Killing two birds with one stone – we take an early look at DCS World 2.0 and a fantastic user made campaign….
Note – this article contains images that depict a pre-alpha state of DCS World 2.0. Features are constantly being added, improved, fixed, and reworked, so these images may or may not represent the final product. Of particular note is that the version featured here contains old clouds that will be replaced by improved clouds. This version of The Enemy Within campaign was not designed for DCS World 2.0 – this was merely a demonstration of an imported user-created campaign into the DCS World 2.0 architecture. The author of the campaign (Baltic Dragon) may update and improve the campaign further given the additional mission editor capabilities that will be a part of World 2.0. It is my opinion that the enormous amount of work that went into this campaign is deserving of community consideration –
I’d encourage those that fly the campaign to donate. Edit: Update July 6, 2015 – Baltic Dragon is in discussions with Eagle Dynamics to bring The Enemy Within into DLC status. As such, the campaign has been removed temporarily while it is updated. Stay tuned for additional information. – Chris
All observations, mistakes, or errors are solely those of the author. Features of DCS World 2.0 are subject to change.
I was recently given the privilege of early access to the current build of DCS World 2.0. Included in that build is NTTR/Nevada, but having just hit the testers team, there are some issues to iron out before more media will be released on that. While enjoying the pre-alpha build, I started wondering exactly how the Caucasus region would fare under the new graphics architecture (EDGE). I’m pleased to say, the experience is stunning, and I would even go so far as to call it a renewal of an old friend. Sitting on the back burner of items I’ve also wanted to cover was the purportedly excellent user created campaign by Baltic Dragon – “The Enemy Within”. In a burst of brilliance from what is otherwise normally the dim bulb of my mind, I thought – let’s shoehorn the campaign into World 2.0 and see what comes out the other side! Let’s have a look….
In this preview/AAR article I’ll take you along on the first three missions of The Enemy Within campaign. There will be spoilers – but there will be plenty of content remaining, and if you are on the fence as to whether to eventually dive into The Enemy Within, I think this article will prod you into action. Blooze created an excellent briefing and overview site about The Enemy Within: HERE!
The premise of the campaign is that Georgia is once again under threat – this time by a terrorist organization called the Caucasus Liberation Army (CLA). Following several terrorist attacks Georgia has requested the assistance of its allies (including the United States) to combat the threat. The CLA originates from the North Caucasus, and while Russia would benefit from disruptions to the stability of Georgia, it has not been ascertained that they have any supportive role to CLA activities. The plot is indeed thick! Our first mission is straightforward enough – our A-10C squadron is at the end of a long transit to the theater of operations and our destination is Kobuleti airfield.
We join our flight airborne, under the assumption that we’ve been towed along by our tanker enroute and that we are on our final leg. As we near Georgian airspace, the tanker cuts us loose. In an early indication of the quality of this campaign, the radio banter between both the tanker and flight members is fantastic. Not only is the dialog pretty good, it sounds technically good with the excellent use of high bypass filters to make the radio voices sound like…well..radio voices! In addition, the author heavily utilized the F10 menu to allow for interactions with flight members, mission controllers, and other assets. It is very, very well done.
On our own, we navigate the rest of the short distance toward Kobuleti. We carry minimal weaponry – only defensive air-to-air missiles, external fuel tanks, and travel pods. Our squadron is comprised of two flights of four aircraft and we are spread across the horizon in loose formation.
The atmospheric effects, HDR lighting, visibility, and shadows in DCS World 2.0 are phenomenally good. I don’t know the technical term for it, but the atmosphere has a beautiful hazing effect that feels like you are actually looking through particles. When coupled with the excellent lighting and glare, the effects are stunning.
On approach to Kobuleti, I release the other flight and my wingmen to commence their own approaches. ATC is still being worked on in World 2.0 at the moment.
Throughout the inbound flight, the banter from the other flight members seems authentic and starts to build a feeling of being part of a team. Again, a really nice job by the mission designer and the voice actors that participated.
As we turn onto final at Kobuleti, we are welcomed by our operations control “Overlord” and we are reminded what a morale boost we are providing to the citizens of Georgia. The inclusion of large crowds waiting at the airfield with guards keeping them at a respectable distance is a very nice touch as we taxi in
Thus ends the first mission with a short and uneventful transit into the theater. It is the perfect opening to set the tone for the pace of operations and offers a glimmer of the polish that this campaign offers.
Our next briefing includes additional information on the how and why we are in Georgia and gives us a bit of background on the situation. With the terror network striking fear in the hearts of Georgians, our next mission is a show of force along a cross country route intended to demonstrate to the people of Georgia that we are in the theater to assist. Our four-ship flight will follow the flight plan at low altitude to make our presence known.
One of the small bugs in the importing of this campaign into DCS World 2.0 is that the starting positions of the aircraft seem to not quite align with their intended spots on the airfield. I did not attempt to open the mission and resave it under the DCS World 2.0 Mission Editor architecture (that may solve the problem), but I will give it a try. We go through a cold start procedure (I’m a bit rusty in that department) and soon we are winging our way east on our mission profile.
As we head east, the four-ship slides into formation and the intra-flight communication continues as we learn a bit more about our squadron. The low level flight (500′) requires constant attention and working radios and other things at such low altitudes can be a hazardous affair. Again, the haze and lighting under the scattered clouds seems really well done and the distant terrain fades seamlessly under 2.0.
Another nice feature that Baltic Dragon utilized in his missions is the frequent use of alternate frequencies that must be tuned in the correct radio to use. This adds a nice facet of realism that keeps the workload a bit elevated.
To my great surprise, and I think this was actually unintended in the mission, one of my flight members can’t handle the low level sortie and he plows into a hill. Well, that’s not good – I think it was the female pilot that I had been chatting with about pizza and beer with!
We sort of ignore the mishap because I don’t think it was supposed to happen and we continue the low-level sortie and tick off the waypoints. We race through valleys and zip over ridgelines enjoying the rapid changes in altitude. Definitely an E-ticket ride!
About halfway across the flight plan we are sliding up a valley at low level when that “oh shit” moment occurs. Missile warning – 12 o’clock! Thankfully (thanks Einstein!) I have my countermeasures armed so I break away from the missile, haul back on the stick and drop flares.
We radio Vaziani that we are under attack and once again the mission designer makes good use of the F10 menu to allow for multiple responses. As I’m trying to piece together who is left of my flight I get stupid and stop going evasive – allowing a second Igla to come screaming up out of the forest. I jink too late and get smacked by the missile. My right MFCD is knocked out, and my fuselage is peppered with fragments, but both engines are working so I’m still in business! Who’s idea was this low-altitude sortie?
Limping back up to altitude I can see wingman #4 flying in loose formation. I radio to Vaziani that we’ve lost a member (actually two since we had a CFIT too!) and they notify us that ground forces are on the way to the crash site. I’m surprised we aren’t tasked to provide rescue assistance. Given the beating we’ve already taken, I nix the rest of the flight and we head straight back to Kobuleti. As we head for the straight-in approach, I extend my gear and notice from the external view (I wouldn’t have known otherwise) that my main gear is shredded and my nosewheel is gone. Crap!
I quickly hunt down the jettison ordnance page and get rid of my weapons in case my gear collapses. Somebody who lives on short final to Kobuleti isn’t going to be really pleased at what they find in their yard this afternoon…
I land on the mains and hold the nose off as long a possible. The plane shrieks and sparks fly, but the plane tracks true down the center of the runway…
Unfortunately, I’m stuck on the runway and I remember from the mission designer’s notes that he implied that returning to the parking area was essential to mission completion. I quickly order my remaining wingman to “anchor” (orbit) while I pop my canopy and ask the ground crew for a repair. Three minutes later, I’ve got my bird fixed up and restart my engines to taxi to parking.
As I taxi in, I get the mission complete mission – but it has been a bit of a disaster. I know the squadron will be anxious to hit back after such a demoralizing start (I am!).
Our third and final mission that I’ll be presenting is another area familiarization patrol – this time with a two-ship to the northern section of Georgia. In a smart move, the powers that be have limited our enroute altitude to 15,000′ AGL to avoid a repeat of the last mission disaster.
This mission really showcases DCS World 2.0’s fantastic atmospheric and lighting effects. Time and again I was drawn to panning shots around the aircraft and even the glare from the rising sun is so perfect in the cockpit that you feel like slipping on a pair of shades. The deserts of NTTR and the seascapes of Hormuz are going to be phenomenal under this engine!
Upon liftoff we head to the north while climbing up to the briefed altitude. This time I know the gloves are off and I turn on my TGP, laser, and initialize my Mavericks.
It isn’t long before the temperature of the mission starts to rise as we get word from Overlord that the Georgians have a helo down. Initially we get a bullseye bearing/distance which I plug into the F10 chart to determine a lat/long. I then take that lat/long. and enter it into the CDU as a new waypoint (thanks EP!). Silly me, during that process I never realized that the blue icon on the map was actually the downed helo – I thought it was just a patrol out there. Duh. I thought I had fog of war turned on (I think I did), so I don’t know why the blue icon showed up in that case. It would be way better to not be able to know from the F10 map where units that you need to locate are.
We copy the Overlord radio message and acknowledge the change over to the downed helo’s frequency (again, a nice continuity of mission tasks feature). As soon as we get 128.00 in the box we hear the Georgian helo pilot (Uzi flight) radioing for assistance.
The downing of the helicopter prompts an immediate search and rescue effort from the Georgian forces, who scramble a pair of Mi-24s and a pair of Hueys toward the reported location.
I know what is expected of our flight. We will take the roll of Sandy and watch over the rescue operation. After we make contact with Uzi flight, they give us more refined coordinates, so I enter those into my CDU. I think I needed to convert the seconds to decimal though – so my waypoint is a few hundred meters off, but it gets me in the ballpark.
The terrain looks pretty horrible – a steep mountain valley that has the helo hemmed in. It isn’t too hard to imagine what happens next. As our flight races on the short ten minute flight the rescue and support helos likewise point their noses toward the mountains. The long shadows of the lighting and hazy valley images are simply riveting. World 2.0 has got some really nice lighting and clarity…
Baltic Dragon knows how to draw you into the mission and gives you the F10 option menu to help you get on task. As we approach the given coordinates, my TGP is only pointing at mountains, so I start visually looking for the helo out of my cockpit. I pull up the F10 menu and ask the downed helo to pop smoke which helps me pinpoint their location.
With the red smoke billowing, I’m able to (finally) pinpoint their location. I drop some altitude to get below the broken cloud layer and manage to get my TGP pointed at them and the location marked as a MARK point. After hitting the MARK button I climb back up to altitude since I know only danger can lurk in that valley…
Setting up a high orbit – it isn’t long before the valley explodes beneath us. Enemy troops embedded in the treeline open fire on the helicopter crew and their Special Forces perimeter.
As the helo starts taking fire – the enemy sends a reminder up to us that they have teeth too. My RWR chirps and I see the telltale smoke trail arcing up from the treeline. World 2.0 missile smoke is awesome! It isn’t going for me though – it is going for my wingman! Crap – I should have parked him away from the area until I needed him – bad flight lead! The result is predictably disastrous as my wingman takes an Igla and he bails out over the valley…
I take a glance over my shoulder and orchestrate a rapid counter attack. In retrospect, this is a really bad idea because I have more time than I thought I would. I pull up my bombs and make the decision to go for a quick CCIP delivery to get the ordnance on the treeline as quickly as possible. To my great surprise, the attack goes quite well and the bombs hit right where I intend, but the damage is not great enough to discourage the attackers.
The bombs ripple along the treeline and I actually think to myself “I have this won..this isn’t so bad!”.
I claw around for another attack, trying to climb, but my plane is sooooo heavy. It labors up and I feel like any moment I’m going to get word that the helo crew has been overrun. My desperate need for speed manifests itself in a poorly planned attack as I go to my rockets to put rounds into the treeline.
The rocket attack actually comes off pretty well..but now I’m dangerously low and trying to get out of the valley before Something Bad Happens™.
The valley looks gorgeous in this low angle light in World 2.0 and I can’t help but wonder how flying a Hornet through this area would be. Then it happens. I’ve pressed my luck too far. I’m too low. I’m not using my standoff weapons out of urgency. The missile warning light blinks. It’s over in seconds as I’m too slow and heavy to jink effectively…
I pray that the damage isn’t bad – but it is. Both engines are on fire and the plane is barely controllable. I’m already at bare minimum speed from my climbout. I dump the nose and arc around to the left hoping I can stretch my glide over the interceding ridgeline. I pull up the F10 menu and order the Mi-24s to commence their attack runs, hoping they can somehow extricate us all out of this situation. I keep turning, but I’m out of speed and mushing toward the canyon wall. I hit the eject lever….
As I float down the gunships crest the ridge and start making their runs, but I haven’t done enough damage and the return fire from MANPADS in the treeline is withering. Both Hinds take damage immediately and they tuck their tails and run out of the valley streaming smoke. Meanwhile, Uzi is getting pounded on the ground as the volume of fire from the enemy in the trees continues unabated.
The Mi-24s exit the valley and the Hueys think better of the whole program and do circles in safety outside of the valley. It is my assumption that after doing enough damage, I would have had the Hinds mop up, then have the Hueys come in for the extraction/supply via the F10 menu, but I never made it that far (because I suck).
It takes me twenty minutes, but I manage to walk up to the top of the ridge I was trying to crest when I ejected. I look out over the beautiful valley and contemplate my failure. Baltic Dragon did his job in crafting an immersive mission. ED did their job in updating the graphics engine to provide a beautiful scene to fly though. Me – I didn’t so much do my job of rescuing the stranded Georgians. I doubt they’ll invite me back.
Though I’m only a few missions deep at this point – The Enemy Within is a fantastic campaign. It should be payware based on the quality of the mission design, the excellent and immersive use of the F10 menu system, the excellent voiceovers, and the overall premise of the campaign. I can’t wait to continue the campaign (and finish the failed mission!). Once again, to check out The Enemy Within campaign – go visit the awesome webpage with notes, briefings, and other information created by Blooze for Baltic Dragon: The Enemy Within. This campaign will provide many hours of quality gameplay, and I think it is important to reward people for their efforts so that we can continue to get innovative content like this –
Regarding DCS World 2.0 – what can I say – it is gorgeous. This was just an AAR flown in World 2.0, so I’ve skipped features, additions, improvements, Mission Editor changes, etc.. All of that will come in due time. Personally, I’m still rather enthralled with DCS World 1.0 despite the “been there, done that” attitude of many. Campaigns like Baltic Dragon’s proves that good content and immersive mission design can draw you in no matter what platform you fly under. That said, the environmentals, lighting, and overall improvements that Eagle Dynamics are building into DCS World 2.0 will set the bar high and no doubt be the “operating system” us hardcore simmers will rely on for many years to come. It is going to be worth the wait.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
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