If you want supreme combat-centric flight simulation, then you're almost definitely going to choose DCS World to provide if for you. This choice isn't because it's the only combat flight simulator, but because its developers, Eagle Dynamics, have come up with some of the most detailed flight models you're ever likely to experience outside of stepping into a real-life aircraft. The Flaming Cliffs 3 module for DCS World contains a number of planes but the one under review here is the A-10A Thunderbolt II. Simply put, this is the perfect aircraft to fly if you're after the A-10C experience but without the mind-bending detail and the increased price tag.
Presentation, Content, and User Interface
The A-10A Thunderbolt is just one of the multiple aircraft available in the DCS World Flaming Cliffs 3 module and as such is accessible through the DCS Flaming Cliffs 3 menu in the base DCS World game. You are offered the chance to watch some training videos for this aircraft (it's a little disappointing that there are no interactive training modules included however), enter into the A-10A campaign, have a go at some fast missions, enter the campaign editor, or even have a go at multiplayer. All these options are enclosed in an interface that is clean and easily navigable, though this is the easiest part of the simulation - things get more difficult once you begin flying!
Though the DCS Flaming Cliffs 3 module has a lot of content, this is spread across the various planes contained within this module. In terms of instant action missions, you've only got the one for the A-10A; this involves close air support. You can create a fast mission with the A-10A, changing the various parameters such as the location of the mission, its difficulty, and other things like the season and the weather. There are two A-10A missions to undertake as well as a full-on campaign entitled 'The Valley' which involves multiple missions requiring various skills like take-off, landing, and combat competence.
You're also able to take a look at the hours you've logged by looking at the flight logbook - this allows you to have a look at your various scores, kills, flight hours, and other data, in order to track your progress and improve over time.
With the above in mind, there's no shortage of things to do with the A-10A. There is plenty of content, though the lack of interactive training missions is definitely a bit of a letdown here.
The Aircraft Simulation
The DCS World Flaming Cliffs 3 module contains aircraft with highly detailed levels of fight simulation, and the A-10A flight model is no exception. However, even though the A-10A during flight involves almost as much detail as some of the aircraft in the other DCS World modules, expect less responsibility in terms of powering up the aircraft as well as some details such as not having to deal with a 3D cockpit (this means having to know each of the instruments and interact with them using your mouse; the A-10A instead allows you to use key assignments).
As always, you can opt for either playing in Game or Simulation mode in the options menu, which basically decides whether you have an easier or more difficult flight experience. Beginners are advised to play in Game mode whilst veterans of flight sims will be able to handle the Simulation Mode, which involves much more care and control over every aspect of the A-10A.
You'll notice that the detail in the cockpit is rather impressive and in no way sullied by the fact that the flight model isn't quite as detailed as that of the A-10C Warthog. The individual switches and dials display real-time information about the various systems, though if you look at the HUD you'll find all of the primary information about your flight there.
The weapons you get to fire off in the A-10A are very impressive and range from the aircraft's cannons to unguided bombs and rockets. These come in handy for the various combat scenarios you are able to enter into from the main menu.
The A-10A aircraft for the Flaming Cliffs 3 module is a great bird to fly, particularly if you're looking for something more akin to the Ace Combat games in terms of level of flight detail. The Flaming Cliffs 3 planes are still very detailed in their flight models, the A-10A included, but don't expect simulation-level fidelity as you are spared the rigmarole of things like getting the aircraft powered up and ready.
The game's graphics are definitely impressive: the cockpit is insanely detailed with independently-moving instruments/displays that show real-time data about your flight. The only thing that is annoying is the absence of interactive/play-through training missions, but the learning curve isn't challenging enough for this to be a significant problem.