Infinite Flight (iOS)

In the ever growing crowd of mobile flight simulator apps Infinite Flight has great potential but with some room for improvement…

 INFINITE01

Feature rich – wallet poor…

As a “veteran” flight simmer of three decades, I’m still a bit amazed at how far technology and programming has come. The fact that I can play a nearly full featured flight simulator on a small mobile device, with great graphics and flight modeling, is pretty incredible. There are some major contenders for your mobile flight simming dollars, and Infinite Flight bears serious consideration with a host of really nice features. With those features, however, comes a price. The $4.99 (US) price point for the base app gives a great value for the dollar. Included in the basic app are:

• 17 included aircraft: Airbus, Boeing, Cessna, Cirrus, etc.
• 7 included regions each covering thousands of square kilometers
• All regional major airports with precise runway and taxiway layouts
• Flight planner
• Instrument Landing System (ILS)
• Advanced Autopilot Flight Simulator (Altitude, Heading, Throttle and Vertical Speed)
• Advanced replay system
• Time and weather conditions
• Weight and balance configuration
• Introductory and takeoff flight lessons
• Logbook
• Achievements

Add-on features are based on in-app purchases which include:

• 18 additional aircraft (More Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, etc.)
• 7 additional regions
• Multi-Player connectivity via Infinite Flight Live

The 17 included airframes are the A-10, Airbus A-321, A-380, Boeing 717-200, 737-700, 747-400, 787-900, Boeing C-17, Bombardier CRJ-200, Cessna 172, Cirrus SR22 GTS, F/A-18, P-38, Space Shuttle, Spitfire Mk VIII, and Super Decathlon. The additional in-app purchase aircraft are other Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer variants, as well as some other fighter jets that range in price from $2.99 to $4.99. Quality of both the included and in-app aircraft varies in quality and completeness with most featuring HD models, while others feature 3D virtual cockpits, multiple liveries, weight & balance features, and animated 3D parts. For the purposes of this review, I purchased the A-330 add-on for $3.99 in order to see what in-app purchases featured – more on that later.

The flying regions included with the base app include Amsterdam, Chicago, Oshkosh, San Francisco, Southern California, Sydney, and, luckily for me, my home airport region in real life of Charlotte, NC. Additional regions such as the Caribbean, Denver, London, New York, Paris, Seattle, and South Florida can be purchased for $4.99 each – but I’ll skip to the verdict on those purchases – don’t! (More on that later – remember – Mudspike is about sipping your coffee, not gulping your energy drink…be patient!) To satisfy my curiosity, and save you Mudspike Reader™, realized pain, I purchased the Caribbean ($4.99) to get a feel for what the region purchases included.

Mobile simming done right!

It only takes a few minutes of exploring Infinite Flight to see how much love and attention has been poured into this simulator. Flights are set up via the opening menu where you select an aircraft, region and airport, weather, and time of day. Once you hit FLY and tap the screen to calibrate your iPad you are placed on the runway with a HUD view. Immediately you are presented with a wealth of information via onscreen displays. Power, flaps, brakes, trim, and rudder are activated via buttons or sliders on the screen. Pitch and roll are accomplished via the iPad’s motion sensors. The HUD contains speed and altitude tapes, directional gyro, air temperature readout, groundspeed readout, Mach #, and wind readout. A small inset box contains a map while an information bar at the bottom supplies data for the flight plan (waypoint, distance, estimated time enroute, bearing, etc.). If the aircraft is equipped with autopilot features then heading, speed, vertical speed, and altitude can be set via additional buttons. The overlays are nicely presented and you can set how long they remain on screen before they fade out and leave only the HUD. A huge variety of views are available that are both useful and gorgeous. Pressing the CAM button cycles through cockpit views, external views, tower view, and my favorite, the scenic view. Most of the views can be panned and zoomed using gestures and pinches on the screen.

The virtual cockpit views range from awful to good, but none of them feature functioning displays or instrumentation. By that I mean that gauges are static and do not update – so you derive all of your flight information from the HUD. The lack of functional flight displays in the virtual cockpit is mildly disappointing, but I try to remember this is a mobile app and it is difficult to have high expectations for $2.99 to $4.99 aircraft. The only real problem is that since the instruments don’t function in the virtual cockpit, there is a disconnect between the static instrumentation representation and what is really happening with the aircraft. Thus, while you might be in a 45° bank turn, your virtual instruments always show the same thing.

Externally, the 3D models for nearly all of the aircraft, regardless of whether they are included or in-app purchases, are very good. The in-app purchase aircraft might look a bit better, and feature crisper non-functional cockpits, and are also more likely to contain extensive livery packages and animated components such as complex retracting gear. The combination of beautiful camera angles and stunning 3D models does make for some glorious in-game scenery. The replay editor is also very well done with the ability to quickly scroll through the flight and change angles and even re-assume control at any point in the playback. The replay is constantly on and you can visit it at any point during your flight.

Regions – hit and miss

At first blush, the included regions look pretty good. The airports include accurate runway and taxiway placement, but they are barren of any kind of scenery such as hangars, buildings, or control towers. The scenery regions are expansive and can include from dozens to several hundred airports (Chicago area scenery includes 564 airports!). Unfortunately, there are no 3D buildings or unique location specific objects included in any of the regions (included or in-app purchase) which gives the overall world a somewhat barren and uniform look. From mid altitudes, the overlay looks quite good, with the illusion of roads, buildings, and industrial areas, but soon you realize the terrains are all fairly generic, repetitive, and not very unique at all. In fact, it would be hard to tell the difference between flying in Chicago, and San Francisco just based on the overlays. Edwards AFB looks a lot like, well, Chicago O’Ohare. The terrain height mapping is, of course, different for different regions, with the mountains east of San Francisco being quite lumpy compared to the relative flatness of Oshkosh, but the coloring and overlay graphics seems too uniform between regions. I was optimistic that this was a quality reserved only for the included scenery regions, but I found the paid in-app Caribbean scenery to be more of the same with no unique Caribbean scenery or feel to it. In fact, the Caribbean scenery that would normally get your blood pumping like the unique airports and islands St. Maarten, St. Barts, and Saba are drab, low detail, and even the terrain elevations are not correct or of not high enough resolution to accurately depict the challenging conditions that define those airports. The huge hill leading down to the runway at St. Barts is non-existent, the plateau upon which the tiny Saba airport is perched on does not exist, and there is no Caribbean blue, reefs, white beaches, or thong bikinis on Maho Beach. In fact, the geography is so poorly represented that the water climbs the hills and results in an overall feeling of disappointment for a $4.99 purchase. My advice: stick with the included regions unless your home region is offered and you just want to pay for the familiarity of seeing generically rendered home airports.

Beyond skin deep

Though the scenery is disappointing in its uniformity, Infinite Flight is leaps and bounds ahead of competitors with regards to the in flight map and flight planning tools. After the disastrous exclusion of any kind of map in X-Plane 10 Mobile the inclusion of not just a map, but a full featured map is of great excitement to this reviewer. VORs, intersections, transitions, airports, ILS courses, airspace, and a great flight plan page that can be edited on the fly with a finger press are all part of the map. Airport information on runway lengths, widths, and elevation are also available. Though ILS frequencies can’t be selected manually, they do come up on the CDI on your compass automatically once you are within the parameters of the ILS cone. So it is simply a matter of flying to one of the intersections near the end of the ILS cone and your radios will auto-tune to the ILS frequency and IFR approaches can be flown. It is simple, elegant, and very satisfying to see. The one improvement I’d like to see is the ability to couple the autopilot to the ILS with an approach setting, that is currently missing, requiring all ILS approaches to either be manually flown, or flown by proxy using the vertical speed and heading autopilot commands (not ideal).

In-app aircraft

Running Mudspike does cost a bit of money, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to lay out all of the cash to buy and evaluate all of the possible in-app purchases. I do fancy the Airbus A-330 though, a plane I consider to be one of the most beautiful to ply the skies. At $4.99, the in-app purchase for a single aircraft type isn’t cheap, but you do get a lovingly crafted 3D model with twelve very pretty liveries and a fairly crisp non-functional virtual cockpit. So essentially you are paying for the 3D model, a good flight model, a bunch of paint schemes, and good detailing on the external animated parts. If you are in love with a certain type of plane, these in-app purchases could make sense, but otherwise, you might want to just stick with all the base product included aircraft and regions. At $4.99 for the base package, you do get a lot of bang for your buck, but that value diminishes rapidly with the in-app purchases in my opinion. If the in-app purchases evolve to include some basic functionality of the virtual cockpit instruments I would rethink my recommendation, but right now, I just don’t know that there is a lot of value unless you are an enthusiast for a particular airframe. Yes, I want the multiple variants of the 747 and the 757 as well as the F-14, F-16C, and F-22, but I’m not ready to dish out $20 to $30 in in-app purchases to obtain them.

Infinite Flight Live

Infinite Flight Live is an online multiplayer experience that brings together pilots from across the globe if you subscribe to the service. Users create an account which opens up additional content such as ATC interactions and obviously flying with other people online. I regret that I haven’t explored this important feature due to the online subscription requirement at this time ($4.99/mo. or $49.99/yr.), but there are plenty of YouTube videos that show this could be a fun aspect of the app. If I were a hardcore iPad pilot (I know, I know) I think Infinite Flight Live would be a fun component of the sim.

A few improvements

Besides the aforementioned improvements to the in-app purchases (better region quality and virtual cockpit improvements), there are some other issues that are probably on the developer’s radar as needing improvement. As it stands, I don’t believe it is possible to fly between regions, which is a disappointment. It would be nice to take-off in the San Francisco region and fly to the Southern California region (or all the way to Chicago for that matter). As well, the regions are devoid of life. No buildings, no air traffic, no cars, no ships – so some work needs to be done to liven up the flying airspace. Currently there are no fuel burn parameters, so Infinite Flight is, in fact, infinite flight since you can’t run out of fuel. While the lighting, visibility, and overall ambiance is present in the sim, there are no clouds to speak of. The addition of different cloud types, layers, and precipitation would be great improvements.

 

Conclusion

Infinite Flight is an incredible mobile simulator. Gameplay is fluid even on my aging iPad 2. Exceptional 3D graphics, nice map features, functional autopilot modes, and a wonderful onscreen interface and view system make the $4.99 base simulator a great purchase. In-app purchases can add some value to the simulator in certain aspects, but I’d carefully weigh the purchases on a case-by-case basis. The developers seem keen to continuously improve the product, so I think Infinite Flight has an exciting future ahead.

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth

 

15 comments

  1. Have more mobile flight sims and hardly ever use them, Desktop in 4K is my only passion.
    Just learning to edit them in after buying new 4k video editing software.

  2. Indeed guys – I can’t see myself replacing my desktop flight sim with mobile apps – but I do find the graphics and fidelity improvements to these mobile sims to be fascinating. I’d really like for some of them to have more “game” to them than sim – because that is what is fun on mobile: gaming. Some sort of bush pilot level up type game/sim hybrid would be great. I’ve actually got another mobile game/sim I’ve very much enjoyed…will post it up in the coming weeks.

  3. I see you have taken my suggestion to heart.

    It’s a mobile app, so for now you can’t expect anything too advanced. You did mention the ils, I know that I have flown coupled ILS approaches a long time back but they got taken out with a major revision. I think they are planned to be reintroduced again.

    One more app that is a bit interesting, F-Sim Space Shuttle. While very limited in scope, it does do a nice job of final approach to landing of the shuttle. Again with nice replays, weather, failures and such. It’s available on both IOS and Android.

    1. Well, in my version the ILS approaches are working again. I have both F-Sim (brilliant for what it does) and Apache HD..both are a good bit of fun. I’ll also probably take a look at Aerofly FS II soon too.

      1. When I say “coupled” I mean autopilot coupled. That used to be working a long time ago. Even did some ils approaches into CLT for that matter.. ( Old times sake, used to fly out of Thurston, is it still there? )

        There has been a whole bunch of mobile sims released of the last year or so. Most are not worth your time, and certainly not your money. I have currently the Gunship series installed. ( Vietnam sim with carrier ops ) Infinite Flight, F-Sim, and Xtreme Soaring 3D . There’s also Rortos with some visually pleasing sims, the FM is sadly lacking too much to be believable.

        1. Ah..apologies, I didn’t catch the “coupled” part – and indeed, they are not working as of right now (pity). Thurston – I think it eventually changed its name to Butler Aviation at some point. Then it was Signature Flight Support 16 years ago when I started flying out of there. A few years back Wilson Air Center bought them out (and they provide exceptional service). Charlotte has expanded nicely (more runways, more taxiways..etc..) I’m always on the lookout for more mobile fun, so keep the suggestions coming!

        2. Infinite Flight developer here, we actually never had an APPR mode in IF, though if you set your speed right, your descent rate to 700/800fpm, set the heading bug to follow the localizer heading, you should be able to land like you’re in approach mode 🙂

          Thanks for the article BeachAV8R btw!

          About the negative points which are lack of buildings, no animated cockpits and weather are being worked on. We just have to be careful with performance.
          We’re also currently working on new sounds (they will be vastly better than what we currently have), ForeFlight sync, Tower/Ground/Approach modes for Live and more.

          If you want to try multiplayer to complement the section about Live, send me a shout at matt at infinite – flight dot com.

          Thanks again for the article!

          1. Thanks for stopping by Matt. You guys have a great product that looks to be on track to get even better. I completely understand with regards to balancing performance with visuals. I’d definitely rather have smooth performance than features that cripple the experience. It sounds like you guys have a great plan for the future and I look forward to following along as Infinite Flight evolves.

  4. Honestly, I’d never considered loading a flight sim on my mobile device (understood sim-esque). Thanks for the heads up on this one, Beach and for the other mentions in the comments. I may have to load this up on my Note and give it a shot.

    1. I have both – and I would recommend Infinite Flight over X-Plane 10 Mobile. Here is my review of X-Plane Mobile 10: http://www.mudspike.com/x-plane10mobile/

      Frankly, Laminar just took way too much out of XP10 Mobile compared to XP9 Mobile. Infinite Flight just looks much more polished and has more utility than XP Mobile. I find it hard to believe I’m saying that because I’m a huge fan of X-Plane on desktop..but they are getting beaten in the mobile market now. That said though, they do have functional virtual cockpits (with functioning instruments) and helicopters..

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