"Becoming" being the key word here. You see, X-Plane 11 is still not finished. If you remember correctly, version 10 took a while to get stable and we are seeing the same with this new version.
X-Plane 11 is not finished. Features are still being worked on, tweaked and optimized. Do not assume you are getting the final version of the sim when you try it at this time because it's not. It's a work in progress that Laminar Research decided to publish so we could start seeing it for ourselves -- and to help them iron out some bugs.
So, folks, take it with a grain of salt.
I will touch a few points I have already talked about on a previous article. I will repeat myself a bit and will add some information to what I've already said so please bear with me. I will treat this review as if you didn't read that that previous article. All my thoughts on X-Plane 11 so far will be in this review.
First impact: user interface
The first impact we usually have with a game or a sim is it's interface. Laminar Research stepped up, got into the game and redid it's interface which, in my opinion was something that needed some heavy work. They did the heavy work and the interface of X-Plane 11 looks great.
You are welcomed by a brand new splash screen and the rest of the interface, such as the menus, settings and everything else that allows you to control and config the sim is brand new.
Bear in mind that some stuff has disappeared (such as the ability to control the ground traffic, for example) but that may (or may not) be something that will be added in the future.
The juice, part I: graphics and frame rate
X-Plane 11 looks gorgeous. It does.
I think the lighting, haze and glow may be a bit over the top during sunrise and sunset, but it looks really beautiful. I think Laminar overdid it a bit, though and I would like to see it toned down a bit.
There are still issues with the clouds, where you totally grey-out when inside them, although you can see the other side before you enter them, which makes no sense to me.
The autogen is quite good although, as I read somewhere, the European version is pretty much a German version. The buildings are all very similar to the German architecture. So, instead of having US buildings, we have German buildings. It's a change. I guess?
One thing that I found Laminar could work on are the roads. They still don't have curves. Instead they are straight paths after straight paths, forming polygons.
Framerate-wise, I found it very close to version 10. In some areas, I actually had a bit better framerate even though there are more effects in place. I would expect my computer to die on me once I started seeing all the initial screenshots (my poor laptop can't handle these demanding sims that well) but I was pleasantly surprised that it managed to output anywhere between 15-20 FPS. It's not a lot but there's still some tweaking to be done and Laminar as stated that we should ignore it for now as they still have work to do on that area.
So, if your computer handles X-Plane 10, it should handle X-Plane 11 without any problems.
The juice, part II: flight model
There's not much to say on this matter. X-Plane has been very good at implementing flight models and that's pretty much why it's such a great sim for helicopters. I don't think Laminar did anything in particular on this area and I don't think they do, unless they come up with something really extraordinary.
What I'd like to see, though? A proper damage model with breakable aircraft. That would be sweet.
As for the flight model, it's the same X-Plane that we know and love.
The juice, part III: aircraft
The selection of aircraft is varied just like version 10. Since the announcement of the S-76 I thought that we would have 2 helicopters with the release (the S-76 and the veteran B206) but both the demo and the beta version only come with the S-76, which is a shame. I would like to see the 206 be carried over to the new version.
Default aircraft are just that and the quality, although not too bad, are usually not the best. I think most of us tend to ignore them and head out to get those that are released by 3rd party developers just like we do with scenery. Again, default is nice but not excellent.
I don't get shocked when the default aircraft are not too good. The S-76 is not the best helicopter out there but it's not the worst either. I don't see myself using it a lot and I will be eagerly waiting for DreamFoil to start pumping out either updates or new versions of their helicopters.
To be honest, I think I will spend quite some time with version 10 until that starts to happen. I know some developers are already working on releasing new versions fast (especially airliners) but we may need to wait a bit more until helicopter developers do their thing.
There are some quirks here and there but the only major issue I found out was when I tried to calibrate my Pro Flight Trainer kit. I didn't manage to calibrate it because X-Plane is not recognizing that I am using all my available potentiometer span. I think it's waiting for me to move the different axis some more and I really don't need to (because the kit has physical limits, of course).
This is the major issue I found but, after a couple of attempts, I manage to start using it. Not without having some issues with the anti-torque pedals.
I have already reported this to Laminar Research and, hopefully, they will fix it.
Note: Laminar Research just informed me that the issue above should be solved in the next iteration of the beta.
Oh, an nasty, horrible, terrible, infernal issue: the DreamFoil helicopters don't work very well. It's a catastrophe! Jokes aside, it was something expected and I know for sure that DreamFoil is coming up with a plan.
For those coming from other sims
Folks, let's face it: if you are an FSX, P3D, DCS or FlightGear fan, you probably don't need X-Plane. The opposite is also valid.
I realize that a lot of people value the eye candy. More often than not, when I read comments such as "x-plane sucks" and "it's the worse sim ever", I try to find out a bit more about why is it that it sucks for those users and it's usually because "it looks bad", "the scenery sucks" and other stuff that's pretty much limited to the visuals of the sim.
Visuals are not everything. Yes, Prepar3D looks better than X-Plane in some areas (I'm not sure it looks better than X-Plane 11 now) but X-Plane gives me a lot more as a sim because of it's flight model.
Helicopters and GA users are those that have a lot more to gain from using X-Plane since those are the types of aircraft in which you really have a feeling for physics, the small quirks, the windshears, the little things that make flying what flying is.
Yes, you do need all of this on the airliners but stuff is just not as visceral and hardcore as with the smaller aircraft, is it?
Try flying a helicopter in FSX and then in X-Plane and you'll notice that immediately. X-Plane will want to kill you, just like DCS does.
So, folks, is X-Plane better than FSX or P3D? Prepare to get your mind blown.
It's is not.
And it is.
In the end of the day, it all depends on what you look for in a sim. I have been a MSFS user for the last 20 years. But I have also been a X-Plane user for 2 years and a DCS user for 3 or 4.
All these sims give me different things and I use them in different ways. If I had to use just one, I would have problems choosing. But the more I use them, the more I fall in love with all of them.
So, please, don't judge X-Plane (or any other sim) just for its looks. X-Plane 11 it not looking bad at all and, considering you have a free demo out there, I would say: give it a proper, honest try. Do this for yourself as a simmer. Who knows? Maybe you'll find a new sim for you to enjoy.
Should you get X-Plane 11?
Read the section above again. It's up to you if you should get it or not, to be honest. My personal opinion? Yes, you should. Especially if you are into helicopters or other GA.
X-Plane is worth it if you invest some time in it. Just like any other sim is worth it if you invest some time in it and you find whatever that makes you click.
Get the X-Plane 11 demo/beta
You can download the X-Plane 11 demo for free. Please keep in mind that this is still work in progress so a lot of stuff is not working properly at the moment.