Review: DCS Edge 540 by VARS
Being one of the planes flown in competitions such as the Red Bull Air Racing Series and boasting unworldly levels of maneuverability the Edge 540 is certainly a one-of-a-kind plane inside DCS, Christen Eagle II aside.
After two years in development, the team at VARS and their collaborators have brought this outstanding aircraft into DCS for all of us to enjoy. It will be used in the Virtual Air Racing Series 2020 season, so if you want to see this aircraft being used to fulfill its intended purpose as a racing aircraft be sure to tune into their streams. This will be a quick review into the DCS Edge 540 mod by the VARS community and its collaborators as of its v1.0 release (Version release date: June 7th, 2020) Of note: This is a free in-development module, therefore, it shall not be judged to the standards of a paid module. In this article we will touch upon: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Ease of use and learning curve Unique module features Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS The external model of this aircraft has been excellently modeled. It has that sleek look that racing aircraft have with an incredible presentation. Animations and external lighting work correctly even with some more complex features such as pilot animations as you move the flight surfaces which is impressive coming from a free mod. A note-worthy point: There is no damage model implemented as of now but the developers have said that one will be coming at some point in the future. The cockpit is a pleasure to look at and I do not say that lightly. The design of it makes you feel like a Formula 1 driver since everything you will need is displayed in front of you in the form of an easy to read display and a peripheral vision indicator that can either display your G-loading or your speed. This display is crucial for racing as, at least on the velocity mode, it shows you how close you are to the speed limit to enter the gates on the course that is 200kt maximum in most instances. Textures are pretty solid. The carbon fiber looks realistic enough, the exposed frame surrounding you and the addition of weathering to show wear is the cherry on the cake that makes this interior an excellent one, even more when considering that this came out of a community project. As you move the controls you can see the push rods move around, t both the trim indicator and peripheral vision display have convincing-looking LEDs. Overall, this cockpit is one of the most unique-looking interiors we have gotten in DCS so far. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Internal lighting is serviceable and the addition of several colors of flood light is nice but this is one of the areas in which the Edge 540 does not shine the brightest. This does not mean that there is something wrong with the way that internal lighting is handled, not at all. It just means that other free modules, such as the MB-339, have done a better implementation of internal lighting. Now, an area in which I was highly impressed by quality was both the internal and external engine sounds. In this area this plane has one of the best external sounds I have ever heard from both a mods and paid modules alike. I am sure that these sound effects will show themselves at their best during the VARS 2020 season streams. The team outdid themselves here. There is one minor nit-pick I have and it is that if you are going relatively fast, normally over 170kts, as you reduce power the engine sound doesn't seem to change that drastically even when reducing the power to idle from full power; but as I said, this is a minor caveat in a very well implemented piece of software. You do not even have to believe me as I recorded internal and external and internal sounds, have a listen:
EXAMPLES: In-cockpit engine sound: External engine sound: Fly-by engine sound: FLIGHT MODELLING The flight model (FM) made by Aero is really good. It is very apparent that this FM was made with racing in mind as it has sacrificed some of the realism for race optimization. Do not get me wrong, aerobatic-wise this aircraft begs to be flown to its limits due to its incredibly high roll-rate of 420°/sec and high-g capabilities.
Engine response is almost instantaneous when accelerating and formation flying is a breeze. Fluttering and shaking can be felt as you put the aircraft in certain scenarios, which is excellent as it communicates to the pilot the state of the aircraft during high tension portions of the race such as when performing a High-Cuban or in long slalom sections.
Ground handling and take-off behavior are this flight model's Achilles heels. It feels a bit too hard to taxi around and when going full power on the take-off roll, wheel screeching happens even if you trimmed the aircraft correctly and are not pulling up hard enough for something like that to happen. There are some other quirks like momentum from your previous flight carrying over to the newly spawned one but this is a known issue that the devs are working on. The development team is not gigantic and they are working on polishing the FM for which I have high hopes and wish them the best. LEARNING CURVE AND RACING This is a very unique plane when it comes to handling. While it is easy to fly and control in most scenario, it is when it comes to mastering this aircraft for racing that it shows you its true colors. Racing can be a very fun activity to do in DCS, even more when your performance is being evaluated by the VARS Pylon mod that comes included with the Edge 540.
To be competitive in racing you will need to learn the FM very well in order to avoid those tiny mistakes that can separate you from victory. Minimizing the amount of drag your elevators induce while pulling too hard by being less aggressive on the controls will become second nature once you practice and dedicate a bit of time to this.
As VARS themselves said on several of their livestreams and on their Discord server: Racing in DCS is about FUN. What matters is that you, as a virtual pilot, are having fun while racing and I think it is the best way to see competitions like these. Challenge your friends to a race or try to beat your own personal time on the lap! UNIQUE MODULE FEATURES This module comes packaged with several unique and nice features which are not present anywhere else. One of these is the VARS Pylon mod that comes packaged with the aircraft which is so detailed that might even deserve its own mini-review later down the line but I will do a summary for the time being.
The VARS Pylon mod allows the user to create and or use racing pylons to organize a circuit. These pylons go beyond being aesthetic and are fully functional, counting your time between gates, measuring your altitude and speed while being capable of giving penalties to players that infringe the rules. They also have a championship functionality that places players in a leaderboard and many more features that give this mod, which can be downloaded independently, a place in the DCS community. The Edge 540 also includes two main features that are note-worthy in this category: The MP3 player and the in-game customization screen. The first of these two is a page on the Edge's "MFD" which allows you to play music from within the game, just like the Viggen and the Tomcat can. The second one is the capability to change both your winglets and pilot's head on the fly! IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? This is an aircraft that is worth the download just for how unique it is. It is well put together and has a place inside the DCS arena that was only occupied by the Christen Eagle up until this point. What more can you ask when the asking prize for this plane is a grand total of ZERO dollars!
Definitely a must-download for every DCS player out there that wants a fresh experience and a new toy to play around with.
Get it HERE. About the author Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos is a longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034