It’s been a busy week for combat flight simulators and that means my time with the latest in content has been limited. I have had a chance to explore a few pieces of the Persian Gulf map and that means I have some screenshots and a chance to write-up my first impressions. Welcome to the gulf!
The gulf and the desert
DCS: Persian Gulf was, until recently, known as DCS: Strait of Hormuz as the map is focused around the strategic choke point bearing that name. Over 20% of the world’s oil exports travel this route via tanker and that makes it a particularly valuable piece of the world’s shipping lanes.
To the north is Iran and the city of Bandar Abbas – a major shipping port and the home of the Iranian Navy. To the south west is the United Arab Emirates and the south east is Oman.
Some critique out there has been that this is yet another desert map but I think that is a surface examination of what the map offers. Real world geopolitical considerations aside, this is a region with a lot of geographical diversity. There are port cities with enormous terminals for large cargo ships. There’s the city of Dubai which boasts a spectacular arrangement of buildings including the 828-meter Burj Khalifa skyscraper and smaller but iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.
I’ve seen video of people flying across towards Al Ain where the desert takes on a decidedly reddish hue. A nice touch for what could have been a desert that looked the same all over.
North in Iran there is the city of Bandar Abbas and rugged mountainous regions to the north. Some of this area is extremely sparse and rugged but occasionally there are settlements and the occasional airbase.
To sum up how this map looks, I think the effort here is spectacular. From the ground level roads, highways, monorails, tail buildings and short of Dubai to the port cities and smaller cities and towns, this map really does have it all. The terrain is definitely of the arid variety with a lot of browns but Eagle Dynamics picked a region that also has a lot of stunning (and sometimes stark) beauty.
My exploration of this map has only just begun really and I’m looking forward to flying into more airbases and checking out more areas.
Eagle Dynamics, for their part, has also indicated that they intend to expand the reach of the map too. We can already see the rough outlines of Qatar and the spot where Bahrain should be on the map. They have also committed to increasing the number of airports (and there are some major ones still missing on the map) too.
A note on performance
The big question for a lot of DCS players is always performance. DCS World 2.5 ups the ante for visuals and DCS: Persian Gulf makes full use of that capability. It’s a beautiful map but how well does it work?
Frame rates are generally very good on my Core i5 6600 with 8GB DDR4 RAM and a nVidia GTX 960 (with 2GB of VRAM). The core of my system is powerful but I am falling behind in the RAM and GPU departments – a situation I hope to rectify with better hardware pricing hopefully on the horizon later this year.
Flying through Dubai definitely drops my frame rates but otherwise the map performs about as well as the new Caucasus map does. Generally frame rates are smooth and workable and I’ve never had more than the occasional stutter. Tuning the graphics to higher settings would definitely cause slideshows so you’ll find my graphics are set to something a little more reasonable with a few visual sacrifices.
You’ll see in my screenshots that the visuals are still impressive so I don’t feel like I’m really losing out here. Can’t wait to crank them to the max with a new GPU though.
Usefulness in scenarios
The Persian Gulf map lends itself to a wide variety of modern combat situations including combined air, land, and sea operations in the Strait as well as in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
Defending or attacking tankers in the strait, carrier battle-group operations, amphibious assaults, and city air defense missions are just a few of dozens of different scenarios that you can play out here.
Most of DCS’s modern aircraft line-up fit extremely well in scenarios for this region. Iran operates a mixed collection of Russian and Western (especially American) aircraft including the F-5, F-14, and F-4 of which the later two are due to arrive sometime this year. They also have MiG-29s and a variety of other aircraft. Recent (and past) military overtures in procurement make Chinese aircraft a possibility for fictional scenarios too.
Really, there’s a lot of options here and I look forward to seeing what people do with the map.
Needs more missions before this is done
One area of criticism that I can level right now is the number of missions that currently ship with the map. There are virtually none right now. The Su-25T is currently the only aircraft with any quick missions.
I know Eagle Dynamics is still calling this a beta but I had hoped to see them further along here. Before they call it a day, I’d like to see a variety of single player missions ship along with the quick action missions that you can build and generate. Putting this cherry on the top would go a long way to proving value for the dollar.
We know that there will be campaign packs shipping at a later date (probably for about $9.99) so content will begin to stream out for Persian Gulf.
It has so much potential and although these are the early days I think we’ve got a great sandbox to build some compelling scenarios and multiplayer setups around.
More to come later
These are just some of my opening thoughts on the Persian Gulf map. I’m really enjoying it and I look forward to flying over it quite a lot in the coming years. I hope Eagle Dynamics focus a lot of their future content building around this and the Caucasus maps as the two big geopolitical conflict areas that provide the backdrop for modern air combat scenarios.
Nevada is a great scenic place for training and I’ll always go back to fly over it some more but when it comes to putting aircraft in the air and flying tense missions – the Caucasus map and the Persian Gulf map are where I want to be doing my virtual flying.