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The world’s most intimidating flight sim gets a big update

DCS: A-10C 2 Tank Killer is here, and Warthog goes brrrrrr

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Eagle Dynamics, makers of the venerable DCS: World series of flight simulation products, made a big announcement on Friday. Its most recognized airframe — the ugly but powerful A-10 Warthog attack plane — now has its sequel. Titled DCS: A-10C 2 Tank Killer, the new module enters early access today for $79.99. If you own the original module, you can upgrade to the sequel for only $9.99 until Oct. 31. After that, the upgrade will cost $19.99.

Polygon spoke with senior producer Matt Wagner to get some details on what’s new and improved this time around.

For the uninitiated, DCS: World is ostensibly a free-to-play game available on the Eagle Dynamics website and via Steam. It comes with just two aircraft; additional planes, missions, and campaigns are extra. Early access products — like A-10C 2 — are made available for the beta version of the platform only. If you’re interested in flying the modern Warthog, you’d best be prepared to deal with a little instability.

The pre-release state of the airplane will only complicate matters, unfortunately. That’s because A-10C 2 is an authentic recreation of what it’s actually like to fly the modern warplane. Wagner explained that developers are also responsible for the military version of the game.

“For the [original product],” Wagner told Polygon, “it actually started back in 2005, 2006 or so where DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — had a tender out there for a piece of desktop software that would train U.S. Air Force pilots to transition from the A-10A, to the big upgrade to the A-10C.”

Wagner’s company subcontracted to build that software, and in that process his team learned an incredible amount of information about the famously resilient aircraft. The A-10 is an ugly, twin-engined beast that can take a beating and still bring its pilots home safely thanks to a titanium-reinforced cockpit known as “the bathtub.” It’s famous main gun, the GAU-8/A Avenger, uses specially-designed 30 mm rounds made of depleted uranium to crack open enemy armor. That’s what makes the iconic “brrrrrrrrrp” sound that you can hear in the trailer.

In fact, Wagner’s group still services the software for the Air Force. The 355th Fighter Group currently uses it to train pilots in virtual reality.

“There’s like 20 of them,” Wagner said. “It’s like a gamer seat, VR goggles — an Oculus Rift — the actual Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS system. So, it’s a nice little setup they have down there. And then all of the systems are all linked, networked together as well, which is pretty cool.”

This new consumer version of the A-10 includes lots of new weapons systems for dedicated flight sim fans. Among them is the new laser-guided AGM-65L Maverick air-to-ground missile, as well as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS). Eagle Dynamics shows these and other munitions hitting the mark multiple times, set to a cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Wagner also said that the update includes a totally redesigned cockpit, which features a factory-new skin and a weathered skin. You can check out the skilled pilots from the community group known as The Grim Reapers giving it a test drive in the video below.

The last time that Eagle Dynamics made headlines, it wasn’t actually for a new game release. It was last year in May, when one of its employees was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle jet fighter manuals out of the country. Wagner says that the case doesn’t involve his company, and is a personal matter being handled entirely by the individual.

“He is back in Russia working for our team, and it’s pretty much history now,” Wagner told Polygon, while admitting he was limited on what he was able to say about it. “It was resolved in Utah. He basically pled guilty to those charges, and at that point they let him go.”

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