The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the most famous and, with its elliptical wings, one of the most recognizable aircraft of World War II. So far, there have been at least three payware Spits for FSX (and even more, before that, for FS2004). This one makes four. Why another Spitfire? To answer that question, we teamed up two of our reviewers, Aidan Sandri and David Wilson-Okamura.
David says: installation of both packages, the main aircraft and the Accu-Sim expansion pack, was automated and uneventful in Windows 7 (64-bit). So was a reinstallation two weeks later. My only complaint is that A2A created a new folder at the top of my Documents folder. As a writer, that’s something I use every day, and I’m not keen on someone else adding to the top of the stack (which “A2A” will probably be if your Documents folder is sorted in alphabetical order). But that’s minor.
There was also a problem with the assignment of controller axes. A2A has created a small program to handle this, but it would not accept my usual assignment for elevator trim, a rotary axis on the Saitek X45 throttle controller. This is an older controller which has been replaced by the popular X52 and X52 Pro. But apparently there are several of us who still have them, because a couple of users mentioned the same problem on the A2A support forum. If you have FSUIPC, there’s a workaround on the forum. For the time being though, I’ve just reassigned a couple of joystick buttons.
There is a lot of documentation: 100 pages for the Pilot’s Notes, plus 79 pages for Accu-Sim. That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s complete, but it’s also a lot to read. In reality though, a lot of it is pictures and you really don’t have to read all of it right away to start flying. But once you do, you are going to want more information (soon, if you’re flying with Accu-Sim). And when you do, the manual will be waiting for you. There’s also a wealth of advice on the support forum.
Aidan says: The virtual cockpit of the Spitfire, to say the least, is brilliant. There are all the little details you would expect to see on a 75 year old warbird, everything from the little scratches in the cockpit to reflections on the gauges. The overall 'feel' and look of the cockpit did make me think I was sitting in a real MkI/MkII Spitfire the entire time - with TrackIR this also did not fail to impress me!
One thing that did catch my attention during my flight time was that everything in the cockpit is clickable and has an effect on what the flight will do. Like the 'vent switch' on the top right of the cockpit; if you were descending, the cockpit windows would fog up as the hot air would build up causing moisture, obviously if this was on you would not experience fogged up windows.
One thing I did notice about the gauges in the virtual cockpit was that there was no 3D needle, for such an overall complex and detailed cockpit I was rather disappointed to see something so 'little (when compared to the rest of the product)' missed out, though it isn't a buggy 2D needle, I would have liked to have see it in 3D. To add to my 3D talk, all the handles and switches are in 3D - I struggled to see just a 'texture' that did not have something placed on top of it.
David adds, “All of the gauges are 3D. (If you want to test, zoom up close and watch the gauge faces blur while the needles stay sharp.)”
There was one button I loved to click before starting the engines (which in the spitfire, I believe you are meant to do). There is a gauge called "Gallons Fuel," next to it there is a button called Bott Tank (in the MkII, or Top & Bott Tank in the MkI), when you press this button the spring will bounce around and tell you how many gallons of fuel is in the fuel tank. This is a part of the Accu-Sim in the Spitfire, which I’m sure David will go further in-depth to later.
To end the part on the Virtual Cockpit, I will talk about a few of the animations that can be seen from the Virtual Cockpit (some will be Accu-Sim features). The first one is the 'flap' switch; once you press F7 or the actual switch on the cockpit, the flaps will fall quickly, now push the lever up and look to your right, you will see a small flap beginning to shut - this is a visual reference check for your flaps to ensure that they are down.
Another animation is watching the engine start. Once you are ready to start and have set the auto-start on, do not push the throttle 1/4 of an inch forward or the engine will just spin and not start, again, just another cool animation you can watch!
David adds: this is the fourth Spitfire that I have reviewed, and the best cockpit I have seen so far. Compared with the original A2A Spitfire (created for FS2004, and later upgraded to a native FSX model), there is just more detail; also, the P8 compass works correctly.
Compared with the RealAir Spitfire (a model of the Mk. XIV), there’s no option to use modern nav gear, but there’s more detail (again), and especially more wear. Compared with the Just Flight Spitfires that I reviewed last fall, the A2A colors are richer, and the 3D modeling is more precise. I’m still fond of the RealAir model (not to mention the original A2A plane, which this replaces). But of all the Spit models I have flown, this is my favorite.
David says: It’s the same with the exterior model as with the virtual cockpit. The RealAir Spitfire set (what was then) a new standard for modeling the reflective qualities of an aircraft’s skin. What made this possible were some new parameters in FSX, which the older A2A model (even after it had been upgraded) did not make use of. It could simulate depth with textures, but the illusion was static and didn’t adjust to shifting light.
The new A2A model makes use of all the new techniques, and adds to them very-high resolution textures, so that details look pin-sharp up close. (And if this chokes your graphics card, don’t worry: there’s a less-demanding set of textures that you can download from the A2A website.)
The result is an exterior model that looks fabulous in all sorts of light, and reveals new details at every inspection. The effects of wear are lovingly rendered, with careful attention to which parts of an aircraft wear faster. So, for example, there is more wear on the airfoil’s leading edge, and the bottom of the airfoil is streaked with oil stains.
Signage is rendered cleanly and is clearly legible. Rivet counters will rejoice; and non-rivet-counters will be happy too, when they notice things they haven’t seen before, such as the grooved track that the canopy slides back on, or the mesh grill on the back of the radiator, or the adjustable landing light that folds down under the wing.
Even the wheel chocks have rivets. The two places where I noticed less precision in the textures were (a) the two men who hold the tail down -- you need them for running the engine up before take-off -- and (b) the interior behind the pilot’s head. What do these two things have in common? You don’t spend much time looking at them!
This is an extremely detailed model, and to keep it from overwhelming your hardware, the modeler has wisely decided to prioritize different parts of the aircraft, based on when and how they are used. That’s proof the model is meant to be flown as well as seen.
A comparison with previous models yields outcomes similar to the ones we noted in the virtual cockpit. The RealAir Spitfires are very, very good at modeling materials, but have less detail. The Just Flight models are also less detailed, and have flatter colors.
Aidan says: There is a quote I heard when watching Jaggyroad Films spectacular video on YouTube regarding the WOP3 Spitfire, "With professional audio equipment, over 300 samples have been recorded to help bring the aircraft to life." As said, there are over 300 audio files for this aircraft, some I'm sure you will never even notice!
Moving your rudder left or right in flight you will hear the wind roar around the canopy, the switches/handles all make noises when pushed forwarded/backwards or up/down. As I said, the simple things you would generally expect to be ignored are in fact included into the audio samples.
When starting the engine you will also hear when this beast is brought to life. The prop will spin with a high pitched noise, and then a new flight begins. As you would expect, whenever there is a different RPM (i.e.; 18000 RPM and 26000 RPM) you will noticeably tell that you are at a different RPM, as the engine sound will be different.
No matter what situation you are in with your Spitfire, I can almost guarantee you will be happy with the quality of the sound files, as they are what I believe to be one of many selling points for this aircraft. The sounds do set a new expectation of what is in fact expected from developers now a days and I’m yet to see another product on the market that offers the same sound files as this does.
David adds: the original A2A sounds were already excellent. But the extra sounds that come with Accu-Sim aren’t just more plentiful; they actually help you to fly the plane better. When you hear gas escaping from your engine, you know you’ve been driving it too hard, and it’s time to set your kite down before the engine gives out.
When you open your canopy, the wind noise gets louder. When you put your headphones on, the wind noise gets softer. When you forget to turn your oxygen on, heavy breathing (and a pulsating cockpit view) tells you it’s going to be sleepy-time soon if you don’t get that oxygen mask on your face. Likewise, when you perform a slip, you’ll see it on your turn coordinator, but you’ll also hear it in the wind noise.
Aidan says: With so many positive comments towards the Spitfire, you would hope that the flight model is not horrible and ruin the product. I’m not a Spitfire Pilot (though, I would of loved to be one), so I can't say for sure what is correct and what isn't, but after flying many aircraft in FSX you generally get a feel of what is what in an aircraft, and what isn't the proper flying dynamics. Fortunately, the Spitfire has a fantastic FDE, this aircraft turns and operates as you would expect. You can set the trim and that will affect your pitch, an accu-sim feature (which I will not go into depth) is when you are flying upside down your fuel will cut off, a realistic feature added into the flight model. You are able to perform sharp turns, but this will cause your airspeed to bleed off very fast.
Even if you want to fly this aircraft like you were giving a tour, this aircraft is able to do that. Performing turns is responsive, but you can feel the weight when you apply the yaw. Climbing is no different, responsive as well. If you are about to stall your aircraft, no worries, you can quickly push the nose down and within two seconds you will be in a dive.
I found the flight model to be another unique part to this product, from what I experienced one that was both realistic and fun to fly. As with the sounds, I also see this as another selling point to the aircraft.
David adds: the Just Flight Spitfires that I reviewed last fall had three different flight models, reflecting three different stages in the early Spitfire’s evolution: from two-bladed propeller to three-bladed, and from fixed-pitch to variable-speed. Where you noticed the difference between the three models was in take-off distance and climb speed. But the relationship between propeller and engine (as evidenced by the RPM gauge on the instrument panel) was defined only in loose terms. RealAir, with its Mk. XIV Spitfires, made a heroic effort, but had to admit that it was only an approximation.
With the new A2A Spitfire (at least if you get the Accu-Sim module), we have a genuine simulation. Watching the gauges, you can see the instrument panel shake when the engine is working harder, and you can see the engine adjust to new RPM settings or new prop conditions (such as a dive). The result is that you become more aware of what the prop is doing, and why it needs to be adjusted. If you’ve never bothered with prop settings before, or did but didn’t know why, flying this model will be a delight and an education at the same time.
David says: the Accu-Sim module costs extra. If you buy it together with the aircraft model (which is US$30), the total comes to US$50, minus US$8 if you already have the original A2A Spitfire. Do you need it? Probably. It makes the flight physics more realistic, and the extra sounds provide real time feedback while you’re flying. It also forces you to worry about oxygen at high altitudes and, unless you turn damage modeling off, it makes you worry about the engine.
Is that desirable? I have been reviewing Spitfire models, including two models of the Mk. Ia Spitfire that fought in the Battle of Britain, since the summer of 2007. Every time I do, I learn something new about the plane, and I grow in my admiration of the pilots who flew it.
What I learned this time is that just getting the earliest Spitfires up to intercept altitude was a real challenge all by itself. If you’re not careful, it is very easy to overheat the engine. Once you’re back on the ground -- if you make it back in one piece -- this can be fixed in the maintenance hangar (where you can also change propellers and canopies). But that doesn’t help you destroy the enemy or safeguard your countrymen.
The Spitfire was a deadly machine of war, but only in the hands of a skilled pilot -- and that includes managing the engine. The RealAir Spitfire made a gesture in this direction: if you ran the engine at full power for more than a few minutes, you would hear a loud noise, see flames, and lose power. But the consequences were all-or-nothing, and it was easy to avoid them altogether.
A2A’s modeling is more graduated -- there are many steps on the road to outright failure -- and also more demanding. With the RealAir model, it was easy to avoid overheating. With the A2A model, it’s the opposite: overheating is what will happen by default unless you take steps to prevent it.
Does that take the fun out of it? Sometimes, and on its forum A2A has admitted that the modeling of engine damage at start and shutdown is somewhat overdone; this will be fixed in a forthcoming package. Meanwhile, if you want to turn off the damage modeling -- always or just for pleasure flying -- you can, by clicking a button on the Accu-Sim control panel. Even if you do, though, it’s still worth getting Accu-Sim for the extra sounds and physics.
Aidan’s system (the i5 750) was able to run the Spitfire with my normal settings without an FPS lose, this goes to show with such detail and complexity that you can maintain a solid FPS and keep the detail running at a high pace. David’s system (the Core 2 Quad 6600) had similar results.
The original A2A Spitfire runs a little smoother on David’s machine, but the new one is still smooth enough: a great achievement when you consider the detailed model, extra sounds, and extra physics calculations that Accu-Sim performs. For machines that do end up struggling, there are lower-resolution textures available and, by checking LOW in the Accu-Sim control panel, you can reduce the number of extra sounds (without degrading their quality).
To conclude the Spitfire review, I think we can both clearly say that this is one bird that you must have in your hangar. I failed to see any major negatives to this product, and I cannot see why anybody would not want to pay the asking price of this product.David adds: this package enters an already saturated market of Spitfires, and it does so at a premium price-point: US$30 for the model, and another US$20 for Accu-Sim. The older packages are still very creditable (and if you want to fly later marks of the Spitfire, mandatory). But there is no area, of sound, exterior modeling, flight modeling, or virtual cockpit where the A2A product has not surpassed the competition.
What We Like About The A2A Spitfire
What We Don't Like About The A2A Spitfire
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