Laminar Research has been developing its X-Plane flight simulation product for many years now and the draw to their sim has always been its real-time modeling of airflow over lifting surfaces. If Microsoft’s Flight Simulator has always been the attractive, popular kid in school, X-Plane has been the geeky kid in their room doing calculus and playing tabletop wargames (I was that kid, by the way). With the newest game in the franchise, X-Plane 12, Laminar Research has brought better visuals and gameplay to the fore while retaining its attention to real-time simulation. That being the case, is it any fun and is it worth your hard-earned money? Read on!
X-Plane 12 carries on the tradition of hardcore simulation that its franchise is known for. Both air traffic control and ILS systems are outstanding and you really get a sense of the pilot experience – especially in larger aircraft. The ATC communication menu system works great and features a branching, menu-based system for commands and responses. Plane handling “feel” how you would expect and I loved the immersion that feeling added to my time with the game. I am fortunate to have a full flight yoke, throttle quadrant, and rudder pedal setup to play the game with and I was hooked almost right away. The game includes a large variety of aircraft right outside the box – including helicopters and some special airframes like an F-14D Tomcat and Space Shuttle. I found a new level of Zen in flying its glider though. I didn’t have a lot of experience in glider simulation before but being pulled up into the heavens by a an engine-powered airplane and then cut loose to rise and sink over the earth free of internal combustion was an absolute blast.
Visually, X-Plane 12 looks very good. The game is not as photo realistic or as breathtaking as MS Flight Simulator is but it doesn’t need to be – its focus was never on being beautiful. X-Plane 12’s focus is on flight model realism. Despite this, I was not disappointed in the least at how the game looked. Scenery and buildings are automatically generated and, it does a very good job of doing so overall. However, I did note that it didn’t always get it right and buildings sometimes ended up where they probably wouldn’t be in real life. The weather engine is also very good and flying around huge clouds was sometimes awe-inspiring. Also, I love how the rain looks as it pours down the aircraft’s canopy – really cool stuff. X-Plane 12’s audio presentation is great – everything sounds how you think it should I noted no problems in that department. Unfortunately, there were some irritating bugs inhabiting X-Plane 12. I have recently come back to the game and, thankfully, Laminar Research the issues I was having have been done away with. Anecdotally, I am still reading some reviews mentioning them so your mileage may vary as to whether or not you’ll encounter any. I am sure they’ll be patched in the future – Laminar Research stands by its products in that way.
Overall, Laminar Research’s X-Plane 12 is worthy of the franchise and your valuable time and money as an excellent flight simulator. The flight dynamics feel very realistic and and if you are a more serious flight sim pilot, I think you won’t be disappointed in its presentation and game experience. Just be sure to have some patience for any remaining bugs or quirks you might encounter.