It doesn't matter whether you're a newcomer to DCS World or are a seasoned flight simulator fan with hundreds of hours of simulated flying experience, the F-15C Module has space for all levels of skill, knowledge, and understanding. Following on from the free-to-play DCS World - where you are able to undertake a variety of missions and free-fly the Su-25T Aircraft as well as create your own missions, experience multiplayer, and more - the F-15C module affords those who are lucky enough to play it an even more of a detailed and realistic flight experience.
Not only does the F-15C module add-on offer you the opportunity to experience all the perks of the free-to-play DCS World (which should be thought of as the equivalent of the equivalent of a base pack of a collectible set), but it allows you to play around with this framework whilst sitting at the controls of an F-15C fighter jet, an aircraft capable of some serious aerial manoeuvres and combat as well as one that throws up new challenges as a result of the increased realism in physics and additional hardware that it has that makes it superior to the free-to-play Su-25T module of the DCS World series.
You will have gathered by now that the F-15C Module is a paid-for add-on to what is referred to as the base DCS World download. The aforementioned download acts as the framework that can be used to fly a multitude of different aircraft - the F-15C jet is the one being reviewed here. You will also have been able to work out that DCS World in general is no quick-start, instant-reward flying game - this is a flight simulator through and through, requiring you to take control of a multitude of hardware that sits inside the aircraft.
The F-15C aircraft you fly in the game is an highly accurate replica of its real-life counterpart and requires the user control virtually all aspects of the aircraft that a real-life pilot would be required to operate. From closing the cockpit and starting up the engines to the taxi procedure, throttle control, pitch/yaw/roll considerations, electrical components, and fuel management, this module requires some serious depth in knowledge before you even load up the game. It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with the F-15C Eagle Flight Manual at Steam (this is a PDF file).
While you can't really refer to the DCS World experience as a whole as mere "gameplay", this is simply a label that refers to the "playing" (aka simulating experience). Opening up the main DCS World base game and setting the F-15C wallpaper will activate said module and allow you to access all of the usual facets of the DCS World game, only this time with the F-15C aircraft. You will notice that unless you are playing the F-15C as part of the Flaming Cliffs 3 game that there are no tutorials to speak of.
The distinct lack of a play-through, guided tutorial will significantly hinder the progress of a beginner, but granted is probably the only drawback that comes to light when considering the gameplay as a whole. The reason a tutorial is so badly needed is simple: getting the plane to fly is an insanely complex procedure that is nothing like any flight games (non-simulator titles) you may have played.
There is a catalogue of keyboard commands that must be remembered that each correspond to different pieces of kit within the cockpit, and this is in the simplest game mode (Game Avionics Mode/Standard Flight Mode).Once you're familiar with the commands you must then learn take-off procedure which is a series of actions that must be executed in a fairly strict order, ending with the plane being on the runway with the throttle fully open and you pulling back on the joystick gently until the plane eases off the ground.
Once you're in the air, the pressure is off somewhat as it is more of a stable environment, though you'll need to take a good few hours to become proficient in keeping the plane steady. Then comes the combat functions of the aircraft which include air-to-air missiles and the use of a staggering array of hardware in the cockpit including the heads-up display, the vertical situation display, the tactical electronic warfare system (TEWS for short), the angle-of-attack (AoA) indicator, and the multi-purpose colour display weapon control panel.
Gameplay can be experienced in a variety of different modes, all of which require varying levels of skill in order to be played properly. You can choose to create a fast mission, selecting from a drop-down list of various scenarios such as starting from the ground, combat encounters, refuelling, and a variety of other scenarios. Missions include No-Fly Zone and one called Clean Sweep, each involving a combination of cold starts, take-off, aerial manoeuvres, and encounters with enemy aircraft that will test your skills to the limit.
Missions are best left for when you are very comfortable with take-off, flying, aerial combat, and landing because otherwise you'll end up failing frequently. There is a mission editor and also a campaign builder, adding to the already high level of customisation that is available to owners of the F-15C module. Instant Action is a mode that lies on the other end of the spectrum, allowing you to choose quickly from one of many starting scenarios which you can then play instantly without any deeper considerations that the campaign mode requires.
Finally, there is a multiplayer mode for users to experience. This requires that you log in after which you can enter into some seriously cool combat with other aircraft in a multitude of scenarios that will often involve either you or your opponent/s having to make an emergency landing as a result of the damage that has been obtained during your encounters.
Cockpit and Scenery Graphics
One of the most prized aspects of any flight simulator whether it be Microsoft's Flight Simulator X, X-Plane, or Graphism's Falcon Force 4.0 is how each of these pieces of software look. Now, DCS World isn't the newest of flight sims - the base game was released in 2009 in Europe and North America, making it nearly 6 years old at this stage - and this relative old age shows in the graphics, which aren't exactly poor but at the same time aren't cutting edge either.
Don't be lured into thinking that just because of the core module's age it isn't going to look good however: the graphics aren't the best available today, but if you whack the settings up to high you're going to be impressed at what you see - just look at the detail in the picture below. The cockpit detail is quite incredible and on higher settings each and every one of the instruments you see in the cockpit works independently and dynamically, indicating real values of the instruments as they work to keep your virtual plane in the air and operating properly (this kind of detail explains why the recommended system requirements are around 8GB RAM and an i5 processor).
The representation of the scenery is also intricately detailed in nature. You'll be flying over varied terrain, ranging from regular fields to water as well as encountering aerial targets in both single and multiplayer mode. If you've a lot of scenery in your field of view then expect the more generic stuff like fields to look a little blurred, but details on the ground when you move into focus are impressive, as is the traffic and general hustle/bustle you'll find at the airports/landing strips you'll be using in the game.
Between the F-15C module's still-impressive graphics (considering its age), the wide range of modes available, and also the sheer thrill of flying such a famous and successful fighter jet, DCS World's F-15C jet flight simulator means serious business. One of the best aspects of the experience is the ability to enter into the simulation using the standard flight model if you're a beginner but with the option of experiencing the F-15C aircraft's advanced or even professional flight mode, with the latter being hyper-realistic and requiring that you utilise all of the available instruments in the cockpit due to the increased realism with the physics (especially when landing the plane).
In spite of how hard it will be for newcomers to learn the relatively complex keyboard assignments and various procedures, the F-15C jet model is nonetheless flexible in the wide range of players that can enjoy it, and from all levels of skill/experience. DCS World even allows for mods to be used so you can skin the cockpit in your own way if you so wish. The lack of walk-through tutorial in this module does stick out like a sore thumb although you can find plenty of guides on flying such aircraft at www.jetgames.org, but this should be forgiven so players can enjoy what is a fantastic plane that uses arguably the best flight simulator framework in the world.