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Sniper Scope Sway

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The key features of a Sniper Rifle is that it is accurate at long ranges, usually with a telescopic scope to be able to properly target at range and the power to take targets down in very few shots. Ideally one shot, one killespecially if properly aimed.

Because the view through the scope is magnified many times, the slightest movement of the gun will cause the sniper's view to shift accordingly; even when the sniper holds their gun as perfectly still as their arms allow, videogames and movies will still show the view swaying in synch with the character's breathing (and often in a subtle, sideways figure-eight pattern). This serves to emphasize that sniping is more difficult than merely point and shoot, and snipers may compensate for this in a number of ways, such as lying prone against the ground, bracing the gun on an attached bipod/tripod or on some form of scenery, or slowing their breathing while preparing to take the shot.

For videogames in particular this also serves to counterbalance the rifle's power and range against other weapons. Because the sniper is usually too far away for targets armed with anything other than another sniper rifle to effectively return fire, making long-range kills more difficult with scope sway (in addition to other limits, like the rifle's slow rate of fire and limited ammunition magazines) helps prevent the rifle from becoming a Game-Breaker in competitive multiplayer. A Sniper Scope Glint can similarly serve as another counterbalance against enemy snipers, preventing them from being completely concealed or invisible to players at long ranges.


  • The Ballistic Weapons mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 features sway for every weapon, including sniper rifles - move and jump around a lot and the sway gets worse, stand still or crouch and your shots are pinpoint accurate, so long as you don't fire too often or get shot by someone else.
  • Borderlands
    • In general, scope sway is a consequence of recoil or moving around; hold still and the scope will eventually stop moving completely. Sniper rifles have different amounts of sway as a hidden attribute of sorts, which can be reduced by crouching and certain class skills. Borderlands 2 changes the formula in that the sway is determined by the sniper's accuracy stat, since all shots will strike the center point of the sight no matter what.
    • The Hyperion manufacturer's gimmick in Borderlands 2 is "reverse recoil", as in the weapon gets more accurate the longer you hold the trigger (or additionally, in the case of their snipers, remain scoped in). In hip fire mode this is represented by a huge crosshair that tightens up, while in aim-down-sight mode it translates into a lot of sight sway.
  • Call of Duty: The games after the original have actual scope sway (the very minor amount in the first game was purely a visual effect), which can be lessened by crouching or going prone, and let you hold your breath to steady your aim for a few seconds, after which the sway will be even worse until you get your breath back. You can also use perks to extend how long you can hold your breath. The same is true of the thermal scope, while the ACOG scope has a lower zoom level and less sway, but you typically can't hold your breath, and it will actually sway away from the center of the screen rather than your actual view swaying like with sniper scopes. Changed around in Modern Warfare 3, where all types of sights have some degree of idle sway, though actual sniper scopes make it the most obvious and are still the only ones you can hold your breath with without the Breath weapon proficiency for assault rifles.
  • Crysis has sway for both scoped and non-scoped guns. In the first game, you can control the sway by crouching and/or activating Strength mode. The second and third games allow you to steady you aim by holding your breath, though how that works when the player character's lungs have been critically damaged and absorbed by the Nanosuit is never explained.
  • Day of Defeat scopes would sway off target.
  • The Deus Ex games allowed you to level up your rifle skill, which among other bonuses would result in the scope swaying less, with the crosshairs perfectly steady at the highest level. Rather than sway related to breath, the crosshairs do a random walk. It also affects pistols and mini-crossbows with a scope mod, and those are affected by your skill with pistol-class weapons.
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have sway on all scoped weapons, especially sniper rifles. The higher your skill for that weapon type the less sway you will have to deal with, and you can also crouch to make the sway less severe. Fallout 4 keeps the traditional scope sway, but adds a breath-holding feature to slowly drain action points in exchange of negating the sway.
  • Ghost Hunter - The sniper rifle, with zoomable scope, features this. It can be steadied some by kneeling to fire.
  • Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Interestingly the only game in the series to have this; the original game and its trilogy of expansion packs had none (settling for the natural spread weapons fire gets from the dynamic crosshairs, requiring a few moments to set up before you can actually take your shot and guarantee it will hit), and the later Future Soldier removed it entirely (instead settling for suppression mechanics that make it impossible to aim any weapon accurately if you're under a significant amount of fire).
  • In Hitman, it depends on your rifle. If you are using a fully upgraded W2000, there is little sway, though it only gets a single shot (though one can still get high precision with a magazine). Also, sway is affected if you move and by the length of time you hold the rifle after sighting. Sway can be eliminated by canceling the sighting and adjusting your position to the next target before sighting again.
    • The Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus adds sway based on your trigger action. If you pull the trigger quickly, the rifle will jerk slightly (usually enough for you to miss your target). If you slowly squeeze it in instead, Agent 47 will hold his breath and the shot hits dead on.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has no sniper scope, but Link's bow sways anyway.
  • Mass Effect features ridiculous amounts of Scope Swaying for any player who has not invested significant points into the Sniper Rifle skill (though if you waited for a few seconds it would eventually vanish). However, when the skill is maxed out, the rifle is steady as a rock, and the active talent for the skill eliminates it entirely for one shot at any level. It proved to be unpopular enough that starting with Mass Effect 2, scope sway was almost entirely removed from the game, only showing up in response to the player's character being near an explosion of some sort (regardless of whether it harmed them) or was hit by an enemy attack.
  • Max Payne has a standard system: move and the sway becomes much worse. Crouch and it lessens. Hold your breath and all movement ceases.
  • Metal Gear features sniper rifles in every game starting from Metal Gear Solid, as well as being able to either take pentazemin (or smoke a cigarette) to relax and reduce the tremble when scoped in.
  • Similarly, No One Lives Forever 2 also allowed you to upgrade your sniper skills with the same effect.
  • PlanetSide 2 has scope sway on its high powered (6x and above) sights. Players can temporarily hold their breath while looking down the sights by pressing the sprint button while stationary. The "Hold Breath" series of implants allow players to hold their breath for longer.
  • Rare's GoldenEye (1997) and Perfect Dark had this feature for all scoped guns, but it's especially bad on the sniper rifle. To compensate, the player can crouch while firing for greater stability. Amusingly, Perfect Dark also has a menu option to just turn the feature off.
  • Red Orchestra has sway for all weapons. More sway when low on stamina from sprinting or from aiming for too long, but almost none if the weapon is rested on a surface. The sequel removed the stamina based sway, but added controlled breathing.
  • Resident Evil 4 - Played straight AND averted throughout based on which version of the game you play.
    • In the Gamecube, PS2, and PC releases (and possibly the Wii edition if you opt to use a Gamecube controller instead of the Wiimote), Leon's aim is extremely unsteady when using weapons that don't have a stock (handguns mostly.) His aim steadies up a little when using a weapon with a stock either built-in (shotguns for the most part) or attached separately (Red 9, TMP), but his aim will still wobble around slightly.
    • In the Wii Edition, when using the Wiimote + Nunchuck, Leon's shaky aiming has been removed entirely, presumably because aiming with the Wiimote would bring out a player's natural shakiness/unsteadiness. Seasoned RE4 veterans tend to favor the Wii Edition because aiming is 100% skill-based as opposed to the other versions' slightly luck-based aiming.
    • In all versions of the game, the Rifle and Semi-Auto Rifle both have an optional scope attachment that greatly improves zoom distance. Naturally, there's quite a bit of sway.
    • In a huge (and possibly accidental) aversion, both rifles actually have built-in scopes that still zoom a bit, but have no sway whatsoever. The Thermal Scope is also completely sway free. This makes the Rifle and Semi-Auto Rifle the only weapons in every version of the game that have 100% perfect, sway-free aiming.
  • Resident Evil 5, meanwhile, has three different sniper rifles to choose from, each with a different amount of sway as a tradeoff for their other advantages or disadvantages.
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein goes both ways. On the one hand, the snooper rifle - one shot one kill, big magnification, scope sway. On the other hand, the Paratrooper rifle - several shots one kill and only a modest scope magnification, but the scope is rock steady, and does not move between shots.
  • Your cannon sights in Ring of Red sway wildly until your targeting computer calculates 99.999...% accuracy. Mecha optimized for different ranges get a targeting buff for being at that range and a debuff for being at all others. However, this sway allows you to target specific parts of the enemy robot, as the computer is programmed to kneecap your enemy to immobilize them.
  • ARK: Survival Evolved has Gun Accessories. Attaching a scope to the basic rifle causes it to sway back and forth when zoomed in.
  • Silent Scope is fairly unique in that since the arcade machine has an actual sniper rifle to hold, complete with a zoomed in screen to allow you to use the scope, any sway and bob to your view is the result of your actual movements. As a result the real world techniques of relaxing, holding your breath and so on apply, but since the rifle is mounted and you're typically not aiming at targets that are too distant, you don't need to worry about it as much as real snipers.
  • Splinter Cell games require you to hold your breath to get a steady shot when using a sniper scope. Without it, the sway is punishingly erratic, and of course you can only hold your breath for brief periods at a time. The pistol also has surprisingly substantial sway, but no way to steady it (although Pandora Tomorrow adds a laser sight that, while still unable to be steadied, will tell you exactly where the bullet will hit rather than having to hope the crosshair isn't lying to you).
  • Averted in Team Fortress 2 for the Sniper. When scoped in, all rifles will only move when your mouse moves, so they make it a Charged Attack to compensate.
    • Also as compensation, an uncharged headshot isn't a guaranteed one-shot kill on anyone. A fully charged headshot, however, is. But it requires you to be scoped in for a few seconds, which can be fatal if rockets or grenades are flying around or you don't have somebody to watch for a Spy coming to stab you in the back.
  • In the TimeSplitters series, zooming in with a sniper scope (even the ones attached to pistols) will have no sway at all. However, zooming in with no scope has significant sway, even the ones where the maximum magnification is comparable to a sniper rifle.
  • Vietcong has a particularly annoying example since, unlike the other First Person Shooters listed above, there's no way to steady your aim.
  • In Worms 3D, this happens when the player is using the shotgun since, like in other Worms games, the shotgun works more like a two-shot sniper rifle.