by “Cat” and Chuck “PFunk” Bellows
From the East Coast Branch Offices of SimHQ, nestled in an undisclosed location…
By now, most of you either know about or have actually flown the highly-anticipated revamping of the long-awaited Flaming Cliffs add-on to their iconic Lock On: Modern Air Combat survey simulation. I’ve been a fan of this series ever since the original Flanker in 1995, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of Flanker’s descendants.
I wonder how Flaming Cliffs 2 came about. It all began with the release last year of DCS: Black Shark. The Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) series marks a new direction in the development of desktop flight simulation. For the first time, a mainstream entertainment producer is going military, and pointing itself toward the production of desktop simulations for the war fighter. This is a positive development, because as you all know, combat simulation is a niche market. In the world of gaming, the big money is in the role-playing and fantasy genres, various types of shooters, and in sports gaming. Flight simulation nuts like us want detail, especially in flight modeling and in weapons employment. That takes big development money, insider information, time, and talent, all for a small return, if any, on investment because our numbers are so small. A new economic model must be found to sustain the development of air combat simulations, and the military market is it.
As expensive as it is to develop a good desktop sim, it is more so to train military pilots. Real air time is horrendously expensive, both on airframes and on personnel costs. Until the advent of high-powered network-based gaming systems, military simulations were also expensive to develop and costly to maintain. That’s changing, and ironically, we are the reason why. Local and wide-area networks and the ability to create immerse, realistic multiplayer battlefields began with online titles such as Air Warrior several years ago. Multiplay has long been one of the most requested features of entertainment sims and many are very detailed in this regard. One old classic, Tornado, even offered users the ability to crew a multiplace aircraft in real-time missions. The world’s armies are catching on to the potential power of desktop simulation as an inexpensive training tool to prepare aircrews for real-world combat.
And that’s where Eagle Dynamics and The Fighter Collection come in. There are few sim series as detailed as the Flanker group and its descendants. Lock On, at the time of its 2003 release, boasted some of the highest-fidelity modeling of systems and weapons to be done outside of user-mods to older sims such as Falcon 4.0. The Moscow-based developers, led by Dr. Igor Tishin, a TsAGI-trained engineer, are old hands at military training and hardware. And what simmers have enjoyed for so long is beginning to make breakthroughs in the militaries both of the U.S. and Russia. We are the beneficiaries of this new partnership, and DCS: Black Shark was the first fruit on the vine. A sequel, DCS: A-10C Warthog, is in development. SimHQ took a look at the military’s version back in December when I visited I/ITSEC 2009. To extend the goodness to work previously done, Dr. Tishin and his team have applied their efforts to the Flaming Cliffs add-on to Lock On: Modern Air Combat. We are the beneficiaries.
For this review, Chuck “PFunk” Bellows and I are spending some stick time with Flaming Cliffs 2, and right-up-front I’ll say we are both favorably impressed.
First, I’ll give you an overview of some technical details, and we’ll talk about the revamped Su-25, Russia’s little Rook, that is featured in the game. You’ll also get to see in the A-10A some hints of what is to come in DCS: A-10C Warthog, and the F-15C has received some extra attention as well. Dr. Tishin’s group have applied real-world experience now to the modeling of certain weapon systems, and you’ll see improved performance of ECM and countermeasures, and tweaked engagement parameters for bombs, rockets, and missiles of all types.
Then I will turn over the reins to Chuck “PFunk” Bellows, who is more knowledgeable than I am about the U.S. aircraft, and some other aspects of Flaming Cliffs 2.0 gameplay.
Thanks goes to Chuck for bringing you the marvelous screenshots found in this review.