The primary role of the Sniper Class is providing long range standoff, killing power and supporting overwatch against enemy units.
|“||Specialized in dealing large amounts of damage from extreme range, the Sniper is an invaluable resource for both scouting and surgical elimination of enemy units. Please note: Snipers are not suited for close-quarters combat without supplemental training.||”|
–XCOM Database, XCOM: Enemy Unknown
The Sniper Class can be equipped with Sniper Rifles and Pistols. Snipers tend to rely on their pistols as backup weapon more often than any other class, so your Snipers should be the first to receive upgraded pistols.
When a soldier is promoted, certain ranks give the player the option to choose 1 from the 2 available abilities to give to their soldier.
|Headshot||Fire a shot with +30% critical chance and extra damage on critical hits, based on the tech level of the sniper rifle. 2 turn cool down.|
|Snap Shot||Removes the sniper rifle's restriction on firing and Overwatch after moving. Any shots taken suffer a -20 Aim (-10 Aim in XCOM: Enemy Within) penalty.|
|Squadsight||Allows firing at targets in an ally's sight radius. (In XCOM: Enemy Within, these targets cannot be critically hit unless using Headshot.)|
|Gunslinger||Confers 2 bonus damage with pistols.|
|Damn Good Ground||Confers +10 Aim and +10 Defense against enemies at lower elevation, in addition to the usual elevation bonuses.|
|Disabling Shot||Allows the Sniper to fire a shot that causes the target's main weapon to malfunction. The target may use Reload to fix the weapon. The shot cannot inflict a critical hit. 2 turn cooldown.|
|Battle Scanner||Scanning device that, when thrown, creates a new source of vision for 2 turns. Can only be used 2 times per battle.|
|Executioner||Confers +10 Aim against targets with less than 50% health.|
|Opportunist||Eliminates the Aim penalty on reaction shots, and allows reaction shots to cause critical hits.|
|Low Profile||Makes partial cover count as full.|
|In The Zone||Killing a flanked or uncovered target with the sniper rifle does not cost an action.|
|Double Tap||Allows both actions to be used for Standard Shot, Headshot, or Disabling Shot, provided no moves were made. The second shot must be taken immediately after the first. 1 turn cooldown.|
The primary role of the Sniper Class is to quickly kill priority targets or dispose of a few weak targets. The unique characteristic of the class is the focus on long range combat: unlike other weapons, sniper rifles have greater accuracy at long distance, and suffer reduced accuracy at close and mid range.
Available abilities allow snipers to develop into two general types — Mobile and Stationary.
Mobile is generally better for missions where lots of movement and CQC is expected (like UFOs and Target Extraction). Stationary is better for open missions (like Abductions and the alien base.)
Most disadvantages can be mitigated by creative planning and proper implementation of strategy.
Mobile snipers use their "Snapshot" ability for hit-and-run tactics, where they outflank enemies engaged by the rest of the squad and gun them down. "Gunslinger" is a questionable choice for this setup because mobile snipers have an option to retreat from too-near target and engage them in one turn. "Damn Good Ground" is more preferable, because mobile snipers suffer an accuracy penalty from "Snapshot" after moving. "Battle Scanner" is also helpful to plan moves in advance, as mobile snipers can engage only targets in their own view zone and the scanner can be used to scout the area without alerting the enemy. However, the scanner's field of view is separate from that of the sniper, and the soldier still needs to approach the targets, and thus alert them, to make an actual shot.
The key point of this tactic is to master outflanking without putting your sniper at risk.
Advantages: Mobile, can shoot with the rifle in almost any circumstances.
Disadvantages: More dangerous for the soldier, less accurate.
Stationary snipers use "Squadsight" to bring heavy punishment from afar. Using this tactic, stationary snipers select a "nest" with good view and remain in it, shooting at targets spotted by squadmates. "Gunslinger" is helpful for this spec, as stationary snipers can't move and shoot with the rifle and are forced to use the pistol when out of the nest. The combination of "Squad Sight" and "Battle Scanner" can allow "free shots" on exposed enemies, as the scanner can be thrown at extreme distance, covers a wide area and doesn't alert the enemy.
Additionally, if a sniper with both Squad Sight and Battle Scanner is also given "In The Zone", one of the two final tier perks, the combination becomes quite powerful. Used wisely, each of the two available uses of Battle Scanner, combined with a forward scout (moved forward after the use of Battle Scanner, and ideally with Ghost Armor equipped and activated) will allow a sniper with that specific selection of perks to potentially eliminate an entire squad of enemies. This is also a very efficient way to deal with Sectopods. Sending a scout forward for the first half of their turn, hitting them with your sniper, the pulling your scout back so the cannot hit him/her. This can also allow you to bait enemies into advancing unto the rest of your squad who can use overwatch to defeat them.
However, be aware that the first shot will alert the enemy group, causing them to scatter and potentially moving out of the Battle Scanner's Line of Sight (LOS). Therefore, choose the location to drop the Battle Scanner wisely, keeping in mind the LOS considerations, and attempt to deny a suspected enemy squad at that location any opportunity to do so.
The key point in this tactic is finding the best spot to sit, which is often the highest point on the current map with the fewest LOS obstructions, and changing locations at the correct times.
Advantages: Stays out of harm, accurate.
Disadvantages: Bad mobility, bad performance on the move or vs close targets. Floaters can exploit a lone sniper far from friends (Can be mostly countered by leaving someone back with your sniper, like your medic, but this removes their firepower from the fight).
The true potential of the Sniper Class unlocks at the Colonel rank. Both abilities presented at this stage allow multiple shots per turn, but in different ways. Tactics and other abilities need to be taken into consideration.
At this point, however, Snipers are in danger of becoming EXP hogs. Since additional kills grant no benefit to a Colonel Sniper, they should possibly remain in your barracks outside of difficult missions, or should make an effort to hand over kills to other squad members.
"Double Tap" allows the use of the first action for shooting instead of moving. If the Sniper has a good enough position, they can potentially shoot twice per turn, at the same target or different ones. It can potentially double the damage against tough single targets, or allow for the killing of two weaker targets in the same turn. The downside is that the ability's benefit is negated if the Sniper is moving in that turn, which can potentially turn off "mobile snipers" from this ability, depending on the expected frequency of movement. It is also limited by the cooldown, which only allows the ability to be used every other turn. It is activated automatically when taking the first shot; cooldown can be tracked by opening the Sniper's status window: when "Double Tap" is available, it will be shown in beneficial status effects.
Note that Double Tap is not Bullet Swarm for snipers - the second action MUST be a shot, Disabling Shot, or Headshot; this may result in the player having to use the "End Turn" button if a target isn't available for the sniper.
"In the Zone" allows for sustained fire as long as the Sniper continues to kill exposed targets. Potentially, it allows a Sniper to keep killing enemies so long as the Sniper has ammo in their weapon. However, the potential is limited by the requirement that the targets must be visible to the Sniper, and to be flanked by them or to be completely out of cover. For maximum benefit from the ability, sniper's sight range can be extended with "Squad Sight" or supplemented with "Battle Scanners" if available. Targets can be exposed by destroying their cover with plasma weapons or explosives, or flushed out of cover with Assault's Flush ability (In cases where the units are utilizing cover, a squadmate with a grenade is helpful for removing the cover and damaging everything to set up a killing spree for the Sniper). Alternatively, mobile Snipers with the "Snapshot" ability can move to flank the enemies, although this is likely to cost some accuracy. Certain enemy types, such as Chryssalids, Zombie, Berserkers and especially Drones (which are extremely common in the late game, will reliably be killed by any hit from a Plasma Sniper Rifle, and are quite irritating on terror missions since they are good at killing civilians) tend to ignore cover completely, making them extremely easy targets for the Sniper. The downsides to this ability are that it doesn't provide an increase in damage vs single tough targets, and that it is accuracy dependent, which means its potential is lowered when using "Snapshot" for mobility and in close-to-mid combat situations. It also doesn't work against enemies in cover, requiring specific tactics from the player to benefit from the ability.
Effectively, therefore, "In The Zone" is similar to an area of effect attack where you can potentially pick off the two Drone escorts of a Sectopod, or the Sectoid escorts of a Mechtoid or Sectoid Commander, or the damaged survivors of a pack of Mutons, or every member of a pack of Floaters. In the Zone is usually more powerful than Double Tap, but Double Tap is better at dealing damage quickly to high-profile targets and doesn't require as much work to pull off.
Other abilities are less style-dependent. "Executioner" helps to finish off wounded enemies, while "Opportunist" allows you to setup "Reaction Fire" ambushes.
Tips & Tactics: Sniper as a CarryEdit
At impossible/classic difficulty, the sniper class is your carry. Like carries in other games, he starts off as one of the most useless, weakest classes, and by the end carries the team to victory. Highly promoted snipers with elevated positions (or in flight at high altitude) can safely pick off targets in complete safety, without alerting additional packs of aliens, while your squad only has to not die for a couple turns. Before Squadsight, you have to do everything you can to get kills and promotions to your snipers. Keep them in the safest cover, have them take first crack at any enemy that will be focus fired, have them use grenades to get the last hits if you have to. Sniper promotions > Alien Research, weapon fragments, everything. From there, build the right side of the sniper promotion tree. The must-haves are Squadsight, Damn Good Ground, and Opportunist. Keep soaking up the XP on the snipers, because with proper positioning they will rarely ever be at risk and so the XP they pick up will never be wasted. Even if everything goes wrong and everyone dies except your snipers, they are generally so far away from the battle that you can just return to the LZ, evac, and the squad can still function, rookies in front as bait instead of vets and snipers still picking everything off. At this point, begin every mission by getting the highest ground; not only is there bonus visibility, huge sight lines, a natural defense and accuracy bonus, but 'Damn Good Ground' increases many of the bonuses further. If you Overwatch here, you can engage patrolling aliens at great advantage, then after they are dealt with, your squad can move through all the sight lines of the snipers to clear the stationary groups. Now you can clear the camping aliens inside UFOs and buildings without any fear of alerting additional packs, meaning your assaults can dominate in CQB using run and gun liberally without fear while they flank around. Furthermore, you can also use explosives to give snipers sight lines to support the cleanup operation in a pinch.
In the Sniper as a carry method, the Colonel promotion is a tough choice. Double tap allows you to wound multiple high health enemies without always killing them outright. As EXP would be wasted on your Colonel sniper, this is ideal to rapidly dole out promotions out to the rest of your squad. In The Zone is safer as it prevents being overwhelmed, especially in terror missions or when paired with explosives, but every time In The Zone triggers it is a waste of EXP, unless a vet on the battlefield would die without such help. It is also less effective against large targets. Once you grant Double Tap to your one Colonel sniper (generally your first), and In The Zone to another Colonel sniper, you have won the game no matter what the rest of the squad looks like. The carry technique is the secret to how players emerge victorious in Ironman/Impossible runs despite 30+ XCOM soldiers in the memorial.
With Stationary Snipers (obviously with Squadsight), always move last. That way you can ensure you can react and potentially save teammates who discover aliens but have missed their shot or ran out of actions to be taken. After everyone else took their turns, it's up to you to decide whether to choose Overwatch or to move the sniper to another position.
General Purpose Sniper Build: Squadsight, Gunslinger, Disabling Shot, Opportunist, Double Tap
Unless you have a specific role for your Sniper, this is the best general build. All-round great sniping performance and not completely helpless when moving. Can also function as covert operative due to gunslinger and double tap allowing two high damage shots.
Hunter Build: Snapshot, Damn Good Ground, Battle Scanner, Executioner, In The Zone
A bit more viable in XCOM: Enemy Within due to lesser aim penalty in snapshot and nerf in Squadsight regarding critical hit. The idea is to create a very mobile sniper that can actively seek out and terminate low health targets and move to safety in one turn. Best to have this build after getting a Squadsight Sniper. The -10 Aim will be neutralized with Scope, and Executioner simply gives a better chance at killing targets and trigger In The Zone. This build benefits a lot from Grappling Hook in Skeleton or Ghost Armor, which also boosts movement speed. Excels in Council Missions where enemies (usually Thin Men) will drop in, often outside of cover, and the hunter can pick off targets at its area, move to another spot, and continues the streak, and move again to cover. Also great in Terror Site missions where it is possible to get flanked from the side and the Squadsight Sniper has no vision on one side without moving. Generally good at indoor missions or when inside buildings where your Sniper may need to move around a lot.
All-out Guardian Angel Build: Squadsight, Damn Good Ground, Disabling Shot, Opportunist, In The Zone
Late game dominance sniper, designed to terrorize lesser beings. This Sniper will have all round vision and will terminate all weaklings that tend to come with tougher targets, such as the Drones with a Cyberdisc or a Sectopod, Sectoids alongside a Mechtoid, Mutons beside the Berserker, and so on, before letting loose a disabling shot at the stronger target. This build is designed purely for Archangel Armor and works best with Plasma Sniper Rifle. Extremely powerful in open area.
Gunslinger Build: Squadsight, Gunslinger, Battle Scanner, Opportunist, Double Tap
An unconventional build, but if you're very tight on cash and you need some firepower before those laser weapons are ready, or you simply hate sniper rifles but want to make use of those surplus Snipers in your barracks, consider this build. With normal pistols, Gunslinger deals a minimum of 3 damage on hit, which is actually more than normal rifles (2 damage). This means that unless you're playing on Impossible, this build terminates Sectoids with rapidity. Same goes for Thin Men with Laser Pistol. However, this build remains fairly flexible and useful in late game with all three Improved Pistol upgrades researched. It's one of the better Covert Operative builds as a Sniper's very high Aim combined with a Plasma Pistol will allow your Sniper to deal a minimum 5 damage every shot, which is comparable in both firepower and accuracy to Light Plasma Rifle, but with half the manufacturing cost and zero reloading. All this plus extreme range Overwatch with Squadsight + Opportunist coupled with Low Profile you're looking at perhaps the cheapest (because you should have at least one free Plasma Pistol from a captured Sectoid) and most reliable damage dealer you can have in mid game.
Equipment and UpgradesEdit
Consider equipping the Sniper with Skeleton Suit as soon as it is available. This is more useful for the stationary sniper, of course. The Grapple can be used twice per turn, and will allow your sniper to get to higher ground instantly. It depends on the type of the map, though, how useful this can be - on shot-down/landed UFO missions, there are usually no buildings or elevated ground. On Terror Missions and abductions, however, this is extremely useful. After Archangel Armor is available, you can discard Skeleton Armor, though. Chitin Plating is a must for any sniper using Skeleton Suit or Archangel Armor since these suits of armor offer less protection, high ground does not typically offer cover, most of the enemies will be able to see you as well, and the stationary sniper will have to spend one turn positioning and so unable to kill aliens before they get a chance to attack.
Ghost armor might be the best armor for stationary snipers. When exploring the map or creep/crawling, stationary snipers are very unwieldy and are often out of position when an ambush occurs. However, when using ghost armor, the stationary sniper can find the enemy then reposition in the best possible location to fire an opening salvo using double tap or flanking fire on the next turn when they cloak. Ghost armor also comes with a grapple, allowing the sniper to take advantage of higher ground and remain with impunity thanks to the ability to cloak.
It, however, becomes infinitely more valuable on fully indoor maps with numerous obstacles: a Squadsight sniper would almost always waste a turn repositioning upon entering the next room. However, with invisibility, they won't be fired upon during that turn, and can potentially set up an In The Zone spree.
S.C.O.P.E. is extremely useful for low-rank Snipers, ensuring their shots hit, and that they score enough kills to advance in rank. Archangel Armor means you can instead use Medikits or grenades.
Stationary snipers, however, have next to no use for anything but S.C.O.P.E.
With Tactical Rigging researched, a Stationary Sniper can make use of bringing a Medikit to allow for patching up wounded squadmates when regrouping. A Ghost Grenade can allow easy escape for a sniper ambushed by a Floater or enemy reinforcements.
In XCOM: Enemy Within, Snipers may choose to take a Respirator Implant to provide immunity to Seeker strangulation, as a lone sniper far from the team tends to be under the most threat from these units (Although in some cases, the Sniper is so far away the Seekers cannot even see them, and instead target other squad members).
Due to their nature, Squadsight snipers have next to no use for psionics, except if the map is entirely comprised of enclosed spaces, which forces the sniper to essentially function as a normal soldier, with nothing but their pistols and an arsenal of psi attacks. This can even free up other psi soldiers for different moves when a psi ability needs to be used (like Psi Inspiration).
In the XCOM: Enemy Within expansion, Gene Mods can confer further bonuses to snipers, especially when it comes to getting to and utilizing high ground. The eye mod Depth Perception gives additional +5 Aim and +5 Crit Chance bonuses for height advantage, aiding Squadsight snipers in camping and Snap Shot snipers in flanking. The leg mod Muscle Fiber Density helps snipers leap to heights normally requiring a ladder, drain pipe or grapple, minimizing the time snipers need to get to high ground. More importantly, this mod largely substitutes the uses of the Skeleton Suit and Archangel Armors, allowing the sniper access to more armor options. A Squadsight sniper with both Depth Perception and Muscle Fiber Density, paired with Ghost Armor, becomes highly adaptive to any terrain and situation, having both the mobility and stealth attributes of the previously mutually exclusive armor builds. It's also worth noting that Mimetic Skin is a very powerful gene mod for Snipers and is good synergy with Low Profile, since Mimetic Skin requires access to full cover, and Low Profile lets Snipers treat partial cover as full (allowing the Sniper to make use of partial cover for Mimetic Skin). Access to a cloaking ability--either a Ghost Grenade, Ghost Armor, or Mimetic Skin--is very useful for a Sniper end-game because making an attack while cloaked gives you bonus crit chance which increases your single-target damage potential and can stack with Headshot to confer a high crit chance even to things that normally are very difficult to crit, such as Sectopods. Bear in mind also, that Battle Scanner is less useful if you have anyone else in the squad with Mimetic Skin. They can move far upfield and provide targeting data to your Squadsight Snipers indefinitely without danger so long as they do not move. (Try to keep them out of the rough path of the Sniper's fire, however, as the Sniper can occasionally strike cover objects along the rough line of its fire, and destroying the cover a Mimetic Skin squadmate is using to stay cloaked will immediately decloak them.)
Multiplayer Sniper ClassesEdit
The following is a detailed break-down of the Sniper class stats and abilities in multiplayer mode.
|Dead Eye||2000||8||88||0||65||Headshot - Squadsight - Gunslinger- Battle Scanner - Executioner - Opportunist|
Note: Each soldier class has a base cost of 800 points, which would need to be added to the values above to determine the point value of a particular build. The above point and stat values reflect the default (i.e. 0 point) equipment load-out.
- Snap Shot and Double Tap - If a Sniper acquires both of these abilities, then the second shot from Double Tap will be affected by Snap Shot which reduces the accuracy by 20% (10% penalty on XCOM: Enemy Within).
- Overwatch - After moving, a Sniper can only Overwatch with a pistol (except with Snap Shot). After selecting Overwatch, the Sniper may switch back to a sniper rifle and reaction fire animation will be performed with the rifle, despite the fact that Overwatch with a rifle is not possible. This requires at least one of your other soldiers to have an unused action. (Tested on XCOM: Enemy Within single player)
- It is likely that this is a specific case of a more general graphics bug in XCOM: Enemy Within, as it has been observed to occur without switching back to the sniper rifle, as well as in both the Support and Assault class.