Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Hardcore Combat Flight Sims Ho!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 4, 2011

I’m a fan of many game genres, including combat flight sims – another genre which was once prosperous but is now an endangered species.Yes, I love delving deep underground dungeons and soaring through virtual unfriendly skies.

Now, I’ve always consider myself a hardcore flight sim fan. But while Falcon 4.0 felt like a flawed Holy Grail to me when it was released over ten years ago, I’ve been a bit intimidated by the few offerings that have come out since then. I’ve been a fan of the IL-2 series, which I can’t play competitively because I’m just not hardcore enough anymore and can’t be bothered with stuff like fuel-air mixtures or setting the prop pitch correctly. So I have guys fly circles around me.

But they are still fun. And I think I’ve rediscovered the secret to enjoying a good hardcore combat flight sim: Even though I’ve loved the crazy-psycho-hardcore-realism in the past, with each new sim I have to ease into it. Start with the more arcade-y “magic” radar models that just work without having to change modes (other than maybe air-to-air vs. air-to-ground), add labels on things within a certain range, and maybe even infinite weapons for my first practice missions so I can learn (or re-learn) the ropes on how to use them effectively. I still usually go for maximum realism on the actual flight model, though, as that’s something I’m generally pretty comfortable with in all modern flight sims.

I recently picked up the Flaming Cliffs 2 “expansion” (more of a full-on upgrade) for old Lock On: Modern Air Combat.  It’s a weird situation, as the original game (LOMAC) is several years old, but FC2 was released only last year. And it really doesn’t feel like an expansion – it’s a whole new game as far as I can see (though I really didn’t play LOMAC all that much). It’s a pretty hardcore “survey” sim that lets you fly several different modern aircraft: The A-10, MiG-29, F-15, Su-25, Su-27, and Su-33. As it’s a “survey” sim, it’s less focused on absolute fidelity for modeling each aircraft, with some systems not working exactly as in the real aircraft but instead according to some common denominator. But let’s be honest here: Compared to just about anything out there released in the consumer market (which is precious little in the last decade), it just doesn’t get any more realistic for most of those planes.

The exception being the A-10, as the same developer just released DCS: A-10 Warthog.  I hope to pick this one up soon. Once upon a time, I remember anxiously awaiting the advertised A-10 game to go along with the Falcon 3.0 “Electronic Battlefield” series  – a collection of multiplayer compatible games that included the original Falcon 3.0, a campaign add-on, a Mig-29 simulator, and an F/A-18 simulator.  The A-10 game never materialized. Interestingly, it seems the DCS series has the same idea in mind as those ancient Spectrum Holobyte / Microprose titles.

I’ve been tempted several times by DCS: KA-50 Black Shark as well. I’ve only ever been into two helicopter sims… the ancient Microprose game Gunship, and the likewise long-in-the-tooth Longbow 2. Longbow 2 was fantastic, and I’ve waited for another game that would be the heir to that title. I don’t know if this one is it, and I’ve not really been into Russian helicopters. So far I keep passing on this one, but one of these days I expect I’ll break down and grab it. Just ‘cuz.

Coming up in the not-too-distant future is another “survey” sim that takes place in the past… the upcoming IL-2: Cliffs of Dover.  This game is from the same guys that made the absolutely incredible IL-2 series, which has been my favorite flight sim after Falcon 4.0.  It’s pretty much the ultimate (to this date) simulator for the Battle of Britain. The name is rather amusing to me, as I cannot recall the Russian IL-2 aircraft having anything to do with the Battle of Britain.  But I guess it’s become a brand name now.

And this trailer video makes me drool:

If you want to check out what makes the IL-2 series so cool, the “platinum edition” of the entire series is available for cheap at GOG.COM – IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946. While the tech is getting a little creaky with age (I had to hand-jam the configuration file to get it to work for my widescreen monitor), until the new game releases, it remains the ultimate World War II combat flight sim, covering many areas in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. And it includes 229 flyable aircraft. No, that is not a typo. Granted, many of these are simply variants of a basic class of aircraft. But if you fly a campaign with a single variant of an aircraft and get to know it pretty well, the differences between the variants will feel quite significant.

I’ve put more time into the IL-2 games over the years than I care to admit, including some time spent getting my butt kick online, but I still feel like I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the game.

Anyway, I don’t know if anybody who reads this blog, which tends to focus more on indie games and RPGs and adventure games, is into flight simulators at all. But I thought I’d share.  It’s good to see another favorite genre of the past seeing action, if hovering a little bit outside the mainstream these days.

Filed Under: Flight Sims - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Looks awesome. It would be neat just to spectate 128 player battles between experienced “pilots”.

    Sadly, my only experience with planes is 1) Knowing how to avoid being spotted by them 2) Knowing how TO get spotted by them 3) Jumping out of them.

    I’ve also always had a “thing” about being trapped in a metal coffin with people shooting at me. It is why I went infantry instead of being a pilot or part of a tank crew. Tanks giving me a phobia more so than planes. And SCREW infantry carrier vehicles. I swear those are clown cars designed to be shot at. Like getting shoved in a drying machine, bent double and with no air flow and temperatures 100 degrees or more. Shudder. Let me out and let them shoot at me guys. Honest. It’s cool. Least I’ll die under the open sky.

    The only simulator games I’ve played a lot of (besides the multi-million dollar ones in the military – which for infantry training aren’t much better than booting up Call of Duty) is submarine simulators. I actually enjoy those quite a bit for some reason, despite my phobia of being encased in metal vehicles. Which, seeing as how you can’t leave a sub without dying horribly should be even worse for me.

    I’ll bet it was because I spent ridiculous amounts of time playing Silent Service on the NES. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEQTLUwduTI&feature=related Yes. I learned how to pilot a submarine when I was 8 years old. God, I was a nerd. Why couldn’t I have been obsessed with Tecmo Bowl like all the cool kids?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I’m the other way around. I tried to get into sub sims, as I had a lot of friends who really enjoyed them and tried to get me hooked. They just never clicked with me.

    Similarly, I have a friend who’s really simulators for modern military aircraft (we played a lot of ATF Gold, Falcon 4.0, and Longbow 2 together), but can’t get into flight sims covering WWI or WWII at all. I *do* get that. They are a very different experience. While dogfights are still common in modern aircraft, more often than not air combat in modern aircraft is more like playing a game of chess (or speed-chess) than the yanking-and-banking experience of older aircraft. I just happen to get a kick out of both.

  • Max said,

    I wish they used same engine as in wings of prey – it is really pretty , and IL2 makeover is 10 years overdue

    IL2 was awesome sim I greatly enjoyed, I was pretty decent at MP at a time, though I stopped playing it as fuel mixtures and prop pitch was too much for me as well

    As far as realism go I really dislike the options which limit visibility. – Turning off external views and plane markers just kills it for me . As well as some extreme things like prop pitch. Sim are already very hardcore -you have to map tons of stuff on keyboard and memorize them, master joystick + mouselook + keyboard, have joystick first place, be patient enough to learn landing.

    And then of course you will still be owned in 10 second flat once you get to MP part(for first couple of weeks at least). No wonder no one does sims except some boutique shops. – They require lot of good programmers and modelers, and games are just way too niche.

  • Captain Kal said,

    I tried playing USAF, but I had several CTDs. (Damn those Win98 only games). As you can imagine I am not that hardcore when it comes down to flying sims :). Althought I did get my hands dirty with DID’s EF2000 (and later F-22 ADF) But I recently found out Third Wire’s excellent Strike Fighters 2 games. I am playing the first game right now (flying a US Marines A-4B Skyhawk). But I suck at close support :).

  • shaun harrison said,

    Awsome post, I am into all things flight sim. I thought the strike fighter games were excellant with great playability. I am currently playing around with Pro Flight Simulator, Which just as mind boggling detail and just keeps you at the computer for hours.