First and foremost, I'd like to say that I'm making this post to discuss in the first place about the VAL / VSS nerf but also to tackle an even bigger problem that hovers over the game for quite a while now : the disproportionate place Labs has taken in the game since it was added.
Please forgive my bad english. TL;DR at bottom since it's a fairly long post. I hope it will be an interesting read for you.
I- Why is the VAL even a thing ?
I always found the VAL to be quite an interesting weapon.Pyotr Serdyukov, the designer of the weapon, was trying to bring an answer to a problem the Spetznaz forces were encountering with their subsonic 7.62x39mm AKM : armor penetration.So he designed a weapon based around the 7.62x39mm bullet but expanded to take a larger bullet, made solely for subsonic purposes and armor penetration.
The result ? The VSS marksman rifle, not so long later giving birth to the AS VAL, it's assault rifle variant. Both boast high rate of fire and the ability to penetrate armor while remaining completely silent, thanks to an integral suppressor and subsonic ammunition. It means the weapon is inefficient at range making it a situational weapon yet very good at it's job : CQB fighting that implies engaging highly armored enemies.
II- The VAL in EFT and it's long road to become a meta weapon :
I enjoyed playing the weapon a lot since BSG managed to "translate" the weapon into the game very well.As soon as it got out it was a god-gun but not for long, ii then got nerfed and so started the very long period of the M4 meta, until if was nerfed and let place to different metas …
The 20 round mags taught us to chose our targets very carefully and not to miss too many shots.
With the addition of 60 round magazines, BSG evened the odds for the VAL / VSS platform by adding the SR3M magazine in the game. More on that later.
Even with these new mags, the VAL was still a barely decent weapon in the game that wasn't particularly competitive since the penetration of the rounds it could use was so low.
Then BSG added the 7N9 SPP and 7N12 BP rounds in the game but they were so difficult to get it virtually made no difference.
Also, even with BP rounds the VAL was still far from being competitive against highly armored targets ( it used to be 44 penetration round against the 53 penetration the M995) and it's cost was going from 2k to 3.5k roubles at any point of the wipe which was from x5 to almost x10 times more expensive than M995 weapons.
Then BSG, at some point with the 0.12 patch, I can't recall if it was an announced change or stealthy change, but the SPP penetration's went from 37 to 45 and the BP's penetration went from 45 to 50, also the SP6's armor penetration went from what I believe was 38 to 43.
Since these ammunition can boast a high armor damage, it made them immediately much more interesting since we all know that the game is all about using high penetration rounds.
That's when people slowly realized the VAL was now a more-than-decent weapon to use, that could even be extremely good in the right hands or situation.
Then BSG, along with reducing the quantity one can buy from traders (looking at you, high penetration rounds) added a feature they backed away from a while ago : items sold by traders have their price influenced by their Flea market prices.
Since is was the golden age of fully decked out M4s (and HKs) once again, since, you know, they're easily the dumbest yet efficient weapons to use at high level since they can do basically everything well with the meta mods, M995 went up like crazy, from barely 400-500 roubles to almost 1500 roubles people dying with their 100k roubles 60 full rounds mags and 250-350k weapons started to ask themselves "Yeah, I need to either start making more money, die less or use a cheaper kit".
The choice was obvious and they went for the last option.
The only weapon that could fulfill that role was obviously the VSS/VAL platform since the people playing the game with such kits were the one playing Labs.
But why exactly did they picked the VAL over every other weapon ?
Because, even though it can't mount 60 round magazines, it has a very good recoil control, a bit higher fire rate than the HK and M4 (850 and 800 respectively against the 900 of the VAL), decent damage and armor penetration, enough to compete with them.
But the weapon only costs 60-70k roubles and modding it doesn't require more than 50k roubles !
I mean, why wouldn't you pick it over the M995 weapons ?
So more and more people on Labs started to use it and so did the streamers and it is fair to say that streamers using a weapon has a lot to do with it being popular or not.The price of the ammunition (SP6 and SPP in particular) went up like crazy and is now on par with M995 in term of price.
In the latest podcast Slushypuppy was invited on, he said that the game current meta is basically "VAL and M1A".
Well I don't know for the M1A since I … never encounter anyone using it but for the VAL, it's true.I now encounter a lot more of them and see an obscene amount of streamers playing with it now.
Well, if a weapon is played a bit too much then it must be OP right ? So it must be nerfed ?It came with the summerized report of the latest TarkovTV :
" With the wipe, there will also be changes in the VAL/VSS characteristics. "
I know, I know, the game is still in development but it still annoyed me a little.
It's fair to say this decision was largely encouraged by streamers.
I disagree with that decision from BSG and let me explain why.
So, once again, why wouldn't you pick it over the M995 weapons ?
Because it's extremely difficult to use at range.
Except for the fact that the game revolves solely around Labs ever since it was introduced and Labs is a heavily focused CQB map.
So the VAL is on par with the M995 weapons in close range but bad at longer ranges and cheaper.
Except Labs doesn't require long range capabilities … More on Labs later, forget it for now.
Let's objectively compare the VAL and the M995 weapons (yeah this is the boring part).I choose the HK because it's the largely recognized as the most "meta" gun using M995 in term of recoil, which is usually what a player is looking for in an assault rifle.
The HK is representing 5.56 as well as 5.45 weapons since BS is so similar to M995, it's just using a cheaper weapon with a bit worse ballistic results.
This is the boring part of the post. Skip it if you don't want to read it. I still suggest you should read the first part about the stats.I'm using a quote block to show you the boring part.
III- Comparing 5.56x45mm and 9x39mm :
A- The stats :
The last 2 stats are the ones I'm mostly basing my point on.
– Fire rate :
800 and 850 vs 900 -> the difference is minor. In a second you shoot a certain amount of round linked to the fire rate. To discover it, you simply take the fire rate and divide it by 60 : for the VAL it's 900/60 so 15 shots a second against 14.166 for the HK. The difference is negligible so we have a draw here.
– Recoil :
Well, using the in-game stats isn't exactly a good idea since it varies from a weapon to another. The VAL has more initial recoil. After that, it's on par with the HK, so the HK wins.
– Ergonomics :
A fully modded HK revolves around 60-70 ergo, less if modded as a no-recoil-laser gun (which means the HK will have around 50 ergo here) against the usual 55-65 from the VAL.It wasn't that way for a long time and fully decked out HKs were 70-80 ergo. It's a nice that it's not that way anymore.
Also, the M4 can have similar recoil and yet have well over 80 to 85 ergonomics so I guess the VAL doesn't exactly win here.
– Weight :
The HK is usually around 5kgs against the 3.7 – 4.1kgs of the VAL. Thing is, weight doesn't have the same weight (see what I did here ?) in the game as it used to when it comes to aiming time : weapons below 4kg could aim indefinitely and above would make the user aim for 3 to 6 minutes if the weapon didn't exceed 5.5kgs.
You can hold the an HK for about 1:15 minutes against 1:30 for the VAL so about 10-15 seconds more than an HK, you now rarely aim for such a long time so not a big win here either for the VAL.
Also, since the ammunition of the VAL is much heavier, mags with the same capacity as an HK will weight more, negating any bonuses you could get since the adding of the new weight system.
– Size :
That's a clear win for the VAL here, from 4 to 5 slots against the 6-7 for the HK, it's quite a big advantage.
However 2 things : first, going from 5 to 4 slots by using the rotor tube on the VAL doesn't make it any shorter in the game against objects, the weapon will have the same length no matter how you mod it, unless you take the basic stock and fold it and secondly, you could argue that a shorter weapon is easier to take in a bag but we still have our back slot.
– Velocity : Here we are. That's what I'm basing my argument on.
The HK as a velocity of about 900-1000 m.s against 300 m.s of the VAL.
The thing is that the bullet drop is not linear : the VAL doesn't require x3 times more lead when shooting your opponent but a lot more than that, making it very difficult to use on targets farther than 100 meters, first because you need to guess where the bullet will land and even a slight difference of 10 meters can make you miss your shot entirely, or miss the part you're trying to hit (say the head). It gets exponentially difficult to hit moving targets.
The HK benefits from the ability to use bullets that are flying at about 900 to 1000 meters per second ! It means it has even less drop than all of the sniper rifles and DMRs in the game, making it useless to compensate for the drop of the bullet below 150 meters. Except that it's within 150 meters that most "long range engagements" happens ! And even if you have to engage a target farther than that, it's extremely easy to adjust in consequence, you can easily guess with the first shot where it will hit.
I tried using an HK in the radar of Reserve and was surprised to discover it has about about x2 less drop than the SVD and the RSASS on 400 meters targets !
– Mag size :
That's actually a big factor in CQB battles and the second thing I'm basing my point on.Having big mags is extremely important.How many times were you killed by a guy that either pushed you behind a wall by unloading a whole 60 round mag while walking toward you ?How many times did you die by some guy that killed you on the last 15 shots from his mag even though he missed his first 45 shots ?
It's a tactical advantage to be able to push someone solely thanks to an important mag size but it also takes a lot of skill away from the game since we all know that a weapon has an initial recoil and then stabilizes and having a 60 round mag means you can capitalize on that feature a lot.
The HK can use 60, even 100 round mags while the VAL is stuck with 30 round magazines that costs the same price (30k roubles).
B- The ammunition :
I'm using all 9x39mm vs M855A1 and M995 here for obvious reasons.
I will not compare each time every ammo type so keep in mind that SP-6 = M855A1 and BP = M995 but that's already giving out a lot to the HK because people usually use SP-6, sometimes SPP but never BP.
Well you could say I talked about it earlier (velocity) so I will focus on the armor penetration, flesh damage, armor damage and price.
– Flesh damage :
The VAL has ammunition ranging from 56 to 67 damages. It's linked to the large nature of the round, making it a very damaging round. It makes the VAL a good weapon at shooting legs and putting parts in "black". It also means you will kill your target in 2 shots to the chest if not protected or if the protection is damaged enough for the bullet to go through.
M995 and M855A1 have respectively 41 and 44 damages which is again enough to kill through armor in 2 shots but not enough to turn black parts with the first shot but it is enough to kill an unprotected opponent with 2 shots to the chest. I tried it early today and killed my buddy with 2 shots while he was wearing his full durability Gen4 HMK so I guess that bullets going through armor aren't losing any damages anymore ?
– Armor penetration :
The VAL armor penetration is ranging from 35 to 50, for the HK from 40 to 53.
Most people don't use the BP on the VAL so you would need to compare the SPP (45) and SP-6 (44) penetration to the crushing 53 of the HK which allows it to go through level 5 armor immediately whereas it requires SP-6 and SPP 3-5 shots to strart going through. The HK wins here.
– Armor damage :
5.56 ammunition are going from 52 to 58% and 9x39mm ammunition from 52 to 68%. The VAL wins here.
The higher armor penetration gives the VAL a better ability to melt armors but since the HK as more penetration it ends up not making a lot of difference. So it's a draw.
– Price :
I guess it's fair to compare the M855A1 to the SP-6 here : they're worth about the same except SP-6 has a little bit more penetration (40 vs 43) as well as a bit more armor damage (52 vs 60). It's not a crushing difference but still enough to make the difference in a fight. You might need 2-3 more shots on a target with the HK using that M855A1 against the VAL using SP-6.
What about BP and M995 ? Well they're on par in term of capabilities against armor (M995 has more penetration but BP has more armor damage) and they also cost the same (1900 vs 1800 roubles). SPP is less expensive though (1200-1300 roubles) but has a lot less armor penetration as well.
Okay so If you read the above, I think it's fair to say the VAL is objectively worse than the HK in almost every way and every where the VAL is better than the HK, it's either compensated by a crushing win from the HK on something else or not a "bid win" from the VAL.
Except I didn't study both weapon with the idea of playing Labs in mind.
It means that as long as you're not going to Labs, the HK is a better choice but as soon as you go to Labs.
Which takes me to the other part of the post : The game revolves too much around Labs.
IV- The place Labs has taken in Escape from Tarkov :
It is fair to say that Labs has taken, as soon as it got out, a big part in the game.
I'm not being dramatic when I'm saying all the other maps in the game are just steps to reach Labs.As soon as people get access to Labs, all the other maps are going empty very quickly.
It became basically part of the anatomy of a wipe and everyone's fine with it.I'm not. I like to play Shoreline, Interchange, and Reserve but except Interchange, it's REALLY difficult to find geared players on those maps, a lot, lot more than on Labs. Even Interchange is sometime completely silent and there's absolutely no one to fight.
Because Labs is where EFT is played on.
If a weapon is nerfed because it's seen a lot on a single map then there's a serious problem with that map.
If you try to use a VAL on Interchange or Shoreline, or Reserve, it's fine to say that the HK will largely outperform it thanks to either the 60 round mags or the ability to easily hit target from afar.If I kill a geared player on those maps, I'm almost absolutely sure it will be either and AK, an HK, an M4 or a DMR that I will find on the guy, certainly not an VAL.
On Labs ? It's quite the opposite. It will be a VAL almost everytime and sometimes an HK or an M4.
But is it really crazy to see a VAL on a map solely focused on CQB engagements ?
It is crazy to see HKs and M4s on larger maps ?
It isn't.That's why the problem isn't coming from the VAL, but from Labs itself.
I love Labs, it's a beautifully designed map that really drives our heart crazy but it's fair to say it has become unhealthy for Escape from Tarkov.Since the price of the keycard went up, all the hatchets are going to Shoreline and Reserve and even sometimes Interchange, and that's a consequence that's really bad for the game, but that's a whole other topic that I won't bring here.
The game can't revolves around a single map when there are so many to play on.
But that's a lot of work to make Labs less interesting, it would shift totally how the game works.
What deters people from playing on it with a hatchet is the price of the Labs keycard.
On other maps such as Shoreline or Reserve, it's not the case so all the hatchets go here.
So, let's say BSG nerf the VAL, what will happen ?
V- The nerf and the consequences :
Well this part is actually pretty small.
We will very likely return to the good ol' M4 and HK with 60 round magazines meta, which a lot of us are growing tired of.
Or once again to the DMR meta there once was, even though it seems very unlikely.
My point is, the VAL is the lesser evil.
It drives me crazy when people complain about the VAL being OP, like having the HK being OP was better !There's a time and place for each weapon and the VAL's place is Labs.
You don't get 60 round mags, only 30 so if you aren't on point with your shots, it doesn't matter, in 2 seconds it all gone.it is better to have a weapon that is OP on a single map than having a weapon that's OP on all the maps without exception.
But I would be of bad faith if I didn't admit that the VAL is a bit too cheap for what it does.
VI- The solutions :
You would solve the problem by making Labs a lot less interesting to play or other maps much more interesting to play as I said in the above part.
That would require a lot of work from BSG and it will probably be solved with the dynamic loot spawning so let's find alternatives.
- Making the VAL more expensive :
The stats are fine as I showed in the 3rd part of my post, though the price of the weapon is not enough. 100k for such a weapon is too little.
I guess it would be fair to balance the VAL out by making it more expensive.
I mean, it's suppressed from the start and has very decent stats going for it.
Making the VAL cost about 150k-175k roubles (as sold on the flea market, so probably 200-225k roubles on traders) is a good idea to me, especially since what deters people on Labs from using the HK is the price.
- Making it barter only.
It used to be that way but it would require a barter that doesn't make the VAL too difficult or too easy to have.
The sum of all the barter items should reach about 150-175k roubles to be on par with what I said above.
Finally, a bit of daydreaming but that could really be relevant at some point in the development of the game …
- Nerfing the VAL's stats but introducing a better late game alternative :
Currently, the VAL can use the SR3M mags as it's 30 round mags.
I know, it's a bit of a fantasy since BSG didn't show any picture of it but I guess it can be interesting to have at some point in the game.
It would mean a nerf the VAL's stats by making it have a lot more recoil and then add a "late game" option for the 9x39mm through the addition of the SR3MP, with a much higher price, around the 200-225k for the base weapon (with stock, silencer, rail and foldable fore grip).
It would outperform the current VAL in ergonomics and retain the same recoil control. Not bringing change to the ammunition would make it as viable as the VAL currently is but the current VAL would keep it's price tag along with a worse recoil control.
The problem is, BSG didn't show us or told us about any of the other 9x39mm weapon they want to introduce in the game, even less the SR3 or any of it's variant so it would mean either that BSG would have to suddenly shift plans and start working on it which seems very unlikely or that they secretly almost finished working on it and didn't show us any pictures of it, which seems even more unlikely.
So not exactly a good short-term solution.
I don't really what other solutions I could bring, maybe we could find one in the comments ?
I really hope my english was fine and I'm looking forward to ear what you guys think about the subject !
TL;DR : I couldn't do shorter, sorry about that.
- VSS/VAL is objectively fine in term of stats because it's outperformed by 5.56, 5.45 and .308 weapons on maps that aren't Labs, or in other words, that aren't CQB only.
- Though, In term of price and it needs a higher price tag.
- It's currently the meta gun not because it is OP, but rather because Labs has taken such a big place in the game that the meta gun is defined by that map and that's a problem, it needs to change, Labs can't be the only map the game is revolving around.
- Since BSG can't do that in a week, other solutions are making the VAL a lot more expensive while retaining the same stats.