So after watching a video on this weapon, I figured I'd hurry up and do a review of it before too many people base their thoughts on a single opinion. I was going to save this to be part of the Mordu blog, but that is looking more and more like it'll get delayed until September (you'll see why when it comes out). But anyway, before we look into the weapon, here's a bit of backstory.
So during the Mordu event, one of the goals was to blow up 100 installations in a week. Not specialized into heavies, I decided to stick to my advanced swarm launcher. The problem with this is swarms can't target neutral installations. With the best way to score killing blows, on them being to pick empty regions and play Ambush OMS, killing neutrals was needed. This led to me trying out the Plasma Cannon.
My initial reaction was similar to the one seen in Pyrex's video. The weapon felt weak and hard to aim, requiring 4 direct hits to kill an installation with a reload between shots. It was the only thing I had though, so I grinned and beared it. Thus began my journey into learning this weapon. At this point, I wasn't keeping track of my stats at all, so I just kept hammering out games with this weapon I'd previously considered a joke.
After I'd deemed myself having passed the magical 100 destructions barrier, I decided to take it into regular matches with friends as I was still unsure of my kill assist count. Having gotten used to aiming the damn thing, I figured I'd try it out in a more "real" environment. This took a lot of getting used to as the weapon plays very differently to how you figure it would do. It's somewhat fitting that it's a hybrid between being effective against everything (Gallente use "Hybrid" weapons in EVE Online). It's an anti-vehicle weapon, but isn't as good an anti-vehicle weapon as a swarm launcher. It's a 1-hit kill weapon, but isn't as good as the shotgun or sniper rifle. It's an area denial weapon, but isn't as good as the mass driver or flaylock pistol. It's a mid-range weapon, but also works up close or far away.
Once I realized this, I experimented more with different ranges and outfits. What I discovered is that the weapon itself wasn't bad, it just had a different role to anything else in Dust. The cannon fits the role of a mid-range support weapon, designed to be used from the back of a group of players. With it's arc, you can fire it over your team-mates and score kills from range. If a vehicle shows up, you're also able to do decent damage without needing to switch to an AV fit. With enough practice, you can land shots up close or far away, it just takes time. I see those "amazing long range Plasma Cannon kill" videos and remember how I hit a multitude of similar shots earlier that day. The curve is no more different than the difference between gonewild and gonewildcurvy once you're experienced with it.
Hell, even it's weaknesses are great once you see how people try to exploit them. The natural reaction from someone who survives your shot is to instantly charge into you and try to rush you down before you can reload. Seeing this, I've started putting skill points into the new commando suits. I'd tried to use shotguns a few weeks back and am now reaping the rewards. A simple switch to the shotgun after ducking behind cover and boom, dead enemy. The commando suit has several nice benefits with using the plasma cannon alongside this too. The decrease in time reloading has a big impact on your ability to project damage. You also have enough base health to survive small bursts of damage, while the loss in speed has little impact due to fighting from the back.
The cannon has it's share of annoying problems though. There's an annoying reload bug that can get you killed more often than not. The projectile is slow enough to people to dodge direct hits a lot of the time. Scoring direct hits can suffer a lot from the game's hit detection sometimes letting your shot pass through an enemy without harming them. There's also an annoying grace period after firing that delays switching weapons. With a bit more speed (20% faster or so) and a bit less post-firing delay, the weapon would be in a really great place.
It's a good weapon overall in the end. Huge skill ceiling, has a useful role to play and can stand it's ground against a variety of enemies. It's not a weapon for everyone and it's not meant to be, but I like many other cannoneers seem to have fallen under it's strange charm. It also kills anything below a heavy with a single shot (including proto gear) which is just wonderful.
I give it a B- out of 10. Needs some tweeks, but an otherwise good weapon.