I checked my DCS World player logbook recently and noted that I had flown the Su-25T for a grand total of 22 minutes. There are few aircraft in my hangar for DCS World that have attracted less attention. However, the Su-25T is special for one reason in particular: It’s free and it is what makes DCS World a free-to-play game. So I thought it’d be a great idea to go and revisit the Su-25T and see, after a couple of years of flying other aircraft, how this type stacks up in player experience. Is the Su-25T a good entry point for DCS World? Does it need some developer attention?
Attack plane, freight train
The Su-25T is a bit like the A-10 in that it is designed as a close air support aircraft. It prioritizes firepower and survivability over all other considerations. The pilot sits encased in an armored tub (similar to the A-10) and the aircraft is built to be sturdy. The engines are enclosed within the fuselage and the Su-25T comes with multiple system redundancy. Combine that with the X number of pylons on the wings as you have an aircraft that can take a hit and bring a ton of firepower to a situation.
The Su-25T has some advantages over the A-10. Chiefly, it is faster and that makes ingress and egress from a target area a quicker affair reducing the time that the jet is exposed to enemy fire.
There are some things about the Su-25T that are a bit more problematic. It handles like a freight train. Even without ordinance its a bit on the sluggish side. With ordinance it responds slowly and sluggishly. It only reluctantly changes directions – I suppose this makes it relatively straightforward to fly, however, so its not bad as a trainer. I’ve also noticed that with a full load it really doesn’t like being above 620km/h as the aircraft starts to shake.
When it comes to making things go boom, however, the Su-25T has a lot to like. The Vikhir laser guided anti-tank missiles are effective at closer ranges, while the Kh-29L and Kh-29T missiles work well at stand off distances. Two types of anti-radiation missiles, the Kh-58 Kh-25 MP, together with the L-081 Fantasmagoria Pod make the Su-25T the only SEAD aircraft currently on the REDFOR side and until recently the only aircraft in all of DCS with that capability.
A full complement of general purpose bombs are also available along with gun pods, sub-munition dispensers, anti-armor bomblets and a GSh-2-23 cannon to help round out the Su-25Ts armament options.
The 3D model needs an upgrade
The Su-25T, compared to the most recent DCS World efforts, is in need of some attention.
Nothing on the Su-25T appears to have been given the PBR (physical based rendering) treatment that other DCS World modules have. Though the exterior model has good detail from a 3D mesh perspective, it is decidedly less impressive look to it than some of the other more recent modules with none of the surface detailing in the textures that we see. Even some AI aircraft like the Su-34 now have a more impressive exterior – compare the Su-25T above to the brand new Su-34 model below.
The cockpit view also suffers from lower detail textures and some areas that are outright blurry and pixelated. There’s also a nasty glare on the windscreen that just doesn’t appear on other modules which can make target acquisition difficult.
All things considered, the Su-25T is still by no means the worst looking 3D model in DCS World and in many ways its still quite good. It is dated and not fully up to par with what we’re seeing these days. The DCS World 2.5 visual engine makes things look good even when they have lagged behind a bit so that helps a bit. Making this aircraft look better would probably impress a few more people to buy into DCS World on graphics alone.
Mid-fidelity flight model
The damage model was one of the first to receive a more detailed treatment and it reacts fairly well – there’s ample detailing and the actual modeling of system damage appears to be about on par with other DCS World modules. The whole DCS World damage model is set to get an upgrade eventually so hopefully the Su-25T comes up with the rest of the series.
The flight model itself, despite the aforementioned freight train handling (which I can only assume its accurate to the Su-25), is pretty good. The handling is nuanced and the ground handling has the kind of detail with acceleration, deceleration, making turns at high and slow speeds that you expect with a flight simulation. In the air and when fully loaded, the Su-25T can sink quickly even with the nose high, so good piloting skills are a must.
All information I can gather suggest that it has the AFM model rather than the SFM that the old MiG-29 had (as an example) before it was upgraded. This is a step down from the PFM level that the latest Eagle Dynamics aircraft sport but the average sim pilot may have difficulty spotting the difference. It’s well detailed in this area especially for a free entry into the series.
A good entry point for players?
Some are going to love the Su-25T because it is big, heavy, and with a kind of rough and tumble attitude. Its massive ordinance loadout give it a lot of flexibility in being able to carry out different kinds of operations. But it’s no after-burning fighter jet and I think most are going to want to move on to something more agile. Unless you like mud-moving… in which case the Su-25T is a good place to start.
The Su-25T also suffers by not being a click-pit DCS World module. That means that it relies on large numbers of key presses rather than clickable cockpit interactions to carry out your functions. This can be better or worse for players and in some cases it simplifies things while in others it feels like it makes it more complex.
What it doesn’t do is give new players a sense of what a clickable cockpit is like. Once you get into the clickable cockpits, it can be hard to go back.
Eagle Dynamics has tried to help make DCS World more popular by making their initial offering of the DCS World core game and two aircraft free for all players (the other free aircraft is the TF-51D – an unarmed Mustang). Only the Su-25T can participate in combat operations so for many the Su-25T is where players start and to me that means that it’s a kind of ambassador for the rest of the series.
Could the Su-25T do a bit of a better job of showing what DCS World is all about? From a visual standpoint I think it really could use an upgrade. As for the systems, getting a full clickable DCS World module is probably a stretch for multiple reasons. Still, it is fully featured with plenty of weaponry so that does make it useful in plenty of ways. It is certainly pretty well modeled when it comes to the flight model so when it comes to an introduction to flight in a serious sim – the Su-25T is not a bad way to start… just maybe a bit of an unexciting one.
If you’re reading this, have access to the Su-25T, and are hesitant about the experience – I do suggest checking out some of the other aircraft in the DCS World hangar as there are more interesting experiences out there.
I suppose the old adage is true here: You do get what you pay for.