Let me just put this out there before we start:
I am terrible at Soldier.
Terrible, terrible, terrible. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can get a K:D greater than 1, but in your average pub game a decent Soldier should be getting at least 12-15 kills per death, right?
Soldier is my least played class, coming in with less than half my playing time for my 2nd least played class. That said, I forced myself to play with the new Soldier toys so that I’d have some scant insight to share with you all. I hope you’re happy.
As a consolation to my soon-to-be woefully inaccurate battle report, I’ll include my impressions of the GRU and Vita-Saw as well.
The Black Box
I want to give Valve a lot of credit with this one. The Black Box is ultimately a very simple change to the Rocket Launcher, albeit with drastic results. Going into a confrontation with only 3 rockets is a big loss for the Soldier, but then again being able to hold chokes with what amounts to constant small health packs is an interesting trade-off.
That said, most of the time the trade-off won’t be worth it. When you consider that each rocket is essentially worth 50-100 damage to an enemy and/or 15 health to you, not having a fourth AOE infinite range projectile is a big loss.
Yes, on maps like Dustbowl 3-1 (RED), it’s useful to be able to spam shots at BLU from the rightmost building without relying on infrequent med packs or overextended Medics. But, in any situation where Medics, dispensers, or larger health packs are available, it’s much more useful to be able to hit an enemy for 90% of his life than to heal less than 8% of your own.
Indeed, I’ve often found a well timed rocket jump is more of a life-saver than gaining 15 health. If enemies can’t hit you, they can’t hurt you. If, however, you’re reloading 33% of the time, you’re probably going to get caught with your pants down. Unless it’s a farm!
The Battalion’s Backup, however, is a much more viable option. In exchange for taking 175 damage (which you’re guaranteed to take at least once every life), you get to protect your entire team from 35% of incoming damage, as well as non-backstab critical hits. This is an extremely powerful ability that can completely negate a Kritzkrieg if timed correctly. And, unlock the Buff Banner, there is rarely a bad time to use the Battalion’s Backup. As long as someone in your vicinity is taking damage, this unlock is helping them live to fight another day.
I consider the Battalion’s Backup a much more suitable defensive measure than the Black Box. While you lose your shotgun, your survivability increases dramatically, as does your ability to lead and offensive or defensive push. And while it can negate an enemy Kritz, it also works well to compliment a friendly one. Since the only real downside of the Kritz is your increased vulnerability to damage in comparison to an Ubercharge, the Battalion’s Backup offsets this disadvantage slightly, allowing you to use a Kritz more boldly.
While the shotgun retains its overall usefulness, the Battalion’s Backup is excellent for aiding and abetting capture pushes, last-second Payload rescues, or for holding the final point against a tidal wave of foes.
The Rocket Jumper
Yes, in case anyone out there still doesn’t know, the Polycount/Mannconomy update included the Rocket Jumper. I won’t go into detail on its use here, as it’s primarily a joke/testing tool, but I’m sure someone out there will create a video demonstrating a viable tactic with this hilarious item. Send me that video.
Gloves of Running Urgently (GRU)
GRU is hands down the best melee weapon choice for the Heavy Weapons Guy. While his normal fists and the KGB offer a lot of fun, they aren’t particularly viable close-range weapons, given the Heavy’s ridiculously slow walking speed.
Of course, the GRU aren’t viable melee weapons either, due to their 50% damage reduction. But you won’t be using the GRU to punch anyone. You’ll be using them to fly around the battlefield at just under normal class speed. Make no mistake: this is a game changing upgrade for the Heavy.
The downsides are laughable at best. Reduced melee damage is compensated by the fact that you will never be hitting anyone in melee. 6 HP lost per second is compensated by effective Sandvich use, the ability to run towards health kits, and the ability to increase the rate at which your Medic buddy builds Ubercharge. Yes, the GRU’s primary drawback is actually an indirect buff.
The verdict is in: use these gloves.
The Vita-Saw has seen a lot of hate as useless, but I beg to differ. While a 10 HP penalty is certainly no joke to a class who basically has a giant “kill me” sticker on his back, the advantage is not inconsiderable. Being able to spawn with up to 20% Uber (it’s 20% of your maximum, not 20% of the amount you die with) can bring your Ubercharge out several seconds sooner.
The first question is: will this end up in more net Ubercharge than the Ubersaw provides? I’d venture to say yes. On average, most Medics probably won’t have the opportunity to land Ubersaw hits every life. But every Medic will die every life.* This means that every single life, unless you somehow accumulated 0% Ubercharge before dying, the Vita-Saw will give you a head start. Of course, this must be weighed against the fact that just by using the Vita-Saw you are slightly more likely to die every life.
It’s a little sad to choose an item based on the eventuality of your death, isn’t it? But then again, we purchase life insurance on the same basis. Just make sure your life insurance policy covers 20% of your stored Ubercharge for your next respawn.
*Except during perfect rounds.