It appears the flightsim community is on a 737-fever! PMDG hit a high mark with their 737 NGX this summer, as did iFly a couple of months earlier with their respective version, Wilco and Feelthere have just released their 737 Pilot in Command Evolution, covering the classic series. And to finish the series, Captain Sim is working on the Original Series, the 737-100 and 737-200. At this time, it’s an exterior only product, but we’ll take a look nonetheless.
In 1964 Boeing began design work on a small narrow-body airliner that could fly short routes with few passengers in an economical way. Initially focusing on a 50 or 60 seat aircraft, the design was changed into a 100 seat aircraft after consultation with the launch customer, Lufthansa. Even before the 737 was rolled out, United Airlines placed a large order for a slightly larger version of the 737. The original design was renamed the 737-100, with the longer version for United becoming the 737-200. Design work continued on both versions at the same time. The 737-100 underwent its maiden flight on 9 April 1967. On December 15th, 1967 the 737-100 was cleared for commercial flight. The 737-200 followed only 6 days later.
The 737-100 was not very successful, with only 30 airframes being built. The longer 737-200, in contrast, was a huge success, with over 1100 airframes built over a period of more than 20 years.
Usually Captain Sim releases a finished exterior model and textures at a low price, while work on the VC and systems continues. So no surprise when they did this for the 737 Captain as well. As long as you’re positive you’re going to buy the finished product, there’s no catch, as owners of the exterior only product are guaranteed a price reduction on the finished product. I personally see this as a kind of prepaying, and although I don’t like the way some companies use prepaying (you pay full price, you get nothing for a long time), I don’t mind the way Captain Sim does it: you pay a little, you get a little.
At the moment, Captain Sim offers the 737-100 as the base pack of the series, and the 737-200 as an expansion on the -100. Both are exterior only.
Installing the 737 Captain happens in just the same way as with any other Captain Sim product. After you bought the product, you get a confirmation e-mail with a download link and a serial. Installing is as simple as running the downloaded file (a .exe file) and inputting your credentials in order to activate. Note that, for the activation, you need an active internet connection. As secondary option is also available, to activate using a second PC that is connected to the internet, but I’ve never had to use that function. After activation, the actual product is installed. The 737-100 comes as 1 model and 3 liveries. The 737-200 is once again 1 model, but with 6 liveries this time.
As an exterior-only product, the exterior is what it’s all about. And Captain Sim is quite known for their good looking exteriors. They don’t disappoint here either. The base pack only delivers the 737-100, in the colors of Lufthansa, Continental and Air Florida. The only expansion pack available at the moment delivers the 737-200 in six liveries.
Generally, the models of both Captain Sim 737’s are very good looking. Do note though, that the aircraft modeled are versions with the later-style longer tailpipes and thrust reversers. This was an update in the production run of the 737-200, and was available as a retrofit to 737-100’s and earlier 200’s. So, in exterior, you don’t get the original 737 Original. Rather, you get the upgraded version. Considering most, if not all, early 737’s were upgraded to this standard, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Also, Captain Sim didn’t model the rear integrated airstairs, instead, they modeled a conventional rear passenger door.
That said, I really like the Captain Sim 737 model. Modeling is smooth and detailed, there are no unexpected jagged edges. The overall shape is very nice, but the details are as well. Think details in the line of brake lines, flap and slat actuators, cut-out (3D) cabin windows so you can see through the cabin from exterior views… All in all, a very nice representation of the ‘Original’ 737’s in 3D.
The textures that cover the 737 give a very realistic and immersive feeling. The basic texture work is very good. It’s not dull, in the contrary, it gives the feeling of a used and living aircraft. It’s not overly worn or dirty, but it doesn’t look like a plastic toy either. Nice details, some wear and tear, exactly how I like it. Also, Captain Sim did a great job by using the capabilities of the FSX textures. Bump, specular maps make sure that the aircraft isn’t dull, and give you a very nice ‘play’ of light when panning around in exterior views. What, in my view, is a strong point of the Captain Sim texture work is that it’s a nice compromise between a used and dirty aircraft, and a clean one. It’s not dirty, but it’s not freshly painted either. Very nice.
When we look at the actual repaints, what turns basic textures into airline liveries, I have the same remark here as with my previews airline reviews. I wish FSX developers paid a little more attention to placing and sizing. What I mean is, although all details are present, the place and size of those details aren’t always correct. Logo’s, text, cheatlines, those things could do with a little more attention. They’re all there, but the exact details could be better. This is something I mentioned frequently lately, and not only with Captain Sim. I do know, from experience, that what I just said is the most difficult and most time consuming part of repainting. I understand why developers are happy with less than perfect here sometimes. I just don’t think we as customers should accept it.
That little rant over, I do have to say you get the feeling of actually flying the airline livery you choose. You’d need a picture of the real aircraft next to it to see the difference. So maybe I’m overreacting here.
Next up in this exterior only product: animations and effects.
As usual from Captain Sim, the 737 Captain is stuffed with custom animations aside from the usual. With usual, I mean retracting gear, control surfaces, realistic flap retraction, etc. The custom animations here include (among others): the built-in airstairs under the front passenger door, opening emergency doors and service doors, engine cowlings and a lot more. A complete list is on the Captain Sim product page, by the way.
And again as usual, Captain Sim included a 2D panel to control these custom animations.
As far as animations go, you get a very good looking smoke effect from the engines, but only when they’re in high power. Very nice. Other effects included in the 737 Captain are the lights. Captain Sim uses the ‘normal’ type of lights. I do think the red beacon light is too pronounced, too strong.
In the end, although it’s not perfect, Captain Sim did it again. They delivered a good looking exterior product that is a good resemblance to the Original series of the ‘Baby Boeing’.
Well, this is an exterior only product, and is clearly advertized as such. This means that everything but the exterior model is aliased to the default FSX Boeing 737-800. Virtual cockpit, 2D Panels (except for the animations panel), sound, systems, flight dynamics. It’s all aliased to or copied from the default Boeing 737. The original 737’s and the next gens are completely different aircraft, so what you get in flight dynamics, sounds etcetera isn’t very realistic. So, you don’t get anything more than what you paid for. For now, that is.
In my CS 777 Captain review, I compared the way Captain Sim releases a cheap exterior only product in advance to the full package to prepaying. And I keep to this view. You pay €10 now, and are guaranteed a €10 price reduction when CS releases the full package when it’s finished. And I still think this kind of prepaying is better than the classic way, where you pay in advance and get nothing.
The stuff you do get though, the exterior, is very good. Clearly up to Captain Sim standard. Or actually, along with the CS777, Captain Sim is setting a new standard for themselves with the 737. Without custom systems, the frame rates in the 737 Captain are very good. I hope it stays the same when the full package is released. And that brings us to the obvious question: when can we expect the full package. Well, I don’t know. I asked Captain Sim this question when I was doing my 777 review, and the answer was: “The release is not too close (not tomorrow) but also not in years.” But that was almost 2 months ago. But I don’t think I would get a clearer answer were I to ask it again today. As with any FSX product, we’ll just have to wait and see.
In the mean time, if you’re intent on taking some exterior screenshots, are just want to enjoy the good looking Original 737 exterior, you can get it for €10 for the 737-100, and another €10 for the 737-200. For this price, you are guaranteed a €10 price reduction on the full package when it’s ready (covering the 737-100). The 737-200 in the final, to be released, version will still be an exterior expansion, so you’ll just keep using the current product, although maybe in an updated version.
The Captain Sim 737 Captain base pack and -200 expansion pack are currently only available through the Captain Sim webshop. As soon as the full package is released, I expect it to pop up in other places as well, as with most other Captain Sim products.
- Good looking exterior overall
- Very detailed modeling
- High resolution textures
- deviations in place and size of some airline livery details