Fly the Unfriendly Skies for Free!

From Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Okay. Just in case you wanted to see what a modern, hardcore-realism jet combat simulator was like, Eagle Dynamics is offering a “free weekend” to play two (and a half) of their newest products: The F/A-18C Hornet and the Persian Gulf map (both of which are still in “early access” stage), as well as the carrier-launched Russian Su-33 (currently available in the Flaming Cliffs 3 expansion, and soon in the Modern Air Combat package). This will be available both on Steam and on the Digital Combat Simulator website (

DCS World itself is a free product, but ordinarily you only get to fly an Su-25 variant (an air-to-ground attack aircraft) or a trainer version of the World War II era P-51 Mustang (one with no weaponry). This free weekend goes on sale tomorrow (Friday), but you may want to start the download of the rest of the DCS World package nowish if you want to give it a go. This gives you a chance to play with some hotter, newer jets with powerful air-to-air capabilities for free, and see how it runs on your machine.

I guess they are trying to broaden their audience with offers like this, and the upcoming Modern Air Combat. Good. I remember when combat flight sims were one of the more popular computer game genres. Nowadays, they are more niche, but there’s no reason they can’t be a bigger niche.

The F/A-18C is a powerful naval multi-role fighter, an upgrade in the late 1980s from the original F/A-18A, and was in production until 2000. It can carry a variety of air-to-ground weaponry, as well as advanced U.S. air-to-air missiles like the AIM-120C and AIM-9X. The Su-33 is an upgrade of the powerful Russian Su-27, modified to fly from an aircraft carrier in the mid-1980s. While it originated as an air superiority fighter, it can also carry air-to-ground weaponry.  (I guess I should say “air-to-surface”, because these two naval fighters don’t always have the ground under them). This makes them a pretty reasonable match-up, and the Persian Gulf map is a great fit for carrier-based conflicts.

After the weekend is over, this whole package will be available at a discounted rate for three weeks.  This time they promise that if you already own part of the package, you can get the other part as a discount. We’ll see. Anyway, as far as the package is concerned, I’m going to embed the promotional video here because it’s dang cool.

The Su-33 still has the same kind of “professional flight model” as all of the DCS aircraft (except, for now, the MiG-29, which should be updated soon).  However, that’s not the complicated part. If anything, a more realistic flight model makes the aircraft easier to fly. They behave predictably even when you put them in weird situations. However, the Hornet has an advanced control model, which means nearly every control in the cockpit is modeled, interactive, and should work just like the real aircraft. Since the F/A-18C is a complex beast, you can assume you won’t be mastering it over the course of a single weekend. The Su-33, on the other hand, has the old “standard” control system common to all of the Flaming Cliffs aircraft (which goes all the way back to the “Lock On: Modern Air Combat” days circa early 2000s). This means you don’t get a fully interactive cockpit (you must instead use keyboard / mouse / controller commands), and certain systems are either somewhat simplified or not modeled. It’s still a long, long way from Ace Combat, just not up to the level of fidelity as F/A-18C or similar premium modules.

Fortunately, for any aircraft, you can also choose simplified avionics and other options / cheats, which vastly simplifies the experience. Especially since using the radar, navigation, and targeting is something like 75% of the difficulty of flying these planes in combat. I recommend turning a bunch of these options on as you are learning the basics (including unlimited ammo, unlimited fuel, and labels). You can work your way up to greater difficulty later. Learning how to cold-start a jet aircraft isn’t something all players want to learn to do. 🙂 Especially not during a free weekend trial.

So… if you are interested, here’s a chance to check it out. Have fun!


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