This is a short story about the frustrations of co-op gaming. In this case, within Sniper Elite III.
The STEN MK II weighs a ton on my back, resting between my shoulder blades. I’m in the sniper nest, prone, in this god-forsaken desert, and I can’t breathe because of this gear. I’m choking on this dust, as I lie here for what feels like hours. I’m a sniper, you see.
A shot echoes off the rocky hills and I know that ILLESTRADER has removed another enemy. I hold my breath for 2 seconds, willing my senses to feel the enemies around us, to see if they’ve noticed. Squinting through my binoculars, I watch the men at the tent continue their patrol.
The headset buzzes. “Are you in the nest?”
I am. But I don’t respond. The stock of the M1 GARAND is nestled against my shoulder. I suck in and hold my breath anticipating the buck.
The soldier in my sights finishes his patrol along the fence line and lights up a cigarette and I take my-
-shot. The world slows and spins as the bullet explodes from the barrel. 68 meters. Headshot. Not bad.
“Nice” the headset buzzes again. I exhale.
Two more targets get tagged through my HUD, and I have my binoculars out again. ILLESTRADER is prone underneath a truck spotting the camp ahead. Two soldiers are sitting around the camp fire, settled in the weathered remains of some house. A third I can see coming down the rocky slope. He’s 110 meters out, but at this angle the trees are in the way.
I groan as I get to my feet, stiff. The dust is sticking to me in this heat and I don’t have any water. I try to clear my throat as I jump down the ladder.
“Shit, shit, shit!” The voice screams through my headset, and the chatter of gunfire echoes off the stones. ILLESTRADER must’ve been seen. The alarms start and suddenly the canyon has come alive. I don’t think I’ve been seen yet but I know they’re looking.
Sitting behind some sandbags, I go to check my map, but a jeep pulls up, and a soldier on his walkie-talkie steps out. I lay the M1 down and check my MK II. 32 bullets. I raise the gun over the bags and spray him with MK II fire, and he goes down before he can see me.
I’m sure they know where I am now. “Idiot.” I curse ILLESTRADER as I vault over the next set of sandbags, heading towards our objective. “Where are you?”
“I’m Fine, by the way-” More gunfire. “So much for stealth, eh?” He laughs.
God damn it, I hate it how he makes my life so difficult. I wish I didn’t have to rely on him so heavily, but I know he’s the better shot. Stealth just doesn’t suit him. The alarms are still ringing but I don’t see any more movement. This area must be clear. I know the Commander is in the next canyon. So says the map. But we’ll need to get through the tunnels up ahead. At least it’ll be cool there.
ILLESTRADER steps over his kills and heads up the path. I stop, check them for ammo, smirking, knowing he’ll complain about his own ammo shortages soon enough. I reload the MK II and head on through the dark, chilled tunnel and reach the bloom lighting at the other end.
I find him on his stomach with the binoculars out, tagging enemies. Two guys already dead, beside him, at the opening to the tunnel. I crouch, bring out my map and look for the closest sniper nest. This new area seems pretty quiet. I guess these guys didn’t hear the gunfire, or get the message that we killed all their buddies.
I head off, up the nearest path, sticking to the bushes.
I’m at the sniper nest when I hear ILLESTRADER finally chirp up, “OK, so I think I’ll head off to the left and take out the two near the tent and you can head towards the—oh you’re already at the nest…”
As I climb the steps, I start to wonder if me, doing my own thing, my lack of patience with him makes him angry, if maybe I need to work on my communication. I think the only reason I’m here in this desert is because he’s here, for better or for worse. ILLESTRADER, the friendly nametag proudly proclaims above his head. Wherever I find myself, he’s somewhere near.
I’m moving the boards out of the way and going prone, stabilizing the M1 when I lose interest again. My main focus is the objective ahead. My Commander gave me a gun and maps, said go here, and kill this guy, finish the Objective. So I’m here, not really aware of where here is. Somewhere bland and hot.
Sliding another round in the M1 chamber, I right the gun. Looking through the scope, I spot the three sentry units that ILLESTRADER has tagged. I dial the scope to 150 meters. This’ll be quite the shot, I think to myself, from my safe little window on the world.
Deep breath and hold. 70BPM.
I squeeze the-
-trigger. The gun bucks up, I lose sight of the sentries briefly, but I don’t exhale. The gun steadies and two soldiers remain.
They heard the echo but they didn’t see their buddy go down. I line up the next one, smoothly ejecting the bullet, clearing the chamber. The world is still moving in slow motion, everything blurs outside my scope, but this shot-
-rings out clean. I exhale and inhale quickly.
The last guy is in complete shock as he wipes the remains of his friend’s face off his own. He’s dropped his gun and he’s green. He’s looking around frantically, afraid to move, when-
-his body rag-dolls off the sentry post and falls to the ground below.
I get the notification that ILLESTRADER has taken out the Commander from 113 meters – “TOO SOON” I hear myself. Does he enjoy creating this chaos? Is it on purpose? – and suddenly all the alarms are blaring, the campgrounds around the sentry towers come alive with soldiers, who have also just located my recent kill. I’m-
Everything around me explodes in gunfire. You hear it before you see it, but not by much. Then you can’t see anything at all, and pretty soon you can’t hear anything either.
I leap off the sniper nest, and roll when I hit the ground. I have no idea where the shots came from, or even if there’s any cover nearby – all I can sense is a hot beige world of loud noises. I get up and immediately come face to face with a scout who was searching for me. I wrestle out the easiest gun I can find. My WELROD comes up and I shoot him in the face. Lucky. If I had missed, he for sure would have killed me mid-reload.
In retrospect he was probably more surprised to see me than I of him – he was probably there just to confirm the kill. It was a fair bet I was dead.
The bullets start up again and I’m grazed, but I’m not ducking this time. Weaving between tents and stone walls, I head towards my partner, breathing hard.
ILLESTRADER is down!
“Shit, I’m down-”
I’m sure he’s got his pistol out though, picking off anyone nearby. It’s up to me now, to reach him before they do. “I think my area is clear but it was a Sniper that-”
My world turns fuzzy and red and I’m hit square, and stagger – I didn’t hear anything else that ILLESTRADER said. I know he’s 20 meters away, indicated by my HUD, as I crumple against a wall. He’s got maybe 30 seconds for me to reach him before he bleeds out, and I don’t know where the shots are coming from. God damn it, I hope ILLESTRADER learns his lesson after this is done.
I check my gear. Close range, the MK II is my best bet to fight my way to him, but the sniper is my biggest concern.
“Do you know where he is?” I ask eagerly, fumbling with my headset, and with some gauze and bandages. I don’t know how this will help me in this situation, but I start wrapping. I also know I need to relocate soon, as I’m likely getting surrounded just sitting here.
“Nope,” he responds casually as I start to grind my teeth.
I leave a smoking grenade at my feet as I vault through the nearest doorway in ILLESTRADER’s direction. Meant as a distraction, the explosion was likely deafening but I don’t hear it or feel it. My HUD informs me that two enemies sure as HELL felt it. Gloriously and loudly I’m sure. A fantastic sight that I don’t have time to admire.
I reach ILLESTRADER and find him slumped over. I grab my medikit and start to revive him. He jumps up and heads towards the door of the shelter we’re in and-
ILLESTRADER is down!
Jesus Christ! I frustratingly grab another medikit and revive him once more. He’s learned his lesson and he sticks beside me as shots thwack into the stone walls and a grenade explodes in the room above us.
Dusty and bloody, I limp to the door, crouching below the window. On the other end of the room a sentry enters and ILLESTRADER sticks a knife into his skull. He has his uses, I suppose, always has my back, even if it was his fault that we’re in this mess. I don’t thank him. Another failing of mine.
“How many more are out there do you think?” He asks. “I’m out of ammo.”
I laugh because my eyes are too clogged with dust to cry. At least One. The remaining sniper is out there, waiting, like I would be if I wasn’t here, trapped with my partner.
“Head to the gates to meet the tanks, the route should be clear. I’ll take out the sniper and then we should be done.” I wish I could believe or stop myself from saying that.
I rest my M1 on the window and look out towards the canyon walls. The smoke from the grenade is still thick but I can just make out the gleaming white reflection off the enemy sniper’s scope. He’s prone, hidden. Smart.
My much-killed battle brother starts sprinting up the hill, which means the sniper will likely be tracking him. I have only a moment. Breathe. Slowly exhale. Aim small, hit small. Take the-
-shot. My bullet rips through the canyon and catches the sniper in the scope and tears through the eye socket. Bullet and glass makes a mess. Too late though.
ILLESTRADER is down!
Fuck! The kick from the gun leaves me woozy. Too much blood loss. My HUD tells me I need to relocate. But I can’t. We missed one of the targets. He’s in the room with his own MK II pressed coldly against my neck. This mission has not gone the way I’d-.
iROGAN is down!