Take to the friendly skies with the most authentic flying simulation yet. With genuine real-time air traffic, dynamic weather and more, Microsoft Flight Simulator pushes the boundaries of realism further than ever before. Where will you fly first when the entire globe is your playground?
Microsoft Flight Simulator Details
Platform: Microsoft Windows 10
Reviewed on: Microsoft Windows 10
Developer: Asobo Studio
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Modes: Single player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Around the world
It’s simply no hyperbole to say that the scope of Microsoft Flight Simulator is absolutely staggering. The entire planet on which we reside is ready and waiting, brought to fruition using real-time data to generate true-to-life topography. 37,000 airports, 2 million cities, billions of buildings—the whole world just beyond the window of your PC screen.
Sure, it isn’t always a virtual photorealistic representation, but the level of accuracy is jaw-dropping nonetheless. Airports, cities, landscapes, and more range from impressive to near-perfect spacial representations of their real-world composition. The overall scope of simulation is unlike anything I’ve seen in more than three decades of gaming.
Buzzing around my hometown
Picture me sitting on the runway at YYC (Calgary International Airport), in the city where I live. Right away I feel right at home, I can almost see the Tim Horton’s I know is just on the other side of the departure gate. I take off south, facing downtown. The familiar shape of skyscrapers just above the Bow River overlooking Prince’s Island Park manifests with eerie accuracy.
I bear just east to take a look at the Saddledome. Ok, so its trademark “saddle” shape is not apparent. Nevertheless, the unmistakable outline of a sporting arena sits there, right where it should be. I continue south, passing over the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.
I buzz over MacLeod Trail picking out major intersections, the mall, parks, reservoirs. Everything in its right place. Finally, as I approach the edge of the city, I see my own neighborhood. My block, my street, my house. Maybe it doesn’t look just like my house—but that one is mine nevertheless. I’m sure of it.
At this point, I’m overcome with a sense of satisfaction and wonder. My city appears to be in perfect order, inspiring confidence that this is indeed a rich and complex representation of the world we live in. All that’s left is to do now is explore—and what is there to explore but no less than the entire globe! Now, which direction first?
Leveraging the cloud to make your clouds
A huge factor in Microsoft Flight Simulator’s ability to generate accuracy comes from the fact that it leverages over two petabytes of on-demand cloud data. This means that the game is regularly forming the world around you using real-time streaming imagery.
This isn’t just about landscapes and terrain however. The game also receives data to shape, accurate, real-time depictions of weather and air traffic as well. It’s surreal to say the least to be flying around in local airspace while hearing air traffic updates going out to Air Canada and WestJet aircraft that are likely actually in the air as I play!
It’s truly impressive as well to know that current weather reports are funneling in and shaping the weather in the game. If it’s raining somewhere in the real world, it’s raining there in Microsoft Flight Simulator too. And of course, all these factors affect your aircraft’s performance.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need a stable internet connection to benefit from these amazing innovations. A few times while I was playing in a more remote location with a spotty connection (<=10mbs download speed), the game had to switch over into a static offline mode. Speeds this slow are certainly not the norm these days, but it’s relevant if you find yourself in such a situation.
Learning to fly
The act of flying itself in Microsoft Flight Simulator is pure joy, and there are plenty of options for beginners and pros alike. Those with sufficient experience can make their way with little AI intervention. However don’t fret if you are new to the stick. The game has a robust tutorial along with plenty of ongoing assists for those who are still learning.
Depending on the version of the game you own, there are between 20-30 aircraft to choose from. Each craft is recreated in painstaking detail by means of everything from genuine cockpit scans to referencing actual manufacturer CAD drawings and specifications. You’ll find options ranging from a single-engine Cessna to a commercial Boeing airliner in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
While the most dedicated enthusiasts will likely want to use authentic flight controls, I had a great time nonetheless with my Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. While a keyboard and mouse are certainly options as well, I probably enjoyed using a controller more, particularly as the thumbstick does at least partly mimic the feel of a yoke or throttle more so than a keyboard can. Controller support is very intuitive—not surprising given that the game is eventually slated to come to the Xbox platform.
Waiting patiently for take off
Perhaps it isn’t surprising, but given the scope of Microsoft Flight Simulator, it’s undeniably a hefty download with significant load times. I believe at the end of the day I had downloaded 200 GB or more before my first departure. This is particularly notable if you are trying to fit the game on pricier SSD space.
Yet install to SSD you should, if at all possible. My gaming PC is no slouch, but even when successfully avoiding slower HDD storage the load times for Microsoft Flight Simulator are no joke. Installing on solid state mitigates load times at best, and they are lengthy nonetheless. Best to have an in-flight magazine handy while you wait.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is a jaw-dropping marvel that raises the bar for what a simulation can be
Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of those experiences that really puts into perspective just how powerful video games can be. Sure, it doesn’t have boss battles or loot drops. It doesn’t give you a login bonus or tell a powerful narrative. There are no stars, crowns or victory royales. Yet in spite all of this, it packs in a scope of adventure hitherto unseen in anything that has come before.
What it does do is give players the chance to explore the planet in ways many could only dream of, all without leaving the comfort of our plush gaming chairs. It’s the opportunity to consume something more visceral—almost tangible—in the most accessible way to date, and it makes me excited for the potential it demonstrates for the future of games altogether.
+ Fly anywhere across the entire globe
+ Leverages real-time cloud data for incredible realism and authenticity
+ Genuine aircraft with assistance for beginners and freedom for pros
– Lengthy load times
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5
Overall Rating 4.5/5 (95%)
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