I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not a very good combat sim pilot. Sure, I can get the job done most of the time, but usually it isn’t very pretty. That’s why me wallowing around the skies of the DCS World 2.0 NTTR seems like such a crime. It’s so stunning, and the campaign is so professionally put together, that I look a little out of place.
For the past few months I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to early builds of DCS World 2.0, NTTR, and the upcoming Red Flag campaigns. I’ve not tried my hand at the F-15C campaign – I know my limits. As I reported in early October, with a Red Flag A-10C AAR, the campaign crafted by Matt Wagner of Eagle Dynamics is exceedingly realistic. This article won’t be an AAR, but rather an affirmation of the conclusions I reached in the previous article: these campaigns are going to wring out us middle of the road sim pilots. I’ve seen enough YouTube videos featuring the Ace of the Base type pilots…you know, the ones that can give seamless commentary while simultaneously ripple firing Mavericks, popping flares, dodging SAMs, and typing responses on Twitch. Not me. I’m the guy that struggles a bit with the connection between my brain and my finger tips. I know what I want them to do…but inevitably I just end up swapping the left MFD to the right, or resetting my TGP at just the wrong moment. And air combat?? Forget about it.
With enough practice, I know I could get it, and become really good at it. After all, my real job has me flying approaches down to two-hundred foot ceilings and half mile visibility in all kinds of weather and it bothers me not in the least. But that’s my job. And I’m good at it. A-10C pilot though? Well, if the mission were to shoot an approach into Nellis in awful weather conditions, land, run into the FBO, steal some candy, and destroy the popcorn maker, yeah – I’d be your guy.
The good news is – DCS World 2.0, just like all prior versions, is extremely scalable. Labels? Sure! Fog of war? No way! Invulnerability? Check. Unlimited weapons? Loaded. So you can tailor the experience to your level of fighter pilot fitness. Unfortunately, I have a personal pride issue that doesn’t allow me to turn on labels, or adjust the difficulty to anything other than what I feel is fairly restrictive. Within limits of course. Being a bit of a “war reporter” when I’m simming, I usually allow for external views and scrolling through enemy units to capture the right shot. The pause button, which gets a big workout from me when I’m writing stuff, is a huge situational awareness builder. So there are definitely concessions to realism there. But what I’m left with is a self realized, mediocre sim pilot taking part in this huge simulated, simulated war (yeah, I know, Red Flag, a simulation of war, in DCS World, a simulation itself – mind blown!). And what a beautiful war it is. The NTTR theater, coupled with the effects you are all glimpsing now in the 1.5 Open Beta, is just stunning. Every time I fire it up I’m amazed that we have this all in a consumer level simulation that runs at 60FPS with a hundred units in a mission. Just awesome!
As far as the Red Flag campaign goes, I continue to be impressed by the voice-overs, triggers, and the realistic presentation of it all. The collaboration of Matt Wagner and Steve Davies has given these campaigns gameplay with an authentic ring to it. Blown situational awareness? Task saturation? Where the heck did my flight go? Yeah, it’s in there. And the visuals – the visuals are just awesome. The more I fly, the more comfortable I get, and I’ve started recognizing the topography, which helps vastly in pointing the nose of your jet in the proper direction. Through some back and forth with Matt, he’s helped instill in me some patience – stop pushing on the rope and learn where you fit in to these packages. Read the briefing, get the big picture in your head, and don’t go try to win the mission on your own. But at the same time, don’t be late and leave yourself hung out there exposed to a Red Air scavenger! And when it works right, and you slot yourself in just right and are efficient in the execution of your task – that flight home to Nellis down the Sally Corridor is extra special.
I’ve heard some people questioning why NTTR for DCS World is even a thing. I suspect they are the same people who poo-poo the trainers and there is just no getting around their preferences, I’ve come to accept that. I suppose for me personally, it is the execution of a cold startup, hitting my steerpoints at the correct time, and executing the mission, even if it is dropping a single bomb from the Hawk or doing one rocket run in the L-39, that meets my needs and desires for a combat simulation. I don’t need to shoot down several aircraft in a single mission. Nor do I need to rack up thirty armor kills. I just need to feel like I flew the mission as the mission designer intended, or, I flew the mission as the mission did NOT intend, but I still managed to do it anyway. NTTR is just another playground to meet those ends, whether in a complex campaign like Matt’s, or a single simple mission created by a user who wants something mind-numbingly straight-forward. Having flown through much of NTTR – the map is filled with places for all types of missions, from attack and supply helos, to trainers, fighters, and attack aircraft. An aircraft carrier? Err…maybe not so much. So you got me there.
Eagle Dynamics’ work on NTTR has been the developing ground for the technologies that will take us into the next decade, just as their work for DCS World 2.0 has been. Yes, it has been a slog. Yes, we wanted it five years ago. But you know what? It isn’t vaporware. It’s right around the corner. And with the foundation laid, I think we are going to see an explosion of awesome content over the coming years as priorities shift. Do I need to convince you that a Leatherneck Simulations F-14 over the NTTR is going to possibly be the coolest thing we’ve seen simulated to date? Or that an Eagle Dynamics F/A-18 flying a multi-role mission into Reveille South opposed by other players in Red Air isn’t going to lead to epic battles? I certainly don’t need convincing. It’s a good time to be a combat flight simmer my friends. Even if I’m not all that good at it.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
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