Team Fortress 2 is now free, so everyone with a Steam account owns it. If you haven't played before, it can be an intimidating, hat-riddled game. Previously we gave you a handle on the
, now we're going in depth on
We've covered the
. Today's lesson is in the most versatile class in the game: The Soldier.
As a Soldier, you're defined by your rocket launcher. It can hold four rockets at once, and fire them out in reasonably quick succession to damage and knock enemies around. Its true strength is that each rocket does splash damage - it hurts everything near where it hits. That makes it a phenomenal damage dealer against tight groups of enemies, and it also means it's hard to miss at close range.
The trick, of course, is to aim at the ground: you want to hit your opponent's feet, so that if they've moved by the time your rocket hits, they'll still get caught in the blast when the rocket hits the ground.
It's actually pretty hard to hit a specific point on the ground in front of you, because the low angle means one or two degrees inaccuracy can translate to several metres' difference. You'll have a much easier time hitting enemies if you're above them: when you're looking down, your angle of attack is steeper, which means you can afford to be a few degrees off and still hit the right spot.
How do you get above your enemy? It'll sound stupid, but if you can't manoeuvre to higher ground, you can always just jump. Try it against some Easy bots in Offline Practice mode: jump, aim at your opponent's feet, and fire. It becomes instinctive very quickly. It also makes it harder for Snipers to hit you, and since you have a lot of health, they're one of your biggest threats.
Rockets are easy to dodge, and do less damage, at long range. And it's not a great idea to fire them when an enemy's point blank, since the splash damage can hurt you too. So you're king of the close- to mid-range fight. When an enemy's too close, switch to your shotgun. When they're too far, reload: any time you have less than four rockets in your launcher, you should be shoving some more in.
Lastly, you can use your rocket launcher to jump ridiculous heights. Look directly at your feet, then do the following, in this order:
You'll know when you've done it right: the boost you get is enormous, and you don't take that much damage from the blast. If you do it whilst running forwards, you can soar over barriers or up to high vantage points. Once you learn the maps a bit, you'll get a sense for where the medkits are. Any high ground with a medkit is worth rocket jumping to, because you'll repair the modest damage right away.
The most valuable alternate weapons for the Soldier
The best weapon for the Soldier depends on your own skill set. If you're a precision player with excellent mouse skills and judgement, you want the Direct Hit. It's a rocket launcher that does much more damage, its rockets travel much faster, but the splash damage radius is much smaller. So if you hit an opponent directly or the ground beneath them, you do much more damage. But if you miss even a little, you're useless. You can unlock the Direct Hit by getting 10
, or buying it for £0.29 in the in-game store.
If you're less dexterous than that, you can still be a great Soldier. The Black Box is the weapon for you: it can only hold 3 rockets at a time, but every time you deal damage to an opponent, you gain 15 health. 15 health isn't much on its own, but it's so easy to glance someone with the generous splash damage of the rocket launcher that you'll be gaining that every few seconds. It makes you almost impossible to kill by attrition: only massive doses of damage like Sniper headshots, Spy backstabs and close-range Heavies can really take you out. You can't unlock it with achievements, but it only costs £0.49 in the store.
Is the Soldier Starter Bundle worth buying?
To be honest, not really. Unless you want the viking hat. The two items it gives you are the Equaliser and the Buff Banner. Both are excellent, and go particularly well with the Black Box. But you can earn the Equaliser easily for just getting 5 achievements as a Soldier, something you'll inevitably do before you're ready to mess around with alternate weapons. And while the Buff Banner is harder to earn (15 achievements), it's only £0.29p in the store. The bundle is £0.49, so I've just spent an entire paragraph on how to save 20p/30c.
Once you have both, you become an amazing Soldier. The Equaliser is
the best weapon idea Valve ever stole from me
: a melee weapon that makes you run faster and do more damage when you're low on health. When you get hurt, switch to it, and run away. By all means hit someone with it in an emergency, but its main use is making you as fast as a Scout when you need to run for a health pack.
The Buff Banner gives you a Rage meter, filled by dealing damage. When it's full, you can switch to it (same slot as the shotgun) and press fire to blow a bugle. As well as being funny, this makes you and everyone around you deal lots more damage for 10 seconds - a huge advantage.
It means you're much more effective if you live for a long time - something both the Black Box and the Equaliser really help with. Play cautiously, stick with your team mates and just keep pelting enemies with rockets. Never risk your life to close in for the kill: if they're weak, your team can finish them off, and you're much more useful alive.
How to help a Soldier
Obviously if you're a Medic, topping up their health is much appreciated. They generally don't need you as a devoted life partner as badly as a Heavy does, but a pair of Soldiers with a Medic keeping an eye on them is an almost unstoppable force.
As the other classes, pay attention to when your Soldiers are reloading: when they're out of rockets, it's really helpful if you can put pressure on the enemy and keep them occupied. Often you'll be rewarded with a surprisingly easy kill: if a Soldier's fired all his rockets, someone's probably on death's door.
How to fight a Soldier
Since Soldiers are always trying to shoot your feet, jumping a lot helps. In general, don't engage them at medium range unless you're sure you can heap a lot of damage on them at once. If you can't, keep your distance: their rockets are easy to dodge and low-damage at long range.
If you come face-to-face with one and can't get away, try doing the opposite: get in their face. They'll usually rocket you point-blank, seriously hurting or killing themselves. If they switch to their shotgun, just back off: they're not going to kill you quickly with that.