The Grasshopper Review — The laser brawler the IS deserve?

I have to say, when PGI announced the Resistance pack and asked the community to decide between the Grasshopper (70t) and the Black Knight (75t), I voted for the Black Knight. If we were going to have a laser boat heavy on the IS side to fight against the Clans, then why not go with the sweetest tonnage spot in this game? However the other side also had solid arguments (such as GHR having jump jets) and the poll quickly transformed into a mini-election campaign by the fans of both. After an unprecedented amount of 4841 votes, the GHR won by just 5 votes in the end.

Whatever the outcome, it was clear to me that the IS side needed tanky and mobile heavy that could compete on the laser damage output. This was the Resistance pack after all, these 'Mechs were supposed to be worthy opponents of the top dogs (giggity) the Clans were fielding at the time. Therefore I had great hopes for the GHR.

I didn't buy the pack but from what I've seen when it was released, the GHR was met with a lot of criticism from my friends. "It's very sluggish!" and "Bad quirks!" were common complaints, with a little bit of "It's too fragile!" in-between. It indeed seemed to be struggling to do well in matches and I didn't particularly feel threatened when I met one. However the comments of the others can often be misleading due to different expectations and I to try reserve my judgement until I get my hands on the actual thing.

After a couple of months of this, I could finally got a hold of a couple of GHRs. I've been playing intensively with the GHR for the past week and as I mastered my last one yesterday, I could barely wait to share my observations with you. Let's go!


The arms help a lot with tanking
At a first glance, the Grasshopper looks like nothing we've seen before. Its long but skinny limbs and all those spiky parts sticking out reminds me of the Xenomorph from the movie Alien. It's also a particularly tall 'Mech, it stands almost as tall as a Banshee, the current record holder for being the tallest. The torso has a V shape that is reminiscent of the Victor's body builder shape. I find this shape to be extremely favorable in gameplay terms as V shaped torsos tend to have less surface area than the usual rectangular versions. Its elbows also stand taller than most of the contemporary designs such as the Summoner and the Cataphract. In fact PGI seems to have taken care to align the arm hardpoints with the belly hardpoints which allow you to fire them simultaneously without being worried about the arm hardpoints being blocked. Higher elbows also put the arms directly in the middle of the side profile of the torsos, allowing them to block more of the incoming shots. 

Despite the constant complaints, I found the scaling pretty much spot-on. Yes, it's a tall 'Mech, but when you look at its surface area and volume compared to the similar designs (SMN, CTF, ON1), it's actually on the skinnier end. I consider being in a tall 'Mech usually an advantage, as it allows you to shoot over cover and other 'Mechs. The best of all, it takes less JJ fuel to jump high enough to bring your body out of cover compared to other JJ 'Mechs.

I normalized the head height to compare the 70 tonners without height bias. It doesn't look so huge now does it?
When we look at the general hardpoint placement (more on the exceptions later), we can see that most of them are mounted on the lower torso hardpoints and arms, which gives this 'Mech bad hillhumping qualities. This means bad news for those trading phases at the beginning of the matches as you're guaranteed to get bad trades. The hardpoints are dominated by energies, but two variants come with a head M hardpoint instead of a laser one. Which is, in my opinion, a complete waste of a hardpoint.

What does this all mean? To me, the Grasshopper screams "I'm a laser brawler!". It's actually very similar in design to the Griffin but with the promise of energy hardpoints instead of SRMs. It has decent proportions, numerous JJs on all variants, a high engine size limit, low-mounted hardpoints which prohibits it from trading from cover and forces it to expose itself. On the paper this is the 'Mech you take to flank your enemies from unexpected angles, abuse its JJs and mobility to balance low-mounted hardpoints, lead mediums to combat and overall be a mobile hard-hitter. Its energy dominated hardpoints allow you to bring a lot of firepower for little tonnage, which lets take even big STD engines for extra tankiness, tons of DHS and a lot of JJs. Everything looks to be in-order for a true face-melter design so far. 


It looks great on the paper, but what makes or breaks a 'Mech in MWO is its hitboxes. It could be the best design ever, but if its the easiest thing to take out then it quickly gets thrown in the garbage bin. As I mentioned, the V shape design reduces the torso area considerably. The Griffin is a great example of this and this shape combined with balanced hitboxes makes it one of the best SRM brawlers in this game. Let's take a look at what the GHR brings to the table:

Grasshopper hitboxes (Source: Tamerlin)
Unfortunately the frontal profile is dominated by the CT hitbox, especially in the middle and top of the torso, which are coincidentally where most people aim at. I find this layout for a 'Mech that is supposed to brawl with lasers extremely odd, as this layout pretty much guarantees this 'Mech can't tank as much as it potentially could and benefits less from torso twisting. Let me explain:

I'm sure you can see that the sides don't help much when this 'Mech needs to tank frontally. Unless the enemy tries to aim for them specifically, the STs won't do much tanking. They're just "out of the way". This is definitely not a 'Mech you want to show even a glimpse of your front torso to your enemies. It's weird, since the standard loadout of this 'Mech (lots of lasers) forces you to do exactly that.

I actually opened up this image in Photoshop and found out the amount of pixels in each hitbox to measure the exact area occupied by CT and the STs in the front view.  I ignored the hip area because it rarely gets shot at. According to that, the CT occupies 51% of the frontal area. Just think about it . . . the CT actually occupies more area than both STs combined! So 51% of the frontal profile is covered by only 90 points of CT armor , while the rest of the 49% is covered by 120 combined ST armor. Not only that, that area CT occupies is also right where the people shoot at, further exacerbating  the problem. This distribution makes the STs unproportionally tougher while seriously crippling the CT.

Just for giggles and to give you something to compare to, I also measured the Griffin. It has a similar front profile and is known for its excellent tanking capabilities. Again ignoring the hip area, the proportion of the CT comes down to just about 30%. That's 72 CT armor covering the 30% of the frontal profile, while 104 ST armor covers the rest 70%. It may seem like the STs are very weak, but you have to remember that in most situations the CT will take be the target of your foes. Indeed, the Griffin is very hard to take down (especially with good torso twisting and those shield arms). Now, compare this to the GHR's stats above and you'll understand the gravity of the situation. Also bear in mind that the GRF doesn't have a protruding central torso area (it's actually depressed) which allows the sides to tank even more. If you're on the move, even if you're staring, the Griffin tends to spread the incoming damage naturally.

The side profile as can be seen in the previous section is pretty good as the arms cover most of it. This 'Mech should at least respond well to torso twisting as the torso protrusion is not as problematic as the Orion. However as you twist your torso, you will notice that your rear CT starts taking ridiculous damage as well. It's not a good situation as the very point of torso twisting is protecting your CT. Why would this happen? Take a look:

The horror! (Note: I derped, disregard the sides of the head)
Even at a perfect 90° angle to your opponent, you're exposing a massive amount of rear CT to them. God forbid you accidentally twist more than 90°, your rear CT will suck everything thrown at you in no time. Same thing goes for being engaged by multiple opponents; you just can't afford to show them your rear. It's very infuriating not being able to protect your CT even with massive amount of twisting, there's just no escape from a quick CT coring from a good opponent.

Overall, the hitboxes of this thing are not suited for any kind of tanking. Every time you look at someone shooting you, your CT will suffer massively. They ruin an otherwise a well-balanced design.


The Grasshopper comes in four different flavors but I will only cover three of them as the fourth (5P) is still locked behind a paywall at the time of this review. I will go over them beginning from my least favorite to the most:


If you already own the GHR, you probably know why I'm listing this one the first. The GHR-5J is "the one that sacrifices firepower for mobility" variant. It comes with a very attractive 365 max engine rating and 6 jump jets. In this configuration it's roughly equal to its Clan competitor, the Summoner but the Summoner is more intensely quirked. However there must be a sacrifice for this and it comes with an unfavorable hardpoint layout as a result.

The GHR has 6 energy hardpoints in total; 2E in each arm and 2E in its CT. There's also a M hardpoint in its head. It also comes with dual AMS hardpoints. All of its E hardpoints are low-mounted near the mid-low torso area. You might think 6E+M layout is pretty good for a heavy, but 3 of the hardpoints are kind of wasted on the 5J. First, the missile hardpoint is very hard to justify a usage. As I mentioned earlier, the best weapon you can fit there is an SRM4 which as a single weapon very underwhelming. You might as well pretend it doesn't exist. Furthermore, 2E in its CT limit your options significantly as you can only fit an LL/LPL or 2xML/MPL there. If you opt for a large lasers then you effectively lose another hardpoint. 

5 and 6 energy hardpoint range is also a very tricky one of the IS side. 6xMPL/ML is very underwhelming on a heavy. You can use one of your arms to house dual LLs/LPLs, but then you're left with 4E hardpoints separated between your torso and the other arm. I really hate using arm lock on mobile 'Mechs so this results in that puny 20/24 damage from your ML/MPLs being spread all over the enemy 'mech. The other choice you have is going for a full LL/LPL load by utilizing the arm hardpoints and ignoring the CT hardpoints. These builds actually feel decent but they require so much tonnage that your mobility will suffer due to the needed trade-off. You'll be forced to downgrade your engine and skimp on your JJs to fit them. Bringing 4xLL/LPLs will also force you to stagger them to avoid ghost fire, further increasing your face-time against your opponents.

If your 'Mech has low-mounted hardpoints in this game, they better hit like a truck because you'll be at severe disadvantage during trades. With only 6E (perhaps 4-5E effective) it's really hard to achieve with this 'Mech. This variant definitely has a problem dishing out damage.

Lastly, let's take a look at its quirks:
  • Additional Structure Center Torso +11
  • Additional Armor L/R Arm +11
  • Additional Armor L/R Leg +15
  • Acceleration 10%
  • ER-Large Laser Cooldown 10%
  • Energy Weapon Cooldown 10%
  • Energy Weapon Heat Generation -12.5%
  • AMS Range 10%
The first three quirks in italic are standard for all of the variants. I especially like the extra armor on its limbs. The arms block tons of damage form the sides while the legs tend to tank a lot while jump jetting. If you can torso twist and use your JJs in combat effectively, these quirks allow you to last a little while longer. Lastly, the acceleration quirk is nice but at 70 tons it's not very noticable.

For the weapon quirks, we get a very welcome 12.5% energy heat generation reduction which helps immensely in making it competitive in the damage output department. The ERLL quirk (10% cooldown reduction) is a mystery to me though. Not only it's one of the least desirable weapons in the IS arsenal (especially after the duration nerf), it also doesn't make sense to include this quirk in a very brawly and mobile energy platform with low-mounted hardpoints. I just can't imagine someone looking at this and thinking "This is the ERLL 'Mech I've been looking for!". Yes the amount of JJs and the big engine might help it get into good positions and keep its range from the enemy, but how do you even expect to trade against ERML/C-LPL/Gauss hordes out there with this thing? The damage output is just too little to do that. In wide-open CW maps (Boreal) perhaps this fantasy might be doable against distracted opponents, but in the other 90% of the situations it's just useless. Other than this we get a 10% general energy cooldown reduction and a 10% AMS range quirk.

To be honest, I'm disappointed with the way this one is quirked. The weapon quirks are unfocused and don't address the apparent damage-deficit this 'Mech runs at. If only it had some LPL/LL quirks with significant duration reductions then I'd have perhaps made this one my favorite with its mobility and hard hitting, low-face time weaponry. As it is, this is the the one you sell after basic'ing. Ironically PGI chose this as the Resistance variant. It must feel pretty awesome to pay 60$ for this 'Mech and get the worst variant as your money-maker.


It only gets better after the 5J. The 5N comes with a whopping 8 energy hardpoints and even the useless M hardpoint is now converted to a somewhat useful E hardpoint! The layout is also favorable; you get 4E divided equally between the arms, 2E in the right torso, 1E in the left torso and 1E in the head. So 4E in torso, 4E in arms overall. This configuration lets you mount any kind of energy weapon freely in every location except the head. 

There must be some sacrifices though and it loses the second AMS, has two less JJs to mount and the engine size limit is also reduced to 340. Honestly, what the 5N is left with is a very big positive gain over the 5J. With 8 hardpoints you'll rarely need to mount the max engine or the max JJs. Indeed when you can have so much firepower those are easy to sacrifice.

6 of the hardpoints are again low-mounted, but one shoulder and the head harpoint are pretty high. Unfortunately the head hardpoint limits the firepower you can put there and making this a hillhumper with only single shoulder E hardpoint just doesn't make sense. The way the hardpoints are distributed implies that it was designed as the laser brawler variant of the GHRs.

When I look at this 'Mech, I immediately see a delivery platform for 8xMPLs (MPLs have no ghost heat). Indeed when you think about it, you can have a 48 alpha 'Mech with only 0.6 seconds of face time. It's just perfect considering this 'Mech just can't afford to stare down opponents due to CT-heavy hitboxes. It is indeed a viscious monster when outfitted with 8xMPLs and it can trade with pretty much everything (as long as your CT lasts) at close range provided you don't hit the heat cap. This is the variant when the GHR finally started clicking with me. If you're keen on using all of the hardpoints (which you totally should) your only problem is the little effective range of your MPLs and MLs.

(One thing to note though, even though the hardpoint layout is amazing with lasers; it's also a bit frustrating if you're not a fan of arm-lock like me. If you don't use it, the speed difference between your arms and your torso will make you spread your damage rather than focusing down a single component.)

Perhaps there is a way to remedy this range problem right? Let's take a look at its quirks:
  • Additional Armor L/R Arm +11
  • Additional Structure L/R Torso +9
  • Additional Armor L/R Leg +15
  • Acceleration 10%
  • Torso Yaw Speed 7.5%
  • Energy Weapon Cooldown 12.5%
  • Energy Weapon Heat Generation -10%
  • PPC Heat Generation -10%
So it gets the classic armor and acceleration quirks (though 2 less L/R torso internals) of the other variants, but it also gets a torso twist speed bonus; which implies more brawliness. In the weapon department we get a nice energy weapon cooldown reduction and a slightly downgraded heat generation quirk compared to the 5J at 10%. Surely there's going to be an MPL/ML quirk right? We need more range at least!

Nope, it gets a PPC heat generation quirk instead.

"We gave it 8E hardpoints . . . and then gave it PPC quirks anyway!
You had to see the people with 2xPPC+6xML builds 
killing themselves overriding on the first day!"

Again, I don't know what PGI was thinking. It simply doesn't make sense to me. This is clearly an amazing laser boat, why not specialize it on being one? Give it some MPL/ML range and this thing would have made a really deadly laser brawler. Were they too afraid of this eclipsing the top-dog of the IS heavies, the TDR-5SS? Perhaps too similar to the Top Dog itself with 9E hardpoints? Whatever the reason, the 5N is gimped in the quirk department and can't use them to play for its strengths. I mean at least give it a PPC speed quirk to incentivize forgoing hardpoints in favor of 2-3 PPC poptart builds? Nope.

I still love this 'Mech as it can be effective on certain maps and is very decent between the GHR variants. I had some good matches in the 900 damage and 4-5 kills range and I saw videos of people breaking 1000 with it. But when you consider there's the quirk buff called the 5SS right below there, with excellent hitboxes, you start to question why you should even bother with this thing.


Remember me saying it only gets better? This blue demon right here, is my favorite variant. It unfortunately has the useless M hardpoint, but you won't notice its existence anyway. It comes with 1E hardpoint in both arms, but look at those sweet torso hardpoints. It has 2E in each torso and the best of all, one of the both are high-mounted. It doesn't have that silly Banshee limitation either, you can effortlessly put any energy weapon up there (including PPCs) provided you somehow fill the lower hardpoints first. Lastly, it has a single CT E hardpoint with both CT critical slots at its disposal. So 7E and 1M in total.

I think the appeal of this variant is its mid-long range trading potential with those high-mounted hardpoints. Thanks to the ridiculous height of this 'Mech, you can effortlessly shoot over teammates and obstacles which means you can focus on doing damage rather than constantly struggling to get those silly low hardpoints to bear. Since the torso hardpoints are numerous and there's only one E hardpoint in each arm, you can opt to strip the arms and invest that tonnage into a torso-only weapons build instead. This layout definitely makes the 5N the most versatile of them all (5P excluded).

If you wanted a sniper/support GHR, this is the one. You can put PPCs up there and poptart, put LPLs and brawl without being blocked all the time or for perhaps CW put ERLLs up there and fight from extreme range.

Despite trying to play each variant equally, I ended up mastering this variant the first. It indeed is the only variant that gave me almost constant 500+ damage matches in the solo queue (nothing special compared to the meta stuff, but still impressive for a GHR) and in general just felt good. I think it's because the high mounted hardpoints allowed me to conceal its fragile CT hitbox which let me trade without being horrified of hurting my CT every time.

Let's take a look at the quirks:
  • Additional Structure Center Torso +11
  • Additional Armor L/R Arm +11
  • Additional Armor L/R Leg +15
  • Acceleration 10%
  • Medium Laser Cooldown 10%
  • Energy Weapon Cooldown 10%
  • Energy Weapon Heat Generation -12.5%
  • Missile Weapon Cooldown 12.5%
Oh look, here's an ML quirk! Too bad since 5H is less suited to ML/MPL boating and it's only a cooldown quirk. Did you see those high mounted energy hardpoints PGI? This would have been an ideal time to put those ERLL/PPC quirks to work. Other than that it gets the increased -12.5% heat generation quirk and a 10% energy cooldown. A random missile weapon cooldown of 12.5% rears its ugly head as well.

That missile cooldown quirk got me thinking; why even bother? I'm not putting an LRM5 or an SRM4 for just 12.5%. Why not just go wild and give it a 40-50% cooldown reduction and give us a 'Mech with a single M hardpoint but with a ridiculously short cooldown? I personally would have enjoyed an SRM4 machine gun up there. As it is, the quirk is completely wasted (it could have been a very useful energy range/duration).

Overall, this one feels the best to me. It has a good amount of hardpoints, two high mounted hardpoints and a nice energy heat reduction quirk.

How does it feel?

Whatever the engine or the amount of JJs, the first and foremost the Grasshopper is a 70 ton heavy. This means if you were expecting a nimble Griffin at 70 tons, you will be disappointed. It turns rather sluggishly and more than likely you won't be using the max engine which will further reduce its responsiveness. In comparison, with its XL350 engine, 30% acceleration boosts and 5% speed bonus, the Summoner does a better job at being a supercharged heavy.

Still, due to its JJs and the slight acceleration buff, it doesn't feel like an Orion either. The JJs especially give this thing a nice air-time if you mount more than two. I found three to be the sweet point; you can jump onto the citadel in River City from the river and cross most of the gaps in other maps. With four you're suddenly jumping from roof to roof and can comfortably start poptarting over pretty much everything. Five and six are reserved for the 5J and are for the most dedicated Spider pilots, but to be honest I saw little reason to dedicate 6 tons to the JJs. 

The GHR also has a ridiculous torso twist range. At 120°, its torso yaw range is tied with the Catapult, but considering you also get an additional 30° from your arms it is better. Indeed, tracking targets with your torso is easy. It's very hard for lights to sneak up on your back in close range engagements. You also carry tons of hardpoints in your torso so the extra twist range is very useful. As I mentioned before, one thing that bothers me is the torso yaw speed. It's not sluggish but it's also not exactly snappy — even with elite skill bonuses. Disciplined torso twisting between shots is very important. Yet, you will find yourself struggling to twist and then accurately snap back on the target again. I wish the torso yaw speed quirk of the 5N was also applied to the other variants.

When it comes to the survivability, the situation is a bit grim as I mentioned. The gameplay of this 'Mech mostly involves working your ass off to avoid this:

The need to cover the CT dictates every gameplay decision you make. Even so, if you're up against good opponents, it's also not in your hands. 

It's weird because as much as I complain of its CT, there have also been matches where I could miraculously tank this thing down to 20% without losing a torso. My theory is that it depends on the skill level of your opponents. Against people with shaky aim and LRM spam torso twisting works, but when you have decent opponents with a steady center-line aim, it's impossible to trade efficiently no matter how much you twist. I also died to a clean-cut side torso a few times with my CT and other torso intact. Perhaps someone giving me an XL check. Again I feel like these are only exceptions. In most situations I'm really happy to I catch an AC20 or a PPC in my sides, because I know it won't happen again.

As much as I dislike its hitboxes, I found a strange satisfaction piloting this 'Mech. Being an energy boat at 70 tons means more tonnage for the engine/JJs/DHS and you can make some very fun builds. It's definitely a fun 'Mech if you have an aggressive style who loves to be in the thick of the action. It's like a mini-Banshee in this sense (one of my favorite 'Mechs) you can really abuse the added mobility and responsiveness to outsmart your opponents.It's easy to keep up with the front-line when it's time to NASCAR and then just simply blast off and get out of unfavorable engagements. The JJs let you keep doing small jumps and repeatedly dump 40-50 alphas into your opponents with no way of shooting back. It's definitely a unique addition to the IS heavy stable in this sense. We have the Quickdraw capable of this kind of mobility and harassment, but it lacks the armor and staying power.


This is not my best match for this 'Mech, but it'll still give you an idea about how this thing handles. You may have noticed that I haven't talked about builds much as I intend to make a follow-up post about my favorite builds for the GHR.


I really like this 'Mech, I really do. The GHR is a really unique addition to MWO and it serves as the first true mobile laser vomit heavy of the IS side. However, its hitboxes and questionable quirk decisions from PGI limits the enjoyment you get out of this 'Mech. It struggles to put out enough damage to stay competitive and it struggles to survive long enough to post good scores. Overall I still put this above the poor CTF which has struggled to find a place in this game ever since PGI pulled the plug on poptarts.

I really hope PGI takes a second look at its hitboxes and quirks it again with its weaknesses in mind. It really has a lot of potential. If not, there's still hope for a second try with the Black Knight.

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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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