Is the new X-PLANE 12 "Ready for Flight?" (UPDATED 09.08.2202 // 21:26Z)
On Monday, September 5, 2022, Laminar Research published a new website with several new offerings including the much-awaited X-PLANE 12 BETA. At the time of this initial review, along with about a million others, we are going to refrain from comparing X-PLANE 12 to Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2020. You might ask why, just keep reading.
If you were one of the lucky few who were able to download either one of the new versions of X-PLANE without your browser or download crashing, then you might have noticed something extremely comforting, the download application was very similar to past downloaders. In fact, this is an overall theme which we noticed, utilized and enjoyed. The fact is, something new is exciting enough, learning how to use something as mundane as a downloader, the in-simulation settings or something else just to be different is passé. That is one of the greatest features of this, and other, X-PLANE applications - the feeling of similarity. With less than a half of day of testing under our belt, it is difficult to make too many conclusions without understanding the entire application as well as the ultimate evolution of this new BETA version. What we did find was several of our plug-in applications worked right off the bat. The plug-in for HEADSHAKE worked as well as some FlyLUA scripts and the CP Flight MCP. Important to many readers, the ZIBO 738 mode worked perfectly right out of the gate. Kudos to their team as well as those who saw the future coming. There are a ton of plug-ins and third-party add-ons we are testing, but as of now, these are the items we can confirm work.
AS OF 09.09.2202 AT 01:52z, the following Plug-ins are confirmed operational. They are importable either fully, or partially into XP 12 from XP 11.
Level Up 737 Series (737-600, 737-700, 737-800, 737-900NG and 737-900ER) with some sound file errors
DHC6-300 V2.11 (with some sound file errors)
CP Flight MCP
ACE Simulator Equipment FMC
FlyLua (several scripts)
Navigraph Updater (Must change XP 11 Path to XP 12 Path in settings)
AviTab (Limited Use)
Please note, your experience may differ. Some of these plug-ins needed adjustment or coding to integrate into XP 12.
What has the Laminar Research team really given us? It is the next generation of X-PLANE; no more and no less. They have introduced the sim pilot to a wet and often slippery world that has some huge shifts in lighting which make some elements seem beautiful and glistening while others washed out and faded. They seem to have conquered much of the frame rate frustration, although we did fly with full (extreme) settings through Seattle in a blizzard and we did see FPS drop from 40 to 11 (UGH). The standard aircraft models are well-crafted and the weather engine and active tiles are nice. The much lauded ATC and pushback function are clunky at best, but at least they are animated and offered. We also experienced some blurred screens and view/sight perspectives that felt "off" or not as crisp. Although not evident in screen captures, were fairly certain this has to do with a setting or perspective field function we just haven't figured out yet. When one zooms into the blurred area, it immediately focuses.
For those who have flown XP10 or XP 11, you will enjoye some nice details and features you had hoped for in previous version - weather, clouds, etc. Serious simmers may have previously purchased or downloaded third-party shaders, environment engines, othros and other applications which brought your simulation immersion to a greater level than XP 12 out of the box. However, what Austin and his team have done is provide serious simmers a new sandbox in which to play. The flight characteristics are still top notch! Although, I have never personally flown a Boeing 737, the rich feel and feedback experienced in the ZIBO 738 leans more toward simulation and stretches far away from a game.
That is a perfect transition as to why we aren't comparing XP 12 to MSFS 2020. Boil them down, strip them back and label them as you may, but both are binary code designed to provide a feel of flight to the end-user. In other words, they are both "airplane games." That is the beginning and end of that story. Those who are casual flight enthusiasts that love the "look and feel" of MSFS 2020 will continue to fly in that world. There are probably many of us who have both MSFS and Laminar products on our computer. Depending on which experience one wants to enjoy, they load up and fly. The fact is, Microsoft created a wonderful game, Laminar Research brought a powerful personal simulator to the marketplace.
Flaps down, gear down, three green - what does the landing look like from here? We like X-PLANE 12. We don't want to be guilty of "judging" a company's work with one day of testing. The Laminar Research team has worked hard. We couldn't develop this type of application if our life depended on it. It is nice to see the BETA released. For those simmers who have been flying in the XP 11 world, we recommend downloading XP 12 to experience the new world, but don't uninstall XP 11. More specifically, don't remove any of your third-party add-ons. If you are anything like we are, tweaking and dialing in the exact look-and-feel of your sim has taken you some time to do. You will not get that same look from XP 12 right out of the box! Be methodical in your transition and take your time. Some of the scenery, shaders and plug-ins will work. Some will work with a little different feel. Other plug-ins will be left back in XP 11, or at least require an update. Austin Meyer has led his team to bring XP 12 to the marketplace. Do we hope his push to meet almost impossible timelines and difficult comparisons are fixed in future versions? YES! In the final debrief, it will be up to those who fly to express their love, hate or indifference.