Last week, DCS was kind enough to allow HeliSimmer to have a look at their new Nevada Test and Training Range Map for DCS. When I first saw that this scenery was being developed I was both excited and a little nervous. I’m a helicopter guy, and DCS tends to lean toward the fighter jet community. So, would this be a worthy purchase for a rotorhead? Let’s find out.
The Nevada NTTR installs just like any other DCS module. The only difference is that this Terrain requires DCS world 2, and will not work in DCS world 1.5. Lucky for us, DCS world 2 is absolutely free to download from the DCS web site.
After you purchase the terrain from the DCS website, you’ll then get a serial number. Open DCS world 2, Log in, and go to your module manager. There you should get a notification that the Nevada NTTR is available for down load. One click starts the down load process. It’s a VERY large map and took me about 2.5 hours to download. After the terrain is downloaded, it’s installed automatically.
One thing to note, DCS world 2 is essentially a completely separate program than DCS world 1.5. not an upgrade to DCS 1.5. Both programs look identical but you won’t see previously purchased modules right away. You have to go to your module manager and install them again into DCS world 2, which is a bit of a pain. Not only do you have to reinstall them, but you also have to re-do any custom mapping of joystick assignments, buttons and key strokes. [Editor's note: this happened because the add-on was provided by ED and not purchased at the e-store. According to ED this should not be necessary if you acquire it the regular way]
After doing all of that, you’re ready to take off and enjoy the desert oasis that is southern Nevada.
Buildings and Mesh
First off, while this terrain map is available for purchase, it’s still in its Alpha stage of development. So, as you read this review and look at these screen shots, just know that this may not be exactly how Eagle Dynamics wants it to look yet.
The Terrain includes 4 airports, McCarran International (KLAS), Nellis AFB (KLSV), Creech AFB (KINS), and Groom Lake test facility, otherwise known as Area 51.
One airport is conspicuously missing from the line up, and that is North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT). It’s about 8 miles or so North West of McCarran Int. The omission of KVGT might be because this is terrain is still in Alpha, or because Eagle Dynamics made a calculated decision to leave it out. Why leave out an entire airport? Well if you look at it from the developer’s point of view KVGT isn’t very useful to their user base. DCS has what is arguably the best helicopter flight dynamics on the market for home use. But don’t forget, DCS at its core, a simulation geared toward the Fast Mover crowd. Fighter jets have little use for a general aviation airport, and in some cases, depending on their weight and landing gear configuration, are prohibited from using the taxiways of smaller airfields. So, spending a lot of time, energy and money to create a highly detailed airport most of your users probably won’t use doesn’t make a lot of sense. Boulder City Municipal Airport is also missing, I suspect for the same reasons.
Perhaps the final version of the Nevada NTTR terrain will include North Las Vegas airport, and I hope it does. But, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t make the cut.
From the mission editor, you can see that the general lay out of the city and surrounding suburbs of Las Vegas is pretty close. They don’t replicate every street exactly, but the main Freeways, and roads are all depicted pretty accurately.
McCarran Int. Airport is shown it suburb detail. For this part of the review, I used the BelsimTek UH-1H, and took off from what appeared to be the Sundance Helicopters ramp on the west side of the airport. There are no signs on any of the buildings, but looking at the location on the field, and comparing it to an airport diagram, it certainly depicted the area Sundance Helicopters operates out of.
A quick trip around the airport and you can see KLAS is now a hub for a fictional airline called American Air. Judging by the paint scheme of they’re a stand-in for American Airlines. American Air’s fleet at KLAS is the only static aircraft in the Terrain at this point in it’s development. American Air however, isn’t the only stand-in.
KLAS has plenty of vehicles and ground support equipment that add to feel of a busy international airport.
Our next stop in the tour is the famous Las Vegas strip. This is one of the most Famous skylines of any major city in the world, and certainly the most unique.
The buildings on the strip are beautifully modeled with fantastic looking reflective windows.
Even though this Terrain is primarily for the Zoomies, Eagle Dynamics did throw in a ton details on the high rise hotels that only helicopter pilots will be able to appreciate. Air-conditioning ducts, façade supports, satellite dishes, pools and other little details are there.
Even the parking garages are fully modeled with individual cars on each floor, not just the top.
On the strip, you’ll see all of the Major hotels represented, well, sort of. Here is where we see more stand-ins. If you’ve ever spent any time on the Las Vegas Strip you’ll recognize all of the Hotels and casinos, with one tiny difference.
One of the best parts of DCS scenery and terrain, especially for helicopter guys, is the landable surfaces. If it’s flat, and there is enough room there’s a pretty good chance you can land on it.
Continuing on the tour of the Vegas area we’ll head south west to the beautifully rendered Hoover Dam and Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
You can also see a good example of the terrain mesh and excellent terrain textures as well as the Colorado river .
From here we’ll head over to Nellis AFB.
As we leave Nellis AFB, you’ll find the Las Vegas Motor speed way complete with racecars.
Now we’ll continue on to Creech AFB.
And finally Groom lake, or Area 51
By the time we get back to Las Vegas on this simulated tour, night has fallen, and we can see how well Eagle Dynamics did with keeping the lights on in the city that never sleeps.
One thing Eagle dynamics doesn’t have is dynamic lighting in the scenery. In X-plane 10, landing under a street light will illuminate your aircraft if you’re using HDR. This is not the case in DCS.
Frame Rate impact
Of course all of this beautiful scenery is going to come at a cost. Your frame rates will obviously vary based on what type of hard ware you’re running. But to give you a reference point, I’m running on a Nvidia GTX 980 with an intel i7 4790K and 8GB of Ram. I averaged over 100FPS in the open desert , Groom Lake, Creech AFB and the Hoover damn. In Las Vegas, FPS drops to an average of 60 FPS with occasional dips into the low 50’s on the strip. Keep in mind, that’s with all of the scenery options set to high, so you can always get some relief on your frame rates if you lower your setting a bit.
- Large area to fly in
- Working nav aids
- Very detailed buildings
- Great terrain mesh and textures
- Great night lighting
- Many landable surfaces
- Expensive (costs as much as a standalone simulator platform)
- Must do a separate installation and set-up of all of your DCS world 1.5 modules
- Few missions available for helicopters