VR Flightsims in 2018

VR Flightsims in 2018

November 11, 2018 Off By jaykayenn

Flight simulators for PC have come a long way since the days of Microsoft Flight Simulator. But in 2018, the availability of high-end consumer VR systems have taken flightsims to a whole new level.

To be fair, consumer VR is still in it’s early days, despite having been around for a couple years now. Doubly so when it comes to flightsim software. Being fully immersed in a detailed cockpit with reasonable graphics requires not only some beefy hardware, but also some technical know-how and willingness to scour the web for advice on settings and add-ons. For me, the effort is well worth it. A properly configured VR setup basically let’s you have your own study-level fixed-base simulator in your home. Most real-world pilots don’t have access to such a simulator outside flight school.

In choosing a flightsim for VR, there are just a handful of options. The first thing you might want to consider between them is what kind of experience you’re looking for.

On the one hand, you have DCS which has great graphics and a focus on combat. But DCS’s VR implementation is that of visual head-tracking only, while still requiring hardware controls like HOTAS and mouse/keyboard to actually operate the planes.

Then you have X Plane 11, which now has native VR controller support as well. This allows you to be immersed not only visually, but to also use your hands to operate every switch, dial, etc in the cockpit. To me, physically reaching for the controls in their exact cockpit positions, and developing muscle memory adds a whole new dimension to flightsims never before possible. (Unless you built your own home cockpit).

Unfortunately, X11’s graphics performance isn’t well optimized at the moment. The planned Vulkan rebuild should address this in the future, but you’ll be facing low frame rates on most hardware for the time being. The number of fully VR-capable planes are also rather limited, but more developers are catching on and the list is thankfully growing.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredibly detailed (and free) Zibo Mod 737. This on-going project gives you a study-level sim, in or out of VR, and has the best VR details even compared to payware planes that cost a good chunk of money. Hopefully, it will encourage developers to up their game in terms of VR support.

In conclusion, the foundation has been laid for truly immersive home flightsims. While content and performance may currently be limited, enthusiastic simmers can already experience for themselves what was, until recently, limited to well-equipped flight schools or cockpit builders. Compared to the flightsim slump in the mid-2000s, the next few years should be very interesting indeed.