Friday, April 7, 2017

Impressions on X-Plane 11


The worst thing of being a flight simulation developer (well...apart from the sleep deprivation) is that you do not have much time to look and play with other people's creations.... there are literally dozens of aircrafts and add-ons that I'd really love to test, but I do not have the time. Let alone testing a completely new simulator.
So, I took a little break after the Typhoon release and had a look a X-Plane 11 while I am trying to decide what is better to do next... and here are my impressions. Please remind that this is X-Plane 11 Vanilla... no add-ons used.

Flight modeling
X-Plane series has always been famous for its flight modeling... basically, the flight model is derived from the "shape" of the aicraft, rather than numbers and parameters like in FSX/P3D. In some sense this is a much more elengant approach.
I do not know the intricacies of any of the stock aicrafts so well to tell "how good" they are - nor I have flown any of them for real... but the impression is that the all of the aircraft I tested had a very solid and realistic flight modeling. I have particularly appreciated the takeoff dynamics... for some reason I cannot explain they give you the best "takeoff run" feeling of any simulator I have ever tested. 

Graphics
The graphic it engine is impressive.... with a couple of drawbacks. Let's start with the things I did not like: the sea/water rendering, the stock textures and the day lighting. The water looks "fake" and a little flat - P3Dv3 makes a much better job in that respect (although still fa away from what modern graphics can do). And day lighting seems washed out - again P3Dv3 is superior in that respect IMHO... and actually Aerofly FS2 is even better - actually much better...it is the only one that manages to capture the intensity of a bright sunny day.
Stock textures are OK, better than FSX/P3D defaults (...not surprising as they are 10 years old!), but nothing to write home about.
And that's it for the not-so-great things...everything else is awesome.
The night lighting is miles above anything else - IT LOOKS REAL. And when you realize that even the cars in the streets have their own light source you marvel at this techical achievement.
Weather is also really good... and gives its best in the rendition of fog and low visibility conditions.
Another fantastic thing is the Autogen system. Much better, more flexible and more complete than FSX/P3D with an amazing level of detail (fantastic for helicopter flying!). By "flexible" I mean that it positions buildings and structures following the streets and the terrain features in a much more consistent and realistic way than FSX/P3D. Awesome job - with a minor note: the buildings look a litte tall, and there are not that many trees in italian cities and towns.
...and NO BLURRIES and NO STUTTERS.

Graphics performance
I would say it is very good to excellent. Sure, you I do not get the 200+ frames per second I get from AFS2, but if you consider how much is happening on the screen it is amazing. Sure, if you max out the sliders my old 3770k at 3.9GHz and the GTX1080 struggle to keep a smooth flight, but in general the performance is better than FSX/P3D in similar conditions.

Stock Aircrafts
Stock aicrafts are good, not great. The selection is OK and includes some planes specifically rebuilt for XP11, and some from previous versions. Considering only the XP11 aircrafts, they are good... I'd say they are great but the modeling and texturing (coupled with the "washed out" daylight rendering) makes it so that they do not look as good as stock AFS2 aicrafts. Still, they are way better than FSX stock aicrafts. In terms of systems and flight modeling they are really good for being stock aicrafts.   

Stock Scenery
EXTREMELY complete. Right out of the digital box you have the whole world, but the vectors and landclass definitions are much better than the stock FSX/P3D database - and they basically have a similar level of detail as ORBX Global Vector. Also, the default airports are much more detailed than in FSX and in general the stock scenery is way better. Still... the stock textures are good but not the best I have ever seen, and while the autogen is extremely detailed, some of its buildings look a little out of place (at least in Italy...but that is always the case in any simulator!).  

Weather
Weather graphical rendition varies from very good (cloud transitions) to excellent (fog). The effects in the aicrafts are just right - but my real life experience of flying in bad weather was really too short to judge.

Sound
Frankly the least impressive part of the package... it is not bad, but on my system it sounds OK but not great (maybe I am too much used to third party sound packages in FSX). Still, no complaints here.

Long story short:

LIKES
  • It is the most realistic and complete flight simulator you can buy for your home computer.
  • Night environment and lighting is absolutely superb.
  • Astonishing level of detail and scalability of the autogen system
  • Good stock aicrafts and extremely complete base scenery
DISLIKES
  • Daylight rendering looks a little washed out
  • Water rendering is not great
  • ...it does not have the same add-ons as FSX ;-)!
Final remarks:
If you are looking for a complete, serious and realistic simulation (and you have a modern, relatively powerful computer) - right now X-Plane 11 is probably the best thing you can buy.
Out of the box it is a solid, complete package that will give you hundreds of flying hours and fun.
You have to consider, however, that FSX/P3D add-ons availability is unbeatable...and new versions of P3D and Flight Simulator are likely to arrive in the near future. Also, P3Dv3 does a couple of things better than X-Plane 11 IMHO.
Aerofly Fight Simulator 2 has its own merits too - but at the current status of its development it is not as complete as the other contenders. Still has the best daylight rendering, the best aicraft models (graphically speaking) and delivers a conving Virtual Reality experience (which P3Dv3 and XP11 do not do with FlyInside). 

The night lighting is FANTASTIC - by far the best I have ever seen in a home flight simulation.

Cloud transitioning in a MD-82 - Weather rendition is very good to excellent. Cockpits are in general very detailed (but do not look as good as the ones in AF2).

Day lighting is not as bright as it should be. This is one of the few things I don7t like about XP11.

The Autogen system places houses and buildings following steets, highways and geographical features and delivers a convincing (but a little "fake"-looking) rendition. Vector database is excellent.

3 comments:

Francesco said...

That's a fair review, i would say.

Only thing i can mention, Dino, is that for the sounds you should judge only those on the Cessna, which are the ones using Fmod and are actual real recorded sounds (and they change quite well depending on the direction). All the others are old sounds hopefully they will upgrade.

The daylight amount of light depends on the cloud cover as far as i could see

Marcel Aerni said...

Nice Review....Sooo...Do you plan for the Eurofighter go XP11? :-)

Dino Cattaneo said...

@Francesco

It does - but just slightly. P3Dv3 does a better job in that respect. In AF2 on the other hand, the cloud coverage does not affect the lighting (which in turn is spot-on when the cloud is clear - very bright and sharp!).

@Marcel

Most likely not. As I am going through the XPlane11 SDK I understand why there are not that many ports from FSX - there are a number of limitations in the 3D modeling (for which there ARE labor-intensive workarounds) so that if a 3D model is not thought from the beginnig with XP11 in mind it is not easy to convert it. If anything MB.326 and T-45C would be better candidates for a XP conversion.