VR Air Combat Simulators
It is without a doubt that Virtual Reality has become one of the most promising technologies of today. Despite being described as still in a state of infancy, VR has made great strides in just a couple of years since VR headsets where mass introduced to the general public and have become quite popular. The one major drawback would be the cost as the high-end brands like the Oculus and HTC Vive require costly computer hardware and that includes the cheaper PSVR that though console based still cost a considerable amount as well.
Despite this drawback, the application of VR when it comes to computer games has produced several astounding results. Likewise, it is popular knowledge that there are some kinds of games that not only are fun to play but provide realistic experiences and a lot of potential to learn from it.
Educational games would definitely come into mind and so would a good combat simulator. Combat and civilian vehicle simulators provide close to real experiences that can practically teach the player how to operate the vehicle short of doing it in real life. The application of Virtual Reality exponentially increases the reality factor of the simulation giving an experience like no other currently available today.
One of the most popular computer simulation experiences would be in the field of Air Combat. That is, learning to fly an airplane and be able to shoot down enemy airplanes and also hit enemy ground and naval targets as well. Upon the advent of micro-computers, flight simulators where one of the first applications to attain massive popularity. People in general (especially gamers) want to fly.
There are 2 types of computer air combat simulators. The first is called the Survey type. This simulates the experience of getting to fly different fighter aircraft from different periods of Earth’s history from the Bi-Planes of WW1 to the current Jet fighters like the F-18 Hornet to possible futuristic space fighters. The simulation though fun and awesome to experience doesn't focus that much on the realistic aspect of flight and the actual aircraft/space fighter used.
The other type of air combat simulator is called the Study type. This is the kind of simulator where you will have to learn about the real aspects of flying and using a simulated aircraft which is close as can be to the real one in features, properties, response and the controls. The cockpit alone would be a near realistic replica of the real cockpit of said aircraft. In this kind of simulation, the cockpit and controls of a P-51 Mustang are as real as possible and you will have to learn to fly it as if flying the real thing.
The realistic air combat simulators we currently have today that use from one to several computer screens are awesome in this respect. Combat Joystick control technology which includes chairs, harnesses, pedals, control sticks and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) systems makes the simulation as real as possible. Now, with a VR HMD stuck to the face of our player-pilot and the controllers taking the place of the elaborate control set-up, for those who have experienced VR with the VIve, Oculus or PSVR, well...you know what it's like. Awesome!
It is with the study type of air combat simulators where the potential of VR shines. You're not only having a lot of fun but you're learning as well. Believe it or not, the game is an educational tool. Computer and aviation fans who remember the old movies like Iron Eagle know too well that air combat cockpit simulators where used to train F-16 pilots. Today, the USAF and Navy, as well as the other Militaries of the world, heavily use VR to train their pilots.
The controls are realistic, the flight physics and aircraft response is realistic, the properties and performance of the different aircraft can be simulated and so on and so forth. When the pilot turns his head, the HMD will simulate what the side or back view from his cockpit looks like as if in real life. Of course, the military set-up would be far elaborate than a set-up that can be made at home but as far as simulation experience is concerned, a VR player is already somewhat at par with a real Air Force combat pilot when it comes to VR.
To stress the potential of current air combat simulators which are available to common saps like us, we can use the air combat and flight sim game VTOL VR which is currently in early access at Steam. The game is available for both Oculus and Vive and though not as realistic as a jet fighter simulator used by the real Air Force, it will give you a VTOL flight training you will never forget. The controls may not be an accurate copy of the Harrier Jump Jet as it is not an RAF Harrier but is as realistic as possible for a jet-powered VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft.
You can hover in the air like a helicopter, swoop down like a fighter-bomber and jet dogfight like an interceptor all rolled into one. Also, the flight physics and all the other, little-complicated factors and intricacies like payload, airspeed, fuel, etc... will affect your flight. Turn your head and you'll see the squad of grunts you have to ferry to their destination placing their full-metal jacket- sorry ass lives in your capable err culpable pilot hands.
The controls are as realistically awesome and respond as realistically as well so don't pull that eject lever sticking out between your legs. No, not that one! The one that says eject! Hmmmp...everyone’s a joker.
So, for those of you who already have the VR hardware to boot and have a love for flying, you can check out the latest versions of "The" popular air combat games we have today like Aces High, DCS World and War Thunder among others. As for using the VR controllers, if you already have and are used to a HOTAS set-up, if it works fine with the HMD and software then it's really up to you. As the saying goes, Join the Air Force. Aim high and Fly high. With VR, you can just do that.