A treatise on the challenge and pleasure of taking flight in a flight-sim; and a look at a game that will set the standards for the helicopter sims of the future
There are few good games and even fewer gamers actually interested in playing such games, which is sad, because these games can be so much fun.
Part of the joy of a true flight-sim is in the challenge of actually understanding the aircraft that you’re flying and mastering its strengths and weaknesses. This is also the biggest complaint against flight-sims, where novice gamers are completely flummoxed by the complex controls, the vast array of instruments and the hundreds of button combos that need to be memorised to take command.
Physics are way more realistic (duh) and you usually require a cartload of expensive gear for even a basic setup (about 40K for a decent kit). If that wasn’t enough, you’re required to fly missions that last for hours and multiplayer would usually involve facing off against seasoned veterans who’d put the US Air Force’s Top Gun program to shame.
The deep end
Yes, diving into this genre is something you do with your eyes open with the awareness that you’re in the deep end and that you’re going to swallow some water. But, once you actually take the plunge and flail about helplessly for a few minutes. When you let your instincts kick in and get your bearings, you realise that it’s really not so bad. Give it enough time and you’ll actually begin to enjoy it and you’ll wonder what you were doing with your life till then. Get a friend to join you and you’ll be having the time of your life.
What’s Huey got to do with it?
This whole commentary is basically easing you into the idea that taking the plunge might not be such a bad idea after all, and this is where DCS Huey comes in. If you want to learn to fly a chopper, this is what you start in.
The Huey in DCS World has been meticulously crafted (by BelSimTek) with the care deserving of such an iconic aircraft. The cockpit is detailed and the instrument panels are clear and precise, showing pilots everything they need to see without scrimping out on pixels. The physics are also meticulously modelled and include everything from the judder during translational lift to vortex ring states.
What’s special about this module, other than the effort that went into making it of course, is that the Huey is the most basic of helicopters. You’re not really worried about a hundred-odd buttons and gauges and you’re only ever really looking at two (air speed and descent rate). A joystick really does help here, but even something as basic as the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro that we used was more than enough for complete control over your aircraft.
As good as the modelling of the Huey is in-game, the actual world that you fly in is as terrible. Terrain is rarely more than a vaguely textured plain, buildings just grey cuboids and unless you’re on a mission, there’s no real life to speak off. The world textures are so bad that on certain missions it’s actually impossible to visually gauge how far you are from, say, a cliff face. It’s also really disappointing that you can never actually bang into trees. Speaking of trees, they exist, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you find a forest sprouting from a point two feet above the ground. Though things might change soon enough.
The aircraft is the focus of this sim and while it is irksome to not have detailed terrain, the sheer pleasure you’ll eventually get when you learn to fly properly will more than make up for the lack of detail in the terrain.
To plunge or not to plunge…
DCS World is a free game and you do get a couple of free aircraft, but the Huey module is what you really want and while it is extremely expensive at Rs.3,000, do the smart thing, wait for a Steam sale and grab it when it sells for Rs.460 (we did).
If you’re a fan of flight sims, this game is for you. If you’re just about to start, play ARMA II/III and get familiar with the very basics of flight and then buy this. Don’t forget to pick up a joystick from somewhere though. DCS Huey is among the most difficult, but also the most rewarding game that you’ll play this year. Take the plunge. You won’t regret it.
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Mad "r4gs" Zombie
Deposited on this planet sometime in the late 1980s, this being was quick to discover the joys of binge-gaming and has long since mastered the art of the 16-hour game session, and evolved to survive on a minimum of food.