• Review: Combat Pilot

    Combat Pilot

    Publisher: Mad Catz / Saitek

    Review Author:
    Nigel Martin

    Suggested Price:

    Buy Here

    Being an avid member of the FS community for perhaps more years than I care to remember. I recall being constantly amazed at the myriad of "extras" we could purchase for enhancing the flight sim experience, and often muttering to myself, "what next?"

    We, the flight sim community have taken to FSX for our own wants and desires, IFR, VFR, Live ATC communication via Squawkbox, (free downloadable program allowing live accurate ATC interactive communication), or just firing up FSX, and having a "play" around. Do you know whatever your fancy, good on you!

    Personally, I enjoy IFR flights into Europe from the UK, and UK VFR, with accurate navigation, with Squawkbox, "live" ATC which is excellent and truly enhances the experience for me, this adds a "real" dimension to my flights.


    I have however, whilst flying some of my military aircraft from the "Nigel Martin Hangar" wondered what it would be like to have a career in the military as a pilot, and be fully immersed in the training, combat and fly some awesome hardware.

    I have to admit, I have tried some previous military FSX add-ons, and stand-alone products but very quickly have been removed... Why? They either resembled arcade type games play, or the flight dynamics were way off. I do not want to sound perfectionist, well actually yes, I want perfection, why not, we pay for it.

    Right, onto Combat Pilot, enough rambling... I was privileged to be contacted by ThunderHawk Studios, the developers of Combat Pilot, to play a part in the beta testing process (albeit a very small part!). I jumped at the chance, not knowing a great deal about the product, but certainly it fired up my interest.

    Talking to the ThunderHawk Studios CEO, who incidentally was a US Marine Officer, fully appreciate, and have empathy with his, and his team's drive, enthusiasm and quest, in developing a military aviation program to be used utilising the FSX engine.

    I really must mention the production team, of which I have spoken to most of them, share the passion, and dedication, which has resulted in Combat Pilot being presented in incredible and accurate detail, ground-up at every level. Sounds like one excellent recipe.

    It is not therefore, any surprise that this program has taken six years in the planning and developing, and let me tell you it shows from the initial game play I have been experienced.

    The word "revolutionary" has been mooted, and do you know, I agree, it is... Why? Well I guess if you use X-Box, etc., it is common that a monthly subscription is paid to enter the game with multiple users, and engage in interactive game play but it's new to flightsimmers.

    With the demise of the use of multiplayer option in FSX, due to GameSpy withdrawing that facility, Combat Pilot becomes somewhat of a trail blazer.


    Combat Pilot has an up-front cost, ($49.99) for the download, (first 30 days live access free) which will include key US bases, rendered in the most incredible detail, plus aircraft.

    You will then pay a small retainer monthly payment, which will enable you to immerse yourself in the combat platform. This is where additional value kicks in, there are some awesome additions being planned to be introduced. From the outset, you will have weapons available, but very quickly after that a myriad of other facilities, locations, and theatres of war hardware will follow.

    As the updates and additions are introduced, it will be like a new add-on which ordinarily you would have to pay for, but with the small monthly fee, all the additions will just be automatically downloaded when you start the game. I have witnessed several updates, and they are seamless.

    1. tusler's Avatar
      tusler -
      I am waiting to hear more about the helicopters in combat pilot. i understand that I will probably have to complete training in a fixed wing but I am really only interested in fly heavy lift H53's
    1. Off Watch's Avatar
      Off Watch -
      Have spent the last couple of week in intense training with Combat Pilot, currently up to the second faze with the T-45C. Overall this has been a great Sim, still a few early bugs to work out but nothing that has kept me from really enjoying it.

      Note this is not a arcade type game. If you are into keeping your flight sim training as realistic as possible then this is what you are looking for.
    1. MarkHargrove's Avatar
      MarkHargrove -
      Quote Originally Posted by Off Watch View Post
      Have spent the last couple of week in intense training with Combat Pilot, currently up to the second faze with the T-45C. Overall this has been a great Sim, still a few early bugs to work out but nothing that has kept me from really enjoying it.

      Note this is not a arcade type game. If you are into keeping your flight sim training as realistic as possible then this is what you are looking for.
      After also spending a couple of weeks going through flight training ops with Combat Pilot, I have a somewhat different view of the state of this game. First and foremost, the game is not truly ready for prime time. If you join now (as of the first week of January, 2013), be aware that you're effectively still part of the "beta test" team -- only you're paying for it. The game has a large number of very frustrating bugs, including an astonishing inability to keep track of the experience points you earn (or lose) by completing (or failing) the check rides that are the culmination of a training unit. There are also crashes a-plenty, many of which also cause all of your accumulated experience points to be lost, and often your accumulated flight hours (which are needed to advance to higher-level check rides) to be lost (or not counted for that flight) as well.

      The fidelity of the flight models for the T-6B and T-45C are good, and FSX is what it is -- which is a quite decent but not-perfect flight simulator. Except -- Thunderhawk Studios has managed to cripple FSX in some ways with the wrapper they put around the simulator. You cannot, for example, access any of the 'settings' menus while in the game or you'll be kicked out. You cannot use your favorite add-ons (in particular, say goodbye to FSUIPC, even if it is essentially a mandatory add-on for all serious flight simmers). Thunderhawk understandably takes the position that they can't test for compatability with everything (but for cripes sake -- they didn't test with FSUIPC? How does anybody even fly FSX without it?).

      What's equally frustrating is the LACK of attention to detail in the training materials, especially if the CEO is a former military officer. There are three sources of information for a training mission: a briefing package, which includes a "jetlog" (a list of your headings, altitudes, airpseeds, waypoints/fixes, and navigation instructions); a set of real-time messages display on the screen, and an "instructor pilot" voice that describes what you're to do at each step of the training mission. This is a great concept -- but the three sources of information don't match and often conflict. I don't think there is a single training mission where all three sources match up. The log will reference the SJI VOR, but the instructor pilot will call it the SLI VOR (which is a real VOR, but is 2500 miles away from the training area). The jetlog will give one frequency for a VOR, the display information another, and the "IP" voice a third.

      Then, the way they teach "navigation" is just silly. "Command Pilot" cadets are expected to show some understanding of VOR navigation, but it's taught so poorly that I don't see how anybody who didn't understand it already could come away with anything by a bare glimpse of how to do it. In particular, they only give you one VOR/DME receiver in the cockpit! Sure, there are approximation techniques for flying "fix-to-fix" with just a single VOR/DME receiver -- but they don't teach the technique (indeed, they never even mention it). Instead, the "navigation" training (and subsequent check rides) are really about learning to turn to and fly a constant heading, along with a "oh, by the way, if you happen to do this right you'll reach R-120 at 15DME when you get to your waypoint". They thoughtfully supply a zero-wind condition throughout all the training missions to make a good outcome possible -- but what you're doing is definitvely not instrument navigation.

      As final indignity, they don't (yet) support the best, most expensive joystick/throttle combo that exists right now, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog. Support is "coming soon". Special support for any joystick/throttle made by anybody would be unnecessary if they'd simply support FSUIPC. Did I mention that they don't? Right, I did. By some amazing coincidence, thought the Saitek/MadCatz X-52 Pro is perfectly supported. Huh. Who'd guess?

      All this aside for the moment, the concept of Combat Pilot is excellent and it could be a lot of fun -- if they can survive the start-up pains they're going through and not completely piss-off all of their now-paying customers.
    1. Joob's Avatar
      Joob -
      This isn't a new sim. It's an FSX payware Virtual Organisation.

      Join a well organised Virtual Air Force and get most of this for free... O.o Many VAF's either have their own multiplayer combat system by now or they use TACPAC / TACPAC equivalent... Most if not all have extremely capable Scenery Designers, Aircraft model makers and Texture Artists and of course their structure's are based as realistically as possible to the real world which THIS ISN'T!

      What is on offer here, the core product, isn't new, it isn't innovative (only in so much as you pay to play / fly). The marketing guys for this product have excelled.

      I honestly cannot see the point of paying a monthly tier for something that is available elsewhere for gratis.

      Search the NET for FSX Virtual USAF, USN, RAF, Luftwaffe etc before signing up to this.

      Forgive me for being cynical but... Well? Educate me if I am in error. I have no issue being corrected. Sell me the product, prove that my opinion is unfounded and I will be rushing to sign on, credit card in hand.
    1. rayhughes's Avatar
      rayhughes -
      Did the reviewer pay $49.99? I think we need to know this as paying for the product, then reviewing it may give a different slant than if you got it free.
    1. gabereiser's Avatar
      gabereiser -
      i paid for it, I play it, and I love it.
    1. Woogey's Avatar
      Woogey -
      The thing about the fee is: it is an ongoing, updating, upgrading service with more products on the way. You pay an initial fee for the Training aircraft, and scenery. As you reach the Fighter lead in training, then go onto your squadron, these next in series add-ons, are provided seemlessly. As new scenery is developed it will automatically be loaded into your system. May I add that this is the place to be, if you want to fly combat against any nation world wide. Yes there are other virtual organizations, but how hard is it for you in say the V USAF to get a hold of the guys in say the V RAF and do co-op missions together? In Combat Pilot, everybody is already in one place, working off the same servers, where everybody sees the same scenery and aircraft. As this thing progresses, we are supposed to have actual theaters of war and such, with coalitions of allies being assigned different roles and responsibilities. Yes, there are bugs still, but they are being ironed out every day. It just keeps getting better. -Woog
    1. gabereiser's Avatar
      gabereiser -
      Not to mention, you get to train when you want to, at your own pace and aren't at the mercy of a virtual orgs training instructors time... I've tried VUSN guys, their website was horrid and I was unable to complete any of the training missions because of it. I tried the USVAF... Cool people but again, it's just them "simming" search and rescue, no combat... This, THIS!, is what I have been waiting for for a while now. I get my heavy metal flying for SWA and my trigger itch flying in Combat Pilot... VFA-131 represent...
    1. Joob's Avatar
      Joob -
      V USAF to get a hold of the guys in say the V RAF and do co-op missions together?
      Extremely easy and straight forwards. Most of the older, established and mature Orgs work together very well and on a regular basis. Scenery is distributed, aircraft are no problem as most can be slaved to AI (LOW SERVER LAG) substitutes if one org is using a payware product etc etc etc.

      VUSN... Well I used to run an adversary squadron waaay back in the day and we used to fly with the Navy guys on a regular basis, we had combat... Ok it was limited to a simulated form of non contact (analogy) system, kills and ground splashes were based on screen shots or video, accuracy and scoring being assessed by impartial judges. It worked well. Now we have TACPAC and 3rd party combat systems there is no need to pay a monthly tier. If one ever has a problem with training in a VAF then its a simple matter of communication, the instructors are there because they are good with the sim and mostly very good with people. This is not to say that there are no arrogant or uppity orgs out there as we all know there certainly are, but perhaps they have something to be arrogant and uppity over?

      In Combat Pilot, everybody is already in one place, working off the same servers, where everybody sees the same scenery and aircraft.
      Old hat. Server sharing has and continues to be done with VAF's all over. Either private servers or VATSIM et al.

      If you want to turn FSX into a simple point and shoot combat exercise then it appears to me this would suit but if you want the point and shoot plus real world accuracy, structure, geopolitics etc - in a nutshell true realism then the only way to go, in my mind, is still a Virtual Air Force or like organisation.

      My biggest bugbear is the air of misrepresentation surrounding this product, it's being hailed as a revolutionary, ground breaking, never before done "new" simulator. It is none of those. Its a bog standard Virtual Military Org that tries to cover the financial deal by offering a neat (I will give it that) aircraft and scenery distribution system but with a very poor military model. I would actually be very interested to see the FSX system performance figures once you start getting more than 4 or 5 aircraft with the custom scenery together... But this is a completely separate rant altogether.

      At the end of the day if it suits you, then that's great. I will not knock anyone for trying / using it and I am not meaning to come across as negative to its users in any way. BUT I dislike the company product sales pitch, misrepresentation and resulting hype spin.
    1. evacpilot's Avatar
      evacpilot -
      Wow, a Beta tester writes the review? Best of luck to them. (Caveat Emptor)
    1. normac's Avatar
      normac -
      So despite not interfacing with FSUIPC which the majority of us probably find essential in our FSX set ups, or not being able to access the sim's settings to adjust graphics, etc., the "reviewer" found nothing much to grumble about? Sorry, this is a blatant sales pitch for an unfinished product, NOT a review!
    1. Joob's Avatar
      Joob -
      this is a blatant sales pitch for an unfinished product, NOT a review!
      - Hear, hear! My sentiment exactly.
    1. Joob's Avatar
      Joob -
      With the demise of the use of multiplayer option in FSX, due to GameSpy withdrawing that facility, Combat Pilot becomes somewhat of a trail blazer.
      - Er... Wha? So FSHost, VATSIM, FSInn etc are not FSX Multiplayer clients let alone my preferred method of FSX peer to peer?

      Madcat / Combat Pilot = Trailblazer in spin and utter b*****s, sadly not a lot else. How did Nels approve this article as a review anyhow?
    1. slarente's Avatar
      slarente -
      This is not a review, it's just some ad for a product.

      Why is Flightsim.com publishing this as a review? I haven't checked the other FS sites, but I am wondering how many of them fell for this publicity stunt.
    1. Anubis's Avatar
      Anubis -
      The most amazing aspect of this "review" is that it does not say as all what this Combat-thingie is all about and therefore, why it is so special that it can't be done with vanilla FSX! Let's make a summary:

      "What you get":
      1. You get a few more detailed US airbases. Ok fine (albeit you can find something similar for free)
      2. You get a couple of aircraft (which you can find for free, such as Tim's Tucano and Dino's Goshawk, and Dino's Goshawk is at the same level of many payware planes, but Combat Pilot's ones are "special military stuff" yeah yeah)
      3. You get some kind of automatic ATC/control system (fine, you have that in FSX and there are MP robots doing a much better and detailed job for free as well - and if you go on VATSIM/IVAO you get *real* ATC)

      "What you do":
      1. Taking off, doing circuits and landing (duh!)
      2. Once mastered the art of landing, you switch to more challenging and demanding tasks, such as ... navigating from place A to place B with VORs and DMEs (Double duh! Where is BUD/S?)

      Aside from that, saliva-drooling items are marked and preceded by the 'will' word: "There will be weapons, there will be combat", "There will be field/carrier deployment", "There will be new aircraft" (am I mistaken or I saw a Tomcat package there at 100 USD ?!) ... But meanwhile fork out 50 USD to begin with and additional $$$ every month to play.
    1. joetzy's Avatar
      joetzy -
      This system is full of bugs, crashes, bad waypoints, server issues, etc. etc. etc.

      The system does not work.

      Rest in Peace
    1. Atlanta's Avatar
      Atlanta -
      Good idea, great marketing but everything else is on a low Level. No Windows 8 Support at January 2013. Menu system is not state of the art. Communication between CombatPilot and FSX producing a lot of crashes. Support answers only on a low level - not really helpful.
    1. lorenzoj's Avatar
      lorenzoj -
      I just installed the "free to play" version on my new Win 8 computer and it seems to run quite well overall after very limited testing. The Texan II is kinda fun to be able to fiddle around with. Seems to be fairly well modeled. I did notice an odd situation that may or may not be related.... My Adobe Reader is not useable after running Combat Pilot until I restart my computer. I also can't access the manuals from within the sim's interface which I assume is connected to the Adobe issue.

      Actually having fun with it at this point. But 50.00 up front AND 12.00 a month to continue past the Texan training...... hmmmm, not sure I would go for that at this time.

      3-3-2013 Still running well and still having fun with this. Still also using the free version and looking forward to a fair number of hours more before having to decide on continuing with pay-to-play. I find the community and staff to be very responsive and helpful to all skill levels.

      4-15-2013 Well I did sign on to the paid version about a month ago. There is a lot here to like but still a lot of growing pains to be overcome. Great core community of users who will be mostly responsible for the success of this concept if it does succeed. Try the free version. Lots of hours available before you would have to decide to pay. Developers slow to respond to users concerns and problems. Seems to be a staff shortage. My Adobe issue seems to have been addressed by subsequent updates.
    1. SinCityJet's Avatar
      SinCityJet -
      July 21 Update: According to users on the Combat Pilot Series forum, there are only three players worldwide. Developer Kinney is no longer with MadCatz and apparently left in March.
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