Lovin' That MAX
The new MAX changes can be summed up with a single word: ZOE. This stands for Zealot Overdrive Engine, which is the new MAX ability for the Vanu. Unfortunately, the Planetside 2 client struggles to keep up with the ADAD (side-to-side) strafing of the Vanu maxes, especially in large fights, and a Vanu ZOE MAX wiping out half a squad is not an uncommon scene thanks to their damage increase. The best answer to ZOE is to fire back; annihilate the newly-vulnerable MAX (ZOE increases incoming damage) with concentrated fire. How often are you in a group coordinated enough to do that, though? I'm not arguing against needing coordination to handle MAXes, but I am against one MAX having that much damage potential. There were daily posts about the strength of the Hacksaw NC MAX when it was obliterating everything in its path - ones I mostly agreed with, except for the fact that the NC lacks a ranged MAX anti-infantry weapon - and the Hacksaw was balanced afterward. It will be interesting to see how Sony responds to the strengths and flexibility the ZOE gives to the Vanu.
The other factions also received their own special MAX abilities this update. The TR got Lockdown, which allows them to deny airspace, and the NC got Aegis Shield, which mostly works as a "Please. Shoot here!" sign.
I understand the concept behind the Aegis shield - give NC MAXes the option to soak damage like the Vanguard - but in practice it doesn't work as advertised. The vulnerability to being shot in the head, as well as the massive vulnerability to your sides/back when facing more than 1 enemy, make the shield a joke. One proposal I've seen mentioned is to give NC MAXes the mobility of ZOE MAXes when they have their shield deployed. It's a solid suggestion, but untenable thanks to the wonky net code revolving around the ADAD strafe. It's something worth putting on test to check out, though. Either way, something needs to be done with the Aegis shield to bring it in line with the other faction abilities.
As for Lockdown - the TR MAX ability - it gives dual-equipped MAXes the ability to deny areas extremely effectively. Dual Burster MAXes with Lockdown are excellent at airspace denial, while dual Chaingun MAXes with Lockdown deny space to infantry. They are especially effective for fronteline pushes, as their rate of fire helps to push back enemy infantry.
The faction-specific MAX abilities have done much to further define the differences in philosophy between the factions, but some more work is needed to make these ideas practical.
Shot to the Heart
The changes to the Enforcer C85 Modified and Enforcer ML85 for the NC, and the Proton II PPA and Saron HRB for the Vanu, were initially implemented with mixed reactions. SOE saw the light of day and reduced the ML85 splash damage so that it no longer one-shots infantry, and fixed the Saron HRB into an anti-tank sniper rifle. These balance efforts came out of nowhere, as there was no glimmer of change on the test server, but it's a mighty welcome change.
I haven't had a chance to be a gunner in either of the Vanu varients, but I've heard nothing but good reviews from people who use them on a regular basis.
Pre-GU09, the Enforcer anti-tank missile was a viable choice for running an anti-tank Vanguard setup. Now it has changed from a strict anti-armor role to an anti-everything role. The ability to one-shot infantry on direct hits, coupled with the increase in fire rate, has turned the Enforcer ML85 into a viable choice for any Vanguard setup - be it anti-armor or anti-infantry.
The Enforcer C85 Modified, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. I imagined an Air Hammer on top of a Vanguard or Harasser, but what we got was an ineffectual pellet gun. The short range of the C85 works against it when used on a Vanguard, thanks to the Vanguard's unique lack of mobility, and it is equally bad on a Harasser thanks to how bumpy movement is. The changes were good, just not good enough. Perhaps it is like its cousin the Gauss SAW; we just haven't found the proper role for it.
There were a few more changes in GU09 besides MAXes, tanks, and the Lattice. The largest is the merger of Connery and Helios, which brings more population to the ghost town of Connery. Minor changes include a new option for gun sight aiming sensitivity, better instant action mechanics, and a new interactive tutorial for brand new players.
All in all, I'd say Game Update 09 was a success. It's missing those finer touches, though. The game keeps getting better, and I look forward to June's outfit changes and ESF update.