From the North Central Texas Offices of SimHQ, looking at oncoming funnel clouds thanks to the advent of spring…
I downloaded and installed the add-on in the same manner as “Cat”. 2GB of stuff takes about 10 hours total on my pokey semi-broadband. I fell asleep while the computer worked away.
Flaming Cliffs 2.0 comes along just after I did a major update on my computer — a hot-rodded Gateway DX4710-05 that is anything but stock. About the only thing left in the case that came with the computer is the motherboard. I yanked the Q6600, put in an E8500 and immediately witnessed a nice spike upward in performance. I also ripped out the ATI HD4850 512MB and dropped in a NVIDIA GTS 250 1GB GPU. With this overhaul, the frame rates rarely dip below 20 frames per second on medium settings and this is with my NVIDIA Control Panel set to quality settings. The image quality is spectacular.
I agree that the lion’s share of flight model reworking has been done on the SU-25, it just feels like you’re flying an airplane. The F-15C retains some of its characteristics from earlier releases, as does the A-10A, but they both bore a little more resemblance what you’d want to try to fly in combat, with the exception that the A-10 has some nasty nose wandering at above 250 knots. You’ll be paying serious attention to the trim tabs for most of your flight. The F-15C feels like a jackrabbit on meth at takeoff and accelerates like a bat-out-of-hell while in flight.
The avionics suite of the F-15C seems to have been made a little more efficient at keeping your enemies at arm’s length while you go about the business of wrecking expensive stuff. The Northrop ALQ-135 is fully integrated into your TEWS along with the Loral ALR-56 threat warning receiver. I love, I love, I LOVE the F-15 avionics and weapons integration, and that’s saying something because the original F-15C from Flaming Cliffs 1.12b was probably my least favorite way to kill time with this series. So much so that I actually preferred flying the Eagle in another sim. The turn rate at higher altitude feels like an absolute bus. Like it would take three counties to crank it around. To be fair, the Sukhois aren’t appreciably more nimble. The Hughes APG-63 radar works exactly as you’d hope a real one would and Eagle has made a serious effort to mix functionality with complexity. Yeah, it’s not the radar from Falcon 4.0 where you can pick out an individual goose in a flock and classify it’s weight, altitude, heading, and the likelihood as to whether or not it’s going to take a dump on your freshly-waxed car, but it’s still very, very immersing. You still think you’re controlling a thunderbolt of the gods while you gaze across a battlefield in complete omniscience… and end up with an SA-11 on your butt.
The A-10 feels a little more nimble. No, a lot more nimble. As said earlier, you start experiencing some serious nose wandering and buffeting above 250 knots as those gigantic wings act like a sail. Crank it into a turn over the battlefield and I defy you to not smile. Let loose the humongous GAU-8 30mm cannon and I dare you not to cackle with obscene glee as the targets burst into flame… provided you hit them of course, because when you turn that thing loose, it noticeably affects your flight path. These aircraft really feel like you’re in genuine flight, not like an implement of destruction with a thousand finely-tuned methods of use and an interesting method of conveyance that’s getting an Honorable Mention.
Many people cut their simming teeth on specific titles. You have some Janes’ F-15 people, Falcon 4.0 gurus, and then you have an odd sort, the Flankerites. These people grew up on Flanker 2.0 and then it’s later iteration, Flanker 2.5. I was just such a person, I remember picking it up in the CompUSA in Fort Worth, Texas and flying it with my Voodoo 3000 video card until my eyes were bloodshot and I was one of the loudest cheerleaders when Lock On was going through it’s development (I even remember the “rotating beacons” fiasco) andLock On remains the very first PC game I ever custom-built a dedicated gaming PC just to run it. I had a 3.0E Pentium 4 (with the 800MHz FSB), 1 GB of RAM, and the most expensive component I had ever bought, a Radeon 9800 Pro, the 128MB version. Once again,Flaming Cliffs 2.0 carries the dubious honor of causing my better-half to get really irritated at me when she opened the credit card monthly statement.
Frankly, I was disappointed in Lock On. I was anticipating a reprise of Flanker — they took away my beloved Sea Fulcrum and completely omitted any strike capability anything else had, claiming it wasn’t “realistic”. Since the real Su-33 has no AG radar mode, I lost the ground-mapping radar. But here’s where I make my point: Flaming Cliffs 2.0 brings me closer to that original feeling I got years ago more than any other chapter in the Lock On saga.
You can now perform strike missions against hardened targets like buildings, ammo depots, bridges, army bases, all kinds of crap can be leveled under your bombs if you care to put them in a mission, and I plan to learn as much as possible on how to do that. There are some disappointments, though. If Eagle plans to release terrain tools, it would be nice if they’d have added a few more nations to the mix. I suppose that may come later with modders doing all kinds of fun stuff to the architecture. I will say there is a new class of belligerents vaguely named, “Insurgents”. There’s probably no end to what you can do with that!
Netcode was extremely stable the few times I tried it. Not many servers running FC2 yet — usually less than two dozen or so — but those that do are rock-solid and responsive, even with my rural DSL getting routed through Junior Samples’ BR-549 party line to his used-car dealership. So, dogfight to your heart’s content. Yes, as far I know, it enjoys cross-functionality online with DCS: Black Shark, but since I don’t have that title, it wasn’t something I could test. I’m curious to know if the upcoming DCS: A-10C Warthog simulation will also be integrated and if it is, it brings us closer to that wonderful sim where you have a massive alpha strike of Hogs, Eagles, and God-only-knows-what-else rolling in on a hapless target, all piloted by humans.