Review: Liftoff: Drone Racing

This is THE review which I have been waiting for! As a spare-time FPV drone pilot, I spammed Jim to review this new game/simulator made by Astragon Entertainment GmbH. I will mostly review this as a simulator and touch briefly on it as a game when it comes down to multiplayer. So are you ready to find out how Liftoff: Drone Racing stacks up against flying a real FPV quad? And do I think that, if you are good at flying Acro in this game, you could pick up my controller and fly my actual drone? Let’s figure that out in this lengthy review!

We played Liftoff: Drone Racing for 14 hours on Xbox Series X

What we liked!

  • Realistic FPV experience: Okey, so I skipped the assisted flying since I know how to fly Acro with the real deal. More on acro later. But I was so surprised to find myself being able to pick up the game in an instant! Almost every part of the experience feels like the real deal! Besides some things controller related. You really get a feel for what it’s like flying an actual quadcopter through your FPV glasses. And the best thing, if you get dizzy wearing the FPV stuff, you can always fly Line of sight (LOS in short). It’s a common practice by some folks, but hey. Here you can configure your camera to follow you from outside your drone, which adds a whole new dynamic to LOS flying! Great job on the developers’ part!Β 
  • Known names: For those who wonder who this “Joshua Bardwell” is in the game? He is an actual FPV pilot and coach. Joshua takes his time making tutorials on youtube for beginners to get started making their own drone. Resolving issues, he is also extremely active on Facebook helping people individually with matters. In-game, he and his home are represented as a course for you to fly around in! A little dream of mine! And soothing to the real experience as well!
  • PIT Tuning/Part selection: This is the part about the game that surprised me the most! If you fly a drone IRL, you can configure things called “PID’s.” The short version of this is: it relates to how aggressive the quadcopter responds to stick movement and how hard it spins on little stick inputs. I went to Betaflight (the software I use to tune my PID’s) and copied my PID’s into the game. Next, I built a virtual copy of my drone! And I must say, while it wasn’t the fastest drone in the game, it handled EXACTLY like my quad. Equally drifty in corners, and equal aggression! Loved it!
  • Tutorial: I must say, I loved the tutorial. Too much, actually. The game explained tricks so that it makes me wonder where they were when I had to learn them IRL. Around 2 years ago, we had to watch youtube videos of people having a gopro pointed to their controller to learn these tricks. Here, you can just go full ham, with the best instruction set possible! All without the risk of crashing your expensive FPV quadcopter!
  • Multiplayer: This is one of my first times I had the luxury of flying with other people. I am unlucky enough to be in a region that just doesn’t have any FPV pilots around that want to fly. Aswell with corona making it impossible to go and meet up with different people. So Liftoff gave me the ability to fly against other people! And it was a blast! The competitive feeling really kicks in if you see another drone racing away from you! You just want to catch it! And with their lap system, you really in for the time of your couch life!Β 

Somewhere between

  • Xbox controller input: People sometimes complain about: “I’m being launched to the skybox,” but honestly, they have never flown a quad. Your left thumbstick controls the throttle. And if you want it or not, if your thumbstick is on 50% throttle, it means accelerate + climb. So you need to keep your throttle stick down to around 20% to hover. In real life, you have the luxury that your stick remains still on 20%. But I can see how this might turn away people. That being said, you are missing inputs. I would love it if the devs could allow some extra keybindings to the elite controllers. Or if you could use 2 buttons to activate arming or turtle mode to flip your drone. (Arming is usually done with a separate switch, but can be fixed IRL to be moving your throttle stick, but not common practice). That being said, the developers did what they could to represent the controls as close to reality, certainly, given the limitations of Xbox controllers.
  • Real Acro-95%: Well, since most of the game has been realistic, I must say, this was the real deal when it came to Acro flying. The only issue I had here was controller-related (I would assume, but still worth a mention). It just feels like the tilt axis (pitching forward) isn’t remembered in flight if you are not pitching forward enough. Besides that, it flies accurately! I learned to fly playing DRL on steam 3 years ago, and I must say, Acro didn’t come close to reality there. But in this game, Acro feels real!

What we disliked

  • Lack of people: Multiplayer lobbies can feel empty at moments. Suppose you are unfortunate enough to play on day times while most people are working. In that case, you will be unable to fill a whole lobby or need to start it with less than the maximum allows. Hope this is resolved in the future with further promotion of the game! Maybe an addition to the Xbox game pass would get even more people in the game! Cause it’s really a community experience!
  • Menu navigation: Another minor point, but navigating through the main menu is done with arrows up down, but left-right is done with different buttons? Not sure why this is? And was explained seemingly nowhere? I literally had to push all the buttons on my controller to figure out how I could move around the menu.

CONCLUSION

97%

Liftoff really is the best Xbox simulator for fpv racing. If someone would beat me in stunts and trust their responsibilities, I would even allow them to fly my FPV quadcopter. It just feels finished. I can’t recommend the game more than I already did. Hence I don’t see any ways to be even more optimistic about a release. If you want to test your limits and know if you have what it takes to fly FPV, or if you just like to fly around with drones from the safety of your living room, then Liftoff is THE game to download right now! Let us know on Twitter if you share the same vibe and passion about this genuinely wonderful gem!
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