Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Razbam Metroliner Beta 0.2: Our own screenshots!

FSX. It seems that one of the most anticipated releases of 2013 has turned out to be one of the more unsual: The Razbam Metroliner III.  Why is it unusual?  For starters, the development path alone hasn't been straight forward having been initiated by one developer before being turned over to Razbam for completion.  Beyond that, as development has gone on perhaps a little longer than first imagined, Razbam has released a public beta version as an incentive to pre-order.  Now in its second (v0.2) beta version one could hardly say it is fair to review the Metroliner but it certainly warrants a close look as a preview of things to come.

Before I go any further I must reiterate that this is a beta release and is by no means a finished product.  There are things that don't work as intended, things that work partially and things that don't work at all!  On the other hand there is enough functionality present to allow complete and not to mention satisfying flights.  But on that note, Razbam has left us to our own devices with the beta release.  There seems to be no comprehensive list of what is, isn't or only partially implemented so sorting out how things are supposed to work can be difficult. There is also extremely little in the way of documentation much less operating procedures although there is a checklist and reference sheet available via the kneedboard (shift+F10).  

Again, it cannot be stressed enough that this is not a finished product and is no indication of what the finished documentation will be like.  I must also note that this little preview was not a premeditated affair.  I have actually been enjoying this aircraft on a regular basis and decided to photo document one of my routine flights in South Africa from FXMM to FAKS.  It wasn't even until after takeoff that I had the idea of of snapping shots for a small preview piece here.  With that in mind, there are no night photos or a lot of cool dramatic angles here because I was actually flying the plane!  What these screen shots do represent is how this plane really looks when being used.  No cranked up graphics with 5FPS or staged shots with perfect lighting and such. This is how this plane looks as I use it on a regular basis!

So, onward...

It becomes readily apparent that many things on the Metroliner are WIP.  For example, the nav, strobe and beacon lights are enlarged orbs which is actually different from v0.1 if I recall correctly.  I can't help but think there is something to this though as the Metro does feature fantastic taxi and landing light effects that appropriately light up the ground and other objects similar to other high end recent releases.  Most of the inop or partially inop items are found in the cockpit.  System simulation seems to be incomplete in areas though switches are clickable and move and warning lights seem to function.  To my eye, the lines are a bit blurred at the moment as to where the depth will stop when complete because of the variety of items that do work.

One area that is already impressive is the virtual cockpit.  The devs have done a great job bringing the flight deck to life so far with a convincing mix of wear and tear and gauge installation.  As previously mentioned, some of the systems are incomplete and the current release doesn't feature the GPS or weather radar though the GPS has been previewed.  The yaw damper switch does engage an autopilot that will hold heading and the selected altitude but not much more.  A Bendix/King unit has also been previewed since this release.  One strange thing I noticed is that the switches operate somewhat counter intuitively, or at least I feel they do.  Right clicking moves multiple position switches down where as on most other add ons that use this left/right click operation use right clicks for up or increase.  It is not so much a fault as just a difference in what one is used to doing but if you've been flying things like Aerosoft products or the Majestic Q400, you will find yourself potentially clicking things the wrong way at first.

I really must say, however, that the virtual cockpit in this bird is one of the most immersive I've ever seen.  The textures, shading and scale are just spot on and setting your view point to reveal some of the long nose just gives you the feeling of being there.  Indeed I've flown a few approaches with the aircraft wriggling through the changing wind conditions and the world sliding beneath that nose is so life like it almost gives you chills.  I feel that Razbam have done an exceptional job of presenting the cockpit environment on your screen and I dare say is second to none for tricking your visual senses into being there.

Are these guys twins?

Having recently posted news about the texture work going on with this product it should go with out saying that even this beta version isn't up to date with the current development status.  That aside, the exterior model still looks great even though texture work continues.  Yes, the beta version has those weird light effect which I am sure will be resolved before final release.  The beta also doesn't have the finalized bump and spec maps that the final version will (see:

Again the reoccurring theme here is that this is a work in progress so one can't judge this aircraft quite fairly yet.  If that sounds negative, it isn't supposed to because be that as it may, the Metro is already shaping up to be a great aircraft and one that is unique in FS.  The windows are particularly well done with the shape, reflection and opacity being near perfect.  Previously mentioned landing and taxi light splash are a great addition and coupled with the excellent cockpit night lighting really adds to the surreal feeling of flare to landing at night.

Looking through the Razbam Metroliner beta forum section I saw a familiar name on one of the posts: bstolle.  I quick search has turned up very little in the way of specific credits but if Mr. Stolle's name is associated with the FDE then there isn't much more that needs to be said.  I love the way this plane flies.  It has a great feel to it and does present a degree of difficulty.  Looks alone would give the impression that it doesn't like to slow down on descent- and it doesn't really.  It is probably better than a JS41 in that aspect but you also don't hit a brick wall like you do in some other turbo props when you pull the power back and let the props create massive amounts of drag.  It is fast too, and the critical wing means higher approach speed so things happen quickly.

Worth particular mention is the mid span ailerons.  Notorious for making roll control in the Metros somewhat ineffective particularly at low speed, they are perhaps a trademark of this plane's flight characteristics.  To this point the FDE does a really outstanding job of portraying this characteristic.  Roll feels direct and responsive initially yet not as authoritative as other aircraft.  Maybe better said another way, the response from the ailerons is quick and direct but the resulting effect seems suitably and accurately subdued.  It seems as though what has been captured quite well is the actual ineffectiveness of the aileron with out making the controls slow and mushy.  If you can imagine this correctly you will understand the difference and why it is important to how this aircraft feels.

My flight here was somewhat hot and high, taking off out of FXMM at 5,300ft above sea level in the South African summer meant I used a lot of runway and engine temps had be monitored CLOSELY!  As of v0.2 over temping the engines results in failure.  There is a water meth(?) injection system installed on the aircraft.  The switch moves and the light comes on although I can't say for certain if the system is fully implemented  on this version or not.  One thing is for sure and that is that typical of the Garrets, you have to watch your temps through out the flight and exercise careful engine management to keep the engines going and healthy.  I look forward to seeing how far the engine simulation goes on this plane as it is such a big part of flying these types of turboprops.  

In closing, I really enjoy flying the beta version of this aircraft.  I almost didn't purchase it but did so at the last moment before they withdrew the pre-sale.  The look and feel thus far make it one of my favorite planes to fly because set behind that instrument panel looking down the long nose makes me feel like I am really there like few other FS planes have.  With the fact that it is a beta version firmly in mind, there is nothing to stop me from enjoying this aircraft what ever current strange omissions or system behaviors its incompleteness exhibit.  Obviously this ins't a review so much as a close look or a preview of things to come, but what I and I hope you take out of it is that we are in for a great plane once the kinks are hammered out and it is finished for final release.


René said...

Great report. I'm just waiting for the official release.

Razbam said, after that they'll make the E-120 and the Saab 340. Now it's the time where we will get a lot of turboprops. :D

I hope they'll decide to make the Saab 2000 later on.

Unknown said...

Looks good so far. I just wish there was a little more detail around the VC windows.

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