun pointed in the direction trouble is most likely to come from. Don't stare in one direction, though. (Tunnel vision.) As you're running, this means a lot of strafing to ensure you're covering the risky areas as you move.

Don't Run in a Strait Line... Evar

No matter where you're headed, pick a round-about way to get there. Zig. Zag. Jump. Take side-passages. Be unpredictable. If you get in a fight, your instinct will be to run directly at your enemy. Override your instinct. Make your enemy chase you. Move in unexpected directions. Be as hard to hit as you possibly can and come at your enemy from unexpected angles.

Team Play

There are some additional tactics to take into account when playing with a team.

Have a Plan

Figure out what area(s) your team will defend and who will play defense. Figure out how you're going to attack. Feel free to change the plan as the game progresses, but do it as a team.

Hold the Middle

In many team games, holding the center of the map is key to winning. It ensures that no enemy will get back to their base with flag in hand. And it ensures lots of backup for friendly flag carriers. Defending in the base is often of secondary value. (It's often good to leave one player in the base, but focus most on the middle.)

Zerg 'Em

Sometimes, the best tactic is to get your whole team together and run as a mob. (This is often called "Zerging".) You'll often mow right through defenders and offenders alike. If your mob gets whiddled down too much, fall back and regroup.

Follow Your Pursuers

If at all possible, get behind your pursuers. Especially if you have the flag (or equivalent). If you can snatch a flag and hide, the other team will quickly fan out toward your base looking for you (usually). This is an excellent opportunity to get behind them and follow them home. (Don't shoot unless you need to.)

Keep a Healthy Firing Line

If you're playing a game with friendly fire, be sure to leave space behind you for teammates to move around. Try not to fire in every direction. If you need to move, try to stay behind your team's line of fire. If everyone does this, you'll notice your team "rolling" out behind each other as they move.

Communicate With Your Team

Tell them when you need help. Tell them where the enemy is. Tell them if someone coming into the base has special items, lots of health, or at death's door. If everyone on your team is communicating, you're going to be more effective by several orders of magnitude.

Use Landmarks

When communicating with your team, use landmarks. Stuff like "incoming by the rocket launcher in our base" or "they're in the middle (of the map)", etc... If you need to use more general terms, agree on something up front. For instance, our teams always use "right" and "left" relative to looking from our base to the enemy base.

Misinform Your Enemies (Social Engineering)

Tricking your enemy is fun and effective. For instance, if you have the flag and you're all alone, drop the flag for ten seconds. Often times, the enemy team will assume someone killed you and stop hunting you. If they have your flag, this may also flush their flag carrier out to the post.

If you're at a LAN party and you're all just shouting at each other in the same room, you can do a lot of damage with some well executed social engineering. For instance, if you have the flag and you're not being pursued, get somewhere high and shout "I'm getting beat up on *down* here". Usually, at least a few players on the other team will flock to the lowest point on the map looking for you. Some enemies will assume you're being taken care of and break off pursuit.

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