Given the early access releases of Aerofly FS 2, it might be tempting to dismiss the program and move on to other more established flight sim programs. However, the fact is, once you do give it a try you will very likely find yourself begrudgingly liking what is unfolding before you.
And while there are still ways to go in terms of high-resolution add-ons and scenery (which will surely come with time) the initial feeling is one of positivity, even if there is a longing for more quantity of such scenery and airports.
As we will look at as we go through our review of Aerofly FS 2, it is a program in rather a unique position. Still young enough in terms of what is available to the public to grow in any direction it wishes, but established and credible enough, with high-resolution graphics, highly realistic scenery and authentic aircraft. In short, whether you decide to purchase this in the near future or decide to hold off a little while longer, the future looks very intriguing for the flight sim program.
You can jump to individual sections of the review using the jump links below;
- Default Scenery & Add-ons
- Airports Included
- Virtual Reality Support
- Aircraft Included
- A Discreet But Solid Start To Attract The “Casual Flight Simmer!”
- To Buy or Wait
In its current format, it is a program that appeals a little more to newcomers in flight simulation although experienced and grizzled vets of the virtual skies should find something of interest here too. Although that is not a reflection on the authenticity or the quality of the simulator, rather a nod of the hat to the stripped-down essence of the program that allows the basics of flight simulation to shine through. And this is something that will appeal to both inexperienced and experienced virtual pilots alike.
Default Scenery And Add-Ons – Good Quality But More Quantity Needed!
Let’s start with the scenery. After all, aside from the vehicles themselves, it is virtual skies you will be flying through and the visuals you will witness from the air that makes one program stand out from another.
In the basic download, high res sceneries of Utah, Colorado, and much of the Southwestern United States are available. There are several add-ons for purchase, however, including the Northeastern region of the United States and Switzerland. And what’s more, for basic default scenery, the detail on offer is really quite impressive.
For example, if we look at the original default scenery package, the Southwestern states of the United States – which covers essentially California up to the state of Washington, including Nevada and Arizona. You can expect to see many of the major tourist attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge with the beautifully textured water of the Pacific Ocean below it – although we should note, the water itself is “still shot” and not animated as in other flight sims.
Furthermore, such iconic cities of California as San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles are meticulously detailed, including many skyscraper buildings and 3D trees below. Death Valley and all of the intricate details of the Californian desert is another particularly impressive area on offer.
Over 200 Airports In Southwestern United States To Choose From Alone!
Furthermore, over 200 airports are available to land at or take off from in this replicated part of the United States. The elements too are quite impressive, with adjustable wind, clouds, and other thermal activity, including turbulence. There is also an easy-to-use route editor so that you can plan your flight missions with ease. Furthermore, the time of day or night can be adjusted to suit you or whatever mission you are about to embark on.
Further still, other programmers have also begun converting their scenery for Aerofly FS 2. For example, Aerosoft has available Helgoland (the German island), while ORBX has Innsbruck, Chicago Meigs, Monterey, and Eagle County. These are great add-ons, and while the water is perhaps a disappointment to many in that it is essentially static, the animation and movement of people on the streets below in these particular add-ons, are a big bonus.
Make no mistake, though, many areas around the globe (at the time of writing) are only available in low resolution. Even some of the Southwestern USA areas suddenly drop from highly detailed to basic trees or just basic ground. And while there will no doubt be future high res scenery available in time – we should remember that Colorado and Utah were not available in the original release – for many virtual pilots, there is simply no reason nor incentive to keep returning to the the sim.
However, when they recently developed and released their VR Hands in early 2018, many users once again took to the skies from the Aerofly FS 2 hangar.
Virtual Reality Hands – Good! Very Good! But Requires (Lots Of) Practice!
The release of Aerofly’s Virtual Reality Hands was originally intended for Oculus users only. However, a rethink caused them to make the option available to everyone, which is most definitely the correct course of action for a program looking to entice first-time users and win back those who might have moved on to other programs since first installing the package – mainly for the reasons listed above.
What the VR Hands offers to the pilot is a burst of reality and authenticity - which is essentially at the core of all virtual flyers’ desires – and, in their words, “blurs the line between reality and virtual flying even further”. Indeed, while other programs are rolling out their own similar versions, the Aerofly FS 2 VR Hands option would appear to be one of the best available. Certainly at the time of writing.
Using motion controllers, you can now control any aircraft while using Aerofly FS 2 “with your own hands”. Each and every button, lever, dial, and switch – anything you have control over in the virtual cockpit, you can now control with your (virtual) hands. Indeed, the motions and gestures you might use in a real aircraft are very much the same as you will need to replicate in your virtual pilot’s seat with the VR Hands feature.
At least in theory anyway.
While the VR Hands program does indeed do as it says on the tin – for example, if you wish to flick a switch you would place your “finger” near the switch on the screen and then “drag” it back causing the virtual switch to flick as intended. However, such motions, at least on certain controls – and it will likely be different ones for different pilots depending on how you “use” your virtual hands – can take a little getting used to. In fact, unless you are particularly persistent, the “missing” switches and levers can begin to become detrimental to your overall experience in the virtual skies.
That isn’t to say that the experience – once mastered – will not be a pleasurable one. But you should perhaps be prepared to spend a little more time than you might otherwise expect to get used to the VR Hands “feel”.
Should you wish to change back to traditional controls halfway through a flight, however, the option to do so is available to you, giving you, the pilot, the best of both virtual worlds. Should you wish to view the manual for the VR Hands program click here.
OK, So What About The Planes?
OK, so whether you are flying in a traditional virtual manner or using the VR Hands system, it is the planes themselves that will take you from A to B. So, what is on offer?
Well, if the scenery leaves a little to be desired – at least at this stage in its development, then the range of aircraft available begins to make up for it. Everything from gliders, to single-engine Cessna planes, to 747 jets are available. However, while there is a good quantity of aerial vehicles available, and they are all very detailed and impressive graphics-wise, some of the functionality, like the scenery, leaves plenty of room for improvement, with only flight and navigational functions available for many of the planes.
However, what is available varies from plane to plane, and only by going through them can you see what exactly is available for each one and what isn’t. Indeed, for an inexperienced virtual pilot, this itself might be a fun task to undertake.
What Is Currently Available In The Virtual Hangar?
There are 20 aircraft (at the time of writing) included in the package, each with 3D cockpits with adjustable lighting for day/night flying. There is even an interactive flight school so you can learn the basics of virtual flight – something that newcomers to the virtual skies might find particularly useful.
Some of the planes available to you include F-15 and F-18, Learjet 45, Baron 57, an Airbus A320, the B737-500, and the B747-400, the Bucker Jungmeister, the Swift S1 glider, P-38 Lightning, and even the Sopwith Camel. And, as time goes on, more and more planes will become available.
There are some planes, though, that are decisively more detailed than most on Aerofly FS 2, with the Cessna C172 and the Bombardier Q400 being two of the most impressive.
All of the planes are very much worth checking out, though. And each brings something a little different to the virtual flight it will take you on. Furthermore, like the scenery issues highlighted above, the details, quantity, and functionality of the planes available will very likely improve and grow in detail over time.
We should note, at least at the time of writing, there are only “fixed-wing” aircraft available.
Great Overall Performance
The overall performance, despite any of the shortcomings highlighted above – all of which could and likely will be overcome with time – is actually very good. One of the best points is the seemingly ultra-quick loading time, which is rarely any longer than 30 seconds. Even the constant 90 + fps (providing you operate on maximum settings) make the experience, generally speaking, is one of the best.
The User Interface, for example, is perhaps a prime example of this – especially when using the VR Hands option, which seems to fit the interface perfectly.
Another tip is to set the render scale factor from 1.00 (which the default factor has it) to 2.00. This makes a huge difference to your virtual flight experience as it should double the quality of the scenery and graphics. And what’s more, unlike some other flight simulators, the tools to do this are already within the program.
More experienced virtual pilots or those who have a particular priority for finer details will most likely be disappointed with the sound options of the aircraft, however, as there is little difference (if any) between planes. While this is a trivial detail to some, those who are looking to truly immerse themselves in the virtual skies and get as authentic an experience as possible will find this a big factor. And possibly a deciding one.
Perhaps another key detail – at least at the moment – is that no multiplayer options are available for Aerofly FS2. And while this is perhaps not important for newcomers, it is a feature that helps foster a sense of community.
Great Authenticity But Room For Improvements
If we recap for a moment, then, the overall performance is largely agreed upon to be among the best available at the moment. And while it is a little limited compared to more established flight sim programs, the choice of aircraft is also wide-ranging. The sense of authenticity is also overall very good, especially with the VR Hands option, which does achieve in taking the realism level up a notch or two.
However, there is plenty of room for improvements – especially if they wish to attract and keep long-term, experienced virtual pilots.
For example, there is no other air traffic to contend with at the moment, meaning you are alone on your virtual flights. And while this is perhaps perfect for more inexperienced pilots who wish to practice their skills a little, pilots who have enjoyed more time in the air will welcome the realism of having to think about and deal with other air traffic. As they would to deal with Air Traffic Control and the other aspect of realism that it brings.
Furthermore, while the clouds and the elements are good, they are very limited – no snow or rain is yet available, for example. And, as mentioned above, the lack of multiplayer puts other flight sims at an obvious advantage.
A Discreet But Solid Start To Attract The “Casual Flight Simmer!”
While we will sum up very shortly, the thing that appears to be really in the program’s favor is the high-resolution frame rates and the (comparatively speaking to other programs) low amount of fps needed to achieve them. And while there are fewer destinations and planes available, what is available is by and large very realistic graphics wise.
The fact that Aerofly FS 2 is still very much in its infancy is encouraging. And it would appear that plans to eventually cover the entire globe as any other flight sim program would appear to be very much in the pipeline (however there are no dates or particulars currently available for such upgrades).
The future, though, does look very promising for the program. And, should more and more people jump on board and begin taking to the skies, such additions as multiplayer and online communities specifically revolved around the program will become self-fulfilling.
As one reviewer pointed out, one of the things that it had to its advantage is that many of the newcomers to flight simulation will simply not be aware of many, if any of the more long-established flight sim programs. Many of these newcomers will likely find Aerofly FS 2 through their VR headsets. Indeed, a case of a program using a specific technology to reach and nurture its own exclusive audience.
There is no doubt that Aerofly FS 2 is the new boy in the virtual hangar. However, it appears to be in prime position to grow quickly, and at the same time, suddenly overtake its rivals. Much will depend, though, on the progress it makes, how fast it makes it, and where it chooses to apply such progress. This, more than anything else, will determine if this simulator can capitalize on what is quietly a solid entry onto the stage of virtual flying.
By their own mission statements, it is the “casual flight simmer” that Aerofly FS 2 is aimed at. So while we will very likely see more expansive parts of the United States and other parts of the world to fly over in good time, such improvements as the weather, cloud realism, difference in aircraft sounds, and any manner of smaller details that regular, veteran virtual pilots crave for authenticity, are likely to be at the back of the queue for some time.
And perhaps one more bonus to mention before we move on and wrap this up so you can decide whether this is a flight simulation package for you, the program runs on Steam. This, of course, means that there are no discs that are required for you to keep up or sifting through necessary add-ons and downloads. All such automatic updates will take care of leaving you to do what you purchased the program for. Take to the virtual skies.
Below is the official trailer video albeit published on YouTube by Aerosoft.
Here is a 30+ minute video from Jeff Favignano on YouTube demonstrating gameplay in Aerofly FS 2.
Do I Buy, Or Do I Wait? That Is The Question
So, with all of that in mind, then, is Aerofly FS 2 worth it? Well, as in everything else – virtual or otherwise – it depends very much on your perspective.
With the next Microsoft Flight Simulator being released in 2020, you may decide to wait.
If you are a newcomer to the virtual skies, then you could do a lot worse than start out with this program. Indeed, the lack of complex activities to perform while “in-flight” is perhaps a bonus to newcomers to flight simulation. Especially given that more and more will become available as time goes on.
And what’s more, for new pilots to the virtual skies, part of the appeal will be the option to simply practice take-offs and landings between the many airports in areas they wish to fly as opposed to the long, ocean-crossing flights from New York to London, for example. Another feature that will possibly appeal to newcomers and casual flyers is the ability to begin a flight or mission, already on approach to your landing destination.
And this might be true of the long-term virtual pilots, who may find the program somewhat limited in its current form, will still be able to find aspects of it useful to their experience, perhaps not least the VR Hands aspect. And while they might be occasional users of the program at first, as it grows, they are almost certain to return.
And perhaps that, at least for now, is the greatest thing that it has going for it – the potential for the new scenery it can bring (the UK and the rest of Europe, for example, or South America), as well as the improvements to the aircraft and other details, means the fate of the program is within its own hands.
For those in between those two places on the virtual pilot spectrum, Aerofly FS 2 presents a potential sticking point. After all, right now, there are undoubtedly better options open if you are looking to buy one program and one program only. Of course, if money is not an issue then you may be just as well purchasing a copy and begin building up your air hours on it.
Where it might be as it develops, however, is in the hands of those behind the scenes, and what else they make available. And perhaps crucially if they do ever wish to expand from casual simmers only and try and net some of the more experienced, “hardcore flight simmers” when such developments take place.
Although at least 4 GB of memory is required, it is recommended that you have 8 GB RAM on your system, which will need to be 64-bit versions of Windows 7,8 or 10. Furthermore, 40 GB of memory is required to get the most out of this sim package.
We have rated Aerofly FS 2 4 out of 5 stars.
Let us know your thoughts...
Do you own a copy of this simulator? What are your thoughts? Do you like it, hate it, not too fussed? What could be improved? What parts are fantastic? Please let us know in the comments section below.