2011 was a very good year for PC simulation fans. We've got few brand new simulation games, constant growth of existing ones, and unfortunately few disappointments as well.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
MS FSX released in 2006 is still strong. I think most important FSX releases of last year were A2A Supermarine Spitfire and PMDG Boeing 737 NGX. Both planes are far above anything released before, and both shows that FSX is no longer just a game. It's a platform for study simulations.
Rise of Flight
RoF team has been busy in last year. They've not only survived, but improved their game engine, released new planes, field mods, career system, and a personal package. I think it's the prettiest flight game available today.
These two games we already knew. But what's new 2011 brought?
DCS: A-10C Warthog
Eagle Dynamics released new Digital Combat Simulation title - DCS: A-10C Warthog. It's not a first time we could take control on famous Warthog, but it's first in-depth simulation of this plane. Just like previous release - DCS: Black Shark - Warthog is almost exact copy of real plane. And it's a first study sim of the modern western jet since Falcon 4.
Il-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover
Long awaited sequel to the Il-2 Sturmovik series. Very pretty graphics, high requirements and almost no substance. This game was one of my biggest disappointment in 2011. Game was released with numerous bugs and almost without single player part of the game. Developer released few patches, but most important problems are yet to be fixed.
Community driven mod to the famous Microprose Falcon 4.0. BMS4.32 is almost completely new version of known and loved Falcon. Improved DirectX 9 graphics with shaders and selfshadowing, improved avionics, new flight dynamics, Sniper XR targeting pod, multiplayer stability. With support of these devs Falcon 4 has a bright and long future.
Train Simulator 2012: Railworks 3
New release of the Railworks franchise. This version brought numerous fixes and improvements, like new graphics engine with dynamic lights and shadows, new particle system, raindrops on the windows and few simulation improvements. Railworks 3 was a freeware update to owners of previous versions of the game.
Take On: Helicopters
Built on Arma2 technology Take On: Helicopters is a strange sim. It's focused on helicopters, which is already a niche within niche, but what's even more strange - it's a civilian simulation. While we can fly few combat helicopters there, game is focused on maintaining aviation business near Seattle city. What's most important - it's fun!
My second disappointment of last year. I was prepared to buy X-Plane 10 day one, but after demo I've decided to wait and see. X-Plane 10 feels like very early beta at the moment, it's still far beyond Flight Simulator in many areas. It is a big improvement over X-Plane 9 without doubt, but it's not an FSX replacement yet. I'll keep my eyes on it though.
AeroflyFS is a first 'big planes simulation' game made by veterans of R/C simulations - Ikarus. It's a civilian simulation with very pretty graphics, set in Switzerland. This game came out of nowhere, but clearly shows that there is still interest in flight simulation.
DCS: Black Shark 2
Eagle Dynamics released new version of their first DCS game. It's basically the same helicopter, but there are few interesting improvements over original DCS: Black Shark - new graphics, numerous updates to the mission editor, random mission generator, improved campaigns and most important - multiplayer compatibility with DCS: A-10C Warthog.
Steel Beasts Pro PE: 2.640 update
New update to Steel Beasts Pro PE was unexpected. A crewable T-72 tank with high quality 3d interior was something that SB Pro PE community asked for a long time, and finally it's here. Other new playable vehicles are BTR-80, Challenger 2, and M901. M1A1 Abrams and Leopards tanks now have new 3d interior. SB Pro PE finally got 3d infantry. Without doubt it's the biggest SB Pro PE update ever.
Steel Armor: Blaze of War
New tank sim from Graviteam is set in eighties. Available theatres are Iran-Iraq, Afghanistan and Angola. Crewable tanks are Soviet T-62 and American M60A1.
Two games missed their deadlines - Jet Thunder and Combat Helo. I really hope I'll play them both in upcoming months.
Let's hope 2012 will be even better. :)