March 25 2015
Rebalanced Maul, Vulcan, Scalpel, Rapier, Gattler so they'll all hopefully remain viable and pose interesting choices down the length of the campaign.
Vulcan currently a high-ROF anti-hull weapon. Scalpel is a high-ROF shield breaker/leech/disruptor. Maul is a balanced, short-range, high-alpha weapon. Rapier has long range and good ROF but slightly inferior hull damage. Gattler has longest range and excellent performance against hull but weak vs shields.
Also gave the Dirk a 10% chance of chasing a decoy compared to the standard aspect seeker's 50%.
IIRC, one of the Vulcan's (many) problems was that its max range was pretty poor--roughly 1000m. Even the Maul has significantly better range.
This kinda screws up what would be a notable strength of the Vulcan--low-energy, high ROF weapon for shooting down torpedoes en masse--and makes it fall short in a critical role.
Really, max-range is an undervalued capability in primaries. The Rapier's long range gives it excellent torpedo-interception capability when coupled with its good ROF, and that same range allows you to engage bomber wings much sooner. It also forces incoming fighters to go slightly evasive because you can hit them well before they can hit you.
Also, one of the important factors in deciding primary loadouts is how compatible one gun's velocity is with another. If one's shots travel half-again as fast as another's, then you can't really hit a moving target with both weapons at the same time, unless they're really close. This problem affects the Vulcan, too, since (IIRC) its shot velocity is quite high (1000m/s, which is also its max range) compared to, say, the Maul. And considering that you don't have access to the Rapier in Act 1, the poor synergy between the Maul and Vulcan is a shame. Combined with the redundancy and poor synergy between the Maul and Scalpel (too much energy consumption, and the Maul has high alpha already against both target types), it effectively means that your weapon loadout throughout every mission in Act 1 will always be all-Mauls.
Similarly, the Maul-Rapier combo is...somewhat problematic. They're difficult to use together, especially since in any situation where 4 of one and 2 of the other would work effectively, having 6 of just one would work even better.
Finally, the Scalpel...well, the problem is that there's rarely much of a reason to use it. If you need an anti-subsystem weapon, you have Paveways for the missions where you're using a Kentauroi, the Archer when you're using a Uriel (which is just superior as an anti-subsystem weapon in every way, when it's available) as well as the 2-gun slot on the Uriel that is better off with Gattlers. Really, the Gattler is an effective anti-subsystem weapon at no energy consumption, better range, far higher ROF, with effectiveness as an anti-hull weapon. It has more than enough ammo to make that limitation a non-issue, too. Even if the Scalpel does a better job at close-range anti-subsystem tasks, the cases where such an advantage is worth the tradeoffs of having a very high-energy consumption weapon that can't do **** against hull are rare.
The problem with specialized anti-shield or anti-hull primaries is that shield mechanics in FS2 just don't lend themselves well to effectively transitioning between the two. If even 10% or 20% of a fighter's shields are still remaining, switching to an anti-hull weapon is still going to be horribly inefficient at getting through that last bit of shielding. Likewise, using a high-energy-consumption anti-shield weapon to finish off that last bit of shielding is inefficient, too. So in practice, using a full loadout of all-purpose, sustainable guns like the Rapier, Balor, Maul (though the Maul suffers somewhat in the torpedo interception role), Prometheus (I'm pretending the Prom R doesn't exist, seeing as it's a terrible weapon that was worse than the standard-issue primary in service at the time of its introduction, let alone the Prom S), and Subach just works better and faster against nearly all fighters and bombers.
This is a bigger problem for anti-shielding weapons, though, because warships don't have shields and anti-hull weapons tend to be fairly effective against subsystems too. Since the Maxim and Gattler outrange warship point defenses and make mincemeat out of most subsystems (and eventually, hull), having them along is often justifiable. Granted, the Scalpel is still worlds better than any comparable GTVA weapon, but it's more effective against Shivans and Vishnans, who are far more shield-heavy and field a number of fighters with tons of shielding but weak hull.
The Dirk...I always saw its long lock-time and relatively unimpressive range to be its problem. By the time it finally gets aspect lock, you're close enough to just use the more-effective Harpoon equivalents, or Darts.