MAKING A DIFFERENCE
I’ve already remarked on the fact that PS2 is better with friends, as is the case with most any other game. But what happens when none of your friends are online? I could say that you should get into a squad full of unknowns and hope for the best. Truth is that I’d be doing you a great disservice for miring you in what’s likely to be a complete waste of your time. No, I can’t do that to you. You are needed elsewhere, after all, up in the clouds - where a lone wolf can actually make a difference as a fighter pilot.
We’ll be looking at two scenarios today, neither of which require coordination with another human being to pull off. Both translate exceedingly well to organized situations with cooperative squads, so pay attention and think of this as training. Before we even start, make sure you are rather comfortable flying. If you are not, there’s little I can do to help you. Practice makes perfect, but describing the nuances of controlling a VTOL fighter with your choice of controllers is like trying to describe the taste of chocolate to a deaf person. And one last thing: if you are going to be flying, do so as an engineer so you can repair yourself when needed.
I’m not about to tell you that you absolutely have to spend SC to have fun in a fighter, but doing so does open up your options a bit more. More on that below, lets get the basics covered first. Spending 30 Certification Points (CP) on Acquisition Timer will help you lessen the learning curve by letting you spend more time in the air and less time waiting. Spend more if you can because if you are serious about flying, and get decent at it, you will more than likely be able to respawn another fighter by the time you are shot down. For your utility slot, Decoy Flares cost 100 CP and are virtually required.
Your defense slot should be either Composite Armor(100 CP) or Stealth (30 CP). The Auto-Repair systems sounds nice, but is mostly useless. If you need repairs you are going to have to fly away from the enemy. If you are flying away from the enemy you might as well land for repairs. It’s faster and safer to do this than to loiter around in the air waiting for your craft to slowly cobble itself back together. Your performance slot is up to you and which empire you fly for. Simply stated, this is where you’d go to try and “balance” your fighter or enhance one of the qualities that makes it stand out from the other two factions fighters.
And now we talk weapons. Generally speaking your cannon should be the empire-specific high R.O.F. Vortek (NC), Hailstorm(VS) or M18(TR). At 250 CP/ 500 SC a piece, these guns will change the way you play, and teach you quite a bit about dogfighting and ambush tactics. While you are at, it spend 12 CP for two levels of Ammo Capacity and the first tier of Zoom Optics. And now the controversial bit: 1000 CP/700 SC will net you Air-to-Ground (A2G) rocket pods. I personally find these to allow the flexibility I like when I’m up in the air. A2G rockets are dumb-fire, which means that slower or stationary aircraft can fall prey to them as well. A2A missiles locks you strictly into the capacity of a dogfighter, and while that’s certainly entertaining, it’s simply not my cup of tea. I find I do all my dogfighting with my cannons, even when I have my A2A fitted, because of the prevalence of flares and the implicit locking time.
You are on your own, and itching for a fight. You jump into a fighter and head towards the nearest hotspot, right? Wrong. Most servers will have an almost unlimited and steady supply of slow and vulnerable bait aircraft leaving your warpgate. If you want to do your job, and net some serious experience while at it, you will fly distant cover for Galaxies and Liberators. Distant cover means you should be able to see what you are trying to defend at all times, and be able to get right behind it with a full burn of your standard afterburners. You will be patient, and you will be coy, waiting for an enemy fighter to decide its going to get right on top of the friendly you are guarding. At that point you will swoop in, and blow them out of of the sky. The combined fire of a Liberator or Galaxy tail gun plus a well placed clip of your cannon should put them in flames if not clear them out entirely.
Wait until you are close to unleash your fire on them. If you land a few shots from afar, the enemy is likely to get a clue and break off from its attack. Pilots tend to get a bit too focused on the kill, and when they smell blood they won’t break off. Let him shoot the friendly a bit, get a taste of it, and line up your stream of shots. A2G rockets won’t play a big part when you are flying cover, unless you happen to see a nice target like an enemy fighter that has set down to repair, or a flaming liberator running away from the fight. Catch up to them, and make them regret it.
Your career as a close air support pilot will likely be the source of many of your fondest PS2 memories. Supporting a squad of friendlies is fulfilling and lucrative. But you are alone, without support or scouts. You have no idea where to go. How about we start with where you -shouldn’t- go? Don’t drift too close to enemy repair pads, the AA guns are likely manned and ready to shoot you down at a moment’s notice. Don’t approach Tech Plants or Amp Stations until you are certain they’ve had most of their AA turrets destroyed. If it seems like I’ve taken 90% of your choices off the table, I respectfully recommend you look at the map and look at all the nice roads connecting these structures. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your hunting ground. Traveling columns of enemy ground troops and vehicles are a great target for hit-and-run tactics. Pick damaged or weak targets like lightnings tanks and flash ATVs, swoop in for a quick kill, and then disappear into the terrain.
The element of surprise is your greatest tool here. A2G rocket are not sniper rounds, and the benefit of a high R.O.F. means that you should try to deploy them in close range, and in rapid succession. One rack at a time or less should do the trick for most soft or softened targets. For close-in anti infantry work, make sure to equip the Infrared Optics (25 CP). These will make you a real threat to infantry taking cover in structures or broken terrain. Look for concentrations of infantry to take full advantage of your limited splash damage.
Using aircraft in PS2 can be a bit intimidating, but you won’t learn what you don’t try. If mouse and keyboard is not doing it for you, find a joystick that fits your needs. PS2 is a game for team-players, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strike out on your own from time to time. Spend some CPs on your fighter and it will reward you with many kills and a serious adrenaline rush.