Assault rifles felt like an obvious place to start this series, what with assault rifles being the generic all-purpose middle ground of the gun spectrum, but personally I’ve always found sniping a more interesting balance challenge for a co-op horde game. You’re being flooded with a bottomless wave of bad guys, why on earth would you want a semi-automatic long-range weapon when an assault rifle can clean an entire courtyard faster?
Because you’re on a team, that’s why. If your three allies can keep the bulk of the enemy down, you become something of a specialist who excels in picking specific targets, either powerful ones with lots of HP or faraway ones the others can’t easily hit. In Left 4 Dead 2, the two sniping rifles also have infinite penetration on top of that. You can kill as many enemies as you can line up in each shot, which gives you an unparalleled ability to clear hallways and other cramped straightaways. Coupled with the decent firing speed, sniper rifles in horde games can still adequately fill the crowd-control territory the games revolve around.
The Hunting Rifle and Payday‘s M308 are based off of the same real-life weapon, the M14 semi-automatic rifle. The L4D2 Sniper Rifle is the mouthful H&K MSG90A1. Interestingly, a lot of people think the Hunting Rifle is strictly inferior to the Sniper Rifle in Left 4 Dead 2. They deal the same damage per shot and one gets a doubled clip, so this seems obvious. But actually, the Hunting Rifle has a much quicker spread recovery time, meaning that it functions far better for the sniper on the run. However in practice, I find that I never get to use either of these guns because, kinda like in TF2, far too many other players use them already. It’s not uncommon to see two of your three teammates rocking the sniper rifles, which can take a real toll on the team’s overall firepower. In addition the designated sniper bot is often lackluster, since it reuses code from Counter-Strike that inspires it to switch to dual pistols whenever any enemies draw close. I usually pick Ellis or Zoey just to stop this from happening.
In contrast, the M308 is my favorite primary weapon in Payday: The Heist, despite being slightly less powerful than its zombie-fighting counterparts. Scoped ADS comes more naturally to me than the screen-covering zoom from L4D2, plus the ammo in that game seems far more precious, with most of the automatic weapons seemingly always running low even when maintaining constant firing restraint. Not to mention my teammates never seem capable of dealing with Snipers on their own. Cops are not zombies; they will take cover and fire at you from a distance, and combat in general seems to favor mid-to-long range as opposed to L4D2’s immediate-to-short range.
The Sniper rifle in TF2’s Mann vs. Machine is an unavoidable aspect of the Sniper’s arsenal, unless you’re using the Huntsman, and it seemed to take balance in the other direction. Whereas Payday and L4D2 made it useful by giving it a rapid rate of fire, MvM gives the rifle all sorts of opportunities to make each individual shot more powerful, with explosive headshots and jarate headshots and all sorts of things. I never had the courage to play Sniper in MvM so that’s all I can really say on the subject.