DCS A10C Warthog - Review
- Coop Multiplayer supported
- Realistic, complex modelling
- Interactive tutorials
- Setup time for HOTAS
- Very steep learning curve.
- Not for casual gamers who like flying (not a bad point, just a fundamental truth).
DCS A10C Warthog
A Review by Astrospud
Homepage:DCS - Digital Combat Simulator
Style: Study Sim
This is the second module in the Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) series of flight simulators released by Eagle Dynamics and The Fighter collection, UK’s Imperial War Museum. The first being the popular DCS Ka50 Blackshark, one of the most challenging and rewarding helicopter simulators available to the public.
The A10C is no exception, in that the experience is intended to mimic, in high fidelity, the performance and handling of the latest iteration US close air support plane, nicknamed the “Warthog”.
From the first look of this aircraft, once can see it is purpose built. No pretense, no glamour, no sleek lines. It’s the embodiment of aerial lethality, bristling with air to surface and air to air weapons. It’s hallmark weapon is the General Electric GAU-8/A, 30mm “Avenger” cannon, which takes up the first 20 feet of the airframe and can fire a staggering 4200 rounds per minute.
The theatre of operation represented in this simulator has US presence in the Black Sea States, similar to that of the Ka50 Blackshark, but further into Georgia and Southern Russia.
As a study simulator, its intended audience is arguably the Hardcore simmer
OK, “gameplay” might not be an appropriate term when describing the experience that is DCS A10C. This may seem a tad pretentious, but one does not “play” this simulator, that is, unless the user applies the Game Mode settings. As a study simulator, its intended audience is arguably the Hardcore simmer, with a depth of detail modelling a vast majority of the real aircrafts’ functionality and systems. To their credit, Eagle Dynamics have provided a detailed manual, although quite hefty at 669 pages. This may seem daunting and even off-putting to the casual gamer, but again ED comes to the party with intelligent and easy to follow interactive tutorials, with subtitled voiceover guiding the user through steps in the running tutorial.
From cold start up, through navigation and weapon deployment, the tutorials can be replayed until the user can achieve a level of understanding of aircraft systems and performance, so that he or she can undertake the default missions or campaigns with some degree of confidence.
Hardcore simmers will appreciate this simulator and the depth of detail presented. As with the Ka50, the A10C has scalable difficulty settings, allowing the novice to get a handle on the aircraft, with one notable exception: active pause.
This is a new feature in the DCS series allowing the user to pause the game mid mission, and still have access and function of the aircraft systems. Very handy for someone just starting out in the world of simulators and requiring some easing into aircraft operation.
The game supports 6 DOF (degrees of freedom) viewing, either by mouse movement or Naturalpoints TrackIR system. While still quite flyable with fixed view forward, the game experience is restricted without employing full use of the 6 DOF available.
Full situation awareness is key when flying missions in the A10C. With a mouse at the left or right side of the users’ keyboard, mission survivability is increased, as he or she can spot threats as if viewed through the eyes of the virtual pilot.
The cockpit is “clickable”, whereby the user can access all functions, other than that on the stick and throttle quadrant, via mouse clicks. This is achievable by switching from mouse view mode using left Alt key + C. It can be quite a handful, but it is doable. If you want to view the left hand panel for radio controls, pan the mouse left to get the panel in view, press LAlt+C and move the mouse pointer to click on the desired switches. The mouse pointer will change from a yellow cross to a green icon, to indicate an operable switch.
Several “HOTAS” style joystick systems are also supported, but ideally suited to the use of the Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS, a fully functional replica of the actual aircrafts’ stick and split throttle quadrant.
That being said, simple 4 axis joysticks are also usable, although it’s worth mentioning that a joystick with one or more “hat switches” is definitely worth getting for this simulator, as several are employed in the cockpit, either trimming the aircraft, or slewing the Maverick targeting pipper to lock a ground target.
Full customisation of controls allows the user to bind key commands to joystick buttons. This can take a while to get the “feel” of a configuration that suits the user.
A detailed mission editor is included, allowing custom missions to be created for both single player and multiplayer.
AI units are improved and the inclusion of a virtual JTAC (joint terminal attack controller) on the ground, allows direct communication with allied ground forces for more accurate prosecution of targets. It’s like having a team on the ground giving vital tactical information.
Graphics and performance:
Bloom effects are generous and can provide the pilot with a challenging environment
A good amount of time has gone into improving the graphics engine over the previous Ka50 module, and owners of PC’s with newer graphics cards and processors will benefit from this. The use of HDR (High Dynamic Range) is selectable in the games, options interface. Graphics card that are able to utilise this will provide realistic lighting effects, especially when in low sun conditions. Bloom effects are generous and can provide the pilot with a challenging environment, especially when approaching targets in front of a setting or rising sun. They also make for great screenshots and videos!
Soft shadows also add to the realism, giving a depth of immersion rarely seen in such high fidelity simulators, as well as low altitude clutter, such as grass give a sense of proximity to the ground when flying low altitude.
Damage modelling is also done well, with bullet holes, missing panels and even missing wings, given certain combat situations and levels of damage sustained.
The game comes with a dual 32bit and 64 bit installation, with the 64 bit install as default. 32bit is selectable at install time. With the recommended system spec being a dual core PC with 4 Gb of RAM and videocards with 512MB and Shader 3.0 or better, A10C can be run on a wide variety of PCs, albeit with a little tweaking to get the performance right. Lower end systems will obviously lose some graphical detail, but a steady high frame rate is a preferred option to a pretty slideshow.
Copy protection is by Starforce, and while some users may wince at this, the install and activation is seamless and hiccup free.
An installation and activation guide is included
My system specifications at time of review is a Quad core Q9550 @ 2.8Ghz, running Windows 7 64bit with 8Gb of RAM and an Nvidia GT440. All settings ingame set to high at a resolution of 1920x1080, gave frame rate at or above 29FPS in single player missions. At time of review, I had flown online only once, with at least 4 other pilots, with no noticeable hit on frame rate.
I am looking forward to flying more online, as the experience I had with the Ka50 Blackshark is much more enjoyable when flying with (and sometimes against!) other players. There is also the potential to learn from other pilots, of things otherwise missed or forgotten in training.
If all you want is a pick up and fly game and nothing more, then DCS A10C might not be for you
The detail is incredible and anyone picking up this title will be spending many hours training to fly this beast, and many more to fight in it.
In its’ simulation mode, it’s not for the faint hearted. While relatively easy to fly – all you need is airspeed and a responsive joystick – to get the most out of it you will need to put the hours in. Lot’s of hours. And those hours include reading the flight manual, too.
If all you want is a pick up and fly game and nothing more, then DCS A10C might not be for you. However with time and training, this can be a very rewarding experience.
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