A-10C Warthog: me vs. alphabet soup

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That right up there is the cockpit of my (simulated) A-10C. Every single switch and button works. To fly and fight effectively in Eagle Dynamics’ latest sim, DCS A-10C Warthog, you’ll need to know what they all do. You’ll need to be able to set your TGP (in WHOT mode, naturally) as the SOI so that you can pick out the T-55 that JTAC designated as your target by pointing out its location on your TAD. After setting the T-55 as the SPI using the TGM switch you’ll want to engage CCRP mode on the HUD and select your GBU-12 on the DSMS. Then it’s a simple matter of flying over the target, watching the SC and TTRN crawl down the ASL, and pressing the pickle when it meets the pipper.

Confused yet? So am I. So what the heck am I doing here?

After the jump, a total nugget (that’s the flight-sim geek’s word for “noob”) grapples with the most obsessively detailed sim ever.

When it comes to flight sims, I’ve always been relatively casual. I cut my air-sim teeth on 1942: Pacific Air War. It had a nifty strategic layer that fell entirely to pieces once you realized that you could jump into any individual airstrike and kamikaze the hell out of the enemy fleet. Since it required very little skill, it was an enormously successful strategy. I loved it so.

This is a pattern with me. I’ve never been in it for painstaking fidelity to the technology of combat aircraft. I’ve always been more interested in an air of realism and history while I blow stuff up — basically, the combat sim as war movie. While I will earnestly dive into any sim I play expecting to learn all its crazy in-depth systems, eventually I give up, crank everything down to Infant difficulty, and go to town on the enemy forces. Eat infinite AMRAAMs and omniscient radar, commie scum!

But in the past 15 years or so air combat sims have stopped setting a place at the table for gamers like me. Sims have been more concerned with arcane technical systems than the feel of air combat. The last serious sim I got into was Falcon 4.0, a modern air-combat sim that was no slouch in the technical fidelity department, but boasted a dynamic campaign that captured the “you are there” feeling of my favorite sims. But even then I was starting to feel left behind; as if my desire to pretend to be a jet jockey without any serious commitment was somehow unworthy. Though I dabbled in a sim here or there over the past decade, none of them really seemed to be aimed at me.

DCS Warthog is very much an example of a sim that requires devotion. I’m not sure it’s even fair to call it a game, though there are certainly game-like elements to it. It’s an exacting recreation of a real A-10 Thunderbolt II based off of Eagle Dynamics’ actual military-grade simulator where every single system on the real aircraft is simulated, whether it’s relevant to flying the plane in combat or not. Whether or not dealing with any particular system is entertaining never enters the equation in a sim like this. For example, there’s an option buried in the plane’s exhaustively detailed computer systems that lets you choose the manufacturer of the ammunition the main cannon fires, even though the manual brazenly admits this has absolutely no effect whatsoever on gameplay. Everything about this sim screams “casuals steer clear!”

And yet, for some reason this game called to me. Maybe it was a pent-up sim itch that needed scratching. Maybe it was fond memories of shooting missiles at tanks all those years ago in Falcon 4.0. Maybe I was just having a slow day and a sale at a digital download site overwhelmed my willpower. Whatever the reason, suddenly I found myself staring at the menu screen, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Up next: I fought the law (of gravity) and the law won.

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