At $79.99 USD the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet is the most expensive module that Eagle Dynamics has offered in the history of DCS World. Are there good reasons for that? Is the Hornet worth the price? Should you pre-order? Let’s talk about all things Hornet.
The gnashing of teeth pre-order edition
For weeks and months there have been DCS community members asking for a pre-order for the DCS: Hornet. Since the opening of the pre-order yesterday, there have been other DCS community members who have been making comments about why the pre-order is open now. I don’t think Eagle Dynamics (or anyone else for that matter) can win that particular argument so let’s just move past it to more realistic and practical considerations.
The official word is that the F/A-18C Hornet module for DCS World will release sometime in the spring. Let’s reiterate exactly what it says on the e-Store website:
DCS: F/A-18C Hornet is planned to be available for download as Early Access by the end of Spring 2018.
For most people that means that we may see access by June 2018. However, we also have an alternate take on the release date straight from Matt Wagner himself. In an interview he did with Rock Paper Shotgun, “Wags” reported that the late spring release date is extra padding in-case something goes wrong. Here’s what he said:
By the end of January, DCS World 2.5 will be released and the F/A-18C Hornet will be released into Early Access by the end of March 2018.
My guess is that the reality will be somewhere in-between so let’s split the difference and say that a mid-April launch is when the F/A-18C Hornet comes to DCS World. That’s 3 months from now. If it launches in early March that’s only about 6 weeks from now.
Depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you want to be will determine just how far out ahead this pre-order really is.
It won’t be fully featured on launch
The next issue that I’m seeing come up frequently is that the F/A-18C isn’t going to be fully featured on launch. That’s true and Eagle Dynamics hasn’t shied away from talking about it. I reported on it back in November in an update about the roll out.
Simpler features and systems will come first with the air-to-air radar with basic modes of operation. Unguided munitions such as rockets and bombs will be the primary loadout along with the somewhat less sophisticated and already well modeled AIM-9L/M Sidewinder and AIM-7F/M/P Sparrow.
Over time we’re going to see the list of weapons and sensors expanded to include both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes along with more advanced weapons like the AIM-120B/C and the AIM-9X along with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) needed to activate its off-boresight firing options.
It’s pretty plain to me that on launch we’ll have a fully functional jet fighter that you can start up, take-off, use in combat in both air and ground modes and have a lot of enjoyment out of right off the bat. It’ll grow in capabilities as the team finishes more systems and tackle some of the more complex features.
Pricey, probably for a reason
When Eagle Dynamics tackled the F/A-18C Hornet they did so with years of experience under their belt. Even then, it was a major job to do an aircraft like the Hornet at the level that they wanted to do it at. This will probably be the most in-depth simulator study of the Hornet ever released outside of military simulators and that comes with a lot of complexity.
Complexity adds development time from the research and sourcing of information to the coding and debugging necessary to make it all work properly in the simulation world. I don’t envy the hard work that the team at Eagle Dynamics will have to do to get this working.
I count 21 weapon systems, 2 decoy systems, and 14 radar modes in A/A and A/G modes. There’s also the JHMCS helmet I mentioned before for use with the AIM-9X, a datalink pod, LINK-16, and ATFLIR targeting pod. That’s a lot of systems and munitions and DCS World pilots are going to expect that each work according to their real world constraints and capabilities.
Suffice to say that the F/A-18C is flat out a more complex aircraft than other modules. That isn’t a knock against the fine work done by companies like RAZBAM on the M-2000C or Heatblur on the AJS-37 or aircraft like the Spitfire IX or MiG-15. It’s just the nature of modeling a 2005 era fourth gen plus, carrier borne, multi-role fighter jet that can mount and use a couple dozen different weapons.
All of that complexity and development time adds cost and this is a way for Eagle Dynamics to recoup that cost and continue on as a development house. If they can’t turn a profit then they won’t be able to reinvest it in future products or the constant maintenance of DCS World. Let me be clear that I don’t think the future of Eagle Dynamics rests on just this one module but its important for them to price their content appropriately.
How does it compare versus other sims? If you look at full featured titles like Prepare3D and the aircraft that get sold there, this is probably a steal. I’ve seen a P3D 777 module run for well over $100.
Should you pre-order?
Getting right down to it the answer on pre-ordering goes a bit like this. Do you have the money and are you interested in flying the Hornet early? If so then yes, by all means, pre-order it now or later. If you do, you get a $20 discount knocking the price of the aircraft down to $59.99 which is a little more in-line with some of the other aircraft modules.
If you don’t have the money, are balking at the price, or you aren’t interested in the F/A-18 then the answer is a simple no.
Will there be discounts and sales in the future? Sure there will and I think more people will buy in at that point. Those sales won’t come right away as this is Eagle Dynamics biggest and most complex module but eventually they will start to offer discounts and deals.
There may even be a DCS: Strait of Hormuz and the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet module package deal offered at some point. Nothing has been announced but Eagle Dynamics likes to make those kinds of offers available sometimes and the two go really well together.
Will I pre-order it?
Although I’m not rushing out to pre-order this module just yet I have to say that my own excitement for the module has increased. Watching Wags take the Hornet through its paces in recent live stream modules and doing his low level over the autumn Caucasus map has peaked my interest. With the potential of having a CF-18 livery I’m even more excited about the possibilities of taking the Hornet out for a spin.
I also have to think about what I can do with this plane. I bought the M-2000C because I wanted the DCS level module with multi-role capabilities. I’m still learning those capabilities but I’m making progress and I love being able to do what I want with this jet. The Hornet is a similar proposition although arguably a more full featured one.
After the Hornet I’ll probably have to be good for a while and not buy anything more but I do think this aircraft gives a lot of bang for the buck offering a lot of different features all rolled into a single package.