So now, after all that preamble, it’s time for me to learn how to play this game. Fortunately, developer Eagle Dynamics has included some very nicely put-together tutorials. They’re conducted by a combination of voicover direction and highlights over the relevant system or control. They are not without a few issues and omissions, which I’ll discuss in a bit, but overall they are some of the best flight sim tutorials I’ve been through.
After the jump, I learn to stay in the air and shoot things. Whee!
The tutorials are divided into two broad categories: flight operations and combat operations. Flight operations is mostly the standard stuff you’d do in any airplane — takeoff, landing, navigation. But there’s one exception. One of the tutorials starts you in an entirely powered-down A-10, and you start it up step-by-step.
That pic is about halfway through the process. In order to get to this point, I have to get the engines running so that the plane has electrical power. In order to get to that point, I have to do a little electrical dance with the plane’s batteries and something called an APU — a sort of starter motor for the A-10. Each of those elements has three or four controls I need to use in the 3d cockpit. The tutorial steps you through these very carefully and clearly, but this is still a monster of a task. I shuffle through it, obligingly flipping the switches I’m told to flip, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking “yeah, ok, this is neat to do once, but I’m not going to do this when I actually play”.
The other flight operations tutorials go smoothly. I may not be a serious flight sim jockey, but I know how to takeoff just fine. Engines to full power, flaps down, pull back on the stick once you get some good speed. Easy enough:
Landing is trickier, but the tutorial in this case is really solid. The A-10 has a few important systems that give a lot of guidance in landing properly. The tutorial steps me through these systems with perfect timing, so that by the time I’ve got them all set up, I’m lined up with the runway and ready to just glide it on in. I landed smoothly the first time through this tutorial, which is probably the only time that’s ever happened to me in a new sim:
Well, enough with the general flying. Time for the good stuff — the weapons. The combat tutorials start by discussing how the targeting pod works. Important and informative, but I didn’t get to shoot anything. Next is guns and rockets:
These are easy — point and shoot. They’re inaccurate, but the toughest thing about using them is making sure I don’t plow into the ground after I attack. Next up is bombs, using two different bombing modes: CCIP and CCRP. The first mode shows where the bomb will actually hit the ground, so it’s essentially point and shoot, too. The second mode shows you when to release a bomb to hit a specific targeted point. It’s trickier, since you need to actually designate a target first. However, it’s safer because you don’t actually need to dive at the target. It’s a requirement to use guided bombs. Here’s me setting up an attack on the target range — note that I’ve got the video feed of my target on the right screen:
And here are the results:
Take that, harmless stack of shipping containers! Next up is Maverick missles. Not quite point and shoot, but they lock on to targets automatically, so they’re definitely the weapon of choice for moving vehicles. Finally there’s a tutorial on how the countermeasures system works, wherein I learn that I can set the system to automatic and resolve to do so on any future missions.
The combat operations tutorials are still very good, but I encountered a few confusing spots where things didn’t work quite the way the voiceover said it would. For example, in the guided bombs training mission after I made my first pass with one type of bomb, I couldn’t get the other type of bomb to release on the second pass, even though I followed the steps laid out to me. I don’t know if these problems were my fault or the tutorials, but I would have appreciated a little more clarity.
The missions also suffer from focus issues. Various bits of minutae are covered in detail, while important gameplay systems are virtually ignored. What is covered is covered very well, but I feel as if I’ve been given a jigsaw puzzle where many of the pieces are blank. I understand all the things from the tutorials, but I’m not sure how they all mesh together to form a successful mission.
However, I remain undeterred. Come back tomorrow when I will bravely go forth to fight the ravening hordes of…gee, I guess I should figure out who the bad guys in this one are.