On Dodging Air-to-Air Missiles (Update)

Leonard takes a good look at how to dodge the living bane of every serious ESF pilot.

Icon_Mosquito Icon_Reaver Icon_Scythe

Update: With the release of Performance Update 2 on 17 Dec 2013 new changes to missile projectiles have again been introduced that render the maneuvers described in this article ineffective for dodging air-to-air missiles. See also the article here.

To Dodge Or Not to Dodge, That's the QuestionPlanetSide 2’s lock-on missiles and lock-on mechanics have always been a product of poor game design, lack of execution, and constant diabolical stealth-patching. Not even a month ago lock-ons were all but completely broken in almost every way imaginable and Sony was slow to fix it. In fact, since I have adopted the philosophy behind running Fire Suppression a long time ago (more on that in a separate article here), I’m not even entirely sure they have indeed fixed it — nor do I care anymore.

Anyway, missiles fly at a very high speed in PlanetSide 2 (100mps or 360kph the last time I have checked) and while they do possess an excellent turn rate, I imagine their momentum keeps them from changing directions too sharply and too quickly. Resourceful pilots use these characteristics to their advantage.

Two Maneuvers

There are currently two maneuvers to dodge air-to-air missiles effectively with, both of which have been hotly discussed in public as of late and are useful in completely different scenarios, and both of which refuse to use up a single drop of your valuable afterburner fuel, either, unlike other maneuvers from days past.

Rest assured, you can find video links to each maneuver and more at the very bottom of the post.

Possibly common knowledge by now, the first maneuver — let’s call it the “Charge” maneuver here for convenience — is an offensive one, and must be used in flight mode. Similar to a scene from the famous movie The Hunt for Red October (1990) with Sir Sean Connery, you keep charging with your ESF directly at the shooter, at full speed, while holding either Ascend (Spacebar) or Descend (Ctrl). By so doing the missile will speed past by you without ever hitting.

The second maneuver — let’s call it “Duck and Away” here [I have been informed people refer to it as “Ginger’s Cobra” now] — is not such an obvious candidate, is more on the defensive side, and must be performed in hover mode entirely. For starters, you have to have the shooter on either side (left or right) of your field of view. (Only Scythe pilots may face him directly, frontally.) You must be descending at maximum descend rate in hover mode (hold Ctrl), then you must pitch up and away as you see the missile homing in at you (a slight diagonal tip upwards with the mouse should be enough). I repeat: duck and pitch up and away from the missile. And once again, by so doing the missile will fly past you incapable of correcting its course in due time to hit you.

Note: “Duck and Away” does work against ground locks too provided (I) that there is enough distance between you and the missile, (II) that you have enough time to go into full descend mode, and (III) that you are actually able to figure out the direction the missile is coming from in due time in order to face the missile projectile (and enter hover mode).

Not the Solution

As you will surely notice, both the “Charge” and the “Duck and Away” maneuver come with very strict and very specific requirements for successful dodging even in a vacuum of just missile user and missile target:

  1. You must find out in an instant the type of missile locking onto you (ground or air) and, ideally, the quantity. [Aside: GU15 was meant to introduce HUD icons for the former but never saw the light of day on live for various reasons.]
  2. You must find out in an instant from which direction, at the bare minimum, the missile is getting launched or, ideally, the shooter’s location.
  3. Most important of all, you must be able to take down the shooter while evading his missiles and while being chipped away by whatever primary gun he is wielding.

These strict requirements are my main gripe with these very situational maneuvers. Make no mistake, air-to-air missiles are still absurdly powerful (even more so in two-man cells, let alone whole air squads) and these two dodge maneuvers are in fact not the no-brainer solution seasoned pilots have hoped for. Even a half-assed lockpodder is capable of keeping his distance to his target in order to inflict maximum damage with minimal opposition.

It goes without saying that any pilot’s ultimate goal should always be to avoid successful lock-on attempts in the first place or at least to reduce the number of possible lock-on sources and directions to better single out the shooter and isolate him from the rest of the cacophony of the air game. Easier said than done. Nothing ground-breaking, but the following may help:

  • A safe retreat zone or terrain trap to lure the shooter into
  • Low-altitude flight over favorable terrain that provides cover or under structures, with biolabs being an all-time favorite, to drastically reduce the effectiveness of lock-on missiles
  • Staying out of lock-on range but still within scouting range by sticking to a high altitude or keeping one’s distance until a target that is safe to engage can be singled out and taken down safely

You can find video links to each maneuver and more below.

As always thanks for dropping by. See you on Auraxis!
—Leonard

Videos:

2 thoughts on “On Dodging Air-to-Air Missiles (Update)

  1. current evading works on a ”bug” inwhich the tracking screws up somehow, I believe you may have noticed that sometimes a missile does go past you, only to make a 180 degree turn within a few meters. but I sure do hope SOE doesnt fix this ”bug” as it finally brings some ort of skill-based counter to lock-ons(which imo should be made more skill-based as well, but it’s difficult)

    • I imagine current missiles possess a high turn rate but their sheer momentum simply forces them to make reasonable course corrections only, not such extreme ones as would be required in order to hit an ESF that’s in the middle of such evasive maneuvers as described in the article.

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