Well, the title of 'Paper Tank' certainly still applies but - as you've mentioned - with the right equipment and tactics the Lightning can be pretty fun and effective.
I've tried to enjoy the default gun but could never do it, the spread and dip on it is terrible; more of an area bombardment weapon than anything else.
I've got to say though, going to the AP gun after only using the default one (or any of the others) is like night vs day; it even sounds like you'd expect a hard hitting gun too!AP:
The AP gun is pretty nice and similar in damage to a MBT hit and has a much straighter trajectory, you have to watch your ammo count though as you only get around 24 shells by default unless you cert into the + ammo certs. Infantry can be a pain but as Kal said, you can pretty much take most out in 1 shot if dead on (not sure about a full shielded HA).
You wouldn't really want to go in areas with too many infantry running around with the AP gun on, but you can cope if needed with smaller numbers and the odd guys as long as you're smart about your positioning and don't roll into confined spaces or where you can be easily surrounded, but you shouldn't really do that in most situations anyway.HE:
I tried the HE turret some time back and that was pretty good, with the blast range of the shell hitting, it's pretty damn nasty and seems to combine well with the radar utility that puts enemies on the mini-map (up to 50m range with top level cert in it), although I'd much prefer if they moved the damn spinning radar thing to the back of the Lightning and made it slightly smaller; far too distracting and funny looking stuck on the front of it. HEAT:
Only just picked this up the other day (thank you 1000 certs!) but haven't tried it in combat yet, but judging by the blast radius it does indeed seem like a good balance between the two above, and from some reports, is on-par or only very slightly behind (shot wise to destroy) the AP gun for damage on armour .
I think the smokescreen ability is going to be pretty important for the Lightning to have, especially when loads of people start to have lock-on launches.
Fully certed you can use that smoke every 15 seconds, which is pretty nice considering for 6 of those they can't lock onto you - not sure if you have to be in/near the smoke cloud for that to count or if it's just applies to your vehicle for 6 seconds, despite where you are in relation to the smoke - the latter I'd guess, as it would be easier for them to program.
As for the armour boosting attachments, I'd say the side armour would be the most useful considering alot of the lightning play is scooting around targets to get into position which exposes those sides - although top armour could be useful in heavy air environments but tbh, the speed at which air take out tanks right now I'm not sure how much difference it would make.
I compare the Lightning to a (good) sniper in many ways; you're quite fragile but with smart thinking, good positioning and frequent changes to location (predictability will soon kill you) will lead to good results - better head that small voice that often says "you should really move now" or "this is a stupid position to be in" as most deaths of mine usually occur when I ignore it.
It'll be interesting to see what they do with the tanks in the game and how much cosmetic stuff they introduce - I've played more hours in the Lightning than any other vehicle by far so I do hope they add as much as possible to allow people to really make their vehicles feel like their own - not with neon pink camo or anything but abilities and fine tuning.
I do wish they'd make the performance side more tweakable, for example, instead of only being able to pick one upgrade area, instead, allow a certain amount of upgrade points - for example:10 points to spend.
Cert rank - Slot point used
1 - 1
2 - 3
3 - 5
4 - 7
5 - 9Example in practice:
Hill climbing (rank 3) - 5 (-5-)
Top speed (rank 2) - 3 (-8-)
Rotation Speed (rank 2) - 2 (-10-)
So as you can see, you could max out one performance area and put 1 point elsewhere, which is pretty much how it is now, or with this system, you could mix and match which allows you more flexibility (according to your playstyle) and a bit more variation between tanks - although more performance choices are definitely needed but that area could be expanded in no end of areas.
Some have suggested the Lightning needs more of a distinctive role or ability, or more than 1 to differentiate it a bit more from some one 1-manning a MBT - other than being more agile.
Certainly could be something to consider; some have mentioned some sort of limited stealth ability, which I guess could help it in the tank hunting/ambush area if implemented well so that it's not overpowered or too ineffective. They could also add different effects to the guns if they really wanted to make each suit their role; imagine the AP gun had a decent chance of (or each time hit on certain small areas, to encourage good aim and skill) that dropped the targets speed a great deal for x seconds or disabled it's engine for a very short period - just a few ideas.
Well they do have the upgrade/cert system in any case, so it's easy enough for them to introduce things to allow people to pick and choose.
It would be fun to sort our a Lightning pack some time- couple that with a sunderer for rearming and/or repairs would be nice. One last thing
: they need to seriously sort out the Lightning's tracks by removing some of the front track guards or changing the tracks altogether as that thing gets stuck far too much, especially for something that's supposed to be nimble and use the terrain to it's advantage.
Anyone who's driven a Lightning for a while will have come across the small ditch of doom scenario and the high-pitched track sounds that follow. I can't find the video at the moment but there was a good one posted on the official forums of a Lightning getting stuck like this and then after a short while taking off high into the air and out of sight - some might say it's what Lightning drivers have to resort to now to be able to reliably kill air targets.