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A successful game is one where EVERYONE has a good time. If I win, that's just a bonus. The only bad games are those where people go away unhappy.


This is not intended to be an all-encompassing treatise on RTCW tactics nor does it address any specific type of game play such as Checkpoint (CP), Stopwatch (SP), or 1 vs. 1 shootouts, etc. Instead, I've tried to capture or document some tips and tricks that have worked for me in Quake II and III:Arena. Many of these lessons were learned playing Quake, but others come from my tactical experience from the military, airsoft, and paintball - most of which are surprisingly applicable to RTCW and other first person shooters (FPS). This document also primarily focuses on head-to-head on-line competition with other players, but many of these concepts absolutely hold true for single player games.

I realize that this document is long and you shouldn't have any expectations that you can read through it one and immediately do everything that is discussed. It takes a lot of practice. Work on one piece until you have it right, and then tackle the next. I think that you'll find the game is a lot more exciting when you can bump your mental game up a couple of notches.

One of the reasons for this article is to dispel the myth that FPS games are no more than simple 'run-n'-gun' games. A tight game of cat and mouse between 2 teams of tactically savvy players is incredibly fun and being mentally sharp counts as much as having the fastest trigger finger.

This document is broken up into five main sections:

  1. Develop Basic Skills. Addresses the basic requirement for effective in-game control of your player
  2. Know The Game. Talks about the game environment and how you interact with it.
  3. Think Tactically. Discusses how you think through a game. Attempts to build a deeper appreciation for the tactical nuances of RTCW, or any FPS for that matter.
  4. Advanced Topics
  5. Sources

Develop Basic Skills

These are the basic ABCs of the game. The points here only address fundamental movement techniques. There are other sites that do a much better job of explaining this, but the points have been included for the sake of completeness.

Use a mouse-keyboard setup

This is as basic as it gets. While there are other ways of controlling your player, such as joysticks and trackball, at minimum, you should be comfortable using the mouse-keyboard combination. There is too much going on to rely solely on a keyboard for all of your looking, shooting, and running. Get used to freelook and play with a mouse.

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Stay in motion

Don't stop moving unless you have a good reason. If you stop too long, you're dead, plain and simple. Most newbies stop moving because they can't shoot on the run. Moving and shooting accurately are independent. Tweak your controls until you do both comfortably. You need to learn how to combine them together effectively. My advice is this,learn. Practice with a friend to develop this skill in a low stress environment.

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Get comfortable running backwards

Tactically, you want to learn how to run backwards to return fire as people chase you or to avoid presenting your blind side while you run into dead-ends to pick up items.

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A mouse-flick is the trick of rapidly executing a 180-turn by quickly flicking your mouse left or right.

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This is simply strafing left or right in a large circle. You want to learn this to dodge enemy fire while still being able to shoot back.

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Tweak your controls

Ultimately, you want to have the simplest command set possible while making all of your important weapons and commands accessible.

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Grab a friend, set up a simple LAN game between the two of you, and spend a few minutes practicing basic skills in a low stress environment. If you live close enough, I would call them or use a VoIP (Voice over IP) application like Roger Wilco to coordinate your practice section.

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Know The Game

Now that you are comfortable with the basic movement techniques, it's time to broaden your scope and think about where you're going to fight and with what weapons and tools.


It helps a lot if you know the terrain that you're fighting on. There is nothing more frustrating then losing a game because you're constantly getting lost or you haven't figured out where the objectives are. If you're playing on a server with a published map rotation or you know what maps are going to be played, download the maps and spend a couple minutes in a private server just running around, seeing where everything is, and figuring how to get to various items.

For a more thorough discussion on how to learn a map, visit my article on Map Reconnaisance

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Know where all your weapons are located on your controls set up. Get your autoexec set up just right so that all of your most commonly used weapons and tools are within easy reach. Simple scripts, such as weapons toggles, can also make this easier. Choose the right weapon for the job. Every game tries to balance the weapons so that each one has advantages and disadvantages. No weapon is perfect for all occasions. Learn what each weapon can do, under what circumstances it is most useful, and what its downsides are. Here's a partial damage table:

Much thanks to DarkThought and Mango65 for taking the time to figure this out and Kefka Floyd for the additional testing with the flamethrower and venom cannon

Weapons Damage Table
Weapon Damage - Body Shot Damage - Head Shot Rate of Fire
Thompson 18 50 5 rds/sec
MP 40 14 50 6 rds/sec
Sten 14 50 3.3 - 3.8 rds/sec average to
empty mag, ~6 for a single burst
Luger 18 50 TBD
Colt .45 18 50 TBD
Mauser 80 Instant kill TBD
Venom Cannon 20 20 19-20
Flamethrower ~30 points for a direct hit,
one squirt stays in place for ~ 3/4 sec
14-15 fuel points per sec
Panzerfaust See diagram below Depends on recharge time
Knife 101 if knifing in the back 'sweet spot',
10-12 anywhere else

Weapons Accuracy

I conducted a weapons accuracy test with the Thompson, MP-40, and Sten. Each weapon was tested on rate of fire and accuracy. For the test range, I used on the Allied spawn point on Assault. Rate of fire was evaluated in terms of number of seconds require to empty a 30-round magazine. For the Sten and MP-40, this meant dumping 2 rounds to make sure all guns started with 30 rounds. Since the Sten cannot be fired continously, I fired in bursts to empty the magazine as fast as possible. The number of seconds required to empty each weapon were:


  1. MP-40 - 5 seconds
  2. Thompson - 6 seconds
  3. Sten - 8-9 seconds. I've been told that if you measure the fire rate for 10 rounds, the Sten is actually faster, but have not measure this for myself.

Accuracy was tested by looking at impact groupings from a continous burst as well as a series of 3-round, 5-round, and 10 round bursts. All weapons were fired from the white line labeled "Firing Line" into the target area. I then used the binoculars to zoom in on the target area and take a screenshot of the impact marks.

Weapons were fired from a standing position approximately 3 tile lengths from the wall.

In the following screenshots, I've compared the impact patterns from the Thompson (column 1), MP-40 (column 2), and the Sten (colum 3). The rows show the type of bursts used: continuous (row 1), 5-round bursts (row 3), 3-round bursts (row 2), and finally 10-round bursts (row 4). Note:The same picture is used for all 4 Sten patterns.

Weapons Accuracy Screenshots
Thompson - single continuous burst MP40 - single continuous burst Sten - fired as fast as possible
Thompson - 3 round bursts MP40 - 3 round bursts Sten - fired as fast as possible
Thompson - 5 round bursts MP40 - 5 round bursts Sten - fired as fast as possible
Thompson - 10 round bursts MP40 - 10 round bursts Sten - fired as fast as possible


Other observations:


Thanks to Spaceman Spiff for the original research and diagrams and to [D12] Crazy for explaining it all to me.

Panzerfaust Blast Radius Diagram Explained:

Starting from the left...we got the poor dumb sap just standing there. Poor guy... The colored bars show the point of impact of the panzerfaust round.

The Gib Zone represent the total area between "Poor Dumb Bastard" and the "Gibbed Point". If a panzerfaust hits within the red area, our "Poor Dumb Bastard" would be gibbed with no way for a medic to revive him.

The "Grey Area" (grey) is a big question mark for medics. This means if "Poor Dumb Bastard" is a medic with full health and the panzerfaust lands within the grey area ... a random amount of damage is assessed that MAY OR MAY NOT kill him. If he's not a medic however, don't worry about the distinction because he'll will still be gibbed.

If the panzerfuast lands within the yellow area, the blast will kill "Poor Dumb Bastard" if he is any class other than a medic. However, he can still be revived by a medic.

If the panzerfaust lands within the Damage Zone (green), "Poor Dumb Bastard" will take damage according to the numbers on top of the bar.

This analysis assumes that "Poor Dumb Bastard" starts with 100 health.

Artillery vs. Airstrikes

Artillery. Obviously better at hitting longer range targets than airstrikes. Can be employed in 2 ways.
  1. Destroy fixed defenses. This is pretty much a no-brainer. This is how I typically see artillery employed, to fire on groups of defenders who may be fixed in place because they're defending an objective like the comm tower.
  2. Deny access or passage. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see this application used much. Since artillery gives visibible signals that it's coming in, and lasts for a period of time (4 rounds) people avoid the blast area. You can use this to prevent movement through certain areas or channel enemy movement areas into more advantageous engagement areas. (e.g., bottle up in spawn site, deny reinforcing movement). For example, an arty strike at the foot of the ladder leading to the comm tower, can choke off the flow of reinforcements from the allied spawn site to the defenders around the comm tower.
Air Strikes. Short range but clears a large area quickly. Significant danger close issues. Leaves a nice cloud of covering smoke.


  1. Air strikes are best utilized to clear an area that friendly forces have just vacated thereby giving some cover and breathing room, or to clear an area that friendly forces will move into to clear enemies and provide cover. This has to be pretty carefully synchronized and people have to be careful not to run into the smoke until after the airstrike.
  2. However, when used in the assault, an airstrike marker will typically make all the enemies run away and then, if all the attacking forces begin a sprint move immediately after the last blast, the resulting cloud of smoke provides good concealment (not cover) to move onto an objective. This not only helps you move across open kill zones, but if you move fast enough, you can move into far side cover, out of sight of the enemy and cause them to lose track of you - disrupting their defense.

Directing Airstrikes

I conducted an experiment on Assault where I threw airstrike cannisters from the same spot (center light just under the aircraft's wing) 5 times and then ran to a different spot on the map (# 1-5). In #6-7. I threw the smoke twice from the same spot (#6) but on #7 ran backwards after tossing the smoke cannister.

Did you know that you can control where your airstrikes will impact after you toss the airstrike cannister (aka smoke grenade)? Typically, if you throw the airstrike cannister and stand still, the airstrike will impact a rectangular area centered on the smoke grenade and running nearly perpendicular to you (doesn't seem to always be perfectly perpendicular). However, you can adjust the impact area in two ways.

First, you can make the airstrike land further away from the airstrike cannister by backing up once the cannister is thrown. The airstrike should move away from the cannister the same distance you backed off. Just be careful that you don't move so far that the point of impact ends up in a place the pilot can't see or the airstrike may be aborted.

I stood on the corner light, tossed smoke, and then stood still. Notice that the airstrike's impact doesn't always fall at a 90 degree angle to my point of view Next, I threw smoke from the corner light, but ran directly backwards for 2 seconds. The airstrike impacted a little further away than on my first toss.

The second method is to move and rotate your point of view. Try throwing the airstrike marker, strafing right a comfortable distance, and then making a 45% left turn. The airstrike will still land on top of the smoke grenade, but now, it will impact diagonally from where you tossed the cannister

The first illustration shows the strike pattern after standing at #1, tossing the smoke, and then not moving. For all subsequent airtrikes, I threw the smoke grenade from location #1 and maintained a consistant direction and distance of throw Here, I threw the smoke from #1, strafed to #2, and then looked towards the halftrack. You'll noticed that spots #2 - 4 form a semicircle around the spot the smoke cannister lands. You can see how the impact marks have rotated about 60 degrees
Again, I threw the smoke cannister from #1, ran all the way over to point #3 and looked towards the halftrack. Here I get just a little more rotation than from point #2 Next, I repeated the same steps but from the other side. I ran over the left hand corner light and the looked at the rightmost edge of the crates
Lastly, I tossed smoke from #1, ran all the way over to point #5 and looked parallel along the airstrip markings. I get nearly a full 90 degree rotation from my point #1 results

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Think Tactically

By now, you should be comfortable moving smoothly through maps. You know where to go and how to get there. Let's now talk about how to play smarter than your opponent, maintain the initiative, and dictate the flow of the game. These principles don't necessarily apply to every type of game play or even every map. Tailor them to your situation as you see fit.

You want to control the game by getting your strategy going or by preventing the other player from getting into his rhythm. This can be done by controlling key objectives, chokepoints, or spawn points, thereby forcing your opponent to constantly react to your moves.

Keep your cool

Everyone blows theirs, especially if they get into a bit of trouble early in the game. However, the best players/team recover quickly or just don't let it get to them.

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Watch and learn from your opponents

Scope out how your opponents are playing and that will give you a better sense for the strategies you'll need to beat them.

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Avoid predictability

When I first started playing FPS games, the single biggest problem I saw in myself was that I could always be counted on the chase after a target. I usually got a bullet to the head for my troubles.

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Learn when to run away

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Maintain situational awareness

Maintaining your situational awareness is the art of knowing what is going on in the map at any given point in time. If you watch any Quake 2 demo featuring Thresh, then you know what I'm talking about. Thresh seems to know exactly where his opponent is going, when they're going to pop out of a door, when they're going for armor, etc. This lets him get a lot of frags before the other player even has a chance to react.

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Anticipate your opponent's moves

People are predictable and you should take advantage of that. During games, observe your opponent:

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Keep yourself topped off

Keep your ammo and health status in mind and don't unnecessarily call for or look for ammo or med packs unless you need to.

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Take a smart approach to doors and natural choke points

The worst thing you can do is to walk straight through a door. Watch how a police SWAT team takes down a room. It's an interesting exercise that has a lot of practical applications to RTCW or any other FPS.

The following screenshots were taken from the Elite Forces map 'Boarding Party'. I may or may not adapt this for RTCW.

Simply stepping through a door leaves you exposed to fire from both sides of the corridor. Starting from the oblique enables you control how much of cooridor the room you want to expose yourself to at any given point.

The audio (door opening) and visual (door opening) cues are a dead give-away that someone is at the door, and gives your opponent that split second advantage. There are a couple of counter measures that can be used individually or in combination:

In this example, I'm getting ready to enter No Man's Land on the Wizernes map. I suspect that enemy soldiers might be hiding along the walls, so I begin my by quickly checking the wall opposite of the one I plan to move down. If there is an enemy soldier, I'll either withdraw or shoot it out with him. I see there isn't anyone there, so I execute a quick button hook, clear the near side wall, and make a quick scan of No Man's Land.
Once I'm convinced there are no enemy along the near side wall, I circle-strafe right, keeping my eyes on the center of No Man's Land and my back to the wall. Now I'm up along the right hand wall and ready to move down to the far tunnel. At no time do my eyes leave No Man's Land and the activity along the right wall.
As I move down the right wall, I move at the oblique so that my gun stays trained into the center of No Man's Land. I do this so that my gun is ready and so that I can take in as much of the action as possible. I can also see the destroyable Allied side entrance so if something develops up there, I can quickly run up the stairs to assist I finish near the far tunnel, ready to move into a blocking position or stage for the next push to the Allied far side spawn point

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Don't silhouette yourself doors and windows

There is no sound-tactical reason to stand directly in a door or window to shoot out.

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Use prep fire when available

This can be really useful if you have a lot of ammo, and you know the opponent is probably set up in a defensive position, for example, the map room on Beach. Often times as I enter a room or approach and elbow in a corridor, I will toss a grenade just before I go in. This does several things:

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Strafe around corners

A lot of players stop at intersections, turn, and then proceed on their merry way. Unfortunately, this causes you to stop for a moment and creates a situation where you are not looking at where you are most likely to encounter an unexpected opponent.

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Backtrack occasionally

Every now and then, do a quick mouse-flick, turn around and backtrack. It's healthy to look behind you every now and then and see if anyone is chasing you. This also helps you be a little less predictable.

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Avoid natural kill zones

Many maps are designed to funnel the action around key areas or items. The last place you want to be is standing in the middle of those places.

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Getting your groove back

Sometimes all the stars are aligned; you run the maps beautifully, every shot hits, you're absolutely untouchable. Then, all of a sudden, your game goes to crap. Now you're always lost, you couldn't hit yourself with the panzerfaust, and every grenade seems to have your name. Sounds like it's time to take a step back and analyze what's going on. Ask yourself a couple of questions and see if they lead to any revealing answers

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Advanced Topics

I've written up a couple of other articles about more advanced team tactics and techniques. Later, I'll add links to some pieces written by others. Hope you find them useful.


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