Advanced Combat Tactics
So... you want to do more damage. You want to make more kills. You want your friends to see more blue swirlies.
Good. We like that aggressive spirit. We encourage it, in fact!
Now that you're in Advanced Mission Mode, things are a little different.
Back in the good old days of noobness, enemies were easy to kill. Any torso section would do. Now, you need to pick your shots better. Nothing short of destroying the center torso, the cockpit, or both legs will kill a 'Mech. Plus, they have twice as much armor.
You need to pick your shots and hit the spots you want to hit.
Bonuses to this:
- A critical hit to the center torso will damage the gyro, making the enemy's 'Mech bob and weave when they try to walk and throwing off their return fire.
- Taking out a leg will leave the 'Mech gimped - stuck to it's "Top Speed gimped" speed limit (this limit is different per 'mech so check with the BattleMech Specifications), reverse movement disabled. Easier to circle-strafe and stay behind out of their weapons.
- A critical hit to the cockpit can take down their cockpit systems ("Head damaged, pod compromised, life support offline.") They'll lose light-amp (painful in a night mission) and targeting zoom abilities.
#1 - Facing Head-On
Obviously, you can get the best line on the enemy 'Mech when you're right in front of them. So get in front, line up on their center, and blast away. You know how to do it: usually it ends up with you running into your target, face to face, blasting away. We call this "narfing."
Why's it called narfing?
There was once a pilot whose callsign was "Narf". He always ran into people to stop them so he could shoot them. Running into people thus became known as "Narfng".
Remember that going face to face with an enemy means you will get hit with a lot of splash damage when your enemy goes up. In FFAs, when circling the battlefield, Veterans are looking for situations like this for possible double kills.
#2 - Strafing
Narfing is bad. Narfing stops you in your tracks, blocks your viewscreen full of a single enemy, and exposes your backside to enemy fire. Not so horrid if you're in a one-on-one fight, but it's a great way to get killed in team or free-for-all matches. Plus, facing directly at your opponent like that also exposes your center torso to them.
Now is the time to put those pedals to use. Switch into Mid or Adv Pilot Mode ("Program" [bottom left] + "Pilot Mode" [bottom right] on your Secondary Screen). Swing your torso to one side and pass in front of the enemy rather than running straight at them, and take your shot when you cross their center torso. You have a more limited window in which to fire and hit, but get used to it - you're protecting yourself and keeping moving.
There is no difference in Mid or Adv Pilot Mode other than the controls that turn the torso and the control that turns the 'Mech. Both modes have advantages and drawbacks. Try each out, decide which fits your play style better, and go from there.
#3 - Jumping
Another way to avoid narfing: jump over their heads. Run at the enemy, hit them in the face with an alpha strike, then jump over and land behind them.
If you're unfortunate enough to have been hit in the gyro but have jets, practice taking short hops to confuse the enemy and steady your aim. Your 'Mech won't wobble while you're jumping. It'll also confuse the enemy's aim and force them to readjust to hit your torso.
#4 - Swing away
When you're not firing on someone, don't present your torso to them. Swing away, and give them your side and arms to shoot at. Protect your vital areas until your weapons are ready to fire, then turn back around to take your next shot.
#5 - Sticking their noses out
A good number of 'Mechs slightly (or more than slightly) expose their center torso to side fire. Daishi, Vulture, Mad Cat are the most obvious, but you'll spot others - maybe not enough for a 90-degree side arc shot, but enough to make 45-degree shots that much easier. Learn to recognize when this is the case.
#6 - Top Hattin' It
See that High Hat on your joystick? It controls your alternate views. Pushing this forward will change your Main Viewscreen to view the ground camera - the view directly down from your 'Mech - and it will also point your weapons in the same direction. (note the crosshairs that you see in the downward view.) If you're jumping over someone's head, pushing the High Hat forward also aims them down and if you're fast enough, you can aim and fire your weapons while overhead.
Pulling the High Hat downward changes your Main Viewscreen to display the rearward-facing camera (note the crosshairs). If your 'Mech is equipped with rear-facing weapons (see BattleMech Specifications), you will be able to aim and fire them rearwards. Use it to annoy people chasing you, or take a parting shot on someone you just jumped over.
Moving the High Hat left and right will allow you to see out of the left and right cockpit windows. Each 'Mech chassis' view is unique depending on the design of the chassis. Some offer a clear view, while others are partially obstructed. When the High Hat is moved left or right, the corresponding arm will swing wide and allow for targeting via the crosshairs. This can be used to keep your heat down, catch an annoying faster 'Mech that stays to your side, or just present a harder target to your opponent.
#7 - Learn to Lead
If you're shooting 'Mechs that are strafing, you will need to learn how to lead some shots. PPC's, Gauss Cannons and Auto-Cannons have a short delay. Those nice and lovely Ultra Auto-Cannons fire a secondary shot a moment after the first. Lasers go where you point them, but you might need to lead the other weapons ahead a bit to get them to land where you want.
#8 - Goin' Passive
On your friend the Secondary Screen, you'll see a button labeled "Radar Mode." Pushing this switches you between active and passive mode. While in passive mode, you are harder to view by your enemies. However, while in passive mode, your SRM's and LRM's won't track an enemy's 'Mech. Missiles fired in this manner are called "Dumb-Fired". They will not track a target, but will only fire in a straight line.
AMS is effective in shooting down incoming actively-locked missiles, but not dumb-fired missiles. Consider going passive if you're fighting someone with AMS. If they insist on going toe-to-toe on you and you feel confident dumb-firing missiles, going passive will also keep your LRM's grouped up tighter - and 20 LRMs right to the Center Torso can really hurt.
CAVEAT: Streak SRM's will not fire without an active radar lock. The good news is, they won't "waste" ammo and heat by firing unnecessarily. The bad news is, if you forget yourself and leave your radar passive, you've just reduced a Streak-laden 'Mech's damage output. Either get quick on the radar toggle button, or leave your radar active, if you want to fire them.
#9 - Backstabbin'
See that back panel on the enemy 'Mech? That's torso too. Back, front, doesn't really matter - but if you can get on their tail and stay there, most 'Mechs have no firepower, and even the lovely Templar only has a pair of medium pulse lasers (punishing, but not nearly as rough as the alpha-strike up front or the PPC/MLAS or AC20/MLAS combos on the arms).
Do pick your shot to the back carefully, however. Every 'Mech does have a small (but present) "Rear Torso" armor panel. It makes for a little extra that you have to chew through if you hit the wrong spot on the back Center Torso panel.
#10 - Cockpitting (aka: headshot)
Once you push a 'Mech's center torso into yellow or red, you'll see a spot (very visible if you're on the colorized TGT mode in the Secondary Screen) that remains green. That's their cockpit. If you can place a shot perfectly there, you'll damage it. Take down the relatively un-armored cockpit, and the 'Mech will die. Use this to your advantage on shut-down 'Mechs or if you think you're good enough to line the shot up. If you miss? Well, there's plenty of CT surrounding the cockpit.
WARNING - Before attempting this tactic, try to make sure your 'Mech has enough firepower to take out the enemy's cockpit in one hit. A "partial" headshot from a small weapon, or even from the full barrage of a Dragon, may as well be a "wasted" shot that could have been more profitably spent burning armor from the Center Torso. The odds of making the second/third shot to the same place against a moving opponent are very, very small.
#11 - Go for the Groin (for fun and profit!)
The most vulnerable spot on many 'Mechs, aside from the cockpit, is the groin area. It's the only spot where three kill-worthy sections (the left leg, right leg, and CT) converge. Line up on the groin and open fire. If you miss, the legs are right there ready to absorb the damage.
#12 - The Art of the Sneak Attack
In a one-on-one or team game, you might consider dropping your radar to passive mode early on. Stay still and prep long-range weapons (PPC, Gauss, the Deimos's AC2 barrage) and try to pick out approaching enemies using the old Model 0 Mark 1's. Once you have them, pop up your zoom window and take a nice, leisurely shot on your unware foe. Sure, you only get one - but it's pretty much unanswered damage. You can always pop your radar up once you're locked on if you want to accompany it with a flight of LRM's.