Vehicle Simulator is a combination of the Micro Flight and the Virtual Sailor simulators. It is a simulator that covers land, sea, and air. It’s something which is a culmination of years of work. Now Vehicle Simulator is here and it handles all kinds of things. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.
*Disclaimer*: you will see me using custom sceneries and vehicles in this review, the sceneries are all ether off the VSF site, or just imported terrain meshes (no other stuff added to those meshes)
Installation and Documentation
The installation is straightforward, just run the EXE, and register it. The demo is the full installer; it’s locked down from 5 minutes down to a minimum of 1 minute time frames if you have mods/addons installed (-30 seconds per vehicle and – 1 minute per scenery). I tried out the demo mode while waiting for the key, and I really just didn’t have the time to have much fun with it primarily because 1 minute is barely any time at all in a simulator. That’s the one thing I really have a problem with, the demo time.
The documentation is all online, and it’s decent for what it does. One thing I should note right off the bat that I didn’t notice in documentation, is why the panning views dosn’t work with TrackIR on. It took me asking Ilan about it. It turns out that with TrackIR enabled, it overwrites those inputs. That’s the one main thing I wish was in the documentation.
So first impressions anyone?
So let’s talk about first impressions, after the demo period was removed. First thing I did was load up the default scenario and played with it. I realized that the demo scenario was a powered hang glider. You’ll learn more about the origins of that hang glider in my interview with Ilan further in the review, but now let’s talk about the actual sim.
I noticed that it was fun to fly the hang glider. First powering it up to a height and then cut the engines and just glide. Next I tried a boat. I downloaded a Sea Shadow, and the fact that it was community made showed. There was a non textured cockpit in it, but I can’t knock the sim based on the community add-ons, I can’t call the sim on anything community based.
I have to say though, that it did make me wonder, how far can it go? I noticed one major annoyance whenever I start the sim, I had to reset the options to what I liked. Apparently the sim doesn’t save the options settings from the last session.
It does that?
I was in for a shock later on though as I didn’t realize what exactly I was getting in to. I tried the mini submarine and I found a F-16 I crashed in the sim earlier on the bottom of the ocean. I found it nose down in the sand about 400 meters below the ocean. That was something which was an instant classic moment, and I immediately took up an interest in submarines in this sim. I guess another part of it is the fact that I love Silent Hunter III.
By now, if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know what I’m going to talk about next, combat! Yes it does combat, however not very well. As you may know, weapons don’t respawn on the pylons in real life during flight. Unfortunately, they do in VSF. Furthermore, everything leaves a smoke trail, from bombs, to missiles, to torpedoes. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to kill anything. It seems as if when AI die, they immediately respawn.
Most of the vehicles are simplistic. While they look decent and handle well, there isn’t much in the way of avionics. Usually with the default vehicles it’s no more than four or five switches in the cockpit. According to Ilan however, more detailed avionics simulations is possible. It looks to me like this was done by a single person, and that the vehicles are more of a taste of what it can do handling wise, rather than avionics wise. It looks like the advanced stuff could be made, but the question becomes who will make them.
Well, it’s time to talk about the graphics. There are volumetric clouds, caustics, and all kinds of things. One of my favorite views was driving a submarine just submerged and looking at the light rays in the water shining down, and then seeing fish swim by. You can add animals to the area, which is nice to see, however it seems they really aren’t there for anything more but looks.
I had to turn the graphics down to about half when it came to object density. Ah well, not that big of a deal, I was more worried about the shader effects than the pre-placed objects. You can see grass on the ground (and yes it waves around in the wind), which is really nice. The fun thing was to go and see how your vehicle can go into space. It’s just too bad the transition from atmosphere to space wasn’t a bit more seamless.
What about sounds? Well, for one, I could hear rain pouring, waves crashing against my ship, thunder, and all kinds of sounds. The one issue I had was it seemed that the sounds were kind of generic as far as aircraft goes, but then again, I see higher quality add-ons having higher quality sounds.
So what to do about the need for new content?
Well, I figured I might as well mention this in the review, due to the lack of default scenery. The scenery is very easy to create, there’s a Google Earth plug-in for placing roads and buildings and exporting them into Vehicle Sim. What about terrain elevations? Well that’s easy to do too, as you only have to download a SRTM map and export it as a binary into 3dem.
I also figured out how to import GEBCO data into Vehicle Simulator. This got really fun while driving a nuclear submarine around Bermuda. The depths were interesting to say the least. This was a bit complex to do, so I’ll leave instructions out of the review, but the tutorial I made is on the Vehicle Simulator forums for all who want to give it a try.
Furthermore, you can import content from Virtual Sailor and Micro Flight with minimal work. Scenery is the only thing you may need to tweak a little to get the elevations correct. Other than that, you just have to drop it in the correct folders and it’s all automatic.
What have you done captain!
Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to turn on the time compression? Well let’s just say that’s dangerous in VSF. "Subs In Space" is something I managed to achieve with a ballistic missile submarine while hitting the land at high levels of time compression. I also managed to achieve my submarine hitting a beach during time compression and going flying over an island, and not just any island but a big freaking island, with it doing rolls and bounces all over the place until it wound up 2/3 of the island away, upside down on top of a mountain in the middle of a mountain range (the craziest 3 minutes of this sim). The physics seems to have its downfalls, especially with time compression on.
Interview with Ilan
For this review, I decided to have an interview with Ilan, the developer. This is the first review I’ve interviewed the developer, and I don’t intend on this being the last.
program is not meant to replace X-Plane or FSX, but as a more
hands on program to experience and experiment with different
vehicle types, and the art of flying them.
Summary / Closing Remarks
All in all, I like it a lot. This is a remarkable piece of work, and includes so many different elements of simulation; it’s amazing this is only done by an independent developer. With the pure potential this has, I can imagine some very highly detailed vehicles in this simulator's future.
My only problem with it is the limited scenery areas currently available. This is something I see as being remedied somewhere down the line, but for now, it is pretty limited. Even with the limit of the minimal amount of scenery, I have to say it does pretty much everything you can imagine vehicle wise. It’s obvious that this sim is worth a look. The question becomes, will it take off like an eagle or fall like a brick. That’s something that will wind up being down to the community.
There is incredible potential for add-ons, however if no one makes them, then it’s moot point. Is it worth it you ask? I say the answer is YES! Even if you don’t like simplified vehicles, sometimes it’s worth it just to be able to do whatever you want, including going below the ocean to drive a submarine and have a bit of fun underneath the sea. I will admit this right now, I have spent a lot more time with this in a submarine than in an aircraft. I tried using a submarine once and got hooked on being the silent hunter of the seas.
For me, I feel that while it has nice physics, it can’t stand up to FSX or X-Plane at this point in flight simulation, as there isn’t enough in the way of complex aircraft. Where this does shine though, is in versatility and because of that, I found it incredibly enjoyable just to relax and ride the ocean in a nuclear submarine.
You might notice this review was a bit shorter than normal, well that’s because it’s kind of hard for me to describe the experience of this simulator, it’s something you have to try to understand. All in all, it’s a good sim, but it isn’t really that detailed in any one thing. This seems to me like a good framework, however until there are more complex vehicles, I can’t say it would be my primary sim. The way it handles things has a very great potential for future development. Overall, try the demo, see if you like it, and if you do, go for it.
What I Like About Vehicle Simulator
What I Don't Like About Vehicle Simulator
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