AVSIM Commercial Simulator Review

Flight Simulator 2004
Part 3: AI/ATC; Scenery & Weather; Multiplayer, and Tools & User Interface
 

Creating the FS environment—AI & Air Traffic Control
By Pardave Lehry

FS2004's new world of Air Traffic Control

When it comes to the ATC and AI systems FS2004 comes with a number of major improvements over FS2002 in both functionality and realism.In addition, FS2004 provides an excellent baseline on which third party vendors will be able to make further improvements. That's the good news. The bad news is that it appears some of the flaws from FS2002 have been carried forward into FS2004. First, let's look at the big improvements.

The FS2004 ATC changes start right on the ground. No longer can you call for and receive a VFR taxi or takeoff clearance if the weather you have set in is below VFR criteria (generally in the U.S. this equates to less than a 1000 foot ceiling and 3 miles visibility). ATC will deny your request in FS2004 and you will have to file an IFR clearance if you want to get in the air. This is a big realism change from FS2002 where you could get a VFR clearance if the weather was "zero/zero."

Click for larger view Here's what happens when you try and get a VFR clearance with IFR weather in FS2004! In FS2002 you would have been cleared to the active runway VFR even thought the weather in this flight is set to 900' overcast and 2 miles visibility. VFR criteria is ceiling greater than 1000' and visibility greater than 3 miles. Definitely not the case here. Click for larger view Here's an example of an FS2004 clearance with an intermediate climb altitude. Our requested cruise altitude for this World Travel Airlines flight from Atlanta (KATL) to Orlando (KMCO) is 33,000 (FL330). In a real world clearance we would get an expected time for our cruise altitude. Typically this would be expressed as "Expect FL330 ten minutes after departure." Click for larger view Even though clearances in FS2004 are the abbreviated "as filed" types you can see your full routing, including airways, by pulling up the aircraft kneepad which in FS2004 automatically incorporates your flight plan. You can see the J45 (Jet 45) airway routing in the second column.

ATC clearances in FS2004 still use the "as filed" shortcut terminology found in FS2002 rather than giving you the full routing over the radio that you frequently get in the real world (although full routing including airways does appear on your FS2004 Nav Log flight plan). One great new realism improvement in FS2004 clearances is that you are now initially cleared to intermediate altitudes rather than being immediately being cleared to your final cruise altitude as was the case in FS2002. This is much more realistic than before. One thing still not included in clearances, however, is an expected time to receive your final cruise altitude. Typically in the real world this is "10 minutes after departure." Not a biggie but would be a nice touch in future FS ATC versions or 3rd party add-ons.

Taxiing out in FS2004 you'll find that the "Progressive Taxi" function from FS2002 is no longer an ATC radio communication like it was in FS2002. It's a user selectable option. Of course in FS2004 all airports now have accurate taxiway and runway signage so you may elect not to use the Progressive Taxi feature at all.

Sitting at the "Hold Short" line waiting for your takeoff clearance brings another nice new addition to ATC in FS2004. A "Taxi into position and hold" command has now been added. This was a much requested feature by simmers and vastly improves the ATC realism and traffic flow at FS2004 airports. If you're #1 for takeoff with no prior traffic you most likely won't hear this command but if you are sitting in a line when it gets to be your turn you'll being cleared into position and hold right after the prior traffic has started its takeoff roll. Very nice and very realistic. Thanks Microsoft for listening the community!

In the air is where the ATC improvements in FS2004 really begin to shine. The two "biggies" are the new ability in FS2004 to request an IFR clearance in the air and the ability to specifically request any published instrument approach—including non-precision VOR and NDB approaches. This opens up a whole new world of realism and brings MSFS right to the brink of being a real world IFR training aid. It's not quite 100% there yet but this brings it a giant step closer.

Click for larger view In this shot we've taken off in the Baron for an IFR flight from Orlando Executive Airport (KORL) to Cross City Airport (KCTY) in Northwest Florida. Cross City is an uncontrolled field. Our requested cruise altitude is 5000' but as you can see in FS2004 you can request a higher or lower cruise altitude. Click for larger view Enroute to Cross City we can call up a recent radio communications log on the aircraft knee pad. This is a new feature in FS2004. Radio communications are automatically logged to the kneepad enabling you to review recent instructions from ATC without having to use the "Say again" command. Click for larger view In this shot we're approaching Cross City, Florida. In the previous screenshot you can see from the communications log that ATC told us to expect the Visual Runway 4 approach but to get a little instrument training in we are going to select the VOR Runway 31 approach instead. This is an example of the new ability in FS2004 to shoot an instrument approach to an uncontrolled field.

With the ability to request an IFR clearance while airborne you can now take off VFR and then if the weather starts to go south you can re-file IFR—just like in the real world. With the changing weather feature in FS2004 you'll also hear other VFR AI aircraft around you filing IFR plans in this situation. Very cool!

If you decide you'd like to include some instrument approach practice in your FS2004 VFR flight, no problem. Just file an in-the-air IFR plan to the desired airport (could be the same one you just took off from) and go to "cool new FS2004 ATC feature #2"—the ability to ask for any published instrument approach via the FS2004 ATC menu. You'll be presented with a list of all published approaches to the desired airport (which is quite a few in the case of large places like Atlanta or Chicago) and you can select the one you want. The ability to request specific instrument approaches includes approaches to uncontrolled fields if they have a published instrument procedure. This really opens up the instrument approach practice possibilities in FS2004. You can also ask for either radar vectors from ATC to the final approach course or choose a published transition point to start the approach. In this latter case FS2004 ATC will clear you direct to the transition point. You can now shoot ILS, VOR, NDB or GPS approaches to your heart's content. Don't like the "expected approach" ATC gives you at the end of your IFR flight? No sweat in FS2004—just request another! You'll also be issued "Circle to land" and "Side step to land" instructions as appropriate to the approach. The icing on the cake in this area is the ability in FS2004 to fly a published missed approach procedure straight off the approach plate. Just outstanding!

One thing to keep in mind with missed approaches that I noticed was when flying the published procedures I got faster ATC vectors and sequencing back into the landing pattern than I did with just declaring a missed approach. On one notable FS2004 missed approach to Runway 9 at San Diego (KSAN) I was vectored almost all the way to Catalina Island (a distance of at least 50 or 60 miles) and handed off to several controllers before being eventually sequenced back into the KSAN approach flow. It looks like getting occasionally sent far afield by ATC on missed approaches is one of those FS2002 ATC holdovers.

Click for larger view In FS2004 if you don't like the "expected approach" assigned by ATC or just want to practice a specific approach you can request any published approach to the field. Here we are approaching Orlando (KMCO) and see displayed a page full of approaches. These correspond to the real world published approaches for KMCO. For large airports such as KMCO the approach list can go on for several pages. On this flight I selected the ILS Runway 18R approach. Click for larger view Another new ATC feature in FS2004 is the ability to fly a published missed approach procedure. In this shot we've gone missed approach on KMCO Runway 18R and are reporting to ATC that we have climbed to the published procedure altitude of 2000'. Click for larger view Here's the actual NOAA approach chart for KMCO Runway 18R. Notice the missed approach procedure in the upper right corner calling for an initial climb to 500' then a climbing right turn to 2000' and holding over the ISM NDB. Exactly as flown in the prior screenshot.

If I had to pick one improvement in FS2004 ATC ahead of all the others this instrument approach request feature would be it. This brings a whole new level of realism to the sim. One thing to note, however, just as in FS2002 there are no ATC-issued instrument approaches to military airfields in Fs2004. The fields are there but you'll get a visual approach even if you have the right approach plate and can tune the right Navaid.

During the enroute portion of your FS2004 flight a couple of other changes I noticed were you can now request a higher or lower cruise altitude and you can specify how much higher or lower you want to go. I think this is an excellent improvement because it's a boon for when you require step climbs or higher altitudes due to fuel. There is no capability in FS2004, however, to request course deviations for weather. Such requests are a common real world occurrence. Another missing ATC capability is that there is no direct ability to declare an emergency with ATC and get vectors to the nearest airport or other special handling as would occur in the real world. Because of the great new ATC flexibility built into FS2004, however, you can work around this by using the "Nearest Airport" feature of the GPS and refiling your flight plan destination airport with ATC or using the new "Request Airport Direction" ATC radio function. But hey—you can't have everything! Something to keep in mind for FS2006!

An additional new ATC option allows you to change your final destination during your flight. This is great if you're flying long distance IFR and your destination weather has gone below minimums or you decided you wanted to head somewhere else during your flight.

Once in the air in FS2004 things can get quite busy ATC-wise with numerous frequency changes. On a test flight from YVR to SFO, I was handed off to YVR Departure, then SEA Center, the back to YVR Departure, and finally SEA Center, all in a span of about 15,000 feet. As the flight progressed, I came to realize that the frequency changes were also coming fast and furiously for the AI aircraft. An AI aircraft that was handed off to a different frequency would switch and come back within seconds. This is one of those "carryover" areas from Fs2002. I found the frequency changes I encountered on a typical VFR or IFR flight in FS2004 to be about double what you would expect in the real world. This is one area for improvement in future versions.

On the plus side a nice ATC communications feature in FS2004 is that the aircraft kneeboard now contains a radio communications button that keeps a log of all of your recent ATC instructions so you don't have to make that embarrassing "Say again" call when you missed some or all of an instruction. Just call up the comms log on your kneeboard and see what the new heading they gave you was!

As I approached my cruising altitude of FL310 on this flight, I was hoping the amount of ATC chatter would be reduced, since I was now in the high altitude airspace structure. Unfortunately it didn't happen. In addition to the other high altitude traffic all the instructions that were being given to the aircraft in the lower regions was also being transmitted. The same controller handling my flight was handling the traffic below me, all the way down to 7,000 feet.

On top of that, you'll still hear the controller give traffic alerts to aircraft that are behind you, as well as to VFR aircraft that have a 3000 foot separation. While the regulations don't forbid this, logic seems to ask the question how can a pilot see traffic behind him, and why would a controller make more work for him/herself by issuing instructions he/she doesn't have to? Perhaps the answer is that the aircraft behind you is in an overtaking situation.

I should mention that all the ATC voices are American, regardless of whether you fly in Europe or Asia, or any other part of the world; and all the AI traffic have American registrations. I did a test flight from Frankfurt to Delhi and all the AI traffic with me had "N" registrations. FS2004 ATC conventions and terminology are also 100% U.S. based so international variations in terminology and procedure will have to await the 3rd party addons.

AI features

Moving to the AI traffic in FS2004 I found it to be abundant with the "Traffic" slider set to 100%. Everywhere I flew, I saw AI aircraft. You'll see the default Boeing aircraft as well as the Dash 8, MD80 series and a host of GA aircraft. AI ATC callsigns in FS2004 are the default SOAR World Travel, Emerald Harbor Air, Global Freightways, etc.

Interestingly enough, even though I logged about 50 hours flying in and out of the major airports, I didn't see any of the new classic FS2004 aircraft like the Ford Tri Motor or the DC-3 as AI traffic.

Click for larger view Line up for takeoff on Atlanta (KATL) Runway 9L with AI aircraft. The Soar MD-80 on the runway has just started its takeoff roll and the American Pacific Dash 8 in front of our World Travel Airways B737-400 has been cleared into "position and hold" for an immediate departure once the MD-80 has cleared the runway. AI traffic flow in FS2004 is much improved over FS2002 but occasional jam ups still occur. Click for larger view Overtaking landing AI traffic is still an issue in FS2004 although the use of multiple runways cuts down on the frequency a lot. In this shot an AI Dash 8 has just passed us from behind as we intercept the localizer for Orlando (KMCO) Runway 18 Right. Notice the 2/10 mile separation distance (which had been 1/10 mile a few seconds before this shot was taken). A little earlier to the ILS intercept and this could have been a disaster. This situation resulted in a missed approach for our B737-400. The good outcome was a chance to fly the FS2004 published missed approach procedure ;-)

Although there are a number of improvements in AI traffic flow in FS2004, there also appear to be some carry-over problems from FS2002. One I noticed was on my first flight. While taxiing out, I noticed the AI 747 was having a bit of a problem making a left turn. It would move forward and turn left sharply, move forward and turn sharply until it finally made it. On the other hand AI traffic now pushes back from the gate before taxing instead of making the 180 degree turn off the gate that AI traffic in FS2002 tended to do. That's a nice new realism touch.

The other traffic flow AI improvements in FS2004 are the use of multiple runways for takeoff and landing and the fact that landing AI aircraft now clear the runway a bit faster than they did in FS2002. This really speeds up airport traffic flow compared to FS2002 but doesn't entirely solve the problems of ground traffic jams that were apparent in the earlier sim version. AI traffic occasionally gets stalled either waiting for takeoff or turning off the runway after landing. If you wait long enough the offending traffic eventually just vanishes and everything moves along; but be aware that occasional AI ground traffic jam ups do still occur in FS2004, especially at busy airports. The good news is that the frequency of traffic log jams and hang-ups is much reduced from FS2002.

Overtaking AI traffic in the landing pattern is also still present in FS2004 but again the frequency of occurrence is reduced with the multiple runways for landing traffic. A nice new FS2004 ATC feature associated with the multiple runway usage is that you now get "caution" calls for traffic landing or taking off on parallel runways.

Wrapping it up

The MS Flight Simulator series has steadily progressed over the years. FS2004 is the latest in this progression and makes some real strides, especially in the ATC area. As had been said elsewhere in this review the changes are "not revolutionary but evolutionary." Many of the things simmers have been wanting have been incorporated. Fs2004 is not the 100% perfect solution but it's another long step forward.

Thinking back on it—with the addition of Gmax aircraft, ATC, and AI aircraft, we've seen our simming world grow from just the one aircraft we used to fly in an empty world to a whole realistic interactive environment around us. All the while MSFS has retained is its open-endedness. By providing a flexible and solid baseline product, Flight Simulator gives us the ability to do so much more. And that tradition continues with FS2004. Expect many more fabulous add-ons to appear soon.

What I Like About FS2004's AI/ATC Capabilities
  • The airport ATC function is more realistic, with instructions such as "Position and Hold" for departing traffic and "Caution" advisories for landing and departing traffic on parallel runways.
  • Inflight ATC now provides the ability to request altitude changes, file an IFR flight plan in flight, and to request and fly any published instrument approach including non precision approaches and instrument approaches to uncontrolled fields
  • AI aircraft aircraft movements are smoother, with faster runway turnoffs and pushback from the gate.
  • Multiple runways for takeoff and landing and other improvements in AI aircraft operations at airports.

 
What I Don't Like About FS2004's AI/ATC Capabilities
  • ATC Controller voices are not fully realistic; only American Controller voices are available, even in regions such as Europe and Asia.
  • ATC frequency changes and handoffs are too frequent; much more so than would be encountered in the real world.
  • Some procedural limitations carried over from FS2002—such as a single Controller handling of airspace separation between both the low and high altitude airspace regions.
  • Occasional AI ground traffic jams and overtaking AI landing traffic are still present in FS2004.

 


 

Creating the FS environment—Scenery
By Craig Wyzik

Flight Simulator 2004 has been in my hands for just a few short weeks now, and it will be on store shelves very soon. My logbook only shows 20 hours' worth of flight time, but that is enough to see what the programmers and designers at Microsoft have done with the scenery and weather. The improvements to the scenery in FS2004 are not revolutionary, but they are evolutionary, when considered in the context of FS2002. Let's take a look at the major elements of scenery and see what is new.

Click for larger view This is CYVR... Normal looking water... Click for larger view The Missouri River at Kansas City, MO USA

In terms of the overall terrain mesh, it doesn't appear that we're getting much more detail out of the default scenery. It might be a wee bit better, but it's not a startling difference. On a positive note, the textures that are supposed to indicate slopes and elevations lay on top the mesh more accurately. Hills, ditches, ravines, and ridges look more convincing than they did in FS2002. Maybe that impression is psychological, and maybe it's due to better textures, but the overall effect is more pleasing. If the terrain isn't better, you're thinking, then can we upgrade it? Certainly! Third-party mesh designers, such as FSGenesis, have already discovered that their add-on meshes work nicely with FS2004.

Click for larger view South of Ranger Creek, WA, following a mountain road. Click for larger view Notice that the road goes over the river - Nice! Click for larger view Niagara Falls, complete with animated "Maid of the Mist" boat.

I mentioned textures briefly in the preceding paragraph, but it's worth discussing them more directly. The combination of default textures and autogenerated objects is much better this time around. In FS2002, you often saw a disturbing arrangement of buildings on top of urban and suburban textures. The roads and highways "painted" on the default textures paid no attention to the layout of autogen buildings that went with them. In FS2004, houses and buildings seem to line up along roads and streets. Many thoroughfares even get lightposts and signage; it's pretty generic stuff, but it's there, and it makes the scenery more realistic. Also making things more realistic are better nighttime textures. The scenery engine does a better job of making the nighttime look dark, and the objects on the ground look more realistic. There isn't quite as much orange glow anymore. We've come a long way from the orangey-green glow of FS2000, that's for certain.

Click for larger view That doesn't look good at all! Olympia Regional Click for larger view On final at Packwood, WA, in late evening foggy haze.

There are many more building types, and there are different types depending upon your locations. European buildings have a slightly different look than North American buildings. One of the stock building types is a handsome Gothic cathedral. Unfortunately, it appears far too often. Those master builders of the 13th century must have worked a lot of overtime. For an example, go to Innsbruck, Austria (LOWI), and take a look around the airport. I saw three cathedrals within sight of the airport. Maybe you're thinking that's acceptable, but you wouldn't make a macro of a large American sports stadium then drop it down every 10th or 20th building, I wouldn't assume. Back in the United States and elsewhere, there are water towers, high voltage power lines, and many more interesting object types. One of the most peculiar is the "Chicken Shack." There's a building shaped like a Pizza Hut, with a high, sloping mansard roof. Out in front of that building you'll find a giant chicken on top of a signpost. I found one immediately west of the airport in Northampton, Massachusetts. I also found what appeared to be a very nice mosque near the airport in my hometown of Joplin, Missouri. I never realized we had a mosque in Joplin…

As you're looking for Gothic cathedrals and fried chicken restaurants, you should notice how much more dense the autogen buildings are. Where there need to be houses, there are a lot of houses, not just one here and one there. The same goes for buildings, farms, trees, etc. Flights through the Cascade Range in Washington were very realistic in terms of the sheer number of giant evergreen trees covering the slopes. You can follow mountain roads by watching for the utility/telephone poles and watching the nice line they make alongside roads. If you were familiar with the routes of high voltage power lines, I guess you could follow them as well. There are no cables or wires connecting any of the poles, towers, or stanchions, but I guess you can't have everything.

As the amount of detail and accuracy increases, you would expect that to mean good things for the default detailed airports as well. There are many new detailed airports in FS2004. If the entries in the Scenery Library can be trusted, we now have detailed, photo-realistic scenery for:
· Anchorage · Phoenix
· Atlanta · San Francisco
· Chicago · Seattle
· Dallas · Amsterdam
· Denver · Hong Kong
· Kitty Hawk · London
· Los Angeles · Paris
· Miami · St. Maarten
· New York · Sydney
· Niagra Falls · Tokyo
· Oshkosh    

In some cases, there are nice custom textures that are nearly as nice as some of the best third-party sceneries. The KLM and MartinAir hangars at Schiphol are labeled as such, but more often than not, the designers have stuck with their basic set of building textures, probably to ensure better performance. In other words, third-party scenery designers haven't been made redundant by the improvements in the default scenery. It's better, but it's not perfect.

Click for larger view Ready to go at Sydney Kingsford Smith Intl. Click for larger view Breaking out of the clouds on final at Melbourne Intl

Happily, any FS2002-compatible scenery that complies with the scenery SDK will work with FS2004. The scenery library works a little differently, namely, you can't get at the Scenery Library menu item from within the sim. It's no longer under the "World" pull-down menu. You can only make changes to the Scenery Library from the opening "Welcome" screen, by going into "Settings." It appears we will also be able to add or remove scenery manually, by editing the scenery.cfg file. Its contents appear to be unchanged in FS2004. Interestingly, there is now a terrain.cfg that contains a lot of unusual settings such as texture definitions and object placement. I haven't touched the terrain.cfg at all yet, for fear of royally screwing things up, but I don't doubt that some brave folks will discover what all the settings in terrain.cfg actually do.

Click for larger view Dawn departure of a cargo flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle Click for larger view Pouring rain at Minneapolis - Let's get underway! Click for larger view Above the rain clouds, heading for Chicago O'Hare

Back to the airports! One thing you should notice right away when you check out any decent sized airport is that we now get taxiway signage. It's sharp, easy to read, but not always carefully placed. Sometimes the signs are uncomfortably close to the taxiways. Go taxi around in the 747 for a while and you'll see what I'm talking about. With the signs in place, the taxi instructions from ATC are actually useful. When ATC tells you to "taxi to Gate Delta 3 via taxiway Juliet Alpha Golf Sierra Delta," you'll be able to do just that without hauling out a set of airport diagrams. Now if they would just give us some stand and gate signage—but maybe that's a feature for FS2005/6. I did notice at a few of the bigger airports that there is some sloppiness to the arrangement of the taxiways. For example, the taxiways leading to Runway 22R at Kennedy International have a few points where they don't meet up with the apron neatly. It isn't as annoying as the completely missing apron polygons from FS2002, but it is disappointingly sloppy. Seattle-Tacoma had a couple of those misplaced points as well.

Here's some comparative screenshots:

Click for larger view Olympia Regional from FS2000 Click for larger view Olympia Regional from FS2002 Click for larger view Olympia Regional from FS2004

What I Like About FS2004's Scenery
  • The new ground textures are greatly improved particularly when flying in rural areas like southern England or up and down the Sacramento Valley in California. The texture coloring for rock faces is now regionally applied (redish hue for the Southwest USA, but granite gray for Alaska, Norway, or Sweden for example); the coloring of trees and the ground textures is more subdued toward a pastel color rather than just bright green for a tree (example). The general texture colors are far more real world-like.
  • The appearance of mountains in the distance is now correctly shown as a hazy blue-purple blend, which is much better.
  • There are many new building types in Autogen and the majority are photorealistic.
  • The Autogen buildings seem more attuned to the world's regions. I really like some of the rural Autogen buildings, like the grain silos, or the old grain elevators with weathered wood texturing; same goes for the well placed barns (some even have period advertising on their sides).
  • The Autogen trees are also greatly enhanced, especially the evergreen trees like the Fir trees in North America or the appearance of the leaf trees of Europe.
  • All of the Autogen placement (buildings or trees) are now correct to the ground textures, rather just slapped around randomly.
  • There are now telephone poles, line towers, and street lamps in Autogen, very cool.
  • Many new and different bridge types used.
  • Several new airports added to the list of photo-texturing, like Sky Harbor in Phoenix or St Maarten in the Caribbean.
  • Runway and taxiway markings are very realistic and are placed at most airports now.
  • Several new airport building types added to the majority of airports.
  • Airport rotating beacons work.
  • Airport runway and taxiway textures are much improved.
  • Really like some of the dynamic scenery, like the tour boat at Niagara Falls or the occasional elevator spotted on the side of a building. Still can't get those chickens to fly like they did in the Jenny promo video though <G>.

 
What I Don't Like About FS2004's Scenery
  • The mesh resolution is unchanged from FS2002.
  • Airport signage is occasionally misplaced.
  • Noticed that the taxiway lines sometimes go off onto the grass.
  • Some taxiway, ramp, or runway textures are misaligned.
  • Several bridges are missing, the bridges in St Louis, MO for example, and there are others.
  • The new water textures are perplexing, as I believe the MSFS team was attempting to get a wide variance in the appearance and reflectiveness of the world's oceans, lakes, and rivers—but what you now have are water textures that can dramatically change from one moment to another, neither of which may look very realistic. Before (FS2002) the water textures were all fairly generic, for the most part; but now we have some water textures (under some conditions) that look fantastic while other water textures absolutely look terrible, kind of a washed out milky color. There is no middle ground here, it's either absolutely great or it's absolutely terrible.

 


 

Creating the FS environment—Weather
By Craig Wyzik

Surely you've heard about how much better the weather is in FS2004 than its predecessors. There are several important features to talk about in that regard: clouds, frontal weather patterns, and realtime updates. The clouds have been completely redone this time, and they look much better. All the cloud types are represented, and they are fully three-dimensional. A big bank of cumulus clouds has real volume; gone are the flat cardboard cut-out clouds of previous versions. While you don't quite get the feeling of a large bank of clouds having depth and volume all of the time, these clouds are a big improvement over what we got in past version. One little cloud issue that has been noted is that the cloud coverage amounts don't always represent what you have selected in the weather settings menu. They are usually close, but not always accurate.

Click for larger view Our personal favorite theme is "Building Storms" and the clouds roll, move, and build as you fly your planned route. Click for larger view Note how the clouds lack that repetitiveness you think would exist, in all directions the clouds are different appearing and grow at their own rates. Click for larger view Whether up close or at a distance, these are truly 3D volumetric clouds now.
Click for larger view Layering is more effective (Gray & Rainy theme here) and the similarity to the real world is uncanny. Click for larger view As the sun sets in the west, the reflective coloring on the clouds differs, depending upon your location and time of year. Click for larger view Besides the improvement in the appearance of the clouds is also how the haze is so realistic (Cold Front theme).
Click for larger view Even with User Defined clouds, the layering effect is very good; also note the high altitude cirrus. Click for larger view I kind of like how the fog has formed in the valleys, while the cumulus clouds are building above. (Building Storms theme in the early stages). Click for larger view From high above, the clouds below hold their volume so no more of that those flat clouds once you're more than 1,500 feet over them.

Lightning and thunder are better, especially in the way that lightning illuminates the clouds (and the interior of your aircraft!) when it flashes. Both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning are depicted in FS2004. Precipitation is more lifelike both in amount and quality. In FS2002, when it was raining, it only seemed to be raining within a small radius of your airplane. Now, the precipitation actually seems to fill the sky, and the motion of raindrops is very convincing.

Click for larger view The general improvements with the weather is best shown by the new rain, seen here as we sit at the Portland-Troutdale airport up in Oregon. Click for larger view Instead of the gallon size water droplets, we now have a much improved (realistic) rain drop that hits your windscreen then moves off and around it, even in the 3D virtual cockpit too.
Click for larger view With the improved appearance of the rain and snow, we also have improved lightening, lightening that even lights up the clouds. Click for larger view The subtle improved realism is only enhanced by the very realistic gray clouds and rain.

With all of the visual changes to the weather engine in FS2004, it makes sense that the weather setup menu is different, as well. There are four basic weather configurations you can pick: Weather themes, Static real-world weather, Dynamic real-world weater, or completely user customized. As for the themes, there are many weather scenarios for you to try out, such as "Building Storms," "Grey and Rainy," and so forth. If you choose to fly with realtime weather conditions instead, you can select a one-time download of weather conditions and fly with them as a static weather setup, or you can choose to have real-time weather downloaded every fifteen minutes as you fly along. The last option is to customize the weather yourself, choosing cloud layers and wind patterns that suit your tastes. It is also important to note that weather can actually change over time in FS2004. There is a slider you can adjust to determine how rapidly conditions will change.

Click for larger view From the main weather menu you can selection from one of 4 choices; Weather Themes, Real-World Weather (Static), Real-World Weather (updated on 15 minute intervals), and User Defined. Click for larger view With the User Defined weather menu, you'll find the same (similar) menu you found with FS2002 for setting weather. Note that the new menu also includes the new map where you can select several options for the map display (icon bar across the top of the map), from IFR vectors to weather patterns (if you are on-line).
Click for larger view From the Advanced Weather page you can now select various temperature layers for various altitude windows, very nice. Click for larger view Another new feature is the ability to add winds aloft layers from the Advanced Weather menu.

Click for larger view Weather theme: "Stormy Weather" Click for larger view Weather theme: "Cold Fronts" Click for larger view Weather theme: "Fair Weather"

Atmospheric effects and lighting have been improved to help make the outside world look more lifelike. The sky color is more realistic and the unrealistic prominent blue band along the horizon with overcast sky conditions in FS2002 has been eliminated in FS2004 for all visibility ranges except "Unlimited"—even then it is greatly reduced. Sunrises and sunsets have been enhanced, but there is much debate over whether or not they look too "cartoonlike." Sunsets are very pinkish-purple now, and some people may not care for them at all. I'm still undecided about the coloring, but the flare effects are very nice.

Click for larger view Here's a FS2004 sunrise over the new launch pad at the Cape! Click for larger view A FS2004 sunset with lens flare, haze, and sun glare, much improved we think? Click for larger view Depending up your location, weather, and location the sunset can get quite dramatic and beautiful.
Click for larger view Changing the weather (a theme in this instance) will change the sunset colors or appearance. Click for larger view We also like the way the sun displays the sun flares or spikes around its corona. Click for larger view Different locations and altitude will change the sunset colors on you (Maldives here in late summer).
Click for larger view Steve remarks, "I've caught myself (with FS2004) actually squinting my eyes when looking toward the sun."

Another water/environment-related issue that has drawn much attention is the issue of "milky" water textures that occur under some conditions. At certain times of year, with certain weather conditions, bodies of water (especially oceans) take on a milky, whitish cast that is at best very distracting. This phenomenon can most often be repeated when the sim is set to winter, with weather containing low clouds. After bringing this issue to the developers at Microsoft, we got the following response:

"The 'milky' textures are the overcast environment map ("reflective" water) texture. It is not seasonally based. This texture appears when the cloud conditions are overcast, or highly dense (6/8 and above). Some weather themes have a cirrus component that is listed as 6/8ths—the default fair weather theme, for example—that can trigger the overcast environment texture.

"Things any user can do to change the when the texture displays:

  1. Try a different weather theme, or try downloading real world weather.
  2. Create their own weather using the "User-defined weather" selection from the Weather UI.
  3. Modify the theme in question using User-defined weather >> Advanced weather. Make sure to select individual weather stations to edit—selecting "global" will cause all the current settings to be lost."

Click for larger view In a direct comparison, you can see the differences between FS2002 (top) and FS2004 (bottom) when the weather-sky is set to similar settings. Click for larger view Here looking west over a Grand Canyon sunset. (FS2002 top & FS2004 bottom). Click for larger view To compare both the weather and scenery, we have a noon time shot over Sky Harbor in Phoenix, Arizona. (FS2002 top & FS2004 bottom)

Click for larger view Comparing the sunset over Sky Harbor. (FS2002 top & FS2004 bottom) Click for larger view A rainy day over St Louis, Missouri. Just couldn't get FS2002 (top) anywhere near as realistic as FS2004. Note the missing bridges in FS2004 though!

The more you talk about cranking up the weather features, and stuffing the scenery full of good stuff, the more you begin to wonder how well the sim will perform on your computer. You'll notice that I haven't talked much about performance and frame rates up to this point. Granted, I have upgraded my PC to a P4 2.4C with 1gb of RAM, but I haven't upgraded my video card yet. I still use a GeForce4 Ti4200 128mb card, and it works fine for FS2004. The only time that things seem a little herky-jerky is if I'm flying an approach in an area where there are other dynamic aircraft, there are lots of clouds and precipitation, and many buildings around—a rainy approach into Heathrow, or Seattle Tacoma, perhaps. I've been intentionally avoiding trying to measuring frame rates, because I'm just about sick of them. My only question is whether or not things seem smooth and flyable. In the case of FS2004 and my PC, the answer is a definite yes. While a lot of complex weather features will make the sim slow down slightly, on my PC it was still flyable. I would even go as far as to say that complex weather had more of an effect on performance than complex scenery. As time goes on I may reconsider that opinion, but I have increased all of the scenery sliders nearly to the maximum settings without noticing any decrease in performance.

Some comparative weather examples

Steve (Bear) Cartwright adds: Considering the new dynamic weather, I felt it would be interesting to make some comparisons between a digital photo of the sky over Reno, Nevada (real-world), a screenshot of the same in FS2002 (using Microsoft's online Real-Weather), and the same thing again using FS2004 (downloaded from Microsoft's online Real-Weather).

Below are 3 screenshots compared to an actual photograph (digital) taken at approximately 7:00 pm the evening of July 27, 2003. Because the digital photo was taken from my 3rd floor balcony, while my systems were online, I was able to get a fair comparison between online Real-Weather and the real thing at essentially the same moment.

The differences between FS2002 and FS2004 is quite dramatic, as you see, and the advantages of FS2004 and its new weather engine is obvious. What you can't see in this still screenshot and in the photograph are that there were lightening flashes occurring off in the distance in both the real world and in FS2004 as well. Very interesting!

The downloaded weather from Jeppesen should have been the same between FS2002 and FS2004, but as you can see, they were not! I have no answer as to why the two varied in this area.

Click for larger view I had FS2002 on line at the same time I took the digital photo, yet the downloaded weather indicated "clear" conditions with "unlimited" visibility. Click for larger view Here I've manually attempted to get the clouds/sky in FS2002 to look like the real world photograph, but I'm not having much luck, as you can see. Click for larger view Note how close the online weather in FS2004 is to the real world photograph taken at about the same time.

What I Like About FS2004's Weather Capabilities
  • Improved cloud types. Clouds are now 3D and truly volumetric.
  • Dynamic weather is extraordinarily well done—you can actually see rain squalls ahead of you as you fly into them. Fog forms as the temperature and dewpoint match up. The visibility settings now vary the appearance of the haze far more correctly as you peer off into the distance. The haze also varies between mountains and valleys.
  • Weather themes are a big, big plus, especially "building storms" and "cold fronts;" I kind of like "gray and rainy" too.
  • As you enter clouds the turbulence increases and when flying the weather theme "major thunderstorm" I encountered severe up and down drafts.
  • Rain and snow (drops and flakes) are now very realistic appearing, especially on your windscreen; the general appearance of rain is very good. Rain and snow occurs everywhere and not just around your aircraft for a few feet in radius.
  • Lightening has also been totally redone—there is now lightening from the clouds to the ground and from cloud to cloud. The lightening also lights up your aircraft interior, the ground, and the clouds it's popping through—absolutely beautiful.
  • Clouds extend far into the distance, rather than suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Even from high above, the clouds still maintain their puffiness.
  • The cloud textures, when striking the ground do not give that straight line look to them at the point where they make contact with the ground textures.
  • Real-Weather (online) is so much better I'm truly amazed, plus you can get 15 minute updates. Winds aloft are now included and you can edit them at your leisure.
  • The sky color is also improved a great deal from a deeper dark blue at altitude, to a lighter sky blue down low, and even a black sky at night.
  • Sunset and sunrise colors are much, much improved and they do vary depending on time of year, current weather conditions, and location.

 
What I Don't Like About FS2004's Weather Capabilities
  • I honestly and truly have not found anything negative to say or have I found even a minor item of note, there's just so much good about the FS2004 dynamic weather I've been unable to find any fault with it, so far.

 


 

Multiplayer on Microsoft Flight Simulator
By Aidan Williams

Over recent years multiplayer has expanded in leaps and bounds. The birth of broadband internet has been instrumental in this field. Many of us will remember back to our Fs2000 days when multiplayer was still in its infancy, and experienced the notorious “kernal32.dll” error which for lots of people made multiplayer practically impossible. The issues were addressed and FS2002 became very much more stable. Online flying not only became more enjoyable by hooking up with your buddy and flying on a direct connection, but the world of VATSIM and other such organizations really took off (no pun intended) and brought us to new heights of MSFS immersion.

So what does FS2004 have to offer to us in its multiplayer role? The first thing you will notice when you start the multiplayer application is that it is much the same interface that we are already accustomed to in FS2002.

You have two options to start a multiplayer session. You can select it from the opening menu prior to entering the simulation, or whilst in the simulator itself.

Starting the Multiplayer Session
Click for larger view Starting the multiplayer session from the main menu Starting the multiplayer session from inside the simulator

Having opened up the session, there are a number of options open to you. The menus are much the same as we have already seen in FS2002, so most functions will not be foreign to you if you are an existing multiplayer. One area that has changed, is the ability to select a connection port of your choice. Whilst testing the functionality of FS2004 I left the ports set to their default values. These worked perfectly every time for me.

Multiplayer Client Join and Hosting Menus
Click for larger view Initial screen for connection options Click for larger view Options available for hosting a session

Multiplayer Settings Menus
Click for larger view The ability to change your "ports" Click for larger view Visual display options available to you

Once you have made the connection for your multiplayer session, additional options are available to you depending on whether you are hosting the session or have joined to another. If you are the host, the menu options allow you to go back to the menu screens and alter anything you wish to change. Generic to both is the chatbox feature. If you remember back to FS2002, it had a problem with the scrolling of text. This has been fixed and is no longer an issue. The chatbox can be moved to wherever you desire, and can also sit on a secondary monitor if you so wish.

Quick access to make changes to the session

Connection

As I mentioned in the introduction to this feature, those who have been involved with the multiplayer aspect of Microsoft flight simulation will know that in the past there were problems that were nothing short of infuriating! Starting with the connection itself, I found it solid as a rock. It never once reported an error, or disconnected the session for any reason. One thing that has to be taken into consideration is the fact that my only connection to the internet is via a 56k dial-up modem! (yep they still do exist!) For those of you on cable/DSL connections, it should be even better!

I do know from previous experience some ISPs might have to be contacted to allow the ports required for connection to be opened. It should also be noted that if you have a firewall or router, it might need additional configuration to allow the flow of data through the required ports. There are numerous other areas that can cause the connection to fail, but it is near on impossible to test them all.

Visual Improvements

Animation

One of the main changes to the multiplayer area is the ability to now see various animations on the connected players' aircraft. Taxiing out behind your buddies and watching them lower their flaps for take off and seeing the planes' surfaces move is a very welcome addition. It is also possible to see the animation of the landing gear and the propeller spinning, though it isn't possible to see things like doors, storage compartments and such-like open. With more and more 3rd party aircraft being developed which include more and more animation, areas like doors and compartments might be a reality in the future when more has been learnt about the inner workings of FS2004.

Lighting

Prior to trying out the multiplayer for the first time, I had spent a fair amount of time watching the new enhancements to the AI aircraft. I was hoping that what I was seeing on them would be features available in multiplayer. Unfortunately lighting is another area which is not visible on a connected players aircraft. Personally I think this is an area that should have been included, but where as it is easy for me say, it could have been something too complex to include. I can only speculate. It's a pity as it would really enhance the visual effects of players connected together.

Flying

Once you have set everything up it's time to go flying! One area I have found that is still legacy of Fs2002 is seeing the other players aircraft either "hovering" or "sinking" a small amount. This is easily corrected by tapping the <Y> (slew) key on and off. The other players' aircraft will then pop up and sit correctly on the ground. Beginning the taxi to the active runway, the first thing that I noticed is how much more fluid the other players aircraft is. In the past I have seen quite a bit of jumping around from the other aircraft. I originally put this down to being on a slow connection, but now it seems to be very smooth indeed. Once lined up behind the the other players' aircraft it was time to get into the air! Again the movement was very fluid and it was easy to keep in quite a tight formation. Seeing the flaps and landing gear retract as mentioned already really is a welcome addition. After flying for about 20 minutes or so, there was no jumping or "warping" whatsoever. In my opinion the fact that the players connected do not jump around is a great enhancement.

An area which in the past has caused unexpected consequences is changing of aircraft whilst connected. This seems to have disappeared. I carried a number of aircraft changes whilst I was doing my testing, and the connection remained solid as a rock all the time.

Observer Mode

Observer mode is the ability to join a multiplayer session and be a "virtual" passenger in a connected player's aircraft. So what does this allow us to do? When I initially started to take a serious interest in flight simulators, and wanted to learn various procedures, I joined to a friend of mine as an observer. Using a voice link, he could describe to me various procedures he was carrying out as we progressed through the flight. I found this invaluable in the beginning and have since helped others in the same way. It's great fun, and allows you to pass on the knowledge to others that you have amassed over the years.

3rd Party Software

There are a great deal of add-ons for those who enjoy multiplayer. AIBridge and TCAS gauges to name a couple. It would take an age to cover them all, so I have singled out what I consider to be the most widely used single add-on.

Squawkbox

Many players who are into online simming will no doubt be using the VATSIM organization. The main driving force for using VATSIM is Squawkbox. Squawkbox has been through many updates in recent times to ensure its compatibility with the latest version of MSFS. So how does it fair with FS2004 in its current state?

The current version of Squawkbox is not compatible with Fs2004. Squawkbox 3 which is currently in development will eventually be compatible. Joel DeYoung the developer is working on the software which will deliver a complete new interface for your online flying enjoyment. The unfortunate side of this is that Squawkbox 3 will not be available in the very near future. Where it was envisaged that only small changes were to be made to the multiplayer enhancement, this turned out not to be the case which is the cause of the delay.

Summary

There are a number of significant improvements to the multiplayer side of FS2004. Many of the "gremlins" in previous versions of MSFS have been addressed which now makes for a far more enjoyable multiplayer session. There are also other areas as mentioned which I would personally like to have seen implemented, but we can't expect everything. As more knowledge is gleaned from the simulator, developers might find solutions to areas I have highlighted. Overall I am impressed with the multiplayer side of FS2004, and remember it was all done on a very slow connection!

What I Like About FS2004's Multiplayer Capabilities
  • Reliable connections.
  • Smoothness of players' aircraft movements, even when using a dial-up modem.
  • Animated propellers, landing gear and control surfaces on players' aircraft.
  • Ability to change aircraft "on the fly" without loosing connection.

 
What I Don't Like About FS2004's Multiplayer Capabilities
  • Hopefully additional moving part animation (doors, etc.) and lighting can be added to player aircraft.

 


 

User Interface and Tools
By Matt Johnson

Given that FS2004 is an evolutionary release based on its predecessor, unlike FS2002 which completely renovated the engines and internals, very little mention has been made regarding expansion possibilities in Microsoft's latest release.

For better or worse, not a great deal has changed. There are certainly technological improvements which will require new techniques and documentation, but the core functionality and file formats remain essentially constant between FS2002 and FS2004.

The most immediately visible technical change which will strike most users as they start FS2004 is the return of SafeDisc copy-protection—the requirement to start FS2004 with a CD, in this case, CD 4, in the CD drive. This will no doubt be met with gnashing of teeth by many simmers who resent the necessity to keep inserting CDs; however, given the continuing problems that commercial interests in our hobby are suffering with piracy, it is an understandable method of protecting the software.

As usual, FS2004 ships with various "required extras" on the first disk—other software required to access various types of multimedia. In this case, gMax 1.2, Adobe Reader 6.0, DirectX 9.0a and various versions of Microsoft Media Player are provided, along with an electronic copy of the "thin" printed manual provided with the product.

User Interface

The other major change which will prove noticeable is the new user interface elements of the simulator's front-end. Gone is the dark blue, retro-techno FS2002 interface—we are now presented with a much lighter, more natural interface to entice the user into flying and reading about the simulator and its aircraft.

The color change also makes the integration of web-based content and the "website on a disk" element of FS2004 much more coherent. The manual and aircraft documentation is now provided solely within the interface of the simulator, using a web-like frontend to link up the various aspects.

Windows Media technologies are used to good effect throughout to illustrate concepts less easily described by static text and images. The well-designed and well-written documentation and auxiliary material, such as the "Century of Flight" section describing the various historical aircraft, means that interested simmers could easily be enticed to spend an hour or two actually reading documentation, which may prove revolutionary for some!

While we commented when reviewing FS2002 that a conscious effort had been made—and was evident—in attempting to make using the simulator easier for those unfamiliar with the hobby, and were suitably pleased with the progress made, FS2004 jumps leaps and bounds towards user-friendliness and intuitiveness in that respect. The new "Learning Center" link takes us to the main corpus of the documentation, organized into 36 sections from "Just Get Me Flying", through "Optimizing Visuals and Performance", all the way to "Basic Aerodynamics and Maneuvers." Compared with the documentation for FS2002, which we lauded at the time, the effort expended in the same area for FS2004 can only be described as positively Herculean.

Tools

Moving away from the user interface and the user-facing parts of the software, we look towards the technical changes and the new parts "under the hood" of FS2004.

The first resort of the tweaker – fs2002.cfg – has also changed. No longer is your configuration machine-specific; the equivalent fs9.cfg now lives in the user's profile directory, allowing multiple users to run FS2004 with disjoint configurations. This change is long-overdue, and finally makes the Flight Simulator franchise somewhat multi-user friendly. The content of the configuration file itself is extremely similar to that of FS2002—there are some subtle changes, but it should remain comprehensible to most of the hardcore config-file hackers out there.

Another interesting nugget I found while exploring the configuration file's new home is that FS2004 keeps a log of how long each engine on each of your installed aircraft has been running. This will presumably be used to model failures more realistically—there seemed to be no mention of this in any logbook within the simulation.

As far as editing goes—you may remember FSedit, the tool provided with FS2002 in order to allow an integrated user interface to edit some elements of currently installed aircraft. Whether you liked it or not—and, on balance in the FS2002 review, I came down on the side that it was too buggy to be realistically usable—it's gone from FS2004.

However, in what I really can only regard as a faux pas, while gMax itself was provided on Disk 1 as already discussed, the gMax gamepack and Imagetool necessary to edit or view MDL files or DXT-compressed textures are not being shipped with the simulator. Their inclusion in the release of FS2002 was a very welcome addition, and while I can understand the logic of including these in an SDK release, it is a step back from the openness and recognition of the add-on scene we saw in the last release.

Many of the other elements of the simulator which are frequently modified, added to or tweaked are fundamentally identical to their FS2002 counterparts as far as file formats and compatibility. Scenery, aircraft, adventures and effects remains broadly similar to FS2002, excepting obvious technological improvements such as clickable virtual cockpits and some file reorganization in the scenery hierarchy.

Other elements also provide new "knobs and switches" for the simmer to examine and tweak. "Autogen"—used to populate areas with suitable scenery objects based on the landclass of the terrain tile—now has an XML file which specifies the links between the landclasses and autogen elements.

Several new configuration files have also appeared in the installation root of FS2004. terrain.cfg allows modification of the core textures as applied to landclasses and other autogen system adjustments. There is also a suneffects.cfg, which allows modification of glare and corona effects from the sun and moon.

The new weather engine has resulted in several new file formats for content providers to examine and augment. The most notable of these is the "cld" file format which contains cloud information, and several XML files for controlling cloud combinations.

The forthcoming SDK for FS2004 promises an insight into the various new technologies—clickable virtual cockpits, the new weather engine, the enhanced ATC system - which certainly will whet the appetite of add-on developers; yet the comfortable balance between established and new technologies in FS2004 will ensure that we continue to see many high quality add-ons being released for many years to come.

Concluding thoughts...

The core engines in FS2002 were fundamentally sound, and the team at Microsoft have rightfully taken the "it wasn't broken, so we didn't fix it" attitude towards many of them. Those which were most in need of work—particularly ATC and weather—have received attention which my colleagues in other sections of this review have discussed in much greater depth. Equally, the improvement in documentation—which might admittedly be overlooked by the "hard-core" simmer—will help neophytes to the simulation world to understand the basics far more readily; this improvement is even more impressive in my opinion since we had already considered FS2002's documentation to be a vast improvement over its predecessor!

Overall, the final outcome is that FS2004 was right not to be a "revolutionary release," because it didn't need to be. The evolution which has taken place between FS2002 and FS2004 is a fine balance between the significant improvements the community has now come to expect of new releases from Microsoft, and a comfortable maintenance of many of the features which wowed hobbyists in the former release.

What I Like About FS2004's Technologies
  • Inclusion of new technologies
  • Much improved user interface
  • The truly impressive documentation effort and its seamless integration into the simulator as a whole.
  • Yet more possibilities for the tweakers among us.

 
What I Don't Like About FS2004's Technologies
  • The wait for the gMax gamepack to be released within the SDK - but this is truly a nitpick.

 


AVSIM Online's FS2004 Rating
By the Editors, AVSIM Online

 

AVSIM Online's Editors base our Gold Award for Excellence in Flightsim Design to the Microsoft Flight Simulation Team on these four factors:

  1. dramatic improvements in FS2004’s redeveloped weather capabilities—particularly in the innovative ‘moving front’ and cloud dynamics,
  2. a more convincing ATC implementation,
  3. creativity shown in providing “Century of Flight” themed aircraft, adventures and multimedia documentation, and
  4. overall improvement in the “look and feel” of the flight simulation experience.

In awarding Microsoft our Award of Excellence, we recognize that many in the simming community will conclude that AVSIM is biased, allows commercial interests to influence our judgement, and the like. We feel that you, our readers, should know that our review process is separate from our commercial interests (as many of our vendors, advertisers, and commercial partners can attest). You should understand that the editorial staff (reviewers in particular) is not influenced by commercial or other factors. Ratings and awards are granted on their merits, period. By the way, that responsibility rests with the Chief Managing Editor, not the Publisher or Associate Publisher. They do have the "right of veto," but neither influences in any way the specific product rating decisions our staff reviewers make—which in the case of 4-½ Stars or better, must also be ratified by our Editorial Board.

Having said that, we acknowledge that our rating criteria is most stringent—as our policy states, '5 Stars' means "At the Edge of That Even Conceivable Today." Does FS2004 truly meet that criteria? Well, yes and no. A question of scale is involved here. Any 3rd party add-on product would have to be innovative in an overall sense to earn our AOE. With a complete simulation product that just isn’t possible, in my opinion (and I base that assertion on my professional consulting experience with military simulation software projects). So in this instance we granted this AOE for innovation in a single (but vital) aspect of the overall product—the weather engine. The other factors cited above add to this product’s overall value ("clickable" VC panels come to mind), but in our view the truly outstanding contribution FS2004 makes to flight simulation lies in its dynamic weather generation capabilities and their visual rendering. Bravo Zulu, Microsoft!

—Maury Pratt
Chief Managing Editor,
AVSIM Online


Up Next

As a part of the Century of Flight theme of the Flight Simulator 2004 review, we at AVSIM Online felt it would appropriate to also include a short list of aircraft (all available from the AVSIM library) that have shown they work sufficiently well in FS2004 to be included as part of our presentation. Click here to see Steve (Bear) Cartwright's illustrated list!

 

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