Soldier 76 is your typical "Call of Duty" type character, cunningly running into combat and dealing massive damage with his pulse rifle. I think of Soldier 76 as a type of Offense/Defense hybrid, thanks to his healing aura he can put down for his teammates along with his longer range rifle and helix rockets.
This guide takes an in-depth look at how to play Soldier: 76 in Overwatch. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the hero, and we go over mechanics, recommended strategies, and things to beware of.
The guide has been written based on our extensive experience playing the game since before the Closed Beta began, and it relies on our decades-long FPS experience. That said, our aim is to keep the guide relatively brief and easy to understand, making it accessible to veterans and new players alike.
Stamp of Approval
Provides good, sustained damage at almost all ranges (weakest at very long range)
Can heal himself and allies with Biotic Field Icon Biotic Field, granting sustainability
Sprint allows him to run back quickly after dying and also to reposition and sometimes escape during combat
Easy-to-use ultimate that is very effective against fragile (non-tank) heroes
Viable both on Attack and Defense
Ultimate ability has a prominent audio warning making it easy for enemies to avoid it
Soldier: 76 is an offense hero that is at his finest doing constant damage from his team's front line. Any seconds spent trying to maneuver around the enemy team are wasted, with some situational exceptions (such as moving around to get a great angle for your ultimate).
Soldier: 76's entire kit is built around this idea. His rifle's flexibility allows him to have high uptime on dealing damage (as opposed to heroes such as Reaper or Widowmaker, who will often spend long amounts of time not attacking), and his damage is actually viable at most ranges. This means that you should make use of the advantage your rifle offers, and put down near-constant fire towards the enemy team.
His Biotic Field Icon Biotic Field heal helps him stay in the fight longer (healing himself and allies as needed, ideally under some form of cover), while his Sprint is often used to get back into the action as quickly as possible after dying or retreating; it also helps with getting to cover quicker, or dashing for a health pack.
That said, while Soldier: 76 can effectively deal damage at most ranges, he really excels at medium range. In close range, he will practically always lose against McCree (chiefly due to the McCree's Flashbang Icon Flashbang), and at best he has no real advantage over heroes like Tracer, Genji, or Reaper. At long range, Solider: 76 is also at a disadvantage against snipers (Widowmaker/Hanzo) and Bastion.
While not strictly an ability, we feel that it is important to talk about Soldier: 76's rifle. That is because it is practically the only weapon in the game which has complex usage (simply holding down the fire button is not optimal), and it is also core to Soldier: 76's gameplay.
Soldier: 76 uses a rifle with a 25-bullet clip size, which is effective at most ranges. Spraying at close and medium range (provided that the player can aim the crosshair correctly) is extremely efficient and will result in tremendous amounts of damage. At longer ranges, firing in bursts of a few bullets or tapping (firing shots in quick succession as with a pistol) is recommended as the first bullets of a burst always have pinpoint accuracy.
The importance of good aim with Soldier: 76 cannot be understated. You will have to practice and attempt to land as many headshots as possible.
While the rifle deal quite high damage, the damage value does drop off as range increases, meaning that he is at a significant disadvantage trying to duel against a distant Widowmaker. This does not mean, however, that it is necessarily useless to engage in such a duel. Widowmakers tend to change position when they have been exposed (especially when taking fire), so there may be a benefit to simply firing off a few shots in her direction (and given Soldier: 76's perfect accuracy when firing one shot at a time, hitting her is not difficult).
There is no disadvantage to moving or strafing while firing, as Soldier: 76, and doing so will make you a harder target to hit. While this is not at all uncommon for Overwatch, players who are used to other shooters (such as Counter-Strike) should keep this in mind, especially with a hero such as Solder: 76.There is no disadvantage to moving or strafing while firing, as Soldier: 76, and doing so will make you a harder target to hit. While this is not at all uncommon for Overwatch, players who are used to other shooters (such as Counter-Strike) should keep this in mind, especially with a hero such as Solder: 76.
Soldier: 76's alternate fire shoots a volley of rockets, which has an 8-second cooldown. The rockets deal high damage (120), and have no damage drop-off at range. Moreover, as rockets typically do, they deals splash damage. The rockets are projectiles that have travel time; they can therefore theoretically be dodged, but they move quickly, making this quite a rare occurrence. Finally, unlike projectiles such as Hanzo's arrows or Torbjörn's bullets, the rockets will always fly in a straight line, never dropping off, no matter the distance.
Helix Rockets Icon Helix Rockets is an outstanding source of damage for Soldier: 76, and you should look to use it as often as possible. There is rarely a reason not to do so.
While you are in the middle of a spray with with your rifle, firing Helix Rockets will pause your primary fire for a short amount of time; that said, since the rockets deal far higher damage than your bullets do, this is typically not a problem (it only hurts you if the rockets miss where the bullets would have hit).
Helix Rockets is obviously strongest when its splash damage can hit multiple targets, so these situations make it ideal to use. It is also very strong against stationary targets who have no chance of avoiding them, like Torbjorn's Turret or Bastion.
We would also like to mention that against Genji's Deflect Icon Deflect ability, you should fire the Helix Rockets at the ground/Genji's feet as opposed to trying to target him directly. The splash damage will hit him, and he cannot Deflect the rockets (potentially back at you).
Sprint Icon Sprint is Soldier: 76's only movement ability/escape mechanism. While it does not allow him to move unpredictably or get out of movement-impairing abilities (like traps or Zarya's Graviton Surge Icon Graviton Surge), it can still be a very valuable tool for repositioning during combat and avoiding damage.
Indeed, as far as combat maneuverability, Sprint can be great to quickly dash to cover when faced with abilities such as the ultimates of McCree, Hanzo, Mei, or even another Soldier: 76. It allows you to make a dash towards a much-needed health pack, towards your healer, or behind your team's shields.
Outside of combat, as stated above, Sprint is extremely useful in getting back into the action right away after dying or falling back to recover health.
Note that while Sprint is activated, all you can do is run forward or diagonally (as soon as you let go of your forward key, Sprint is toggled off and must be re-enabled) and jump. You cannot shoot or reload, you cannot stop, and you cannot go backwards.
Biotic Field Icon Biotic Field is an AoE heal that lasts for 5 seconds (with a 15-second cooldown). Soldier: 76 places a marker on the ground, and any allies (including Soldier: 76) who are in line of sight of it and within a certain radius of it gain 35 health per second. While this may not sound like much when compared to the sort of sustained healing that Lúcio, Mercy, or Zenyatta can do, it can often make the difference between your team being able to hold the line long enough to capture an objective or be reinforced and dying or having to fall back.
You should not use this ability on cooldown, and instead wait for the right time and place. It does not last very long, so using it preemptively is rarely a good idea (the exception being if you know for sure that damage will come, such as if Mei's Blizzard Icon Blizzard has just been cast and you cannot escape it); you have to make sure that its healing will count.
As far as positioning is concerned, it is best to place your field somewhere where you and your allies can be healed and still take cover at the same time. A classic example of this is placing it at corners, so that players can choose to take cover around the corner and heal up, or peek around the corner while still benefiting from the Biotic Field.
It is also worth noting that Biotic Field places a small object the ground, which is what creates the field in a radius around it. This is placed at the location of your character in the moment when you use the ability, which is useful to know when Payloads are involved; you want to place the field on the Payload, so that the radius moves with it, instead of on the ground so that it gets left behind.
Tactical Visor Icon Tactical Visor grants Soldier: 76 auto-aim for 6 seconds. He will land every shot with perfect accuracy on the target that is closest to his crosshair while this ability is active. As far as its acquisition range is concerned, it covers the entire area of your screen, meaning that if the only target is on the far end of your screen compared to your crosshair, you will still hit it. Also, activating Tactical Visor instantly reloads your weapon, and your reload time during Tactical Visor is reduced to 0.5 seconds (for 1 second).
Tactical Visor is the reason why most players learn to fear Soldier: 76 early on. Despite seeming like a very easy and straightforward ability to use, things are not quite as simple.
To begin with, the enemy team hears an audio warning when you cast this ability ("I've got you in my sights"), which serves to alert everyone that you have activated your ultimate. Moreover, for the entire duration of Tactical Visor, the enemy team hears a very distinctive sound that indicates that the ability is still active. This means that it is very unlikely that anyone who has had a chance to get to cover will make the mistake of coming out again before your ability has ended.
Additionally, despite having auto-aim, you can only shoot at one target at a given time, meaning that it is possible to effectively have your ultimate "wasted" by focusing fire on a tank as opposed on the fragile offense heroes that you could actually kill. Moreover, all your shots are still blockable by things like shields and barriers. Finally, keep in mind that Tactical Visor only acquires heroes, and will not automatically hit Torbjörn or Symmetra's Sentry Turret Icon Sentry Turrets, Widowmaker's Venom Mine Icon Venom Mine, or Junkrat's traps.