The Flare Path: Ascension Day +1

By Tim Stone on May 10th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Mr. Petrie (R.E.) is minutes away from losing control of 2C again. The Ascension Day questions started harmlessly enough (“How fast did he go up, Sir?”, “Did he wave to the Apossums?”) . It was only when Angela Jessop opened her mouth that the lesson began to disintegrate. Angela is of the opinion that Daedalus and Icarus were frauds, and Jesus was, technically, the first aviator. Her assertion that the Son of God probably owned an invisible helicopter, is, like all of Angela’s assertions, difficult to dispute. Mr Petrie mumbles something about omnipotence then closes his eyes, surrendering to the growing hubbub. Mentally he’s already at home, a glass of chilled Budvar in his hand, an evening of undisturbed Formula Truck and DCS UH-1H Huey stretching blissfully ahead of him.

It’s been an unusually good week here at Cuckoo Cottage, Upper Bumhope. Sim brilliance arrived from Brazil. Sim brilliance arrived from Belarus.

Belsimtek’s UH-1H Huey is the first of a new breed of high-fidelity third-party add-ons for free contemporary air combat sim DCS World. Humbled by DCS-calibre realism in the past, I anticipated spending my first day with the $50 beta, poring over manuals and practising cold-start rituals. In fact, I was airborne within thirty minutes, and smitten within the hour.

The Belarusian devs can’t take all the credit for the accessibility. Bell’s fifty-year-old design is, from a start-up perspective, naturally affable. Flick a handful of switches on the overhead console to ready the battery and generator, flick a few more on the panel between the seats to configure fuel pump and governor, prep hydraulics, set throttle and, bingo, you’re ready to prod the 1400hp Lycoming T53-L-13 engine into life. I’ve got a memory like a sieve but only needed to watch the included tutorial vid a couple of times. There is, as always, a one-key auto-start cheat, but in the circumstances, using it would be absurdly defeatist.

Operating the Huey’s various weapons is similarly straightforward. A single key press moves you to one of the airy/scary door gunner positions, and hands cyclic, collective, and rudder pedals over to a silicon stand-in. Target too tough for a mere MG? Jump back to the cockpit, and line up the dual miniguns (usable in either fixed or flexible modes) or lower that iconic glazed chin and send a flurry of Hydra rockets on their way.

The majority of the knobs and switches in the superbly rendered and highly functional cockpit are still mysteries to me. What’s great – unique – about the Huey is this ignorance isn’t a barrier to enjoyment or effectiveness. To squeeze every drop of simmy pleasure out of this second DCS helo, you will need to spend time with the doorstop pdf manual. To turn yourself into a bedroom Bob Mason, only practise and a half-decent flightstick are required.

All of my practising thus far has been done via the powerful-yet-simple DCS World editor rather the bundled Caucasus-based campaign. Buzzing about harassing innocent road traffic and alighting on unsuspecting bridges, buildings and roads, is an unalloyed joy thanks to wonderfully intuitive physics, a talktative airframe, and pleasingly robust skids. As long as you don’t do anything stupid like provoke retreating blade stalls, or put down on thoroughfares used by Georgia’s notoriously short-sighted/pig-headed bus drivers, catastrophes are relatively few and far between.


Admittedly, I’ve only flown in windless daytime conditions as yet. Also, most of my training targets have been harmless trucks and trains. I suspect it will be a week or two before I’m ready for the rigours of combat, and at least a month before I start bombarding Eagle Dynamics/Belsimtek with endless variations of the following email.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am thoroughly enjoying your superb Huey add-on! The most fun I have had in a simulated combat helo since flying Digital Integration’s Hind in the late Nineties.

Is there any chance you will be releasing a Vietnam War map/campaign to go with this excellent add-on?

Yours incredibly hopefully,

Tim Stone Esq

 

Driving long distances without a trailer in Euro Truck Simulator 2 is evidence of poor planning or incredible carelessness. In Reiza Studios latest automotive offering it means you’re far less likely to finish last, or be ridiculed for decades to come in the sports bars of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

The rFactor-engined Formula Truck has everything FP looks for in a race sim except hand gestures, mouse-steering, and pit-lane accidents. $25 buys you evocative physics, stirring audio, fallible AI, twelve largely unfamiliar tracks, and a collection of six unusually charismatic conveyances.

While their peers all seem obsessed with speed and glamour, Reiza have chosen to model vehicles at the brick privy end of the aerodynamic spectrum. Fortunately, what truck tractor units lack in sleekness they more than make up for in brute power and helpful cab height. At the wheel of the sim’s hissing, bellowing, squeaking Mercs, Scanias and Ivecos I feel like the faceless truck driver from Duel at least a couple of times per race, and find myself driving like him almost as often. When I grumbled about ETS2′s insipid engine notes and slightly soft-edged handling, this is what I was yearning for.

Set-up meddlers are welcomed with open suspension arms. A two-screen garage interface lets you tamper with everything from brake settings and gear ratios, to weight distribution and radiator size. I’m not quite sure what everything does yet, but suspect that a larger rad might be a wise mod in my case (a couple of recent races have ended prematurely with a pulsing red thermometer icon glaring at me from the top of the screen).

Mechanical failures, like every other realism-related feature in the game, are toggle-able. With all of the aids switched off, trucks are a handful, but spins and skids never feel unfair. Calamity usually has the good manners to tap you on the shoulder and show you his gold pocket-watch before punching you in the stomach and bundling you onto the turf. Nudging other competitors seems to be an accepted part of the sport (an AI agressiveness slider means you can minimise contact if you choose) but probably won’t win you too many friends in multiplayer.

 

The Flare Path Foxer


The Upper Bumhope OS map doesn’t show the best conker tree in the parish, the softest haystack, or the glades where the gazumilous thornies like to play. It’s flawed in other ways too. Last week, a party of carto-commandos consisting of Zachforrest, SominiTheCommenter, SuicideKing, Bhazor, stahlwerk, serioussgtstu, corinoco, and orranis spotted all but one of the following topographical typos…

1. A questionable quarry
2. A ridiculous railway
3. A fanciful footpath
4. A tower where there should be a steeple
5. A wayward windmill
6. An absent abode
7. Another absent abode
8. An overlooked outbuilding or two
9. An absurd orchard
10. An absurder oasis
11. A wandering wood
12. An invisible inn (The Dick Turpin really should be indicated with a ‘P’)
13. And a hillock masquerading as a minor mountain

The map scrutineers get highly-polished theodolite FP flair points, as does pertusaria whose explanation of the fate of OS man #3 is all-too plausible:

“I think the third cartographer caught the train to Mornington Crescent while he was still in a suitable mental state to perceive the railway line as existing, which is why he was never seen again in the vicinity of Upper Bumhope”

A common theme unites the seven aero elements in this week’s puzzle. Identify that theme to win stylish Flare Path underwear made from weather balloon foil and parachute silk.

, , , , , , .

25 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge Matchstick says:

    Another Friday, another Flare Path Foxer.

    Is the jet on the top line a Learjet 25 – if so does the Learjet have any nicknames ?

    Next to it I think the cartoon shows a General Aircraft Hotspur Glider.

    Edit
    Top Line Far Left – Hawker Typhoon ?

    Edit 2
    Very bottom – this one’s rather easy as it’s got it’s serial number on it. It’s a Westland Lysander III possibly currently on display at RAF Hendon http://www.flickr.com/photos/alana125/7172829629/

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Lysander, Lear… Shakespeare?

      Edit: Yeah, the Hawker Typhoon Tempest, deffo Shakespeare.

      • Premium User Badge Matchstick says:

        OOOH !!!

        Hotspur is a character in Henry IV as well.

        And if the plane on the left of the top line is a Hawker Tempest rather than a Typhoon that might work :)

        Edit – Yep it’s a Tempest

        • Premium User Badge JB says:

          Ah, double ninja’d. I was just posting to confirm that it was a Tempest!

        • Premium User Badge phuzz says:

          You learn something new every day, I’d never heard of the Tempest before, I thought it was a plain old Typhoon.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        The engine has to be a Rolls Royce Avon, then.

      • skink74 says:

        I spy, The Merry Wives of a Vickers Windsor
        and Shakespeare, of course, was master of the Globe theatre hence the Douglas C129 Globemaster II
        And is that an Rolls-Royce Avon engine as in Stratford-upon- ?

        • Premium User Badge Matchstick says:

          Yep I think that’s the lot then.

          That was quick !

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Kudos to you, you did the hard part, I just recognised the link 60 seconds before you did!

  2. Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

    A DCS Huey would be pretty cool (I love their sims, I just wish they didn’t simulate flying computers so much), but given you’re just getting a Huey, not a Huey and Vietnam with it, $50 is too rich for my tastes.

    Fórmula Truck looks like a good chuckle (if they’ve done a good job on rF’s dreadful vanilla FFB), especially with a full selection of quirky Brazilian circuits – any sim that includes a country’s second (and then some) tier tracks is worth a look to me. Off to have a go with the demo.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Didn’t see the demo link, OH YES!! Very fond memories of sitting in a racing Ford Transcontinental back in the day, flying round Zandvoort with me dad at the wheel doing a shakedown! The dump valve sure made some serious noise! What with that and me little peanut heed rattling around in an adults bash hat, health and safety would preclude such enjoyment these days!
      TOOT TOOT!!

    • Scythe says:

      I thought $50 was too much for DCS: P-51D when it first came out, so I waited and picked it up during a sale for something in the area of $10. Worth about that price, given how little there is to actually *do* with the aircraft at present. I suspect the Huey will fall in the same category.

      Edit: Woah, that sounded a bit like I was ragging on the Mustang. Not so, it’s a brilliant sim of a lovely aircraft, but there’s not much to do with it except learn its grubbins.

  3. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    Did the bus driver wave his fist at you as he sectioned your Huey? Made me titter those pics!!

    Don’t know how the physics work in Formula Truck but in the real world the front splitter settings can cause overheating by messing with the radiator airflow. You get an area of dead air and hence no cooling. Mind who can resist a truck with a splitter

  4. Rossi says:

    I think the relationship between all the pics is that they have all broken some kind of record. Possibly speed.

  5. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    I quote rule XIV subsection VIII.

    Mornington Crescent cannot be approached from any station that contains a word that sounds a bit like ‘bumhole’. Nicholas Parsons confirmed this in-between discussions with the devil about retrieving his soul after the ‘Wonga’ debacle!

    • Guvornator says:

      The day Nicholas Parsons gets anywhere near “Mornington Crescent”, and by extension “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” is the day I’m apprehended at whatever sorry outpost of this great nation the BBC is currently broadcasting from carrying a homemade bomb filled with nails, TNT and a selection of Humphrey Lyttelton’s greatest one liners…

      • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

        Isn’t being mercilessly derided a form of proximity?

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Just a minute, are you telling me that Nicholas Parsons doesn’t know the rules to Mornington Crescent, well blow me Samantha!!

    • Premium User Badge phuzz says:

      While we’re on the subject, are there any good PC versions of the Great Game?

  6. SuicideKing says:

    Theme? WWII?

    I missed error #3 on the map last week, i think.

  7. DetCord says:

    Too bad the DCS Huey is so old it has the survivability of a Yugo, as a half century old helo flying around a 21st century battlefield would.

    DCS is becoming more and more just a pile of random modules (P-51, Mig-21, T-2 etc etc) without any reasonable relation to each other.

  8. Spinoza says:

    “Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.” Especially if you could use the Huey to haul marijuana.

  9. Pheasant Plucker says:

    That opening paragraph by Tim Stone Esq is the finest start to a games-journalism related monologue that I ever saw in 30 years.

    Hat suitably doffed and carry on the good work!

  10. MeestaNob says:

    Tim, while I’m not really into ‘hardcore’ wargames/simulations of the sort your column tends to focus on, I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your articles. Your writing is enthusiastic and informative.

    Was wondering if it would be possible for you to do a piece on joystick/throttle/peddle kits for flight sims, with emphasis on what level of sim the respective hardware is best suited to.

    In a careless shopping frenzy, I picked up DCS A10 Warthog on a Steam sale many moons ago after having read about it here and watching an enthusiastic Giant Bomb quicklook – however I don’t actually have a joystick to use with it! I also backed Star Citizen to re-capture the thrill of playing space sims like Tie Fighter when I was young, yet the issue remains that I don’t have the appropriate setup

    if you could offer any insight on where to begin I would be very grateful sir!