It installed Ok, in fact it was much quicker than the installs of other MS Sims I've bought. The game ran OK for the first time and upon getting to the 'menu' screen I started configuring by doing nothing more than changing the screen resolution from 800 x 600 @ 16bit to 1024 x 768 @ 32 bit. Immediatly after making the change the machine re-booted by itself. I restarted and repeated the above several times with the same result. After another re-start I used the config tool to set the resolution back to 'default' ie 800 x 600 @ 16bit. I hadn't changed any sliders yet!! The game would not start again each time crashing at the splash screen. I re-installed the game and got it started again without making any changes. I managed to do about 2 minutes of free-flight in the Spitfire and it crashed again. After yet another re-start I started the game again only to get an error message saying that 1) my 'unlimitedPilots.xml' file was invalid or corrupt and 2) the 'mission' file (for free flight) could not be loaded. While all this was happening the screen was flickering at a constant 20-30Hz as I was clicking away all the message dialogs. I have now reinstalled it 3 times, checked these forums for advice, made many changes but to no avail. My system is:
Athlon XP1800+ (~1533Mhz)
Abit KT7a Rev1.3 (KT133)
SB Live (latest drivers)
64Mb GeForce3 (41.09 drivers)
DirectX 8.2 (installed by the game)
Win XP Pro
I also have FS2002 Pro and CFS2 on the same setup, they both run very well with no issues whatsoever. I have to agree with so many people that this software has something fundamentally wrong with it. Further I would discourage all those people with similar problems from altering your system so as to run this piece of crap at the possible expense of affecting all the other applications that run very well on your system. As a general rule if your system spec is somewhere between the minimum required and the recommended then basically it should run right out of the box with only minor system changes required (new drivers etc). If you wish to upgrade to enhance the game then that is your business. As you can see from the spec above there is nothing unique about my setup that should prevent 'good' software from operating correctly. I had seriously thought about ditching CFS3 but I will give MS the opportunity to fix it.
Re-installed the game again and based on the opinions and experiences with others I made the following changes:
1) Disabled Whiteout in Config / Custom Settings / Overrides
2) Installed DX9
The game amazingly enough ran but with a lot of stutter. What I noticed though was that the frame rate was quite good, 30+ in dogfight with 5 enemies with settings at 4 across the board. The stutter appeared to be as a result of textures, buildings and other environmental things happening in the background. Originally I thought my paging file was at fault but I dismissed this on the basis that it was 1Gb in size already and there was not HD activity, it seemed to be more processing related be it CPU / GPU. The stutter improved after a few minutes but the general 'un-smooth' nature of the game made it largely unplayable. Next I changed some of the composite texture settings in the config to use SystemMM rather than pooled, buffered or other methods. This was done based on feedback from other forums and improved the frame rates to about 35-40 but the stutter was still there. The 'clasic' tweak of disabling dual-pass rendering and enabling high-resolution Z-Buffer made no differance.
I know it's like comparing apples to oranges but I base my experiences on FS2002. I run this on the same setup with the GA737 from Dreamfleet and I get a bueatiful looking, stutter free Sim at 1280 x 960 @ 32bit with literally everything on and still never drop below 30fps, most of the time its 40+. To get CFS3 even halfway to this point has taken a frustrating week of installing, re-installing, configuring and general technical mucking about just to get it to run. No software in this state should ever have been released in my opinion and my earlier statements still apply. Disregarding the technical issues for a moment I would also say that based on look and feel this has to be the worst sim Microsoft has released to date. It looks bad, it feels bad and problems with controllers, flight models and sensitivities make it frustrating to play. For example my aerilon sensitivity was too much at default and even with it backed back to its minimum the roll rate was unrealistically to high making the aircraft hard to control. I am sorry to say unfortunatly that Microsoft have created a dud with CFS3...