The Flight Simulators Reviewed
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One of the newer flight simulators on the PC market. The graphics are indeed very impressive but what about the flight model?
The website claims that it has "an advanced flight simulator model" It also states the simulator includes the following characteristics: Please note however this simulator is still in Early Access.
- Full multibody simulation
- Realistic flight physics
- Accurate stall simulation
- Wing bending
Aircraft included with the Base Package
Click here to check the aircraft included with the sim
No Helicopters are currently available in Aerofly FS2
It also includes airports with accurate runway lights as well as global elevation data and aerial images , 3D buildings and bridges with sun bloom.
The Switzerland Scenery below
Aerofly FS2 Switzerland Scenery Aerofly FS2 Switzerland Scenery
The cockpits are highly detailed and animated flight instruments.An example of the default aircraft cockpits ae shown below, pilot included!
Above: Aerofly FS2 Cockpit
Theere is an option in game for adjusting the weather conditions, it's very easy user interface allows you to change various aspects of the weather from time of day, visibility and clouds, adjustable wind, thermals and turbulence.
Included with the sim are flight lessons to help you get started, there are 21 Flight lessons, each lesson being unlocked after you complete your current lesson. This is a great feature for people just starting to use flight Simulators.
Something lacking in a lot of simulators is the ability to have some sort of career. There is currently no option in Aerofly FS2 for any sort of career mode eg Flying for an airline or being a Cargo pilot etc
One of the best looking simulators on the market excellent frame rates and makes use of current video hardware technology.
Lighting and Reflections are spot on, aircraft look amazingly realistic. The terrain is simply stunning and as you can see from the screenshots probably the best graphics of all the simulators reviewed here.
Aerofly FS2 Aerofly FS2
Currently no addons at time of writig this from 3rd party developers.
Scenery - Switzerland
Currently there is just one addon pack for Aerofly FS2 as it is in early access and This DLC for Aerofly FS 2 features over 30 of the best known airports of Switzerland, including Zürich, Grenchen, Samedan and Birrfeld. The addon features high resolution aerial images of Switzerland with a resolution of up to 1 meter! Currently you can get this on Steam for just £6.99 , not a bad price for excellent HD Scenery.
3d Pilots can be seen in the cockpit, nothing new but it's a good touch, the base game has over the following cities included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, Tucson and San Diego. If you purchase the Switzerland add on you will also get additional cities as mentioned above under addons.
No problems encountered at all with detection of TrackIR, CH Fighterstick, CH Throttle Pro and CH Pedals. Detected all the controllers with no issues. Even identified them by name and not by Device ID as some of the other simulators do which is so handy when allocating the controls to your devices. Track-IR works too out of the box. Also very user friendly interface for allocating controls, neat layout and easy to navigate unlike FSX which can be very cumbersome when allocating controls.
A Replay mode is included which allows you to play back you favorite journeys.
Is Aerofly 2 a simulator or more like an arcade game?
Well everyone has an opinion, some people have commented that it's a simulator , some say it's an arcade game but the official website states :
"Aerofly 2 puts its focus on extremely realistic flight physics. All aircraft flies extremly close to their real counterparts. So in this respect its not an arcade flight simulator! Yet, Aerofly 2 focuses on an intuitive user interface so one can concentrate fully on the flying side. There are no complicated setup procedures to get the aircraft going, simply run Aerofly 2 and off you go!"
It's visually amazing, the current crop of video cards are used for the graphics and don't leave it all to the CPU like FSX and X-Plane, the frame rates do not suffer even on ultra mode on our test system. No obvious stuttering or choppiness when flying over highly detailed areas and scenery. Of course there is a lack of addons at the moment as the sim is still in early access but there is a very positive feedback from Steam users on this new simulator. Sound is authentic, the lighting and weather systems look great. For our video review of Aerofly see below:
Flightgear is the only FREE option in the list, but how does it compare with it's payware cousins. Flightgear has been around for decades and was released in approximatelt 1996. It has a large community with many free adds ons and aircraft available to it. But it's all well and good to have plenty of free aircraft but are they any good?
Helicopters are included and the flight model is very good, better than FSX in our opinion and a huge selection of helicopters available for donwload including the gazelle which is amazing for a freeware simulator!
Scenery can be downloaded on the fly or you can download the whole world scenery in one big file or download just the areas you wish to fly which is a great feature for users with not a very fast internet conneciton. You also have an option of downloading 2 versions, v1.01 is like SD standard , not as detailed as V2.01, the whole scenery uses up about 12GB of Hard Drive space. V2.01 has HD textures and better definition.Most of the scenery information and download can be found here. The whole world scenery takes up about 86GB of Hard Disk Space but there is a utility available (now built into FlightGear) called “terrasync”. This utility runs in the background in a separate process, monitors your position, and downloads (or updates) the latest greatest scenery from the master scenery server “just in time”. Some airport scenery is great some not so great, for example CDG in Paris is very good and has great detail but Zurich is very basic and is just some polygons with simple textures.
Flightgear Default Scenery Flightgear Default Scenery
The cockpits we looked at A320 and Boeing 737 in comparison to the other sims does not have all working buttons and functions, some are not implemented. The graphics lack the polish of the payware alternatvies, attention to detail like wear and tear, small details like correect lighting and refelctions are lacking.
The cockpit below is from a 737NG aircraft and the image on the right from a 777-300 aircraft
No career mode available in Flightgear
Graphics on the aircraft are good, some scenery is very realistic but the clouds lack the realism of X-Plane and FSX, they are okay but nothing special or outstanding. Some of the airport scenery to be frank is not very good, blocky and no detail or activity around the ariports. Very bland and too simple for a 21st century simulator. Some of the graphics on the buildings look like graphics out of the early 1990s. X-plane has excellent free airports and flightgear's airport are no where near the standard of X-Planes free offerings.
Lots of community content and aircraft available for download.
Very basic airport buildings from what we saw during our review, that's not to say there aren't more detailed airports. We used Frankfurt Main and Zurich, the important thing is that they feature but the detail and realism is lacking. Not much ground traffic seen around the airport, this may be a minor thing but it sure adds to the realism.
We couldnt find any Ground Services like X-plane's excellent free Ground Services or FS Dreamteams GSX ground services for FSX for flightgear, although it does have a neat push back feature accessible from the menus
Unfortunately there is no TRACKIR support so you have to allocate controls to looking around the cockpit, its not ideal but currently thats the only option. As far as detecting other controllers, it detected all our controllers we used with no issues at all ad even allocated the varipus functions to the right controller. For example we had a CH Throttle Pro connected and it automatically assigned the throttle function to that controller and the Rudder controls to our CH Pedals. Very nice touch. Flightgear also support multiple dispplays, essential as TrackIR doesnt work with it.
Ease of Use
Straightforward installation from a setup file, easy installation from an option within the Sim to install additional scenery.
It's excellent that its free, A lot of the aircraft models we looked at looked very good from outside, however some of the detail inside the cockpits was not to the same standard as the other simulators. Some of the buttions and controls were not implemented but thats expected from a free offering.
FSX Steam Edition
FSX Steam the grandad of all flight simulators maybe? Started as Microsoft Flight Simulator and went through a few various version, Microsoft no longer sell this but its in the hands of Dovetail games, famous for the Train Simulator Series.
In fact work origins of MicrosoftFlight Simulator started as far back as 1976! Lockheed Martin purchased the intellectual property for yhr ESP platform which is the commercial version of Flight Simulator X SP2. Based upon this ESP SOurce code Prepar3d or P3D was born and released in April 2011. A lot of FSX addons have compatibility with P3D as well making the transition from FSX to P3D very easy.
In 2014 Dovetail Games announced that Microsoft had granted them the rights to develop the next flight simulator. FSX now is available on Steam by dovetail games and makes use of Steam functionality in installation of add ons and now uses steam's multiplayer facility instead of the Gamespy.
A good source for the various aircraft in FSX can be found in this PC Simulators video
Default FSX helicopters are tobe frank - not very realistic. The FSX flight model for helicopters is not accurate and does not model the Vortex Ring State (VRS) in helicopters at all. Fear not however as there is a payware addon which holds its own agains DCS and X-Plane helicopters called teh DODOSIM Bell 206. This is a highly realistic helicopter for FSX , if not the only realistic helicopter for FSX. It has varying diffculty levels from 1 to 5 so beginners can get started with helicopters. The other option to improve the helicopters in FSX is to use helicopter total realism to improve the physics of othe FSX helicopters. To found out more about this great utility for FSX and helicopter flight check out the hovercontrol.com link here.
Scenery can be downloaded or puchased from a huge variety of sources. FSX probably has the largest amount of various scenery avaiable of any simulator. 3rd Party developers as well as freeware developers have being developing scenery for use with FSX for decades. Some of the outstanding scenry makes include FTX OrbX Series which contain highly detailed scenery of various parts of the world. You are spoilt for choice with FSX when it comes to scenery available to purchase or download.
The below screenshots (used with permission from orbx) are a sample of the amazing scenery that can be added to FSX and P3D.
above : FTX global Scenery FSX
There are literally so many scenery addons that its impossible to list them all here but the ones we have looked at and used are
Ok the graphics can be awesome and realistic but FSX runs mainly on older DX9 technology, a DX10 preview was included and DX 10 can be used. FSX is greatly reliant on CPU and memory, therfore if you have a dual SLI or stateof the art graphics card is doesnt mean you will get awesome framerates. A Beefy CPU and lots of memory is a must for the Ultra Resolutions and even then on our mighty i7, 32GB Ram system with Nvidia GTX 980 SLI framerates could reach as low as 14 fps near highly detailed airports!.
There is also a utility called Steve;s DX 10 fixer which makes better use of DX technology,
this utility the majority of the issues in the FSX “DX10 Preview mode” and has allowed flight simmers to switch to DX10 and fly with shadows in the virtual cockpit.
Airports sceneries that use the FS9 SDK no longer appear as grey and untextured at night. Similarly legacy aircraft built with older SDKs no longer appear grey. This is shown in the composite picture above where the left hand side has DX10SF enabled. Aircraft shadows are both more accurate in placement and improved in quality. This utility is payware but for more information on this utility click here to find out more.
This depends on the aircraftm default aircraft have a good standard of cockpit functionality but for extreme realism the payware aircraft have it all. Good examples of accurate cockpit modelling and functionality include PMDG's aircraft , Aerosoft and Captain Sim aircraft. In our tests we used the PMDG 737 and Aerosoft Airbus A320. A lot of the modernday aircraft for FSX Steam have 3D virtual cockpits which are compatible with TrackIR as well.
Again FSX probably has more weather options than any other sim. You can input realtime weather into the sim from a variety of various software. Weather components such as realistic clouds, sun and water textures make it hard to distinguish real life photos from computer generated imagery. Of all the products out ther we used REX Essentials plus Overdrive, whcih includes amazingly realistic looking clouds, a weather engine and a multitude of options to configure the weather, from the turbulence, size of clouds , strenght of winds and more. In our opinion a weather app is essential to make the sim more realistic, you will never go back to default weather once you try one of the commercially available weather genrating tools. For more information about weather engines see the following links:
FSX has plenty of single missions but again no lack of any career mode as such by default. However various 3rd parties provide products that allow you to have some sort of career mode. We havent tested these as yet at PC Simulators, a review may be released in the near future so we cannot really comment on how good or bad they are. You can find more information about heseaddons by clicking the links below:
Hundreds of various addons available, too numerous to mention but again probably the leading simulator for addons. One of our favorite addons is the FS DreamTeam's Ground Services which features Fuel Trucks, Pushback vehicles to push the planes back from the gates. Another noteworthy addon is the FREE world of AI addon which adds various AI aircraft tflying around in your simulator world. This excellent addon is free and more info can be found here. EZDOK camera is another popular addon which allows you to create custom cameras, you can configure and create camers in the passenger compartment, cockpit , outside the aircraft and add camera shake to simulae vibrations etc. Its a great tool but we found that it can cause problems if you want to remove it as it writes to a lot of config files meaning your views can be messed up so this is not an addon for the casual flight simmer. Great when it works but difficult to remove cleanly.
Replay mode is available in FSX, but there is no option to save to a file format like MP4 or upload to youtube. If you have a NVIDEA card you can use shadowplay to record the replay into a movie format. If you
Prepar3D or P3D was born from FSX in a way.Lockheed Martin obtained ESP technology from Microsoft and have built on that and produced P3D. In November 2010, Lockheed Martin debuted Prepar3D 1.0, as a training application for educational, civil, military, and aviation professionals.There are numerous licences, the one we used in our test was the Academic license priced at about $59.95 (price at time of writing this article). For more info on the various licenses click here to find out more. Features of P3D include a Virtual world with 40 high-detail cities and more than 24,900 airports, realistic air traffic control, Modifiable real-time weather system, continuous time of day, seasons and a variety of lighting effects and a large library of aircraft and scenery addons.
Like FSX P3D has a huge library of aircraft available to it, the list of aircraft with P3D is found here.
FSX and P3D share a lot of add on scenery. The excellent FTX ORBX scenery has FSX and P3D installers, if you have FSX then in a lot of instances you can install into P3D too if you have the installer. For examle ORBX has an installer for FSX and P3D, Captain Sim the same as well as a lot of the Aerosoft Mega Airport Series. However one big disappointment is that if you own the excellent PMDG aircraft for FSX you WILL need to purchase the aircraft again for P3D! This can be costly if you are moving from FSX to P3D and want the PMDG aircraft as well. Qualitywings 757 collection however does have an isntaller for FSX and P3D an you can happily use the qualitywings 757 aircraft for both FSX and P3D. TRhe excellent Captain Sim 1011 aircraft as below work with P3D and no need to purchase a seperate license to use with P3D.
Captain Sim 1011 P3D Captain Sim 1011 in flight with FTX orbx Scenery for P3D
Please check however before installing, most developers will have notes on P3D installation and use. In our experience all the top developers we used in our test as mentioned had a P3D installer except for PMDG.
The great thing about P3D unlike FSX is it is not stuck on older DX9 or DX 10 technology for its graphics. It currently makes use of DX11 which allow it to take advantage of moern day graphics cards features. This means increased performance, virtual cockpit shadows, HDR Lightining, fog, better clouds and weather and high quality 4096 x 4096 texture limits are available. No need for any DX fixer to make it look better. The framerates are also much better with the same scenery and aircraft as its FSX cousin. In our tests over 10 FPS better than FSX in the same scenario
Again this is the same as for FSX, Virtual cockpit capabilities allow exact replications of 3D cockpits with fully interactive displays and representative physical switches.
Captain Sim 1011 for P3D
Cockpits depend onthe aircraft but good qaulity aircraft such as Captain Sim, PMDG and Quality Wings have amazingly realistic cockpits and fully functional switches and buttons. Check the aircraft before purchasing or downloading to see if they have 3D and detailed cockpits. Most these days have 3D cockpits.
Despite plenty of activities again no real pilot career mode in P3D either, something hugely lacking in a lot of the flight simualtors, it would be nice to have some sort of Pilot career mode but it does have plenty of activities. Also the number and type of activities depend on the version of P3D you have.
P3D has hundred of addons probably a little less than FSX, however you wont lack for addon options. A lot of FSX addons also include a P3D installer so you can install the same product for P3D. UK2000 Scenery airports, Aerosoft Airports and DreamTeams Ground Services for example all have FSX and P3D installers. As P3D was originally in away born from FSX this is the reason why there are so many compatibilites between FSX and P3D.
Scenery resources are extensive and like the Addons a lot of the huge FSX libarary can be used with P3D if there is an installer. The leading Scenery developers like ORBX do have dual FSX and P3D installers so again if you owned FSX and move to P3D and had OrbX scenery you should be able to use the installer to install to P3D as we did with our test rigs.
FTX Orbx P3D Mega Airports by Aerosoft for P3D
Another major scenery developer MegaScenery Earth also provides support for P3D. To summarise P3D is very well supported in both addons and scenery. probably after FSX has the most Addons and Developer Support!
P3D has a very similar replay system to FSX , in fact its virtually identical. You can replay your flight and set a playback time for example if you want to just see the last 6o seconds of your flight, you simply type 60 into the replay box and it will start from 60 seconds ago. Simple.
There are around 30 aircraft included with X-Plane, this includes both aircraft and helicopters.
X-Plane like it's scenery has a great free resource available to it, perhaps on par with FSX, We feel that the payware aircraft hwoever doesnt match up to whats available for FSX and P3D. For example no PMDG aircraft or Captain Sim available for X-Plane. To compensate however there are some amazing free aircraft, for example the Airbus A380. Click to see a comprehensive video on free and payware aircraft for x-plane.
The stock installation includes the following aircraft:
|Beechcraft Baron 58|
|Beechcraft King Air C90B|
|Bell 206 helicopter|
|Boeing 747–400 and 747–100|
|Boeing AV–8B Harrier II|
|Boeing B–52G Stratofortress|
|Bombardier Canadair CL–415|
|Cirrus Vision SF50|
|F–4 Phantom II|
|Great Planes PT–60 RC plane|
|Lockheed C–130 Hercules|
|Lockheed SR–71 Blackbird|
|McDonnell Douglas KC–10 Extender|
|North American X–15|
|Piaggo P.180 Avanti|
|Robinson R22 Beta Helicopter|
|Space Shuttle Orbiter|
|Stinson L–5 Sentinel|
|Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 v2 RC helicopter|
There is no competition from any of the other flight simulators here, X-Plane wins hands down with the exception of DCS, x-plane is far and away the best Flight Simulator for helicopters. The flight mode is realistic, it models Vortex Ring State, something FSX does not do. It also has a great variety of helicopters available on the Payware scene which are just oozing quality. Dreamfoil is one such developer which makes some of the best helciopter for X-Plane, their hangar includes the Robinson R22, Dremfoil Bell 407 and Bell 206. A fine resource of X-Plane helicopters can be found here.
To see helicopters in action, PC Simulators have compiled numerous helicopter videos you can check out here.
The great thing about X-Plane is the quality of the free scenery available for it. The excellent x-plane.org forum (which is free to join) has hundreds of scenery available for download and I emphasise this, some of the scenery is on a par and even better than some payware scenery available.
This obviously depends on the aircraft but X-Plane does have 3D virtual cockpits, TRACKIR is also supported so you can use this to look around the cockpit natuarllay as you would in real life. For thos of you wondering what TRACK IR is it is a small piece of hardware which allows you to move your head and do the job of mouse look. For more on TRACKIR click here.
Sky Max Pro 2.1 was used for our videos in our reviews. For us it provides excellent weather engine for ex-plane. They are currently on v3.
How SkyMaxx Pro works
SkyMaxx Prothat disables X-Plane's cloud and weather rendering engine, then replaces it with the SkyMaxx Pro version of weather. It takes weather data from the already existing X-Plane weather menu that you are used to, so there's nothing new to learn.
Unfortunately no career modes are available in X-Plane either so you cant decide you want a pilot career with your favoutite airliner. This is something that is seriously lacking in all the flight simulators. However like FSX there are some 3rd party addons which offer some type of career/campaign mode:
Air Hauler puts you in complete control of your own freight company - in the boardroom and in the cockpit. The limitless flexibility of Air Hauler will let you immerse yourself totally in every operational detail of your freight company - from landings to leases, flight plans to finances, and repairs to recruitment.
This is another attempt at creating a single player career mode plug in for X-Plane
Free addons is what makes X-Plane stand out over the other sims, the incredible free addons is probably the best not just in quntity but qaulity. For example take Ground Services, this is a free plug in which adds realism to airports. Stais pull up to the aircraft to allow passengers to board and alight, Fuel trucks bring fuel, pushback trucks push the aircraft back from parking poistions at airports. This is just one example of the amazing FREE addons for X-Plane
Comparisons between the Flight Simulators
737 Cockpit Comparisons (click on an image to enlarge)
Aerofly FS2 Flightgear
External Views of 737 at Zurich Airport (Click on an image to enlarge)
Aerofly FS2 Flightgear
1st X-Plane 10
X-Plane 10 is in 1st place. It runs as a 64Bit application and like P3D makes better use of current hardware and allows you to have better frame rates at higher resolutions. The flight model is accurate and many pilots use X-Plane as reference. Although payware aircraft is not as abundant as aircraft for FSX and P3D it does have a great selection. A320 by JARDesign is one good example of an excellent payware aircraft. What seperates Xplane from FSX and P3D however is the excellent helicopter support, helicopter physics are much better than the default FSX helicopter model and this would be the simulator of choice if you wanted to fly with helicopters in a simulator. The other big plus about X-Plane is that it is 64bit which makes better use of PC memory. FSX and P3D are still 32bit which means they can't take advantage of PC's with large amounts of RAM. For us however the amount of excellent quality free scenery, airports and plugins really helps to make X-plane an amazing simulator . Just look at the X737 project and the excellent airport scenery available for free.
Simply put P3D has all the benefits of FSX but the advantage that its constantly updated by Lockheed Martin. It has access to a huge scenery and aircraft add on libary as it canuse a lot of the software already out for FSX. Most developers include a P3D installer so you can use the software you purchased for FSX with P3D. P3D also makes use of DX11 which in turn allows better use of current video card technology making for better framrates than FSX for the same scenery. 2 main reasons why we put this above FSX is that it is constanty being developed and makes us of latest DX 11 Cards.
Still up there and at times on Steam a bargain, however it has limitations, reliance on older DX9 and DX 10 technologies and not making use of current Video Card Technology means it doesnt take top spot. To get the best out of FSX and make it look realisitic you need a high end PC with lots of RAM and a high power CPU. It will work on lower end systems but with detail turned down. Also the development in terms of updates are not on the same level as P3D and X-Plane.
Highly recommended but its up against some giants of flight simulation, for free it's excellent and well worth installing what lets it down are the lack of quality addons like ground services. Flightgear is getting better and better and for free you cannot go wrong! It also supports 64bit and in our opinion is quickly catching up with FSX.
5th Aerofly FS2
Still in early access but may take a high place once complete, amazing graphics but plenty left to do still if it is going to catch up with the others.
|Aerofly FS2||Flightgear||FSX Steam||P3D||X-Plane 10|
|Camera Customisation||?||FCamera (free plugin)||EZDOK or Opus (both Payware)||Built into P3D||X-camera (free plugin)|
|DX Version||11||OpenGL||DX9, DX10 (Preview)||DX 11||OpenGL|
|Flight School||YES||In Missions|
|Helicopters||No||YES||YES, but no VRS physics||YES||YES|
|No of Stock Aircraft||17||?||24||??||24|