Go Team! Part 7: The Soldier

By Kieron Gillen on September 27th, 2007 at 8:48 am.

When the team clearly needs a medic and no-one else is doing so, I play a medic. When the team clearly needs to an Engineer – and, despite the current wave of wrench-monkeys filling servers, it does happen – I’ll play an Engineer. When the team clearly needs a Spy and no-one is, I play a Spy.

But when I get to pick, I pick The Soldier.

UNLESS IT'S A FARM!

The Soldier is Team Fortress showing its cultural roots. Always remember that it was a Quake mod and, far more than anything else, the Soldier is the character who has still got one foot in that prehistory. It’s all in his primary weapon – the rocket-launcher. Doom’s most iconic weapon was the shotgun. Quake’s, due to the addition of the true vertical axis and the emergence of a certain skill we’ll be getting to in a minute, was the Rocket-launcher. The Rocket-Launcher, fundamentally, hasn’t changed much from Quake 1. Yes, it shoots slower. Yes, you have less ammo. But the abilities it feeds off are right there. You’re still playing to its strengths, and it’s still working.

To be bitchy, The Soldier is the Demoman for people who like a bit of skill in their Team Fortress games. More truthfully, it’s a different sort of skill entirely. Demoman is about conceptual play – knowing where the enemy is or will be, and playing the odds. It demands higher level conceptual planning to play well. The Soldier, while he dabbles in that a little, his s primary way of offing people is about a direct, applied rocket-talent. The skill is this: you shoot someone. They go flying through the air. You calculate the arc and work out where they’re going to land. You fire a rocket to hit there. Mr Alive is Mr Dead.

UNLESS IT'S A FARM!

It’s a basic trick, but – like anything you can do with an coin to impress people in the pub – that doesn’t stop it being a pretty neat trick. It’s just a fraction more involved than anyone else’s way of killing (though playing the medic, I do wonder if someone’s going to be doing something clever with the trajectories of the rapid-firing syringes). The joy is, once enemies are in the air, they’re just a glorified skeet. They can’t do anything about it – except shoot you, obviously – and their destination is predetermined by the beautiful science of boom. Can you judge it right? Yes or no. It’s very clean, very beautiful and very bloody – I suspect that the Soldier gets the joy of seeing someone gib more often than anyone else (The Demoman gets to hear it more, but – really -that’s hardly the same thing. And Heavy’s laughing too much to really appreciate turning human flesh into Jackson Pollock). Obviously, often, you just shoot them directly in the face. But the real skill in the soldier is that very real people-bouncing skill.

It’s also funny to watch, which always helps.

Then there’s that other skill – rocket jumping. The world’s most famous emergent game-play device, evolving from something someone just noticed as a side-effect to Quake’s physics, to something that was actively used by deatmatchers, to something designers planned for in their levels to its current state as an artform. And, more than correct use of the rocket-launcher offensively, it’s an actual skill. Like Juggling, you can either do it or not. Right now, I’ve been too hungry to just play TF2 than spend the time on an empty level running around to get the hang of it (As I have my dignity to think of. There’s no way I’m going to rocket-jump in public when I’ll almost certainly screw up). But I will, and when I learn the knack, I’ll be a career Soldier instead of the under-prepared conscript I am now.

UNLESS IT'S A FARM!

The rest of his guns? Well, compared to the artist’s paintbrush of devastation that is the Rocket Launcher, the rest of his armoury is relatively sleight. The Shotgun is brutal and simple, keeping a similar short-sharp-shock approach to combat as the main gun. The Spade… well, I now realise, I haven’t offed anyone with a Spade yet. I have a Rocket Launcher. I have no need to dig the spade.

The Soldier is as Old Skool as TF2 gets. It’s appropriate that in his short film he’s presented as a Gung-ho mentalist obsessed with his own loose interpretation of Sun Tzu’s ancient wisdom of ass-kicking. He’s got history, is part of a lineage. Hell, look at the name: The Soldier. No need for any interpretation. Everyone in TF2 is a Soldier, but the soldier is THE Soldier. In Team Fortress 2 terms, he’s The Oldest Profession (er… without the having sex with people for money thing). Before there were Demomen, Pyros, Heavies and the rest, the Soldier was there, throwing rocks at people and screaming about farms and generally having a bit too much fun at mass murder.

The Soldier is about making people pop. He’s been making people pop since the mid-nineties. He’s not going to stop now.

Or, at least, you’re not going to stop him.

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21 Comments »

  1. Homunculus says:

    My first “life” on, uh, the map with the trains, is always the soldier simply because of the joy that is rocket jumping over the carriages that separate the two teams at the very beginning for a surprise attack (which is admittedly becoming less surprising recently).
    Because I’m not very good at Team Fortress 2, this usually fails to be capitalised upon and winds up in yet another humiliating death and respawning as a medic.

  2. FaceOmeter says:

    It slightly annoys me that the soldier is my favourite class, because that’s like having a human character in an MMO. Or playing C&C as GDI. It’s so… “default”.

    But I am a child of Quake. What can I say?

    The main reason I still suck is that the TF2 spork has much, MUCH less splash damage than its Q predecessors. Because of Quakes 1-3, I instinctively aim at the feet when firing rockets, but TF2 rewards direct hits much better. I must conquer my incredible Q3A reflexes to achieve TF2 nirvana.

  3. Stick says:

    I still live in mortal fear of the Soldier, having been turned into skeet on TFC way too many times. (Occupational hazard of offensive medicking, back when they out-scouted the scouts.) I can’t play rocketman. My instincts tell me to weasel through fights. A Soldier doesn’t *do* that.

    Though, as the Alright-I’ll-Be-The-Doktor, I love seeing them well played. Heavy tends a bit towards homicidal ADD (“Ooooh! Shiny kills! What capture point?”), but the Soldier’s usually on the ball. You, mein Herr, get zer Übercharge.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    I meant to write something about the increasing popularity of Medic/Soldier combos, especially with the Ubercharge going on. But forgot. Glad it turned up in the thread.

    KG

  5. Seniath says:

    I gave the Soldier a good play last night (my first proper one) on Gravel Pit. It’s such a relief after playing a Pyro most’ve the time, actually being able to do something about those damn turrets. and rocket jumping never gets old :D

  6. Kast says:

    It is infinitely humiliating to pull off the perfect rocket jump, graceful and true, right into the enemy’s balcony on 2Fort only to receive a face full of rocket from the turret cunningly place out of sight behind the corrugated steel wall. You’re not supposed to be prepared for that! Be surprised and dead, damn you BLU!

  7. Alec Meer says:

    As (usually) a Heavy, the reason I hate Soldiers more than anyone except THOSE CAMPING BASTARD SNIPERS is the massive knockback on his rocketlauncher. Even if I’m invulned (YOU ARE GRRRREAT DOKTORR!), I can’t get close enough to cap or kill if Soldierboy’s spamming me in the face, sometimes to the extent that I’m pinned against a wall.

  8. Andrew Farrell says:

    Goddamn, that is one pretty game.

  9. Darius K. says:

    You know, it was this series that convinced me I should give TF2 a try. And I love it! Soldier is the class I’ve played the most so far, but that’s mostly because I’m used to Quake and I haven’t actually bothered to learn any other class besides Heavy yet. Aside from those two, everything else just seems so… complicated! Special powers? Alternate fire modes? Pshaw.

  10. MaW says:

    Soldier is my second-favourite class, after medic. There’s something guiltily fun about firing rockets everywhere and watching the gibs fly.

    Probably because when I’m a medic, soldiers keep doing it to me and I do enjoy a bit of payback.

  11. Arathain says:

    Funny you should say complicated. I think one of the game’s key strengths is the stripped down nature of the classes, each of which really only does a very small number of things well, leading to the joyous and fascinating interaction between classes.

    That said, when I tire of tactics and want to just shoot stuff, I go Soldier. Everything boils down to where I place those rockets.

  12. Iain says:

    More people would study Physics if we called it “The Science of Boom”. I propose we lobby for a change in the curriculum!

  13. mentasm says:

    “In Team Fortress 2 terms, he’s The Oldest Profession (er… without the having sex with people for money thing).”

    TF2 has that profession…..

    He doles out healing for UberCharge.

    :)

  14. Scatterblak says:

    sigh…. you kids….

  15. Garth says:

    Even as a child of Quake, I find myself shying away from Soldier.

    And to be honest, it’s [i]hard[/i].

    I played a Pyro almost exclusively in QTF. I dabbled in other classes, but nothing beat clearing an entire room of 5 people with Napalm Grenades and the Flamethrower. It was just such a fantastically [i]maniacal[/i] situation — people on fire (screaming), flames everywhere, pure chaos, and all created by me.

    But in the back of my head, there’s always that little voice saying “If you were a Soldier, that turret would be toast. You could rocket jump onto that ledge. You could be [i]gibbing[/i].

  16. Spacegirl says:

    The Soldier is the work horse. I recall a few month old IGN preview of TF2, where Valve said essentially that. This is the man that gets it done on offense. He eats turrets for breakfast, Heavies for lunch, And just about anything else at dinner.

    In many ways, he is the LEAST specialized of all the classes. While maybe not the mathematically perfect Man for a given situation, he also has perhaps the fewest hard counters of any class. The rockets are very effective at a range many other weapons are not. They are lethal farther away than Shotguns or Grenades or the Flamethrower, but still not QUITE far enough away that you can’t put pressure on a sniper, to force him from standing still. Outside of obvious things (A pyro in your face out of nowhere, a robotic headshot sniper, some sort of terrible Uber-Charged death army), the only real trouble I get into is with a Scout. I think it will become easier as I get used to their jump lengths and where they may land, but I feel a good scout will always be tricky for any class, and maybe a bit more for the soldier.

    But in the End, if you are an FPS player, and you don’t know your way around a Rocket Launcher, A Shotgun and a Melee Weapon, what are you doing? These weapons are the oxen that have sowed our fields since the dawn of WSAD. They are our Forefathers, and on their stalwart, winged backs we will always find the Path of Pwn.

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    Spacegirl: That last paragraph was poetry.

    KG

  18. Arathain says:

    I learned a great time to learn the rocket jump, on a public server, while accomplishing something useful for the team even while failing. Since medics get uber-charge faster when healing wounded team-mates, during the start of any round with a set up time Soldiers ought to be pairing up with a medic and repeatedly blasting rockets at their own feet. Since you’re doing it anyway, it’s the best time to get some practice in.

  19. Peter M says:

    While the crowd that reads this website probably doesn’t realize this, the rocket jump technique actually originated with the game Marathon, which came out once upon a time on “that other gaming platform”, and predated Quake by 2 years. Now if Gil Amelio hadn’t butchered the mid-90′s Apple, and if Bungie hadn’t sold out to Microsoft, then this would probably be more well-known, but so be it. ;)

  20. Medieval Warrior says:

    Soldier is fun because you make people go all explodey.

  21. Dutchviking says:

    I liky it boom. Big boom… like boom boom in pants, but better.