I remember the first time I played Rust. I was bare-ass naked, carrying a stick, and utterly without a clue. Eager for help, I approached a guy in a cabin, in as non-threatening a manner as you could reasonably expect from a dishevelled nudist waving a tree branch around. There was a misunderstanding—which is to say that he told me to leave or he was going to shoot me in the face, and I didn't understand that he was serious—and then he shot me in the face. That was then, and this is now—and now there are attack helicopters.
I find this evolution of Rust remarkable, and more than a little odd, because the last time I played it was still very much a rough-and-tumble survival game about anti-social people living in very primitive conditions: Corrugated metal sheds were veritable strongholds, and if you owned a gun, you were probably a regional superpower. Thanks to the latest Rust update, though, you can now go buy what looks like a Bell Cobra run through a Fallout filter, and wreak havoc upon your foes with guns and rockets from the relatively impunity of the sky.
I say "relative impunity" because the update also adds a new weapon, the Homing Missile Launcher, which will track flying enemies as long as the launcher stays locked onto them. Getting hit with one is clearly a problem—the Rust chopper does not look like the sturdiest bird ever built—but fortunately for those staring down the wrong end of a rocket, there are a few ways to avoid worst-case outcomes: Break the lock by putting something like a hill or a building between you and the shooter, or drop some flares that will (hopefully) throw the missile off.
If the worst does happen and you find yourself facing a very sudden stop at the end of a very long fall, there is still help to be had: Parachutes are a new craftable item that will slow your descent to a more manageable speed. You can maneuver them on the way down to a limited extent, and even pull your pistol and take some shots at enemies if you're feeling especially bold, and once you're on the ground you can pack up your chute for repeated use, if time allows. Do note, however, that with each use a parachute's condition is reduced by 20%, and the worse it gets, the faster you'll fall and the harder it is to control.
For a more leisurely ascent into the heavens, you can opt instead for the new Armored Hot Air Balloon. Remember what I said about corrugated shed strongholds? This is basically that, but strapped to a decidedly dodgy-looking big balloon. It's actually an upgrade to Rust's existing hot air balloon that boosts its overall health while providing additional cover for shooters—because hey, if you're going to take a ride on this rollicking mess anyway, you might as well turn the shit show dial to 11 by shooting at people as you slowly drift by, right?
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The new update also adds weapon racks, and increases the distance at which players can see bases from 300 meters to 1,500 meters, which should eliminate any unpleasant surprise pop-ins of enemy installation. Developer Facepunch Studios said the vastly increased viewing distance is enabled by changes to Rust's rendering system.
"The majority of computation is on the GPU which allows us to keep performance parity while rendering 25x the amount of bases," Facepunch said. "This also sets the stage for additional performance improvements in the future."
For now, the expanded render distance is disabled by default—you can switch it on with the "Global Rendering" option in the graphics menu. Full details on Rust's new Airborne update are available on Steam.