Note: HOTPROPS is currently in beta and features are subject to change.  We will work to keep this review updated as new features are released!

Featuring both single player and multiplayer support across a wide range of levels, HOTPROPS is an FPV simulator that brings a lot to the table.  Looking for large levels to practice crazy stunts like building dives?  Then this is probably the simulator for you!  Best of all, as HOTPROPS simulator is in beta, it can be downloaded and played for free!  In this article we will cover setup, features, and finally give our overall thoughts on the simulator.

This is part of our review series on FPV simulators.  Interested in seeing what is out there?  Check out our mega article listing out all the simulators on the market.

 

Initial impressions

We heard a lot of great things about HOTPROPS – specifically the Mattystuntz Freestyle World (MFW) level.  After a trying transmitter setup (more on that in a bit), we fired up the first level.  Wow!  We have tried quite a few simulators in the last few months, but have yet to see a map with the scale of MFW.  Huge buildings to dive down with openings to fly through, narrow city streets, cranes, freeways, and more.  A great first impression for sure.

The graphics look great, and there are quite a few control options. Small effects, such as the camera fading to black as we went “out of video range” were nice touches that made the game feel like real flying.  Being able to test the video range, or better yet, recover from failing video back to an acceptable range, is great practice for when you leave the safety of simulator land.

flying-through-things

Huge buildings to dive and fly through….awesome!

After a bit of customization, we found the ‘feeling of flight’ to be pretty solid.  Our first main task was upping the weight of our quad in the settings section (which we will also cover in a bit).  With a few other tweaks here and there to get the sim quad closer to our real quads, we felt that the overall handling was very acceptable – especially for a free simulator!

Overall, a very positive first flight impression.  However, the simulator is not completely without its faults…

 

Launching HOTPROPS

HOTPROPS is a bit different than many simulators that we have used.  Before you can start flying around, you need to open the launcher file to allow the game to check for updates.  Upon pressing “Play” the sim will begin downloading the resources necessary for launching the game.  On your first run, this may take some time, as this will more or less be the real installation of the game files on your system.

This brings us to one of the downsides of HOTPROPS – you need to have an internet connection to play the game.  If you do not have an active internet connection when launching the game and requesting updates from their server, you won’t be able to open the game.  This is definitely a bummer for people that like to use simulators while traveling, and may not have access to an internet connection.  There may be workarounds for this, but that is outside of the scope of this article.

hotprops-site-internet-required

From the HOTPROPS website. In order to use HOTPROPS you will need an active internet connection!

After the game has checked for updates, another launcher will appear for actually opening the game.  This is where you can adjust your resolution and graphics settings before the simulator opens.

 

UI Overview

hotprops-main-ui

 

Tracks: The main opening screen for HOTPROPS.  From here, you can select a game mode, select a level, and start flying!  This is the single player section of the game.

Setup: The Betaflight of HotProps!  Here you can customize your PIDS, Expo, Rates, Motors, etc.  Adjust these values as you play to hone in your quadcopter as much as possible.  As we have said before on this site, continuously up your rates to improve your flying ability.  Scroll down this menu to find further customization options such as camera angle, quadcopter weight, and LED setup.

Important:  If you plan on playing multiplayer, you must setup your username at the bottom of this screen.  If you do not, you will get an error when attempting to join or create a multiplayer game.

Calibration: You will setup your transmitter within this window.  More info on calibrating and binding your transmitter can be found in the “Control Options” section of this article.

Game Settings:  Allows you to further customize the sound and graphic settings within the game.  Here you can adjust settings such as VSync, Anisotropic Filtering, etc.  If you are having performance issues with HOTPROPS after customizing the launcher graphics options, we would recommend adjusting the settings within this window to further improve performance.

Downloads: Currently has no function as far as we can tell.

Multiplayer: Fly with your friends!  Clicking on the multiplayer selection on the main screen will change the top of the screen to multiplayer specific options.  These will allow you to create or join a game session, setup your quadcopter, and adjust game settings.

In general, to start a game, decide which mode you would like to play (single player / multiplayer), select a game type (freestyle / time race), select a level (press the “SELECT” button under the level you want to play), and press the “LOAD TRACK” button that appears at the bottom of the screen.

 

Control Options

To customize how your quadcopter flies in HOTPROPS, you will want to head over to the “Setup” tab at the top of the screen.  This window will allow you to customize your quadcopter to your liking.

hotprops-setup-window

Our first recommendation would be to fly a bit in game and see how everything functions.  You can adjust the physics in game by pressing escape, and then clicking on the “Physics” option.  We would recommend not to adjust this until you have properly tuned your quad using the “Setup” tab in the main menu.

in-game-physics

The “Setup” tab allows you to adjust the PID rates, expo, camera tilt angle, etc.  Our recommendation would be to first set your rates and expo to a level that you are comfortable with.  If the game feels too floaty – a common complaint with simulators – you can try increasing the quadcopter weight.  We felt that regardless of physics, the weight was too low for a real quadcopter setup, and bumped up the numbers to more closely match our quadcopters.  If you have a scale at home, try weighing your own quadcopter and adjust accordingly.  I went with a number around 580, which is a bit higher than my ZMR + action camera + battery.  After I made these adjustments, I felt the quadcopter flew much more in line with what I am used to.

 

Setting up your transmitter

Oh boy, do I ever love setting up transmitters in simulators.  If you have read some of our other simulator reviews, you know that setting up transmitters is a real treat.  For whatever reason, be it the transmitter companies or the sim developers, nobody can really get these things to bind correctly.  Inevitably you will find people online having a ton of problems setting things up.  Hopefully this quick transmitter setup guide will help!

hotprops-calibration-widnow

So, first things first, whenever you are going to use your transmitter with simulator software, make sure your transmitter firmware is up to date.  This should solve a lot of the connectivity problems that many users experience.

Step 1: Clear any old model information

Not a big deal if this is a fresh build, but if you have any issues or are binding a new transmitter, clear out the old bindings.  Hit the “Remove” button and then the “Restore Defaults” button.  Press yes on each confirmation step here.  This will clear out the old / failed bindings and start you over.

Step 2: Assign Controller

Next, press the “Assign Controller” button.  A pop up will tell you to move something on the transmitter to register it.  Be careful not to touch any other input devices, as it can mess with the calibration.  Simply move the sticks around on the transmitter until the pop up window disappears, and a name for the transmitter appears.

If you cannot get the transmitter to respond, you likely have a connection issue with the controller.  Make sure the firmware is up to date.  If you still can’t get the transmitter to bind, check / replace the cables and check your device manager to make sure the PC is ‘seeing’ your transmitter.

Step 3: Grab a pen and paper…to write down which stick does what

This will save you a massive amount of headache.  Either open notepad on your computer or grab a pen and paper.  Press the “Calibrate” button to open the calibration window.  The left side will show all of the different axes.  One by one, select each axis, move the sticks on the transmitter to see what responds, and then note that somewhere.  For example, lets say I start with “Axis 0”, I would then move all the sticks on my transmitter until I saw a response on the right.  In my case, it is the roll axis.  Thus, I would note that Axis 0 = Roll on my piece of paper.  Do this for all the controls.

Step 4: Bind the controls

After closing the calibrate window, you can select each of the controls under “Quadcopter” and bind them to your transmitter.  Here is where we utilize our notes from earlier.  If all goes well, you will click on each of the movement ranges (throttle, pitch, roll, and yaw), move the correct stick, and the binding will match the axis that you noted.  You may be asking, “why do I need to write this down if it does it automatically?”  Reason is, the binding process doesn’t actually show you what is moving when you press the sticks.

The first time I bound my transmitter, the yaw would not bind. When I got it to bind, it would bind to the throttle axis, and mess up my other settings.  It wasn’t until I was able to identify which axis was supposed to move using the calibration window that I could ensure I was saving the right setting.  Painful for sure.  We noted in our improvements section that we would love to see HOTPROPS allow users to manually select an axis from a dropdown list after running the calibration.  This would save an immense amount of headache.

Step 5: Calibrate the controls

Open the “Calibrate” window again and fine tune the controls.  You can adjust the deadband to account for any drift in your gimbals, and invert axes as needed.  If when playing you notice your quadcopter is going right instead of left, you probably need to invert your controls for that axis.  Again, this is why noting everything down will make it easier if you have to come back later and adjust the numbered axes.

hotprops-calibration-popup

The controller calibration pop up – use this to ID your sticks and tune your gimbals!

Step 6: Save Controller Settings and test

Finally, save your controller settings by pressing the “SAVE CONTROLLER SETTINGS” button.  Go into the game and test out your binding.  If the transmitter is not working as intended, note it on your paper/notepad for the axis that is not responding.  Go back to the Calibration tab, press the “Calibrate” button again, and adjust the needed axes.

This video runs through the process and is a lifesaver.  The above text is our experience + the info from this video.

 

Game Modes

Both track (single player) and multiplayer allow you to choose between “Freestyle” and “Time Race” modes.  “Freestyle” mode lets you explore the levels without any objectives.  On the other hand, “Time Race” mode gives you the chance to race against the clock, or friends, to improve your racing abilities.

While “Freestyle” works as expected, we had a lot of difficulty running any races in “Time Race” mode.  Other than the Austria / Germany Drone Nationals courses that have very obvious gates, it was hard to tell exactly where the track should be on some levels.  Similarly, we had difficulty getting races to start, and had the game seemingly revert to “Freestyle” mode after leaving a race mid-way through.  Again, we would assume this is just a glitch in the beta, but it is worth noting if you are thinking of using HOTPROPS as a racing simulator.

multiplayer-course

Some tracks are very easy to follow. Others? Not so much.

For the most part, we think that HOTPROPS really shines as a freestyle FPV simulator rather than a racing simulator in the current build.  Therefore, we recommend using the “Freestyle” game mode to start with.

 

HOTPROPS Levels

HOTPROPS features eight different levels to fly around in!  The levels feature a variety of locations and environments.  We really enjoy the MattyStuntz Freestyle World track, and recommend starting there to test your abilities!

Track Picture Track Name Summary
mattystuntz-freestyle-world MattyStuntz Freestyle World The crown jewel of HOTPROPS.  A huge cityscape that allows for building dives, wide loops, and a ton of interesting obstacles.  You can find buildings and cranes to dive and loop through, empty buildings to test your accuracy at flying in and out of windows, and much more.
forest Forest A narrow track set in a forest that will test your agility skills.  Unlike many simulators, the leaves and branches of the trees are extremely solid – don’t try flying through them!
austria-drone-nationals-henndorf Austria Drone Nationals – Henndorf Your standard drone race style course complete with flags, agility cones, and gates!  The Henndorf course has some great twists and turns that will challenge you to maintain speed without losing control of your quadcopter!
snowy-cliffs Snowy Cliffs

 

A small track around a snowy lake.  The tall trees on the perimeter of the map make for some challenging dive targets.  Otherwise, a sparse simple course.
snowy-island Snowy Island

 

A course spanning a network of connected islands.  This would be a great track to work on camera control for beginners.  Try to fly this course keeping the quad centered along the islands, making sure not to drift over the water that borders both sides.
bexbach-fpv-race-germany Bexbach FPV Race Germany

 

Another drone race style track, this time with long straightaways that will test your acceleration after coming out of turns.  Great for practicing elevation control while maintaining / increasing throttle.
little-park-construction-zone Little Park construction zone

 

A track set in a suburban park.  This track has one of the easiest courses to follow, thanks to the footpath in the center of the raceway.  Plenty of obstacles to play around with here, including a playground and concrete tubing.
car-park Car Park

 

The underground parking garage level that seems to make its way into every drone simulator.  This two level course will test your ability to wind through the concrete columns while maintaining tight throttle control.

 

 

Multiplayer

Like Liftoff, HOTPROPS also features the ability to play with your friends.  You can play either Freestyle or Time Race modes in multiplayer.

Before jumping into multiplayer you are going to want to do two things.  Go to the “Setup” window in the main UI.  First thing that you want to do is scroll down to the “Username” field and enter a username.  This will be the name people will see you as online, and more importantly, allow you to actually play online!  If you skip this step, you will be told to setup a username if you join multiplayer.

hotprops-user

Next, set a LED color for your quad.  While it currently doesn’t seem to do much in the current build (and there is some nice Lorem ipsum text that tells me that it is an in progress feature!), it will be nice to have this set up when the feature is eventually released.

When you are ready to fly, click on the “Multiplayer” option at the top of the screen.

hotprops-multiplayer-ui

Setting up a game is simple.  Just like the single player mode, you just set your game type, select a track, load that track, and you are ready to go!  The game will automatically drop you into the game, and friends can find your username in the “Join” section of the multiplayer window.  We really liked how easy it was to create or jump into a game!

 

Sound / Music

Nothing to write home about here.  I imagine at this point most of the music is placeholder until the final release.  All levels play the same song – an action sci-fi style track that seems out of place on many of the levels.  Similarly, the sounds for crashing and motor acceleration all seem to be placeholder, and do not adjust to the environment or quad setup.  Not something to harp on, as we would fully expect these assets to change as the game nears release.  Obviously the team has more important features to work on than the sound at this point!  Our recommendation is to head into “Game Settings” on your first playthrough and just mute all the sound options.  Use your own playlist and fly to that instead.  Need some music to listen to?  Why not try listening to our Spotify playlist?

 

Improvements

HOTPROPS has a lot of great features, but there is always room for improvement.  Here are a few aspects of the simulator we would love to see changed:

 

Multiplayer latency and player identification

We love playing with friends!  One of our complaints about Liftoff was the inability to fly freestyle mode.  We love that HOTPROPS allows you to explore levels with friends in an open world setting.  However, we noticed quite a few performance issues when playing together.  Unlike Liftoff, it was much harder to follow other players.  Liftoff’s track trails are fantastic for identifying other player’s locations while flying.  Similarly, in many of our sessions, our friend’s quadcopters would skip around due to latency.

This made chasing other people through the level much more difficult.  Granted, at the price of free for HOTPROPS vs $20 for Liftoff, it is understandable why the beta server / network functionality might not be at 100% complete.  However, we would love to see HOTPROPS take a page out of Liftoff’s book and try to make other player’s quadcopters more identifiable.  The LED settings might be the fix for this, but they currently do not seem to function.

 

Multiplayer racing

We found multiplayer racing to be very buggy in its current state.  We could not get some races to launch, we had a lot of issues with hitting checkpoints, and we couldn’t tell if we actually completed a course.  HOTPROPS has potential to compete with other multiplayer racing sims, but not in its current state.  We would love to see features such as clearer indicators of gate order and information on what position (first, second, third, etc.) racers are in.  An onscreen map might also be helpful to show where the next gate is and to tell where other players are.

 

More unique levels like MFW

Thotprops-mattyy2he MattyStuntz freestyle level is our favorite level we have played in any simulator.  A map that has huge verticality, a wide array of objects to fly through, and a huge sense of scale is a breath of fresh air compared to so many same-ish levels across simulators (looking at you parking garage levels).  It’s a great training tool that hits every part of our going advanced guide article.  So why then are all the other levels the same as every other simulator?  We would love to see HOTPROPS embrace the MattyStuntz level and create others that really push the bar in utilizing verticality.

Too many levels, in HOTPROPS and other simulators, focus on the close to ground racing aspect, and don’t offer much in the way of freestyle or trick practice.  This makes sense, as many simulators brand themselves as FPV racing sims.  However, HOTPROPS seems to have carved out a niche in freestyle simulation.  We would love to see them continue the trend with more levels like MattyStuntz Freestyle World.

 

Transmitter binding

binding-hotpropsHonestly, this has been a downside in most simulators.  Transmitter binding is the most frustrating part of setting things up.  Worst of all, it’s the first impression a new user gets to the software.  HOTPROPS setup was particularly challenging, and there is a good chance we would have given up if we were casual users.  We would love to see the team take time to make the transmitter binding process less challenging.

At the very least, being able to see how the transmitter moves on an axis and being able to ‘name’ that axis without the software identifying it would be huge.  As mentioned in our setup section above, I could deduce my yaw was moving on “Axis 4”, but because HOTPROPS only lets the software set the axis, I couldn’t just click a drop down option for the axis I wanted to set.  This was very frustrating, and the only solution was to run the calibration repeatedly until the correct axis responded.  While it is not without problems, I do like FPV Freestyle’s transmitter overlay that show exactly what is moving during the entire process.  Making the transmitter setup user friendly to beginners will be key to expanding the user base!

 

HOTPROPS simulator overall thoughts

HOTPROPS’ greatest feature by far is its MattyStuntz level.  Of all the simulators we have played, it is our favorite in its variety of obstacles, verticality, and ‘fantasy’ element (all the fun of building diving without the high probability of netting a large property damage bill).  Moreover, we love the ability to play freestyle multiplayer with friends for a nice casual flying experience.  The graphics are solid, and we adore the ‘fade to black’ effect of leaving the bounds of the level.   We definitely preferred this to the on screen warning + level reset Liftoff does, and the skybox clipping issues / lack of realism FPV Freerider has.

matty-3

We love just how much there is to do in the MFW level. So many buildings to dive!

On the other hand, the game is not without its weaknesses.  UI and transmitter binding continue to be a problem that plagues the simulator market, and sadly HOTPROPS is no exception.  Without a bit of help and some trial and error, we would not have been able to setup our transmitters to play.    The multiplayer racing also leaves more to be desired.  It was unclear if we hit certain checkpoints when racing, levels did not seem to register passing through some gates, etc.  We will chalk this up to the game being work in progress, but if you are looking for a multiplayer racing sim at this point in time – we would recommend Liftoff over HOTPROPS.  If you are looking for freestyle multiplayer, HOTPROPS is definitely the way to go.

Overall though, you can’t go wrong checking HOTPROPS out.  If nothing else, try the MattyStuntz freestyle world map and give some building dives a go.  Furthermore, the game is still in beta and likely to get a ton of updates in the near future.  At the low, low price of free, you really have no excuses.

 

You can download HOTPROPS from the HOTPROPS website (linked here)

 

Price: Free (currently in open beta, price may change in future)

Levels: 8

Transmitter binding difficulty: High – definitely an un-intuitive process to calibrate and set all of the axes for our transmitters.  Without this video we would have been lost.

Multiplayer: Yes – race AND freestyle multiplayer support.  However, it can be hard to see other players, and we did notice quite a bit of position update lag when flying around other pilots.

Recommended for: Intermediate to advanced users that want to practice crazy freestyle stunts (building dives, etc) without causing property damage in real life

Props: The MattyStuntz level is our favorite sim course we have played so far, freestyle multiplayer, free (open beta).

Slops: Transmitter binding not intuitive, UI and selection features need work, multiplayer racing hit or miss, requires internet connection to open the game

 

Looking for more information on simulators?  Check out our mega list here!

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