FS2Crew PMDG 737 NGX Reboot
A review by Maxim Pyankov
FS2Crew is a company well known in the flight sim community for a wide array of products which enhance the realism and quality of our hobby and which bring a new dimension to the experience of operating a flight simulator. FS2Crew dates back to early 2000's and commands a strong line-up of well-received products, ranging from FS2004/FS9 add-ons for Wilco, Level-D, PMDG and others, and more recently boasting add-ons for such gems as Majestic Q400, PMDG 737NGX and, of course, the PMDG 777. All that is to say that the guys at FS2Crew must have quite a bit of experience and knowledge on their hands to know how to build a great add-on!
Many of you know FS2Crew products very well; as such, this paragraph is for the newcomers' benefit. What does FS2Crew do? Simply put - FS2Crew gives you an opportunity to enjoy your flight sim experience with the help of a well-trained and experienced First Officer (FO) and other crewmembers. It takes more than one set of eyes and one pair of hands to successfully operate an airliner - from setup on the ground, to taxi and takeoff, to climb and cruise and descent and, finally, to a safe and successful landing and aircraft shutdown for turnover to the next crew.
This review focuses on FS2Crew's most recent addition - PMDG 737 NGX Reboot (henceforth - Reboot). Of course, FS2Crew already had a very successful add-on for PMDG 737 NGX, and, as such, it is worth exploring why the team decided to build this new product, from the ground up, on top of an already successful one. I will touch on the subject further down in my review.
Installation of Reboot is fairly straightforward. For the price that you pay (around $40 for the Voice and Button Control version, and around $50 for the Captain's Set) you can install either of the versions on all major platforms: on FSX-Classic, on FSX-Steam, on FSX-Classic and on FSX-Steam, or on Prepar3D v2+. The only difference between the two versions of Reboot is that the Captain's Set includes an unlocked version of RAAS (Runway Awareness and Advisory System) that works with all aircraft. At about $34 for a standalone RAAS product, this is a good deal if you are an RAAS user and don't already own this product. But I digress - back to Reboot. The only additional step that you may have to take in order to complete a successful installation of Reboot is to do a fresh install of the NGX aircraft (SP1D) to ensure NGX panel.cfg is fresh and clean. Personally, I already had the Legacy NGX product and I had to do a reinstall of the NGX. A straightforward reinstall (the 'Repair' NGX-Installer option, as opposed to 'Remove') did not work - I still was not able to activate Reboot. Only once I completely removed NGX, rebooted my PC, and then reinstalled NGX, that I was able to activate the already installed Reboot.
Reboot offers a 'single engine taxi' feature; to use it successfully, you may have to edit one configuration file and to install FSUIPC, if you don't already have one. Detailed instructions are in the tutorial manuals. I suspect that both tech and non-tech-savvy FSX users could easily follow the instructions for this 'tweak', if necessary.
As a proud owner of the [now referred to as] 'Legacy' PMDG 737 NGX FS2Crew add-on, I asked a million dollar (well...a $39 dollar) question - why? Why do I need another PMDG add-on, when I already have a great one? Of course, there is a commercial incentive to build upon a very successful product, but I didn't feel like that was it. Or, at least, that it was the sole reason for a brand new rebuild. Now that I have put in more than 15 hours (7 flights) into this product, I understand why. But I still reached out to Bryan York, at FS2Crew, to understand his perspective. Bryan, the developer who runs FS2Crew, explained it best by saying that "Legacy is three years old... [and]...it was starting to show its' age compared to the newer [FS2Crew products]. ...[FS2Crew] wanted to re-do the NGX version from scratch to bring it up to the latest standards, and bring it back to life with brand new SOPs, a brand new user interface and new voice sets”. With PMDG’s 737 NGX being one of the most popular planes in the community, given the age of the original FS2Crew NGX package, and the longevity of the NGX with many more years to come, it only makes sense that an upgrade, indeed, was needed! If you build it they will come, right? I believe this will certainly hold true for this product. This review is not in any way or form, a qualitative comparison between the two products – the ‘Legacy’, and Reboot. The point to take away is that with Reboot Legacy becomes obsolete. As a matter of fact, it is no longer available for sale. Reboot completely replaces Legacy with a richer set of SOPs, new user interface, and other new features!
Reboot is not a UI and a voice-pack face-lift. Reboot expands the package both in actual ‘hands-on functionality’ terms (procedures and actions necessary to operate the airliner), as well as the qualitative improvements not central, technically speaking, to the operation of the airliners, but that expand realism dimensions of the simulator in terms of environmental clicks and bangs, cockpit and cabin sounds, crew interactions with the passengers, and overall ambient airliner sounds.
The absolute highlight of the package is that with Reboot you can choose from three different Standard Operating Procedures, currently in use around the world (SOP descriptions, below, have been taken directly from the manuals):
SOP Set 1 follows stock Boeing procedures to a large degree. Many airliners around the world use stock Boeing procedures, or slightly modified versions of them.
SOP Set 2 is based on the same procedures used by a real-world airline. The procedures are quite similar to stock Boeing procedures, generally speaking, but there are some significant differences as every airline likes to do things “their own way” to a degree.
SOP Set 3 is based on the same procedures used by a popular European operator. SOP 3’s procedures are very different from SOP 1 and 2’s. What makes SOP 3 interesting is that it demonstrates just how different each airline’s procedures can be.
SOP 1 and SOP 2 are actually quite similar with fairly minor differences, primarily around who (the Captain – you, or your First Officer) executes a given procedure or a process flow. In both of these SOPs the First Officer (henceforth – FO) will execute a large share of process flows and procedures (i.e. Runway Entry Procedure, After Take-off), while letting you focus on flying the aircraft. Examples of some of the differences include callout variations and the descent procedure.
SOP 3, on the other hand, is an altogether different animal. All-in-all, SOP 3 will require a lot more from you, the captain, in terms of running through flows and procedures. The tutorial document, for this SOP, contains a few graphic explanations on how these flows should be done.
This SOP presents an excellent opportunity for those of us, who are less familiar with many of the simulated knobs and switches in PMDG model, to get to learn what they are, what they do, and how to operate them. My guess would be that if you are a 'Cold-n-dark' kind of pilot, with a hands-on approach on startup, then you will adjust and be rewarded by this simulated SOP greatly. Likewise, if have been flying with the Legacy NGX FS2Crew FO doing a lot of prep flow and procedure work for you, then there might be a bit of a learning curve to get through this SOP. In the end, with an excellent 35 page tutorial and a few short flights, you will get a hang of it and enjoy the rewarding feeling of accomplishment having mastered the complicated flows and procedures necessary in the modern day airliner!
As an avid simmer I can see myself using all three procedures, based on the circumstances around each one flight - i.e. the time I have to spend on the simulator, the airline I am flying, and others. This variability is a huge plus, with an added bonus of teaching the flows and detailed procedures in SOP 3.
In addition, SOP 3 allows flows and procedures to be executed in two different modes - a "transit" mode, meaning when this is not the first flight of the day, and a "non-transit" mode which, conversely, means you are at the first flight of your day. There are some flow and callout differences between the two modes.
Reboot comes in with a multitude of options and configurations, and with a user-friendly and common sense user interface (henceforth, UI) to let you manage these various options. I am not particularly keen on the implementation of options-management in the PMDG 777 FS2Crew add-on. UI implementation in Reboot is a complete departure from that philosophy, and a very welcome one.
Configuration options are logically grouped into sets. You can easily distinguish and choose various options in the similar group - be it the departure briefing, the descent briefing, or be it the management of Reboot's interactions with the sim (who controls jetways and doors - you or FS2Crew?; which callouts get announced?, and a number of others).
Another feature allows you to manage your Audio settings right here, in the cockpit of your flight sim, and to broadcast your adventures to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, if you choose to do so.
I synched Reboot with my Twitter account to see what it would post on my behalf. The screenshot below shows that Reboot tweeted, upon my departure from LPPT, that I had departed LPPT (bottom). The top tweet informed the world that I had successfully landed in LEPA! Pretty neat, if this is something you are into. Both tweets were issued on the same flight; however, you will notice that my 'Landed' tweet lost the flight number info. A little bit more information on the landing, like the touchdown speed, crosswind, and direction, would have been nice.
Equally important, in my opinion, is the actual design (look and feel) of these options screens. Bringing up these windows - whether during the flight setup phase, or in preparation for descent, or during communications with FAs - keeps the simulation continuity and does not feel like an unnatural, or out-of-place interruption. Great job!
Voice vs. Button
Anybody who uses FS2Crew Reboot Button, and who has access to a decent microphone and can speak, should give Voice control a chance on a few flights. The button control is very good – the flow is intuitive; it allows you to scroll through options; you can fast forward, backtrack, and skip sections. But there is no comparison in the immersion and operational efficacy, in my opinion, when it comes to using Voice command. Rapid and to the point commands, coupled with checklist confirmations, and a mutual understanding between you and your 'FO', during the final approach for example, is an immensely immersive atmosphere, leading up to highly rewarding feeling of job well done after a successful and smooth landing.
Additional Features and Crew Interactions
Reboot is not only about the three Standard Operating Procedures. It also includes cabin crew interactions, which were present in Legacy, but with an updated sound pack. You can enjoy a wide selection of new sounds during your simulation experience - from what appears to be a very loud printer right behind your back (prior to receiving a load-sheet), to a more pronounced cockpit doors being closed, to others throughout the flight. Cabin Announcements are also there - the 'Welcome aboard', 'Move around the cabin', 'Welcome to our destination' and a couple of others. These are triggered at the appropriate events and give us another realism dimension to enjoy.
There is an option, in the setup, to run your NGX in a Military configuration. If that option is selected, then you will have to travel without Flight Attendants serving you breakfast and coffee!
Besides the flows and procedures for standard operating procedures, there are options for other situations like rejected take-offs, go-around decisions on approach, and even a first of its' kind for FS2Crew - an option for a single engine taxi! You may need to install (if not already done) FSUIPC and make a change to a configuration file to make the single-engine taxi work best, due to a limitation within FSX, but it is well explained and documented in the tutorial documents.
All of that is to say that you have options to experiment and practice various situations which do occur with some regular frequency in the airliner world - such as rejected takeoffs, go-around's, and taxiing with the one engine to save the airline fuel costs.
After you install Reboot, you will receive five PDF documents:
All documents are detailed and very informative. Operations manual includes detailed steps for setting up Reboot, mapping it to keyboard keys, setting up the microphone (contains certain critical steps for a successful operation!), explanation of various configuration and setup options, and even a 15-page Troubleshooting section displaying what appears to be a set of common issues, experienced by users, and ways to correct and alleviate those issues. It is a great section and definitely worth the time to read it if you experience any issues. There are also nine pages of commands you can issue to your FO using Voice control. It’s a good section to print out and study on a lengthy flight, or to plug into your tablet for a quick reference.
I used all four tutorials and found them to be very helpful and informative. They are very detailed and clearly delineate responsibilities between you and your FO. Of course, in the Button environment you trigger and execute process flow using a panel button mapped either to your joystick, or keyboard, or clicked directly on Reboot panel. In a Voice environment you kick off various flows and provide responses using voice commands.
Throughout all of the tutorials you will come across various callouts to your attention to highlight important steps, or explain why something may not be proceeding as you would have expected it to.
Tutorials are about 30-35 pages long and it is clear that no shortcuts were taken, or corners cut, in getting them done for us. Great job, FS2Crew!
In addition to these FS2Crew-provided documents, you will find a lot of very useful information and resources at the FS2Crew Support forums. An example of one very useful resource (combined by a non-FS2Crew member of the community) would be a condensed version of all flows and procedures necessary for all three SOPs. Take a look for yourself - you can print them out or follow them along on your tablet to smooth out your sim experience.
Performance and Thoughts
Up to this point I have put in 15 hours reviewing Reboot, and I had very few problems or issues. One of the issues I had had to do with microphone setup; it went away after I went through the ‘Train Profile’ exercise, described in the Operations Manual. I also had some 'communications issues' with my FO during SOP 3 flights, but I blame those on my own lack of proficiency in the 737 NGX. It gets much smoother after the first time, as you learn your flows and procedures!
I love my flight simulator and have been engaged in this hobby and passion of mine for many years. I do have a family, a job, and many other responsibilities, and as such am very happy when, in a typical week, I can squeeze in a quick and short hop between Monday and Thursday, and one or two longer flights over the weekend. With Reboot I was expecting a solid, enjoyable product. Instead, I received this engrossing and engaging product that put all of my other weekend activities on hold and put me in a state of mind where all I needed was to do ‘just one more flight’ because the experience was so fulfilling, immersive, and rewarding!
Hands down – this is a superb add-on for a superb aircraft. If you are serious about PMDG 737 NGX, then you must fly with Reboot. It’s as simple as that. Is it worth the $39 upgrade from Legacy? In my opinion - yes, it is. In addition, Bryan from FS2Crew informed me that a future update for Reboot will contain free Emergency NGX (another FS2Crew product).
I know that NGX was great before FS2Crew Reboot but, honestly, I am no longer sure how I flew it so much without it, even with the Legacy FS2Crew add-on-.. It adds that much more to the experience. From a review’s point of view, this product receives the Avsim Gold Star Award. In order to achieve it, a product reviewed must excel in a number of criteria and I feel that Reboot more than fulfills every one of them - be it the level of documentation, ease of installation, performance, support, or any other criteria being judged on. Hats off to the folks at FS2Crew and, now that this review is done, can I please just do one more flight?
System Specs Reviewed On
- Main operations manual,
- SOP Set 1 tutorial, using Voice control,
- SOP Set 2 tutorial, using Button control,
- SOP Set 2 tutorial, using Voice control and, finally,
- SOP Set 3 tutorial, using Voice control.
- Intel® Core i7-4770K @ 3.5 GHz, Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
- Installed RAM: 8 GB
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
- Running on Windows 7 Home Premium, Service Pack 1
- DirectX 9
- Review time: 7 flights, 15 hours