Times are tough in FP's neck-of-the-woods. If the illegal logging conducted by fuel-poor locals continues, pretty soon there'll just be a larynx-of-the-woods. Thank heavens high-quality, low-altitude entertainment can still be picked up for the same price as a lungful of fresh air and an eyeful of superior sunset. After rolling with the rather wonderful War Thunder last week, this week I thought I'd get my free firmament thrills courtesy of DCS World's Su-25T Frogfoot and SAM Simulator's ZSU-23-4V1 Shilka.
Series producer Matt Wagner's latest video eloquently explains why DCS World warrants attention from anyone of a simmy or scrimpy disposition. Unexpectedly, it also drops some fab FAB 9000-sized hints as to where the series is headed next.
ED and The Fighter Collection, realising that they don't have the manpower to satisfy every 'DCS aircraft wishlist' thread contributor, have grasped the third-party DLC development nettle enthusiastically of late. The list of add-on payware currently in development reads like the exhibit catalogue of an eclectic but engrossing aviation museum.
Laszlo 'Beczl' Becz's MiG-21Bis Fishbed has been mentioned before in FP. Upcoming payware you might not have heard of, includes the F/A-18C Hornet, F-15C Eagle, Su-27SM Flanker, F-86F Sabre, and L-29.
The oldest warfowl on the WIP list is guaranteed to make the hearts and hooves of DCS P-51D owners beat a little faster. At some point, hopefully in the near future, Butcherbirds will be quartering Caucasian skies.
Of course, the lovely thing about DCS World is you can have a fine old time without spending a red rouble. While getting chummy with the A-10C or Ka-50 Black Shark at maximum realism settings might take weeks, befriending the Frogfoot included in the free install is the work of a day or two. With the help of the manual and the 1.5GB of official training vids (linked from the main screen) you should be autocannoning convoys, BetAB-ing bunkers, and Vikhr-ing tanks in no time.
The first flyable to benefit from ED's advanced flight model, the Su-25T boasts a beast of a damage model too. Clumsy landings burst tyres and collapse landing gear. Flak, SAMs and AAMs kindle conflagrations, strip flight surfaces and fuselage panels, and play merry hell with numerous vital systems and instruments. You can can ruin your Rook via Instant Action or Campaign sorties, highly configurable Quick Missions, or quirky self-built jaunts.
The bundled Arma-style editor is a breeze to use and incredibly powerful. ATG or ATA violence not your thing? Spend the weekend pretending to be a Sukhoi testpilot, Celestial Hussar or fearless Frogfoot thief with a taste for train-worrying.
Inside Satan's Sewing Machine
Thanks to the Combined Arms beta it's now possible for DCS users to operate traditional aircraft nemeses like the ZSU-23-4 Shilka. I say 'operate', if you want a true taste of what it takes to crew Comrade Astov's potent plane puncturer, to acquire and track targets with a 1RL-33 RPK-2 'Gun Dish' radar, then tear those targets out of the sky with four gyro stabilized, hydraulically aimed 23mm autocannons, your only virtual option is SAM Simulator.
Since last Saturday, the free Hungarian-made marvel that lets you sling these terrifying telegraph poles...
… has also let you shred aircraft with a Shilka. The newcomer, like its companions, is represented by a series of atmospheric photo-derived panels and authentic sounds. It looks like developer Hpasp has been busy with wirecutters and drugged steaks again.
As usual, the recreated weapon system comes with an instructional pdf breathtaking in its detail and breadth.
I'm still working my way through the documentation, and trying - unsuccessfully so far - to down the Meteor RC drones that buzz over the training ranges. I reckon it's going to be a few days before I'm ready to brave the historical War of Attrition and Operation El Dorado Canyon scenarios.
If, like me, you enjoyed engineering slave revolts and poking Pompey in the eye with a sharp gladius, there's probably a good chance you'll also enjoy seeing-off the Samnites and the Senones, humbling Hamilcar, showing Pyrrhus the meaning of 'Pyrrhic victory', and teaching uppity North African mercs a lesson they'll never forget.
A sheaf of five scenarios “telling the story of those first epic wars that led to the unification of Italy and started Rome’s quest for global domination.” doesn't sound overly generous, but, bearing in mind the scale and replayability of most of AJE's original challenges, there's probably weeks if not months of high-calibre entertainment included. Will Slitherine/Ageod offer discounts on the rumoured £17 price to AJE owners? Some might argue its appropriate. Let's wait and see.
The Flare Path Foxer
Brun and skink74 did the bulk of last week's underwater archaeology. They returned to the surface clutching relics from the...
a) Exxon Valdez (Prince William Sound, 1989)
b) Royal Oak (Scapa Flow, 1939)
c) Vasa (Stockholm, 1628)
d) Queen Elizabeth (Hong Kong, 1972)
e) Britannic (Kea Island, 1916)
f) Costa Concordia (Giglio Island, 2012)
g) Tirpitz (Tromso, 1944)
Talking of shipwrecks, FP's desk is made from salvaged timbers from Pride of Penzance, a hagfish trawler that foundered on Lizard Point in 1922. If you put your ear to the desktop when the wind is blowing from the west, you can hear the booming of the breakers and the keening of the gulls. It's a truly remarkable piece of furniture, but how long is it? Add up the calibres of the ten weapons pictured below, to find out. Answers in millimetres, please. No sly second guesses.