Here’s an observation I’ve made just recently. Based on what I’ve heard from other people and what I’ve noticed myself, taunting as sniper is such a common occurrence that it’s become cliche. On the other hand, taunting as spy puts the player at such an inconvenience that it’s rarely considered. A number of factors make it appear that this is actually completely intentional in gameplay. For whatever reason, sniper very much encourages taunting while spy highly discourages it.
As far as taunting goes, this should be very easy to understand. Spy being a stealth class who operates primarily on lack of awareness, it makes plenty of sense that taunting would not be a good idea. However, that in itself apparently isn’t enough to explain how risky it is to taunt as spy. The taunts themselves seem to be intentionally designed to prevent people from using them in combat.
- First is spy’s revolver taunt in which he simply dusts off his jacket and adjusts his tie. This taunt is one of the least animated ones in the game in which spy stands perfectly still enough to make headshots incredibly easy if the player is unfortunate enough to be in the middle of crossfire.
- Spy’s PDA taunt, where he flicks a cigarette on the ground and puts a new one in his mouth (or does a spycrab), is one of the most inaccessible taunts in the game in that it requires you to equip a passive weapon which blocks almost the whole screen in order to play it. Medic’s medigun being the only other passive weapon that has a taunt, yet even the Kritzkrieg comes with a practical use to encourage taunting anyway.
- Spy’s knife taunt is most likely his most commonly used one. It’s also his only kill taunt and happens to be one of the worst ones in the game. It’s long, it’s noticeable, and it can alert enemies due to having two butterknife swings and a forced voice line playing. For a stealth class, that’s pretty reckless for spy to do, although that’s also why a lot of people like it. Getting killed by it is even more humiliating that way.
- Last is spy’s schadenfreude taunt. This taunt quite possibly draws the most attention to itself out of every taunt in the game. It’s currently the second longest taunt in the game and plays one of the most recognizable laughing tracks in TF2, having 3 breathes of bellowing laughter separated by snorting for each. If you taunt someone with this, you better be far away from any combat.
Perhaps everything I said about spy taunts isn’t really that surprising. It doesn’t really need much analysis either as most of what there is to know speaks for itself. However, sniper appears to have the most ease with taunting. This is where some analysis might come in handy to explain why we see snipers doing this so often.
- Sniper’s primary taunt. The infamous wave. Not only does it work well after shooting something from far away, but it’s nice and quick so it allows sniper to avoid any counter sniping as soon as it’s over. It plays just long enough to appear in the killcam and ends soon enough to allow sniper to run out of sightlines. This alone explains why we’ve seen it hundreds of times.
- Then there’s sniper’s secondary taunt which only works with SMGs. While most snipers are usually using Jarate or a shield, those with the SMG or Cleaner’s Carbine have a rather lengthy taunt for sniper. Although being killed with an SMG is humiliating enough, so having it come with such a silly taunt makes things worse. However, given the lack of secondary weapons he has with taunts, this goes back to encouraging players to use his primary or melee taunt more often.
- So with that, we have the melee taunt. This one is just like the primary taunt in that it’s very quick and it works best after chopping someone to death. As we know, most snipers are rolling with jars of instant kukri crits, so the taunt practically implies that the sniper himself feels bad for getting away with such a cheap kill. Either way, just because the guy who brought you from full health to dead in one hit is taunting still brings your blood to a boil.
- Sniper’s schadenfreude taunt is basically the exact opposite of spy’s. It plays just as quickly as his primary and melee taunt and works in just about every situation. This basically proves that Valve actually wanted to give sniper yet another taunt that is somehow even more humiliating than the ones he already had. While the other two weapons seem very situational (for situations that are common anyway), this one is the all around middle finger that sniper can use whenever. Personally I think if sniper could’ve ever gotten a good taunt that lasted a long time, it should’ve been this one.
- So far sniper has 3 perfect taunts already, but he still has one more. The Huntsman’s kill taunt. Unlike spy’s noisy and distracting kill, this one can guarantee someone’s death in 1 second. In that one second, sniper doesn’t make a sound until it’s already too late, making this taunt function practically like sniper’s own backstabbing knife. It isn’t just a humiliating way to kill someone, it works just as well in the killcam, having sniper point an arrow right towards your face.
Sniper & Spy:
Those are all the things everyone already knows about, so the main question is why did Valve want it to work this way? Sure, this all makes sense for spy’s position, but why does sniper have it so well for taunting? Is it just because they are counter classes and this is just another way to make them polar opposites? I think there’s a more subtle reason.
Spy and sniper have several things that make them very desirable for newcomers. Sniper already has some universally recognizable weapons which people can figure out how to use pretty quickly. Spy has some of the most unique abilities that exist in TF2. So it’s possible that this is a way to communicate to newcomers. Spies may be required to put a lot of effort into getting one kill, but despite the satisfaction in actually getting it, they have to learn how to keep themselves focused and get out of danger considering they’re likely to be very vulnerable.
But for sniper, I think Valve doesn’t want headshots to feel like it isn’t anything special. Snipers already get a lot of flak from other players anytime they kill someone with a body shot. Valve probably wants to give new snipers a way to easily express their satisfaction in finally getting a headshot on someone. Making these taunts so infuriating is also likely to encourage enemies to take precedent on that particular sniper if he’s been ignored for long enough and is taunting everyone.
Of course, this is all just my own personal theory. If anyone else can think of another possibility, let me know.