The latest MWO patch goes some way to restoring a bit of balance to the game, and perhaps just a little bit of confidence from its critics. There's few new toys and a lot of balance shifting to look at. We'll start with the totally new things.
Much requested and very welcome, the movement tutorial will apparently be the first of many. It walks new players through how to move their mech around, torso twisting, and how to use jumpjets. It's pretty comprehensive, and will hopefully get players that are more used to traditional FPS games used to how MWO differs. One can't help but think of old Mechwarrior tutorials though (especially old Dead Eye in MW2: Mercs), and how they used to teach you the controls while also immersing you in the universe. The opportunity to do a bit of world building in that way has been missed. Also, while it's nice that they tell you that throttle lock is optional, it's an odd choice to force it to be locked on for the whole thing.
The delayed Orion is finally here. Well, in hero mech form, at least. If the pattern of the last couple of mechs is followed, we should see the regular variants available next week for MC purchasing, and a week after that for cbills. Physically, it's surprisingly small given it's tonnage, and hardpoint wise it's a bit like a smaller Atlas, with a spread of energy, ballistics and missiles. It looks good, but it's a bit early to say if it's it's worth it over the Cataphract - sure, it's got an extra five tons to play around with, but it needs a bigger engine to go as fast and there aren't any variants with jumpjets. We'll look at the Orion in more depth when the non-hero variants drop.
There's also a new Centurion champion mech. Deviating from the popular 2 medium laser, 3 SRM6 layout that's been a favourite for a while now, it comes with 2 medium pulse lasers and 3 SRM4s. With the boost to SRM4s cycle time, this loadout could prove quite nice. The CN9-A has always been a good robot, so it's nice to see it getting some love.
Trial mechs have cycled again too, giving new players a choice of the Raven 3L, the aforementioned Centurion champion, the Quickdraw 4H, and the Stalker 5M. Of these, the Centurion is probably the best bet - the Quickdraw runs hot, the Stalker is ok but slow, and the Raven is interesting but too slow in it's stock configuration and loaded down with garbage like NARC launchers.
Some seriously big changes here. PPC and ER PPC are now both hotter than they were before and have slower projectiles. The PPCs minimum range is now a hard cutoff; previously, it would scale damage linearly down from 10 to 0 inside of 90m, so at 45m you'd still be doing 5 damage. Now, inside of 90m it does nothing - if someone gets up in your face and you don't have backup weapons, you are finished. While the PPC absolutely needed some attention (and these changes put it pretty much back in line with where it was before it was buffed pre-HSR, which is what a lot of players were asking for, as typified in this question from the last ask the devs), it's arguable that between these changes and the heat scale they might have been hit a bit TOO hard with the nerf bat. There's certainly a case to be made for removing them from the heat scale now.
The gauss rifle now needs to be "charged" before firing - you need to hold the fire button down for 0.75 of a second, then release it within another 1.25 seconds to fire it. It's an interesting change, and makes them a bit different to other weapons, but could do with a bit more of an indicator as to when they're charged. The pips around the crosshair showing weapon group readiness work, but they're not that obvious in the middle of a fight. There ARE sound effects for the charge up, and they're nice enough, but they could do with being brought to the foreground a bit more. To go with this, the gauss projectile speed and the gauss rifle health have both been nearly doubled, so it's now a better weapon but with a quirk to it that means it takes a bit of practice to be effective with.
There's a few other little things that have made it in as well, such as the advanced zoom module. It now provides an extra level of zoom as well as the picture in picture zoom it was equipped with before, which means that you can actually see more than a blurry mess when you use it. With the increased projectile speed of the gauss, this means that genuine long range sniping is now pretty viable, but you can't just use the same weapons for it that you would up close.
There's some adjustments to third-person view as well; specifically, the camera has been moved so that you can actually see your mech's legs now. One of the criticisms that was leveled by some of the community at third person when it came in was that if it was intended to help new players work out how their torso was moving differently to the legs, how come that you could barely see the legs on a number of mechs? This change seems like a direct response to those complaints.
There's a bunch of bugfixes too, the most notable of which is some work on hit detection and host state rewind - SRMs are now in a much better place as a result, and with the cycle time improvement on the smaller SRMs, brawling is much more viable. We also get some changes to the mech walking animation. Previously every mech's animation speed was pretty much the same regardless of how fast it was going, and would sometimes not make proper connection with the ground and look like they were sliding along. The animation speed has now been changed to match up with the actual speed the mech is moving, which stops the sliding issue. Conversely, the net result is a bit strange. Mechs going full tilt now look like someone has set them on fast foward, with assaults at 60+kph being probably the funniest to look at. Highlanders with legs pistoning like mad makes them look a bit cartoonish, up until they dump all those SRMs into your face.
Overall, this patch should raise the skill ceiling on sniping, make brawling more viable, and ease new players in a bit more smoothly. At two weeks out from launch, PGI really needed to deliver a good, non-controversial patch, and this looks to be one.