After months of anticipation third-party add-on developer DC Designs released its F-15 Eagle package for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
The add-on includes four variants of the aircraft, the F-15C, the F-15D, the F-15E Strike Eagle, and the Israeli F-15I.
It’s priced at $37 on Just Flight’s store and comes with its own installer, which means the process of getting it on your PC is relatively painless.
Do keep in mind that a manual and paint kit are available in the Just Flight folder of your Star menu. While this is not a very complex aircraft, it’s better to read it before you start flying.
Since a video shows more than a few thousand words, below you can check out a full flight from take-off to landing, following along as I put the F-15E Strike Eagle through its paces among the twists and turns of the famous Jedi Transition and Star Wars Canyon in California.
The package also includes several liveries, so you’ll have a variety of colors to enjoy even before the artistically-inclined get their hands on the Eagle and create new ones, which is bound to happen.
Before we continue, we need to get a few caveats out of the way: this is not an ultra-detailed aircraft that requires 40 minutes of flipping switches before you can even taxi to the runway. It aims to reproduce the feeling of flying an F-15, but not the detailed procedures involved in such a task.
On top of that, Microsoft Flight Simulator really isn’t built to simulate this kind of fighter jet, at least out of the box. This means that the developers had to jump through hoops to make some things work, and some are simply impossible at this stage. For instance, you can’t get even close to the Mach 2.5 a real F-15 is capable of achieving, even it’s still extremely fast if you’re used to Microsoft Flight simulator’s default birds.
That being said, the developer has pledged to continue to improve the F-15 in parallel with the evolution of the simulator itself, which means that features will likely be added as Microsoft starts supporting them.
Last, but not least, there is no combat in Microsoft Flight Simulator, so don’t expect to start dropping bombs and launching missiles. If you’re into that, you’re better off with DCS World.
Graphically, the model is nice but not exceptional, and with some parts that look a bit rough around the edges, especially in the cockpit.
The liveries are well-designed, but the developer didn’t use decals, which means that they aren’t as crisp as they could be.
That being said, the looks of the aircraft are still pleasant and there are some elements of brilliance, like the reflections on the canopy and the fully-modeled (visually) weaponry, but improvements are due for the future and will certainly be welcome.
The afterburner effect and the engine nozzle animation look fantastic, and pushing the throttle all the way forward is very satisfying, despite the speed limitations.
A laudable visual Easter Egg is the addition of engine and sensor covers, wheel chocks, ground power unit, and even an armed guard, which you can activate via unused switches in the cockpit.
There are a few glitches and blurry textures here and there. While the HUD is working (and is very useful when you’re flying low and fast and can’t lower your eyes on the gauges), it becomes blurry if you’ve set antialiasing to TAA. Dropping it to any other option is a viable workaround for now.
Speaking of the HUD, it’s also a performance hog, basically halving my frame rate on a rig with RTX 3070, Ryzen 9 3900x, and 32 GB RAM, and 1440p and Ultra settings. Apparently, it happens only for some and the developer is already aware and is looking into it. Yet, at the moment, this is an issue if you happen to be affected.
The F-15 sounds great, but there are some looping problems with certain sounds (for instance the startup crank) that I’m guessing is a result of the developer coming to terms with using the Wwise middleware for the first time. That being said, once you’re all started to, this aircraft is a pleasure to listen to.
Functionally, we certainly have to come to grips with the limitations I mentioned above.
While all relevant controls are modeled in the cockpit, many are completely inoperative. As I mentioned before, this is not designed to be a complex aircraft, but I would have honestly enjoyed at least a bit more complexity. It’s so simple that even many default aircraft in the base simulator require a heavier workload to operate. I guess this is mostly a matter of taste, and I’m fairly positive many will appreciate the accessibility featured by this add-on.
The navigation system and autopilot are included, but I would define them as rudimentary. You have very basic TACAN/VOR/DME radio-navigation and a three-axis autopilot. That’s it.
That being said, this is an aircraft that you’ll likely want to hand-fly most of the time, and here we come to the positives.
In terms of the pure fun of flying around, this is likely one of the best and possibly the best option available, especially if you enjoy going fast and low.
Flying nap-of-the-Earth on DC Designs’ F-15 is an absolute joy thanks to the flight model that feels like a great balance between challenge and forgiveness.
Being a rather heavy aircraft, the F-15 is a very stable platform, so it won’t get away from you at the slightest mistake. Yet, you need to be careful on landing, because it’s easy to drop like a rock at low speed if you don’t keep an eye on your lift.
DC Designs modeled the Eagle’s payload not only visually, but also functionally. While you can’t drop bombs, they will certainly affect your flying.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I have never flown a real F-15, so it’s difficult to assess the degree of realism of the flight model, but it certainly “feels” right in most situations. The only exception being the excessive rudder-happiness during the take-off roll.
When you drop under a hundred feet with the throttle rammed all the way forward, challenging yourself to fly as close to the ground as possible, the Eagle comes into its own. Yet, its extreme climb capabilities mean that it’s also a pleasure to rocket it into the stratosphere with reckless abandon.
This is not the kind of aircraft most will use for tranquil flights in a straight line from A to B (albeit I guess you can, and it’ll get you to B very quickly), and that’s perfectly fine. We already have plenty of planes for that purpose.
On the other hand, it’s an awesome joyride machine, whether you want to challenge the world’s canyons or practice formation flying with a friend.
It’s in combination with Microsoft Flight Simulator’s lush and immense world that the F-15 really shines, helping you forget the flaws and technical limitations.
Granted: you can fly fighter jets in DCS and other simulators with a much deeper degree of fidelity, but this is the only one in which you can combine this warbird’s performance with the entire planet, its mountains, its valleys, its canyons, and its spectacular weather.
Since this is a review, I can’t ignore the fact that this aircraft add-on comes with its share of technical shortcomings, and that DC Designs will have to work hard to improve it over time.
Yet, when I fly through a deep canyon at 600 knots with my palms sweating on the stick and throttle, and my heart racing in my chest, you can bet that, at least for a while, I forget all the issues in favor of the fun.
- It’s extremely fun to fly.
- Modeled payload.
- Many selectable liveries and four variants.
- Very intuitive and accessible.
- It will make you feel like a Top Gun without requiring months of study and practice.
- Technical limitations.
- Too many inoperative controls.
- The visuals are a bit rough.
- Barebones autopilot and navigation systems.
January 21, 2021