Since the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, simmers have been craving the first long-haul third-party aircraft. Captain Sim is the first to step up to the plate, but don’t get your hopes up. Simply put, this is one of the worst payware releases from a known developer in many years. At this point, I imagine some of you won’t read on, but let me expand on why Captain Sim has truly sunk to the bottom with this release.
Over the years, Captain Sim has had a rocky relationship with the community. During the early years, they established themselves as a developer who would make good looking add-ons but with a lack of system depth and detail that would make them stand out compared to others. There were always a handful of issues that stopped their aircraft from becoming must-haves, but often they developed aircraft in a particular niche which gave them an advantage. It was almost like a guilty pleasure; you knew it was going to be just ‘okay’ but would be prepared for it. Then the 757 Captain III was released and suddenly, a somewhat decent simulation of the narrow-body Boeing jet was available for Prepar3D. After years of promises from Level-D for a good 757, many settled for the Captain Sim version. It did a good job and actually received a number of great free updates that added a number of requested features. It was not a top-tier aircraft, but I honestly felt like Captain Sim was on their way to improving their reputation. The expansion packs which followed didn’t do that any favours with engine models costing huge sums of money and issues with related types in the subsequent Freighter Expansion. That said, they did at least listen and release some “lite” editions that tried to resolve this.
That relationship remained turbulent with the release of the 767. An aircraft which has a lot of history and desire with simmers. When it was announced, people were keen to fly and get to grips with the newest release. Regrettably, the plane was disregarded due to its pricing model and how many of the promised updates and expansions have taken a sideline to enable the developers to work on other projects. Before the 777-200 Base Pack, the team did release a new rendition of the 737 Classic series and from comments I’ve seen, it seems fairly well received. Again, it was a guilty pleasure for many.
So what’s the point in exploring the past with Captain Sim when this is a review on the 777-200 Base Pack? They clearly have had a good idea on their community standing so understandably when they release a new product, certain expectations are considered. So when a new long-haul aircraft for a new and modern sim is released, there’s bound to be measurable hype. That hype, however, can lead to false hope and ultimately make people feel like they were cheated out of their money. I’m not suggesting or saying that this product is a scam, but it certainly has the hallmarks of a desperate release designed purely to make money.
In simple terms, this product is simply a model for the 777-200 Base Pack. To be honest, the model itself does look really good. On the outside, there’s plenty of attention to detail that certainly shines when flying through the visual delight that is Microsoft Flight Simulator. The use of PBR is excellent and the sun shining on the fuselage adds a great level of realism. It certainly looks the part and Captain Sim has done a good job at providing a great looking plane.
That level of detail is perhaps even greater on the inside.
The cockpit has a number of visual features that actually do impress. There’s really nice material usage and the way light reflects off the surfaces looks very realistic. Decals and other little details are present, and even panel lighting looks great. It’s just so depressing that visually this looks excellent, but everything else just doesn’t work. Click spots for simple cockpit elements (e.g. seatbelt signs) don’t work and very little in the cockpit can be interacted with. Basic functions work to an acceptable level, but the experience feels clunky and unintuitive.
Whilst I am impressed by the cockpit and general modelling, there’s clearly some inheritance from the Prepar3D modelling already made by Captain Sim. Some elements feel low in resolution and more polygons could’ve been used to make certain areas more detailed, but in general, I was somewhat happy with it. It’s certainly not the best cockpit representation I’ve seen, but it’s functional.
It’s just disappointing that there’s actually a lot to like with the cockpit visually that everything else about the aircraft makes me not want to fly it.
As with past products, Captain Sim has included a comprehensive virtual cabin. Whilst some simmers would rather do away with this feature, it’s a nice touch that makes those long-haul flights that more exciting. The 777 is known for its lengthy flights and as such airlines have opted for various cabin configurations. Captain Sim has recognised that and included various classes throughout the plane. It’s really neat to pan the camera through the aircraft and explore passenger areas. From the economy class to the toilets, there’s plenty to see. You can set up numerous views and leave the plane in the cruise and experience a flight from the passenger perspective pretty realistically.
I think what Captain Sim has offered here is a passenger simulation rather than a simulation of the aircraft. Once you’re airborne, the flight stays somewhat stable and you’re able to watch the world go by from some great wing views. I’ve seen plenty of memes lately of people watching flights through washing machine windows for great effect and this is a similar experience. I was quite happy watching the world go by with the wing view but that’s the extent of my enjoyment with the aircraft.
Everything else about the aircraft is simply rushed, broken and not ready for any kind of release.
Whilst Captain Sim is clear that they have reused the 747 systems, that doesn’t excuse the laziness by the developers to not even make the systems look or feel like the 777. Take the main EFIS for example. This clearly uses the 747 display and information, with total disregard for how the actual 777 EFIS looks. The information is also totally inaccurate and not representative of the actual aircraft. It’s fair that Captain Sim is not selling this as a true to life aircraft, but there’s no excuse to not put in any effort for a $30 product.
All is not totally lost as you can at least use the default FMC to program your flight and travel from A to B. So if you’re used to the default 747, then you’ll be just fine here. In fact, they didn’t even bother to change the aircraft type in the FMS as it still clearly shows it’s the 747-8. For newcomers, this is good news but again, just a totally lazy attempt at bringing a 777 to the simulator. I’m sure Captain Sim will quickly blame the quality of the SDK or find another way to spin this and quite simply, it won’t wash with me.
There really isn’t much more to talk about with regards to systems. None of the functionality included is new or can’t be found in the default 747. There’s no fly by wire implementation, no simulated features and no special features like an onboard EFB to control fuel or other elements as we’ve seen with aircraft as of late.
Whilst some may argue that using the 747 systems isn’t a big deal since they may want to fly A to B with disregard to how the plane should work, borrowing things fundamentally means there are numerous inconsistencies with displays. For example, the 777 doesn’t have 10 degrees of flaps, which is modelled correctly in the cockpit. However, the displays will indicate this is what has been selected. Another example of this is on the ND. When selecting the range, the lowest distance you can select is 10nm. However, the range on your display will actually be 0.25nm, which is what the 747-8’s lowest setting is. It’s simply disgusting that issues like these were plainly ignored for the sake of releasing something to make a quick buck.
In addition to borrowing the 747 systems, Captain Sim has clearly ‘borrowed’ the entire sound model and flight modelling for the aircraft too. It behaves just as floaty as the default 747-8 and includes the same GEX engine sound set-up as the included aircraft. This really does drive home the fact that this plane was simply a model of the 777 with some fancy texturing.
In general, I have no issues with a developer using default systems, but from the releases we have seen from major developers so far shows there’s some form of effort. Captain Sim has made no attempt to bring some kind of 777-like systems to the aircraft and doesn’t appear to have any intention of updating the aircraft to do so.
There is one other area where Captain Sim has done a relatively decent job and that is with performance. Perhaps more a byproduct of the lack of system depth, but there is a limited impact on the frame rate with the aircraft. So on those long-haul journeys to big airports, you’ll get a relatively smooth simulator. Again, it’s not a huge bonus point for them, but it’s nice to, again, sit in the cabin experiencing good performance as the world passes below.
Make no mistake, Captain Sim is completely aware of what they’re offering here. They know that this model is visually pleasing and will entice unsuspecting newcomers to the hobby to splash out on this add-on to simply have the aircraft type in their simulator. I can already predict there will be next to nothing in terms of updates to the plane to bring it up to a decent standard. In fact, they already have a number of expansion packs planned. If history repeats itself, these add-ons will require the base pack, meaning someone who buys a visual model of all three could be spending a lot of money. $29.99 is a complete rip-off. Even if you are looking simply for a nice model, you’re going to be quickly let down. The whole livery debacle that transpired shortly after release is another indication of how much they value their customer base. Whilst they did a massive U-turn, it took the vocal power of the community and threats of lawyers to get them to change their ways. That situation summarises for me the care they truly have for their product or reputation.
I’m very much for bringing new types of products to the simulator to help newcomers and experienced simmers get the most out of the simulator. I’m also very much for developers offering ‘lite’ editions of aircraft to the simulator whilst they wait for the SDK to mature or for them to learn the simulator. However, this product doesn’t hold up in the slightest. I know some people will enjoy the visual model and it’ll certainly take some good screenshots, but it’s a shallow offering for many.
This should well and truly tarnish Captain Sim’s reputation with the flight simulation community. Whilst they have acknowledged that this is meant to be a “simple” aircraft, there’s nothing here justifying the cost.