[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON Jul-09-03 AT 08:12AM (EDT)[/font][p]I am amazed at how many people are saying that they will stick with Fs2002 because "it is as good as Fs2004 with the many third party add-ons available". Well, I want to put the record straight here...
I spent nearly a whole day around a friend's house who is a beta tester for fs2004 (so he says). So, he showed me what it could do! In my experience...
Fs2002 cannot complete with Fs2004 due to the following main factors...
1) The Clouds/Weather - Even with add-ons, you cannot change Fs2002 clouds into 3D models like Fs2004. Yes, you may be able to download nice textures that make them look more realistic from a distance, but they will still be made of cardboard. I guess someone will no doubt release some new textures for Fs2004's clouds, making them even more awesome than they already are (and believe me, they ARE awesome - I saw it running on a friend's PC who was a beta tester - he flew at about FL330 and the white sun reflection off the fluffy cotton clouds looked incredible. And when he descended through them, OMG!!!!! There's nothing else quite like it...). And as a plus, the weather is very realistic. Take off in clear skies, and land in rainy near-zero visibility at your destination (the rain is also fantastic as it moves down the windscreen). Try doing this in Fs2002!
2) Improved ATC - Although you can buy add-ons that add a very good ATC experience to Fs2002 with many features, the AI aircraft know nothing about this ATC add-on, and therefore when you hear the controller telling "Speedbird, taxi into position and hold...", you will not see the aircraft.
Fs2004 is different. Also, there are great features like 'Execute published missed approaches', and 'Taxi into position and hold' (yes, it's there!). There are loads of other great features that I can't remember, but all I can say is that I was 'Wowed' by what I saw and heard. There were probably still loads of features that I didn't even see.
3) Blurries - Not much to say here, except that they are miles better. Another thing that can't be fixed on Fs2002 with add-ons!
4) AI intelligence - This amazed me...
We sat parked at a heavy gate at Heathrow, and my friend showed me the AI movements around the airport. I was amazed as one aircraft switched on his Wingtip nav lights. 2 mins later he then got clearance and pushed back (yes, AI pushing back!). Then he turned on his rotating red beacon lights and started his engines. He proceeded to contact the ground controller, and got taxi clearance. After clearance, he switched on his taxi lights and we followed his to the active. The tower told him to 'taxi into position and hold' while another a/c landed on the same runway. He proceeded to do this and once lined up, you could actually see the flaps going down into takeoff position. He also at this point enabled his strobes. Once the other a/c had cleared the active, he got clearance and took off. I also noticed that the landing a/c actually flared his nose and performed a 'greaser'. This will make plane-spotters happier.
This alone converted me to Fs2004! All ai aircraft now have their lights turned on in the daytime as well, which is more realistic. This used to really annoy me in Fs2002 when they only came on at night. Simply amazing - try and do this with an add-on in Fs2002!!
5) AutoGen - This was also stunning, and the most evident changes (apart from greater density) were telegraph poles on the roads, road signs, traffic lights, electricity pylons and towers, water towers, farm barns and boats (consisting of oil tankers, cargo ships, passenger cruisers, ferries, yachts, fishing vessels and speedboats - and there were thousands of them everywhere!!!!). Trees are no longer 'cardboard' either.
6) Clickable panels - This was simply a blessing! I was expecting frame rates to be ##### (from my experience of using Wilco's clickable-cockpit products in Fs2002), but there didn't seem to be any whatsoever. We did an entire flight (from start-up to shutdown) in the clickable VC, and it felt more like 'being there' than I have ever experienced before. With multiple setting switches like the Off/Start/Gen switch on the overhead, you click and hold the mouse button and the cursor changes to a 'grabbing' hand. You then move the mouse left or right to turn the switch - very efficient and quite realistic. You can even change your radio frequencies using the clicking VC. And there are many switches on the overhead that work as well. We even taxied in the 737 using the autothrottle. And unlike Fs2002, we didn't need to set it at 35kts before the aircraft started moving. Set it at 10kts, and off it goes! Another bug resolved. An excellent addition to an already impressive version.
7) Frame rates - Just as good, if not better than fs2002 when configured with the same features enabled. With all the improvements enabled, there wasn't too much of a hit.
8) Historical aircraft - This does not interest me in the slightest, but the flight models looked very well.
9) Map and GPS - The map is great as it showed me all the airspaces and frequencies. What is even better is this...
One thing I hate about Fs2002 is that to get a frequency for and ILS runway at the destination, I keep having to bring the map up and locate it, which is very unrealistic because it pauses the sim. Hate that! In Fs2004, you can see all the info from the GPS - miles better!!
10) Taxiway signs - It actually works very well. We taxied round O'Hare from the gate to the active just by listening to ATC's taxi instructions, and following the relevant signs. It was very hard to get lost as long as you wrote the instructions down. The signs are clear and easy to see.
11) Scenery - Most notably the smoothly curved taxiways. Makes taxying much easier! Also, I noticed that the flashing green/white airport lights work really well, and allow you to locate airfields much easier. Everything just seems much lusher and denser. Even the waves looked better, as the breakers came to shore, and then actually slowly rolled back into the ocean before another wave came in. The elevation mesh is much improved, and also working windsocks and radar structures are at most airports. The detail of the ground textures are also much better. Runway lights now come on in rain, snow and low visibility. Sun reflections on the water noow much better than Fs2002, and the instruments even reflect it in the VC. Also, contrails (both ai and your own) are much better - they now are produced according to the atmosphere settings, so they may have at a lower alitutude than fs2002).
There seems to be so many improvements with Fs2004 (and I didn't even see all the great new stuff), I for one will definitely be getting it! What I saw was only a beta, so the gold version should be even better, as the beta I saw wasn't even optimized.
Cheers, and be patient - it will be worth it!...