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Posted on Oct 9, 2012 in Electronic Games

Mann vs. Machine – 5 Tips for Playing a Soldier

By Jim H. Moreno

Team Fortress 2 is one of my all-time favorite online multiplayer games. It’s an excellent blend of fast action strategy, team tactics, and plain ol’ downright fun. Try as I might, I just couldn’t see how the game could get any better.

That is, until Valve recently released the newest chapter in the TF series, Mann vs Machine. This co-op mode has the RED and BLU teams joining forces against hordes of robots in three Mann Co. strongholds. The robots have a bomb, carried by one robot at a time, or by a tank, and sometimes both. Your side has a bomb hatch. The goal for your side is to prevent the robots from dropping a bomb into your bomb hatch. Simple premise, but not always a simple operation. Once again, the Valve team has brought a clever and expert game idea into play, one that should not be missed by any FPS gamer.


My class of choice is the patriotic Soldier, armed with the powerful combination of rocket launcher, shotgun, and entrenching tool. Having played the Soldier almost exclusively since the free-to-play mod launched, I’m taking a quick R&R to share some prime tips I think may help gamers be a better Soldier. So listen up, maggots!

1. Focus on the bomb (unless there’s a tank)
The Soldier’s rocket launcher is a high-explosive robot destroyer, and the highest-priority target for the Soldier is the bomb carrier, unless there is a tank in play. Always know where the bomb is, when it’s being carried, and when it’s on the ground. Keep your sights aimed at it wherever it is, even if the bomb is lying untouched far from an enemy robot. When a robot does come along and picks up the bomb, you’ll be right there to greet him with some instant blast damage to take him down.

Go ahead, pick it up. Go on, I dare you.

Additionally, anticipate when a robot will come to the bomb, and fire shots at him before he reaches it. This method allows you to destroy a bomb carrier quickly after it has picked up the bomb or even before it reaches the bomb.

The Soldier’s rocket launcher can cover the bomb from short and long distances.

2. Knock Back
Pay attention to the route the bomb carrier will run, and always stay ahead of him. Shots aimed at the ground in front of his feet have the chance to knock him backwards, away from the bomb hatch, giving your team additional, precious time to stop the bomb from reaching the hatch.

On the Decoy and Mannworks maps is an area that, if you can blast the bomb carrier into it, will knock the carrier way off course, greatly increasing your chance of keeping the bomb out of the hatch for that wave.

On Mannworks, there is a shallow pit area a short distance in front of the hatch. As the bomb carrier is coming around the high ground path or the bridge path, aim your shots to knock it down into the pit. The carrier will then have to circle in the opposite direction through the center building and back around, giving your team plenty of time to keep the bomb at bay.

See that low ground on the left? Knock the bomb carrier down there.

On Decoy, the target area is the trench in front of the bomb hatch. As the bomb carrier comes across one of the two short bridges towards the hatch, try to blast it off the bridge and into the trench. On both maps, you’ll hear Helen (aka the Announcer) tell you when you’ve successfully knocked the bomb carrier off course.

Blast bomb carriers off the bridge and into the trench.

3. Crouch & Cover
One of the drawbacks of the Soldier is his slow running speed. In order to adapt and adjust so you stay in the fight longer, make good use of the ample cover each map provides, and combine that with crouching to make yourself a much smaller target when behind cover.

Crouching behind this rooftop cover gives a Soldier an excellent firing position.

This is especially crucial in those sphincter-tightening instances where the bomb is only a few feet from the hatch. This is when the Soldier’s rocket launcher’s knock-back blasts are needed the most, so it’s imperative you crouch down in a good cover spot that allows you to have clear shots on the bomb, without letting any enemy get clear shots at you.

4. Positions
Again, because of the Soldier’s slow run speed, anytime you’re out in the open near enemy robots, your chance of getting hit is increased, much more so than all other classes except the Heavy.

Before each wave starts, and until you learn the routes on each map well, check the bomb carrier route, and spot the best firing positions. Stay ahead of the bomb carrier by moving from position to position, crouching and using cover to stay out of direct fire, while keeping the bomb and bomb carrier in your direct line of sight.

Know the bomb carrier routes!

It’s also important to note where health and ammo boxes are when considering the best firing positions. If you can’t be right on top of their locations, at least have them close enough that you can dart to them quickly without exposing yourself to enemy fire for long.

Here’s another excellent firing position. Just watch out for those bunker busters!

5. Upgrade Selection
The case may be where you start or join in a game that is short of having a full team. When this happens, you can compensate for the lack of firepower by having your Soldier pick rocket launcher upgrades. First, choose upgrades that increase damage, followed by faster firing and loading speeds. If, on the other hand, you start or join in a game with a full squad, go ahead and choose speed over damage if you like.

Also, if your Soldier is carrying a main weapon other than the basic rocket launcher, pay attention to any negative stats the weapon may have, and use upgrades to even up and increase those stats.

I hope these Soldier tips serve you as well as they are serving me. Now, go out there and give ‘em hell, boys!

About the Author

Jim H. Moreno dropped his first quarter into a video game back in 1977, and has been avidly gaming ever since. He joined the Armchair General squad in 2003 and helped launch the website and magazine, and remains a regular contributor of war, combat, and strategy articles. When he’s not working on an ACG piece, he’s writing other PC gaming articles for and for other sites and game companies, catching sci fi shows, enjoying a quality cigar or whiskey, or just being zen with his cat, Spritzer.