DCS: World – The Ultimate Argument AAR #01

Here is the first AAR/ review from the newly released DCS Su-27 DLC campaign “The Ultimate Argument”. This AAR contains spoilers for the first mission of the 20 mission set.

Link to DLC: The Ultimate Argument

So purchase ($10) and download (77MB executable) is simple. Pay your money, get your serial and link to the download. Three activations – yes there are things to complain about but this isn’t one of them in my opinion.

Complaint #1 – This is paid DLC, so I think paid DLC has an “above and beyond” requirement with several more tick marks than content that is included with modules. From what I can tell, there is no manual for this DLC. Meaning, I would have expected some sort of PDF briefing book. I want to know who I am? What army am I a part of? Why am I fighting? Where am I fighting? Who am I fighting? What are the politics behind why I’m fighting? Am I winning? Losing? Who started it? Am I a bad guy or a good guy? A briefing book would go a long way toward “setting the stage”. Will I learn some of this stuff as I go through the missions? I don’t know, perhaps.

The first mission starts off with a very broad stroke explanation of what I’m doing, but it doesn’t really compel me or make me feel invested in anything (yet). The text is a bit RuEnglish in that it is a little clunky, but I’m OK with that. The Vergeev Group campaign had a similar Russian translated feel to it, which is fine because you would expect (as a Su-27 pilot from Charlotte, NC) to be a bit on the outside of the culture. I can suspend my disbelief for that. Still, this is pay DLC. Hire a writer to clean it up, expand on it, and pull the player in. Yes, I’m being critical early. Yes, I’ve only flown one of the twenty missions. Will it get more involved? I’m sure it will. But first impressions are everything. (EDIT – later evaluation of more missions does indeed reveal a more involved and cohesive campaign with a nice flow and continuity.)

There are some very nice map briefing slides that deal well with the pixel limitations of the briefing graphics. I’ve been after ED for a long time to make the briefings more thorough and get rid of the limitations on image size. I want intel. I want photos, maps, hand written notes. I want a half a dozen pages of threats, egress routes, where the borders are, what the target area looks like. I want drone photos. I want to get INTO this mission. One small map is OK, but not overwhelming (again, keeping in mind this is only the first mission). EDIT – Subsequent missions have much more thorough briefing graphics.

The Mission Planner Map has always confused me. Why are a million different flights all over the map? Why can’t I readily tell where my waypoints are, or where my flight originates from and lands at? Yes, it’s there, but it is very hard to digest with all the clutter from other flights. Sure, I want to know they are there, but we need a way to clean this stuff up and make it more digestible. Yes, I see the paradox. A paragraph ago I said I want more, and now I’m saying I want less. I just want more of what I want, and less of what I don’t. Customer prerogative.

Another small complaint that falls under “personal preference”. The first mission is what looks to be a combat mission/patrol. It is my opinion, that no first flight of a campaign should be a combat mission. First missions should generally be a tour of the area by a flight member that is familiar. Where are the borders? Where are the friendlies? Where are the enemies? Which bases are mine? Which areas do I need to watch out for with regards to surface to air threats? From what direction would enemy aircraft come from? Are there places I shouldn’t fly? What are the ROE? Etc.. You get the picture. If there were a briefing book, this information might be in it. Whatever the case, diving into the action might be fun for some, but I want some build up. I want to know and understand what I’m doing here and where “HERE” is.

In my Su-27…

My wingman and I taxi out. I love the Su-27. It is awesome to look at, and a blast to fly. It should become a full DCS module in my opinion…(cough – after the F/A-18C)..

Off we go…

Beautiful…

I spend most of the mission in the configuration screen trying to figure out what controls I need to map to the Su-27. I haven’t spent a lot of time with the module and I don’t know much about the radar modes and stuff except what I can dig out of my memory from older FC1 and FC2 days. I finally figure out route autopilot mode and engage it…

It is mildly infuriating that every time you switch between the NAV mode and the radar mode (1 key) that the range doesn’t stay on the respective pages. I don’t know if that is how it works in the real airplane, but it is a slight hassle to be in 10K map mode and switch to the radar mode and have to cycle back out to 50 or 100K or whatever every time. I might be doing something wrong.

The voiceovers are very nice, if I knew what they were saying. The English subtitles are fine and work and reflect accurately (I assume) what is being said. There is no problem with reading them, but I still have an old complaint that there is no way to cycle back to read messages that have disappeared. I guess I should get smart and put a pen and paper in front of me to jot down notes as I fly as a real pilot might. You interact with the messages by using the F10 portion of the radio menu to send replies. It is well done, but thus far extremely scripted. You aren’t going to have any options to diverge or make decisions necessarily on these missions. I could be wrong, that could happen in later missions. (EDIT – Indeed, later missions include more complex F10 radio command interactions.) I always like the Combined Arms integration of the A-10C missions where you could push friendly troops at certain phases. It added a bit of strategy, so I hope that there is some of that in this campaign where you actually make things happen.

Off we go to our patrol area. Flying the Su-27 is a blast…(did I say that already?)..

You interact at some of the waypoints…

Constantly getting pinged..and as I make runs back and forth between the waypoints on patrol I can see some jamming coming from the north…

The cockpit is sooooo pretty… Now, if they’d only do the advanced flight model for the Su-33 and spruce up the Kuznetsov a bit..

So here we get some new orders. Again, without a real understanding of the conflict, I’m assuming we are pushing Russian troops south through the Roki Tunnel? It would be nice to know where the tunnel is (specifically) and what the grand scheme is. Again, more information to get me involved in what is going on and give me an understanding of my role.

After another circuit of the patrol pattern, an urgent request to come to the aid of the “peacekeepers”. (Is it a convoy of white painted supply trucks?) I point south and try to figure out my radar stuff. I’m not very good at the Su-27 avionics yet. I zip down the number keys at the top of my keyboard like Billy Joel on the piano: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6..dammit..what mode do I want? I finally hit the right combination of numbers and CTRL and SHIFT I commands to see something on the radar. I know enough to use the < > keys to slew the cursor on my HUD and bang the ENTER key to lock it…

I have a 27ER selected..assuming that is the proper weapon, and amazingly see an LA message. I try to fire a couple times before I remember that you have to hold the button down for a few heartbeats before it will release…

The first missile misses (I don’t know why), so I fire a second. I know there is some Russian doctrine where they fire a pair of missiles or something in quick succession, but I can’t remember what it is (paging Cat!)…

Second missile scores a hit..

Momma didn’t raise no dummy, so I release my wingman into the fray since I have no situational awareness on where and how many bandits are out there. He springs into action…

Meanwhile I’m trying to figure out what the close in radar modes are (like some sort of auto acquire boresite mode) and spot a guy going across my nose…

I find this LNGT mode (no idea) which seems like some sort of “uncage” mode maybe for the R73. Two missiles away and I score another hit..! Yay Team!

How terrifying would it be to be swinging in your chute and get buzzed by an Su-27 doing 900 km/h..?

My wingman scores two kills as well and we actually managed to destroy the flight of four ground attack aircraft…

Raskat orders me back on patrol just north of Tskhinvali and when I hit the assigned altitude he gives me the RTB command…which is a good thing because my fuel state is starting to get a little low…

This shouldn’t happen. As we RTB my wingman runs out of fuel…

I get to Mozdok and enter the final approach after receiving permission to land…

I love this flight model…and aerobraking works like a charm – no wheel brakes needed!

I taxi in, having consumed much of my fuel. (I hope there will be some tanking missions in this campaign).. Mission accomplished!

Debriefing is predictably dry. This is another area where ED could step things up a bit. Things that go beyond the scope of DLC obviously, but how about a post flight ACMI utility or a map that shows my flight path and where significant things happened? How about a logbook that opens up gives me a place to write notes on the mission for memories sake? How about a mock funeral service for Lt. Ivan Outofgaski? I want a squadron of my own. I want that plane we lost to count against me for the rest of the campaign. I want wasted missiles to come out of our inventory so that by mission #19 maybe I don’t have the good stuff. At the very least, I just want to name the guys in my squadron (ex girlfriends always get SEAD!). More than anything, I want a debriefing (and briefing) that shows me moving a red or blue line on the map. Did we capture territory? Did we make progress? Did we make a difference? Am I drinking from a cup filled with the tears of my enemy? (I want to read the Russian translation for that last sentence..)

So that’s mission #1. There are #19 more to go. Overall, I enjoyed the mission. Not exactly how *I* personally would start out a campaign, but it was OK. Achievable in every sense, and not too difficult. Not too many things going on and the triggers worked good, made sense, and all was good in that respect. Is it on rails? Yeah, sure. You probably aren’t going to go flying around the map, going rogue and making any difference in the campaign. That is dynamic, and that is not what this is. This is going to be an interactive, step-by-step story. And I’m fine with that. It is a $10 computer game novel. So far, the money seems worth it. I might move the goalposts as I get further into the campaign – we’ll see.

I don’t have much of a summary. My gripes I listed above (briefing book, more story, more investment of my emotions). Some can definitely be done in campaign add-on DLC while others would have to come with improvements to the “game” side of DCS World. I support the concept of paid DLC though..particularly campaigns and missions. I’m surprised nobody has gotten into the paid paint scheme DLC. I have a vision of how I want my Su-27 painted. Call me.

EDIT – This AAR was originally posted as a single AAR. I’ve since flown several more missions and some of my opinions have changed. The immersion has increased as the campaign unfolds and there are a couple bugs in the mission scripting. Stay tuned and I’ll post the other AARs as time permits.

BeachAV8R