Any aeronautics junkie hat's worth their weight in aircraft parts knows where to get their kicks when it comes to flight simulators. The obvious would be Microsoft's Flight Simulator, a downloadable game for PC that has been providing staggeringly detailed and realistic flying experiences to people that own computers since well over a decade ago. In 2014, the situation has changed remarkably.
Modern technology has developed at such a rate that we can now have the pleasure of both owning and playing powerful games right in the palm of our hands however: X-Plane is one such distinguished example of this remarkable progress. This flight sim from Laminar Research is nothing new, but thanks to its brilliance each flight feels like a brand new experience.
What is it? Gameplay and Features
The original iteration of X-Plane can be found way back in 1993 exclusively on Mac, but today it has branched out to Windows and Linux as well, taking full advantage of some of the most up-to-date hardware available in order to provide the most realistic flight-sim experience possible. X-Plane for mobile devices (Android and iOS) is best described as being a discrete section or cut-down version of the full-on X-Plane experience for reasons that should be obvious including memory limitations and CPU/graphics-processing limits of any mobile device even today in 2014.
Regardless of platform, X-Plane is a comprehensive flight simulator that has ultra-realistic weather of a dynamic nature, a multitude of planes to fly (the number runs into the hundreds), an impressive network of airports, and perhaps most importantly a unique flight model that differentiates the game from other traditional flight sims such as Flight Simulator or Microsoft Flight.
Unique Flight Model
The distinguishing factor that separates X-Plane from its rivals is the so-called blade element theory, a model that underpins the whole X-Plane experience by effectively calculating and modelling the forces that will be acting upon the individual parts that comprise each aircraft. This model is in contrast to other flight sims whose engines adopt the opposite approach of dictating the behaviour of the aircraft by using empirical dat. The latter provides realistic simulation for already-established models of aircraft that have corresponding data whilst the former allows for dynamic, reactive behaviour of user-designed aircraft as well as being useful for design in general.
The Flight Experience
X-Plane takes up a hefty 60GB of space on the Mac, a size that is obviously too impractical to be feasible for use on a mobile device. The mobile version of X-Plane is therefore essentially X-Plane Light - a stripped down version of the original. The difference between the two is quite substantial: the desktop version allows you to navigate skies and territories across the world whilst the iPhone/Android version has a much smaller area to navigate; there isn't a flight navigation system in the mobile version; the flight model has also been truncated so it's a little less true-to-life than the desktop version. This does however keep the game's size to mere megabytes, making it much more practical for mobile users.
Flying the plane in the desktop version is obviously a task that is made possible by using the mouse and keyboard, or even a joystick peripheral if you so choose. Flying in the mobile version of X-Plane is a little more fun since you get to use the accelerometer feature of your mobile device and you get to essentially move with your phone. Take-off involves moving the throttle and flaps before releasing the brakes. Once in the air, much of the motion of the aircraft is controlled by tilting the phone - towards you to lift the nose and away to dip it.
Aircraft and Aesthetics
The aircraft you get to fly on the mobile version are quite limited, with 4 in total. You've got a Columbia, Cessna 172, a Cirrus Vision Jet, and also a Piaggio Avanti to fly when you're mobile (as well as other vehicles such as helicopters and gliders), compared to well over 30 aircraft in the desktop version, many with true-to-life cockpits rendered in wonderfully detailed 3D.
Users that have both the mobile and desktop versions will notice that much of what makes the desktop version stunning to look at can also be found in the mobile version. Detailed landscapes and planes make for a very realistic experience. Obviously concessions have had to be made with the mobile version: you can perform many manoeuvres on mobile that would effectively down your plane in the desktop version; this is because of the removal of some physics elements that would likely overheat your phone's CPU if they were present.
X Plane offers the best simulator experience from the latest range of up to date plane flying games, and in particular if your looking for one on your mobile device it's almost definitely going to have to be X-Plane. Both the desktop and mobile versions utilise a flight model unique to the series and possess a decent quantity of aircraft in which people can create a multitude of scenarios. Laminar Research are the clever developers behind this hyper-realistic flight simulator, and they have created an highly entertaining and detailed flight simulator in X-Plane.