Few in our hobby need reminding of the fact that the transition from FS2004 to FSX has, on occasion, been painful. Constant tweaking, re-installation, activation issues, perhaps even hardware upgrades in order to get acceptable performance. It is not surprising that for many, the move to FSX is not something they’re willing to consider at this time, and FS2004 remains their main, if not only, flight simulator platform.
My own experience is one of spending a significant amount of money on a major PC and hardware upgrade, along with numerous tweaks and re-installations, to eventually have FSX performing reasonably well, only to find a notable lack of enthusiasm towards the default FSX airliners (the smaller aircraft and Ultralite Trike are much better in my opinion), and a drift back towards FS2004 and my favourite bunch of complex procedural airliner simulations for that platform. (My Wife shouts from the wings; “so why did you spend all that money upgrading?!?”).
Thankfully, it was always more of an acute rather than a chronic issue and those of us that are at least attempting to make FSX our new home, are now starting to see some complex airliner add-ons, in addition to the increasing amount of ‘lite’ offerings.
These types of complex add-ons are tending to make their way to FSX in one of two ways; as a ‘port’ of the FS2004 model - the add-on will perform almost exactly as it does in FS2004 (sometimes with less features in FSX than in FS2004), or as a dedicated FSX development that will feature at least some of the new features that FSX can offer.
Recent complex Airliner ports to FSX include the excellent Majestic Software Dash 8-Q300 which is an example of a FS2004 aircraft that has been ported very successfully to FSX, with users reporting a great experience in the new sim. This is not the case with all ports as a browse of some of the developer’s forums will show!
The latest complex add-on to reach FSX with a dedicated version containing new features and improvements is the Level D 767, published by Flight 1.
I think it is fair to say that this add-on needs little introduction. It is generally regarded as one of the most advanced and high quality releases to hit any version of Flight Simulator. Reviews across the internet universally praise the product and indeed AVSIM’s Maury Pratt awarded the FS2004 version of the Level D 767 with 5 stars in his review of May 2005. I don’t intend to duplicate Maury’s review, so this review is intended to look at the specifics around how this fine aircraft looks, lives and works in the taxing new world of FSX!
At the time of writing, the FSX version of Level D 767 is available by download only from the Flight 1 web-site, via their reliable ‘Wrapper’ system. It is good to see loyalty being rewarded by Flight 1 to those who own a previous version of this product.
Installation via the Wrapper system is very straightforward if you are using the product on the same PC that you are downloading from, and only slightly more complex if you want to use the 767 on a PC other than the one you have downloaded from. The Flight 1 system allows you to download the whole .exe. file before purchase.
Launching the .Exe then provides the payment screen, along with the options to use any Coupons, along with the ‘Re-install’ option (to be used after installation, when you already have a valid Key on your system). The main advantage of this type of download system is that the user does not have to worry about the download failing or crashing after they have parted with their hard earned cash. You do the downloading before you pay, and then provide your credit card details during the subsequent activation of the .Exe file (Obviously payment requires an Internet connection). After completing the payment successfully, the installer will place the necessary files into FSX automatically.
As per the FS2004 version, the installer places a 767 Configuration Manager on your desktop. It is a good idea to run this Config Manager before launching the 767 in FSX to ensure that the aircraft.cfg files are updated with the appropriate payload that you intend to fly with.
The Level D 767 for FSX offers several new features and improvements to the FS2004 version. These include:
- The ability to load FMC data, within the Panel Import options.
These are only a selection of the full list of enhancements and improvements provided with the FSX version of the add-on. It is clear that you are not simply paying for a ‘ported’ FS2004 aircraft. Level D has not rushed to release the FSX version. It has gone through the full testing schedule and has been released as a standalone product in its own right.
The Level D 767 for FSX comes with just its House Livery, although it is compatible with the FS2004 set of liveries available from the Level D site. Level D have also started to produce (or commission) some specific ‘FSX only’ liveries. These make use of FSX specific graphics features. In the 2 months since I first started testing the product, it is slightly disappointing that Level D have not yet released many further FSX specific liveries, via their site. There are no FSX specific liveries in the main ‘repaint’ area of the site, and although the FAQ area of their forum does provide links to some FSX specific liveries developed by the likes of John Tavendale, these are very few and I think it’s fair to say they do not represent a wide continental range of liveries (ie..No European liveries are included, only North American, Australian and Japanese examples.
The two things that excited me most about this 767 release for FSX were; The enhanced flight model (The FS2004 version is already regarded as having one of the best flight models in a commercial aircraft add-on), and the FSX Camera views, which I have learned were to include a new VC ‘co-pilot’ view, as well as some tasty new wing views. The thing I was most nervous about was how this extremely advanced, complex simulation would perform, particularly in terms of frame rates, within FSX.
A NEW MODEL
The exterior model is complemented by FSX’s “bright new world”. The supplied house livery is the only one supplied with the FSX 767. As already covered, few specific FSX liveries are available from Level D at present but where there are shortfalls, you can use the FS2004 liveries although these did not look as sharp as the FSX House Livery.
I confess that I am not the sort of simmer who worries too much about exterior models (I know some will be cursing!), for me 90% of the experience of operating these complex simulations takes place inside the cockpit. Of course it is always nice to glance at a fine aircraft like the 767 from the outside, while parked at the gate, or occasionally whilst in the cruise.
Fans of detailed models will not be disappointed with the Level D 767 for FSX. It is a treat to the eyes and is a wonderfully accurate representation of the real aircraft. As well as the level of detail, one thing that strikes me about the Level D 767 (hereafter referred to as the LDS 767) is that it appears to be perfectly in proportion. There are a number of aircraft add-ons out there where the same can’t be said. I can think if at least two Airbus planes that look far to stodgy and short compared to their real life counterparts!
The exterior model of the LDS767 for FSX also seemed refreshingly frame rate friendly on my system, considering the level of complexity. I observed better frame rate performance in spot view in this aircraft than I do with a couple of GA aircraft add-ons for FSX, and comparable results to the FSX stock airliners. (You must remember that I am talking exclusively about performance while in spot views at this stage).
Actions speak louder than words, so take a look at the screenshots of this fine model – she looks good enough for the catwalk to me!
A VERY NICE VC ?
The Virtual Cockpit of the FS2004 Level D 767 is one of the nicest places to pass the time in the whole flight sim universe. The FSX version continues this trend. Although the 2D panel in the FSX version appears 100% identical to the FS2004 version, the VC textures look richer and of a slightly better resolution.
If you sit in the VC and hit the ‘A’ key you will also see one of the new surprises that this version offers, a first officer seat position within the VC. Ah, so this is what FSX is all about! The gauges in the VC are very clear unless you zoom out excessively, in which case they get that grainy look. There are also custom virtual cockpit views of the Overhead and Pedestal. These are very, very useful and work particularly well for TrackIR users.
I used FSUIPC to map a button on my CH Yoke to the ‘A’ key, which meant that with the touch of a nearby button, I could switch between the various new custom views in the VC. At this stage, sitting on the ground at my departure airport, I was becoming very fond of my new office in FSX. The only issue I had was that, in FSX, you cannot properly change your seat height when using the TrackIR (you can in FS2004). This is a disappointing retrograde step for FSX. To change your view you have to change your physical seat / TrackIR position, or try editing the viewpoints in some cfg files. (Something I’ve yet to successfully do in FSX). Let me be clear in saying though, that is entirely a FSX limitation. It is not a weakness of the Level D 767.
One thing I did realize when looking at the ‘Configuration Manager’ for this version of the Level D 767, is that the “include / don’t include VC” section is missing. Therefore 2D panel users have no way of removing the VC from the FSX version in the way that they can in the FS2004 version. This seemed a shame for 2D users, as in FSX you need to take every opportunity to optimize frame rates and having a VC load that you aren’t actually going to use, is highly like to effect performance quite considerably. (see further into the review for full observations of frame rates).
On viewing the Level D support forums, I learned that it is possible to remove the VC by editing a .cfg file. So at least the option is there for those confident to edit .cfg files, but I feel it would be better to have an option to do this within the configuration manager as per the FS2004 version. I’m sure there will be technical reasons for this as I have noticed other FSX versions of existing FS2004 add-ons that appear to offer less options, or a retrograde interface. (The configuration manager for Flight 1’s own ATR72 appears less impressive in FSX as compared to the FS2004 version).
All in all, I would say that the VC in the FSX version of Level D 767 is without a doubt the best virtual cockpit I have yet to see in any version of flight simulator. It is truly state of the art in terms of appearance and resolution. As for function, well almost. This is, in FS2004 at least, one of the best complex add-ons to operate from the VC but it is not without some frustrations. Read on and all will be revealed!
The LDS767 for FSX (like it’s FS2004 counterpart) comes with great supporting features for things like managing Failures, Panel state importing, Carrier options, and Ground crew simulation. The list literally goes on and on.
I started my flight parked at the gate with the APU running, most of the overhead panel set-up, but the engines switched off. After some rudimentary switching on the overhead and glare shield (I have around 300 hours in the FS2004 version of this add-on but for those who don’t, this version comes with excellent, FSX-specific documentation that will get you flying in no time, despite the complexity).
Next, it was time to set up the FMC. The FSX version contains some improvements to the FMC although these are by their very nature, quite subtle as this plane already came with a hugely functional and great performing flight management system. There is full IRS simulation, although the engineers had already taken care of IRS alignment and set-up when they passed the aircraft to me.
Being a simulation that aims for a high degree of realism, the LDS767 FMC does not have a button that will ‘import FS flight plan’. The idea here is that you will need to program your route fully in the FMC, unless you have previously saved it using the FMC, in which case you can use CO ROUTE to load it up in an instant (as in the real world).
At this stage, I would like to talk about another aspect of this add-on that I think really distances it from most of the competition, Sound. The quality of the full range of sounds in the 767 is absolutely first class and this really adds to the sense of immersion and realism. Not all developers pay the same attention to the important of sound within the simulation.
Developers like Level D and Majestic Software have worked hard to achieve aircraft sounds that really add a huge amount to the realism factor. However, if you take a look at some recent add-ons from PSS (and even to an extent the mighty PMDG747), you have a lot less attention paid towards achieving convincing, immersive sounds. The sound of the LDS767’s electrical and air conditioning systems are just delightful. Even the sound of key presses and button switches are far superior to most add-ons. You need to hear them for yourself clearly, but the word ‘quality’ just comes to mind again and again.
On switching off the Packs and turning the number 2 engine start switch to GROUND on the overhead, you get no sudden, harsh auto start procedure as you’d tend to. Certainly in the default FS airliners. You get a carefully modeled engine start procedure with realistic spool up times for both N2 and N1. With both engines started, you get a wonderful subtle engine idle sound from within the cockpit.
On take off I felt that the FSX version of this fine plane rotated a little lighter than the FS2004 version would. (using identical weights data, trim, flaps, etc). This feeling continued throughout all of the early phase of my departure while hand flying the plane. My yoke controls just seemed more sensitive in a way that made the aircraft feel a little too light for my liking.
After some adjustment of sensitivities and null zones in FSX, I eventually found results that I was much happier with. It is highly likely that the difference in ‘feel’ between the FSX and FS2004 versions of this plane are down to changes within the core simulators. However, I would have to summarize that in terms of hand flying take-off and approaches, I still prefer the FS2004 version overall. Perhaps I am just institutionalized by having flown so many enjoyable hours in the earlier version!
One thing that I have always found a little disappointing, is that FMC in the LDS767 is not usable within the VC. (unlike offerings from PMDG, for example). There are 2 small buttons on the glare shield in the VC that, when clicked, bring up the 2D FMC and Radio sub-panels. Alternatively, you can simply click in the FMC within the VC and this again will bring up the 2D FMC.
Given the quality of this product in almost all other aspects, I am surprised that this shortcoming still exists in the FSX release. On the plus side, it is easier to program and use a 2D FMC, however, it would have been nice to have the option to program the FMC from its proper location in the VC, rather than from a pop-up panel.
The final niggle that has always frustrated me with the LDS767, comes when one needs to make adjustments to the altitude, speed and heading settings on the MCP. These suffer from awful control acceleration the likes of which is not normally seen in other commercial add-ons of this calibre.
I use the LDS Key commands page to set up keys for these functions, and when for example, I hold down the ‘Heading Increase’ key, the heading setting will slowly start to increase and then suddenly accelerate madly! This can make it quite difficult and fiddly to make settings, especially during flight phases where the workload is high.
I wish LDS could address this, as it slightly lets the side down in an otherwise phenomenal simulation. I tried making settings with the registered version of FSUIPC, but for me at least, this was not successful in resolving the problem of the 767s “run away dials”.
In a recent Service Pack for this release, Level D have integrated a number of further improvements into the product, and one of these concerns was the VNAV performance of the aircraft. All I will say in summary of this, is that this plane really nails the VNAV decent now. It is awesome and tracked the profile like a dream for me. Thanks for that one Level D!
FIGHTING THE FRAME RATES IN FSX!
So we know that this is arguably the most realistic and advanced airliner simulation for any version of FS. Great, but how does that work with a core simulator platform (FSX) that is very stretched on the average system. Well, the answer for me was that compromise was required to get good performance.
This is a subjective area. To one simmer, the most important aspect of their setup may be the quality of scenery, autogen, and traffic, etc. To others (myself included), the most important factor is achieving a silky smooth passage through the virtual air. That demands reasonable frame rates and avoiding stutters.
Prior to installing the LDS767 for FSX, I had mainly been flying GA aircraft in FSX (as I passed the time waiting for the complex stuff to arrive for FSX). I had managed to achieve reasonable results flying the likes of the FSX Ultralite, or the ported Caranedo Cessna add-ons, and was able to have some nice FSX autogen (since FSX SP1) and generally quite high settings for scenery, and mesh resolution, etc.
When I tried to fly the LDS767 from the VC with the same settings, the results were not good. On the ground with the default Heathrow Airport scenery, I was hovering around single digits and up to around 14 while taxiing. Some claim 15 FPS is adequate in FSX, but all I can say is that for me personally, it is not.
Eventually, I found that I could operate the LDS767 smoothly in FSX with frame rates at a more acceptable 26 FPS, at the expense of having to remove all autogen. FSX does make it easier to save and load different configurations, and the guys at Level D / Flight 1 have even provided some suggested settings as a cfg download on the web-site. (Coincidentally, the suggested settings also avoid using any autogen, so it seems that unless you are running a very powerful PC, complex add-ons like this one are not going to get along too well with high settings in FSX, and particularly not that gorgeous autogen.)
Again, this is subjective stuff. If you have the latest quad-core processor and masses of RAM, you may well ask what the problem is. Check my system specs and you’ll get a good idea on what you can likely expect.
I can reveal that the Level D 767 is a truly outstanding simulation which raises the bar in terms of function, immersion and down right fun. But chances are you already knew that right?
If I am specifically talking about the LDS767 for FSX, I would summarize by saying that Level D has done a great job at presenting their baby in the bright new world of FSX. Subtle aesthetic improvements are joined by subtle functional improvements. Essentially however, in comparing the overall experience of flying the LDS767 in FSX as compared to flying the original LDS767 in FS2004, I would have to conclude that I still prefer the original.
That must border on an almost unfair conclusion from Level D’s perspective, as I can categorically state that 95% of my reasoning in making that conclusion is concerned with FSX performance in our present “pre-DX10” world.
For me, the compromises involved in flying the mighty LDS767 within FSX, don’t quite win the day as compared to flying this baby in FS2004. Where essentially it doesn’t look any less attractive, operates in more or less the same way, and can happily coexist alongside higher graphics settings on more modest systems. All that I feel I lose out on, are the new camera views, which are great but personally, a smoother simulation wins the day.
I will conclude by saying that if the final question is “Should I buy the FSX version of this add-on when I already have the FS2004 version?”, my personal answer would be “not unless you are running a very powerful system”.
However, if the final question for you is “I don’t have either version of this add-on. Should I buy either?”, my answer would be a resounding “Yes of course you should! Have you not been listening to anything I’ve said! This is the finest complex aircraft add-on released for any version of flight simulator!”
What I Like About Level D 767 for FSX
What I Don't Like About Level D 767 for FSX
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved