March 10, 2011
DCS: A-10C Warthog
Digital Download Version
by Erik "EinsteinEP" Pierce
In the interest of disclosure, Erik was a member of the closed-beta test team for DCS A-10C Warthog. He received no reward, monetary or otherwise, for his involvement in the development of this product. His opinions and conclusions in this review are his and his alone.
DCS: A-10C Warthog is the latest release in a series of high fidelity combat flight simulations from Eagle Dynamics. DCS: Black Shark brought us the Kamov 50 dual-rotor single seat attack helicopter and redefined “simulation mode” with its in-depth avionics, flight model, and massively clickable cockpit. DCS: A-10C Warthog promised to bring that same level of real to the A-10 Warthog, the premier US close-support attack plane that has been memorialized in such famous sims as A-10 Cuba,Silent Thunder, Lock On: Modern Air Combat, and the stillborn Jane’s A-10. Back in October, Eagle Dynamics announced that they would be offering open beta access to the game with each pre-purchase, an amazing opportunity offered very rarely by combat flight sim developers. I took the work-in-process product at the time and gave it a once-over in the First Look article here. Just how much progress has been made in four months between that first beta and the final release? Let’s go see…
Note, dear Reader, that because the Digital Combat Simulator series prides itself on modeling individual aircraft in “exquisite detail” this review will be going further in depth into the mechanics of the game than the typical overview. Sit down and strap in for a detailed look at Eagle Dynamics’ latest release.
DCS: A-10C Warthog is currently available as a digital download from the DCS web site here. At product release, download rates and server availability were pretty spotty, with some users reporting consistent download rates below 100 kB/s, resulting in agonizingly long download times for the 4.34 GB installation package. I had started my download before going to bed and it had completed the next morning, but that might seem like an eternity to some folks. There are other options: DCS: A-10C Warthog is currently available for purchase here on Direct2Drive and is expected to be available on Steam later this month, but those of you who pre-purchased the game won't be able to use that raincheck at either of these locations. Boxed versions will hit stores in North America in June or July. For our readers outside the North American continent, check the shelves at your local retailers per the plan below:
- Japan/South Korea (English) - May
- Australia/Asia Pac (English) - May
- Europe (English) - May
- Germany (German) - July
- France (French) - July
- Spain (Spanish) - August
- Italy (English Software) - August
With the digital release just a few weeks old, Eagle Dynamics has already released patch 126.96.36.199 with a number of bug fixes and updates.
Inquiring minds want to know if Frogfoots, Black Sharks, and Warthogs will be mixing it up in multiplayer CAS scenarios now that A-10C is out. Unfortunately, the report is not right now. DCS: A-10C Warthog, as released, is not multiplayer compatible with either DCS: Black Shark or Flaming Cliffs 2 at this time. The Eagle Dynamics FAQ says that they “hope” to release a compatibility patch for DCS: Black Shark and DCS: A-10C Warthog at some point, but the patch to include Flaming Cliffs 2 is only “being considered”.
Once the files were downloaded, installation was a breeze. While installing the game on my Windows 64-bit system, I was, at first, thrown off by the default “Program Files” location. I’m used to applications installing in the “Program Files ( x86)” folder, but then I remembered: this is a 64-bit sim! If you’re not sure whether you have a 32-bit or 64-bit system, follow the simple directions here.
There’s also an option to install the June 2010 DirectX. DCS: A-10C Warthog requires DirectX 9 for full capability so it’s a good idea to install this, even if you have recently updated your DirectX drivers. Not to worry, this won’t break your DX10, DX11 games on Windows 7.
Copyright protection software is a sensitive point with a lot of folks, so let me say up front that I had no issues at any time with the ProActive™ protection used for DCS: A-10C Warthog. The code I was given worked the first time and the activation process was completed in a few seconds. It is the same program by Protection Technologies that is used on DCS: Black Shark but with a couple of beneficial changes: A total of 10 activations (instead of 8) and 10 deactivations are included, which should satisfy even the most avid re-formatter’s needs. Also, just in case you are an upgrade-crazy gamer with unlimited funds (call me, okay?) and use up all 10 activations and 10 deactivations, they will automatically be replenished at the rate of one a month. So, try to make each new motherboard last at least 30 days.
I was a little confused by the master server login required to play multiplayer (didn’t I just activate this key?), but after I realized I was making a new account, separate from my ED fourms and my www.digitalcombatsimulator.com accounts, all went smoothly. There are more than a few folks a little disturbed by this additional login, though — where is ED going with this and do we really need three different logins?
If a modern toaster comes with a 35-page manual, you can expect a whopper for DCS: A-10C Warthog, and a whopper it is: roughly 700 pages chock full of technical details, schematics, procedures, and thorough descriptions. The sheer weight of the thing would be impressive, if I could find a way to print it for a reasonable price. Personally, I find the manual is hard to read through in many spots, but is a fantastic reference. The section on the history and background of the A-10 is a fascinating read just in of itself. I have a copy on my wife's Kindle and I regularly read through it and spot something new to try/check out.
The initial GUI is still as sexy as ever, but, right off, I noticed the addition of the Multiplayer menu item. While multiplayer and single player games are still two different executables, just like they were in DCS: Black Shark, the ability to jump straight to multiplayer from the single player menu means you have just one desktop shortcut to worry about. Nice!
From the main screen you are presented with the following menu options:
DCS: A-10C Warthog - Main Menu
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