Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) Black Shark: First Impressions

A few years back, when "Lock On: Modern Air Combat" was hot out of the oven, I would never had imagined that in the future I would be flying a simulator from Eagle Dynamics with a clickable cockpit. Neither I would have imagined a study simulator nor a helicopter one. Whatever reasons have shaped Eagle Dynamics' choice for this new flight simulator, I am thrilled to see that there are still game developers in the business of making hard core war simulations.

I purchased the english version of Black Shark, available by download. For those who are wary of copy protection schemes, be aware that the english version of Black Shark uses StarForce. I haven't experienced any issues with StarForce: my machine didn't explode and it didn't cause me erectile dysfunction as I read somewhere. Installation was a breeze and setting up my CH HOTAS, pedals and TrackIR4 was very intuitive.

The documentation included with Black Shark is extensive. There are several pdf documents included and the main two are the graphics user interface (GUI) and flight manuals. The 300+ pages of the flight manual may sound daunting, but this is study flight simulator. Both manuals are available for download at ED's website.

Black Shark can be played in two main modes: game and simulator. The differences between both modes are the flight model and the avionics. The player can also customize his experience by choosing what parameters he wants realistic and which ones he wants to be more simplified.

Black Shark is a study simulator. When playing in simulator mode, the avionics is extremely detailed and the flight model is unforgiving. There is a lot of learning to do before becoming fully competent at flying and delivering weapons to targets. Below you can see the cockpit of the bird. The red mini-display in the lower left is a simulator aid that shows the position of the cyclic, collective, rudder pedals and throttle. This little thing is very useful because of the trimming system of the Black Shark helicopter (more on that in a future entry).

The level of detail in this flight simulator is quite deep. For starters, the damage model just blows my mind. Besides the very impressive graphical candy (see my bird hit by a radar-guided SAM) in the screen shot below), the simulator models many systems that can be damaged by enemy fire at several points. If you have studied your manual good, you should be able to figure out what was damaged and alleviate the problem to bring back home your bird.

In a future entry, I will point you to some good reviews of this simulator. Also, I will share my experiences flying this simulator.


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