Interests in simulated military aircrafts are indeed numerous. Warfare comes immediately to mind but there is also the pleasure of precision flying, navigating, learning the systems, etc. Let’s not forget that many civilian flight simulator users have been moving to DCS World only to enjoy the refined and realistic flight models, especially for choppers. And for those who are into combat, some might appreciate a break from shooting and bombing, in other words a more relaxing experience. That is to say that a civilian campaign for the Mi-8 is not a nonsense, far from it.
You are Yuri Maksimych. Does that ring a bell? Yes, you are the captain of the default Spring Tension campaign. And you have been assigned to a temporary duty in Maykop. New oil reserves have been discovered and oilfield men asked the headquarters for help and they gave the green light. The campaign spreads over 16 missions. The duration of each mission varies from 40 min to 90 min. Your home base is Maykop, however for almost every mission, you will have to get to the nearby sub base in the first place.Getting to the sub base takes 5 minutes and becomes a ritual.
Tasks consists of transporting oil workers and delivery of goods to and from oil exploration sites. On average, each flight involves 2-3 landings, however the briefing is not cast in stone: sometimes you get more detailed instructions as you go deeper into the mission, or the flight plan can be changed due to an emergency. Flight conditions also vary: don't expect clear skies all the time and on occasion you will fly at sunset or night. And there is also some Search And Rescue activity. Obviously the authors were quite aware of the risk of boredom of civilian operations and mitigated it appropriately.
As an average pilot, I consider this campaign to be of easy/medium difficulty on condition that you have basic flying skills, and can operate comfortably the Doppler and NDB navigation systems and the sling.The briefings include nice maps that you can display on the Kneeboard (RShift + K). In the first missions, some schematic reminds how to operate the Doppler.
There is no impossible goals and no crazy stunt is required to achieve the campaign. But due to lack of attention, stress or fatigue, you might be led to refly some missions several times. For example, I broke my helicopter once during a landing on a slope unprepared zone by unfavourable winds. The most challenging task to face with is probably the sling load operations, especially when you have to deliver a heavy cargo in the middle of a narrow clearing. And unfortunately, the recent DCS 1.5.7 update introduced some bugs resulting in harder sling operations: it becomes much harder to hook the cargo while hovering, the rope tears super easily and vibrates/flickers like mad when in the air. So you might want to revert to DCS 1.5.6 temporarily if you wish to fly this campaign in "regular" conditions.Low ceiling and bad visibility. Sling load operations will be tough!
It is rare to see a DCS campaign without triggers issues in its first release and the Oilfield Campaign appears to be an exception. Admittedly, even if there is less complexity due to the absence of military activity, the good work of the developers has to be acknowledged and results in a fluid gameplay for the user. I once had a problem with a trigger but actually it was my fault. I took off too quickly before receiving the order from the commander (You should always wait for the order of the commander prior to taking off).
Sounds are essential since they add to the immersion by making you feel that you are not alone within the simulated environment. The developers claim 300 custom voice-over. Everytime you start a mission you will experience an innovative feature - at least it is not found in the two other paid campaigns for DCS helicopters. As you run through the checklists to start the Mi-8, the copilot confirms the actions and events by reading back “Left engine start… Revs increasing… Temperature increasing… left engine at idle….”. That is definitely a must and should be built in the Mi-8 by default and implemented for every DCS multi-crew aircraft! In the same idea, before each landing you will receive informations and confirmations by your crew members. And during long trips, conversations about accomodation, food, duty, and social life… will pop-up to break the monotony of the flight, just as in the real world.Landing procedure (voices and subtitles).
The oil flavour
To recreate the ambiance of oil exploration the developers have scattered many rigs and camps on the map. Each of them is like a mini-scenery with its rig, facilities, crates, cargos and rudimentary landing zone.One of the oil exploration sites in the wilderness.
After a 20 minutes or more navigation it is always a great satisfaction and relief to spot the destination camp in the middle of a deep forest. Adding to the ambience are also a Mi-26 and a couple of Mi-8 controlled by the artificial intelligence and you will inevitably meet or hear them on the radio during operations. Overall, the scenery successfully conveys the flavour of oil ;) One small regret I have is the lack of animation on the civilians when they board the helicopter. I can remember that in the default Spring Tension campaign soldiers boarding the helos were animated. And that made the scenery more lively.
The Oilfied campaign (not compatible with STEAM) can be purchased on the official DCS e-shop for a regular price of $9.99. For more or less the price of a movie ticket you get at least a solid 16-20 hours of play, and even more if you need to refly some particular missions, which is likely to happen.
In the end, the Oilfied Campaign is a well-rounded and carefully crafted product. It leaves me with a mild souvenir of a pleasing and original adventure. So it earns a “Quality Product” Award.
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