No, not those Sims, our comparison simulations. Before we look at individual results, I’ll give you some overall opinions.
First, performance hits: There aren’t any, in my opinion. Not with TIR3, and not with TIR4, or if there were they were so small I didn’t notice them. NaturalPoint says that TrackIR uses about 2% of system resources, which isn’t much. That coincides with my observation.
Second, in general, TIR4 offers smoother responses across all axis of motion. You can just feel it, it’s more responsive, the view stays when it should, moves when it should. Very precise. And I found the TIR4 was better at maintaining a center focus. With the TIR3, I had a “center TrackIR” button assigned to my HOTAS, and I used it, a lot. With the TIR4, I still have the button, but I don’t need to use it nearly as much. The view just doesn’t get cock-eyed or off-center as much or as quickly.
I’m not sure why, but it seemed as though the zoom in/out function worked a little better in the TIR3. For some reason, the TIR4 would zoom in fine, but then as I moved back out, it would jump to the non-zoom view. TIR3 does that as well, but not quite as often. I don’t know why this would be, and it’s just an observation I have, certainly nothing scientific about it.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, aka FS9
It’s been a long time since I last flew this simulation. So long, I didn’t understand that it was now being called FS9. And the last time I flew it, I didn’t have a TrackIR, so I flew with the 2D cockpits and used a view hat on my joystick. But with the built in 6DOF, I just figured it was time to go back to FS9. I’m glad I did, I’m having fun with this, even though I still think many of the stock aircraft should have a Browning .50 machine gun strapped to the side somewhere. Danger in the skies you know!
Something else I didn’t realize was that you can only use the TrackIR, either TIR3, or TIR4, in the virtual cockpit view. I brought up the 2D pit in a Cessna 172S, but the TIR3 wasn’t working. Uh-oh, I thought, now what? Finally, I hit the view key, got virtual cockpit mode, and it was working just fine. I’m not a big fan of 3D cockpits and in FS9’s stock aircraft, some of them are pretty decent, while others are just horrible.
In any event, I found the TIR3 and the TIR4 work fine in FS9. It is just such a kick leaning out the left side of an aircraft and seeing clearly down the runway. Especially true with a tail-dragger, where if you can’t do that, you ain’t seeing the runway unless you make those side-to-side turns as you taxi. I don’t do those well, I usually just run off the runway, into the mud, and sink. The other thing I really enjoyed was the ability to lift up and see over the top of the aircraft’s nose. Really handy on landing final approach.
Couple of things I found rather odd, the primary one being that no matter what I had the TIR3 and TIR4 software keys center and pause functions set to in the TrackIR software, they remained the default F9 and F12 in FS9. This is probably an old issue and one that has been resolved, but it was new to me.
I would say the performance of the two units was quite similar in FS9. As noted, the TIR4 was smoother and more precise in its movement tracking.
Here’s a short video I did in the FS9’s Modern Scenic Wonders, McKinley Tour flight in the Cessna Caravan Amphibian. You can see the zoom in and out, panning right, looking over the nose, looking out the left side, panning left, and tilting right and left. No more using the view hats on the HOTAS, or worse yet, keyboard keys. Just move your head naturally and your view goes with it.
LOMAC / Flaming Cliffs v1.1
It’s also been a while since I flew this sim, and when I last did, it was in the Su-25T, an aircraft I really enjoyed learning about. But for this demonstration, I thought seeing a MiG-29A using the Schlem helmet-mounted sight coupled with the R-73 (AA-11) Archer high off-boresight missile would be interesting.
LOMAC is one of two flight simulations where TrackIR not only gives you easier and more precise viewing, it adds weapons functionality to an extent not possible previously. Not restricted to a HUD-only view, you place the targeting circle on target, lock and fire when in range. Very cool, and very deadly. Both videos are done with the MiG-29 Quick Mission, and there will be two targets ahead of us to engage.
The first video is made using the TIR3. Download the video here. (Zipped file size: 6.86MB .wmv format. Note: originally recorded in DivX)
The second one is the same mission, only with the TIR4. Download the video here. (Zipped file size: 9.69MB, .wmv format. Note: originally recorded in DivX)
And like FS9, there were a few surprises. For one, I had forgotten that this sim has a three view axis. Up/down, pan right and left, plus zoom in and out. When I first moved my head towards the monitor and the view changed I went “Whoa, what was that?” It’s fairly subtle, but it does work. And useful for checking instruments like your HDD or RWR.
I don’t know whether you’ll see any distinct differences in these videos between the two units. I think the TIR4 was smoother, every once in while, I’d see the TIR3 “catch” just for a second, but really, they’re both very good.
Enemy Engaged: Comanche vs. Hokum (EECH)
From civilian prop aircraft and military fast-movers, our next simulation is that great military helicopter sim, EECH. And what a job the modders have done with it! Adding TrackIR support, and for two of the choppers, 6DOF no less, is just one of many changes that have been made and has transformed this already fine simulation into something no one would have imagined a couple years ago. Many thanks to “Retro” for his work in adding TrackIR, and to all the modders.
EECH is a sim that cries out for TrackIR, it really does. So far, the Comanche and the Hokum are the only aircraft that can use the 6DOF completely, so if you’re flying an Apache, you’ll have to get along with two motion axis, but that’s more than OK. Flying a combat helo down low, over mountains, visually spotting targets and threats, is wonderful, and without TrackIR it just isn’t the same thing.
And like LOMAC, we have added functionality here. With the IHADSS (Integrated Helmet And Display and Sight System), and the chain gun, you simply look, find what you want to shoot, and press the trigger. The shells go wherever your view goes. As BeachAV8R has said, you can do “stupid cannon tricks” with this thing, and it is really neat.
In EECH, I would say the TIR4 is definitely more precise and faster in response. And the TIR4 would stay centered much more easily than the TIR3, which is very useful in a simulation where you can expect to be moving your head quite a bit, and jinking the aircraft at the same time.
Here’s the EECH video, using the TIR4 in a Yemen Skirmish mission. A real quickie, it just gives you an idea of the functionality in the Comanche, some zooming, a look sideways, and that look/see/shoot cannon.
GT Legends (GTL)
Had enough flight sims? Want to take a look at GTL for a little auto racing, and watch yours truly struggle to keep a De Tomaso Pantera on the track at Nürburgring Mullen Bach (short)? Sure, why not, we’ve all had some good giggles at my flight skills, now let’s see how I handle things behind the wheel of a racing machine.
I must confess, when I first got GTL, I didn’t even use the TIR3. It just didn’t seem necessary. My thought was that I was such a newbie car racer, I needed to see clearly what was right in front of me and not be distracted by the pretty girls waving at me from trackside.
Wrong, but it took me a while to figure that out, and to get used to using TrackIR while racing. Once that happened, I began to see the functionality that you get with it. Because in a race sim, there’s no view hat, no HOTAS. Sure, you have a steering wheel, hopefully, and you can assign “right/left” views to buttons, but you have to actually press the button and hold it. Plus, it’s a fixed view, and to be honest, I never really used it to any extent.
TrackIR, is different. It’s not dependent on buttons, it works by moving your head. And just as you would in a real life car, you look “around” corners. I began to understand that especially on a tight race track with sharp corners, the ability to see what was coming helped me keep the car on the track and actually turn a little faster time. How much better? I don’t know, I’m still learning racing sims, I just know it’s better.
In traffic it helps as well, so I look to my right just in time to cut my AI opponent off and run him into the barricade. Hey, I don’t have a gun here either!
In GTL, I didn’t see as much use for the 6DOF however. I didn’t spend any time leaning out the side window (and I didn’t think the side lean worked very well either), I was too busy to zoom in and see the tachometer up close, and I wasn’t doing much tilting of my head or looking down at my feet. However, I did sit up in my seat and look out and down over the front of the car several times, to see where the dip in the roadway was taking me, so that part of the 6DOF was useful. My impressions of the TIR3 versus TIR4 were pretty much of a draw in GTL, the foregoing edge in smoothness and precision already noted.
Here’s a little GTL video. Try and not giggle louder than the Pantera’s engine. Download the video here. (File size: 5.57MB, .wmv format)
[Editor’s note: Read Jens “McGonigle” Lindblad’s article here on TrackIR and Motorsports sims.]