Microsoft Flight Simulator Review

August 31, 2020
REVIEWS
PC

Can we all take a minute to appreciate the fact that not only can humans fly, but that we’ve flown so much that planes are now a hobby? If you’d told someone 200 years ago that the human race would have the ability to do what birds do, it’s possible that you could’ve found someone to believe you. To suggest to someone’s great great great grandparents, however, that taking to the skies would become as banal as riding a horse would have ensured people call you crazy. What would definitely get you put into a straitjacket, though, would be describing how mankind has taken to the skies so frequently that people in the 21st century use planes in simulations much in the same way that those living in the 1800s use pawns in chess. You don’t have to be 200-odd years old to appreciate this marvel of technology, though, and in no better game is that technology showcased than in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Technology is the key word in that previous sentence. Although there’s no shortage of flight simulators, there’s been a weird lack of evolution in the genre. Plane games from just a few years ago feel like they were made in an entirely different generation.  Muddy textures, poor performance, limited map sizes and bad tutorials are all staples of a genre that’s notorious for being unwelcoming and unenjoyable to anyone but die-hard fans of flying virtual planes.

However, Microsoft Flight Simulator manages to defy every single one of those negative traits to an astounding degree. Within the first five minutes of playing the game, it’s impossible not to notice the insane leap of quality that the game has made from its contemporaries. As soon as you boot up the game, you’ll have the ability to change almost everything about your experience. The options, which are showcased in a solidly designed menu, include everything from graphical customisations to how realistically you want your plane to fly. You can change every control in the game with the help of a search bar, the game detects and sets up any joysticks you have attached  and you can even change the game’s font size.

The first loading screen you see gives you a good idea about how pretty the rest of the game is.


Even with just these customisation options, the game would be miles ahead of its competitors, but what makes it even better is that there’s also an enjoyable tutorial for you to play through. Experienced pilots don’t need to complete the handful of missions to enter the game’s sandbox, but new players can enjoy them instead of having to figure the game out with a YouTube video. The flight school, which includes good voice acting and objectives that aren’t overly punishing, do a lot to make the game more welcoming in a genre that often does its best to leave new players out to dry.

The other thing that welcomes new players, as well as helps veteran pilots stay engaged, is the game’s good graphical fidelity. One of the biggest issues that the flight simulator genre has faced is that the actual world you’re flying through often looks somewhere in between awful and terrible. However, in Microsoft Flight Simulator, almost everything just looks fantastic. From the interior of your cockpit to the world below, every flight in the game is a digital photographer’s paradise. Even if you don’t have the best computer, the game still runs runs pretty well. There are occasional frame rate drops when flying over big cities, but for the most part, everyone should be able to enjoy the game’s amazing sights without ever having to worry about crashing into something because your FPS drops into the single digits.

Until Canada is down with Americans entering their country, this may be the best I can get. 


However, everything mentioned so far has little impact on the game’s overall experience compared to Microsoft Flight Simulator’s biggest feature: the entire world being rendered in 3D. From Donbass to Beijing, from JDR’s office to your university, you can virtually visit any place on Earth. Although this is cool enough from a gameplay perspective, there are no words to describe just how bloody surreal it is to fly by your own house in a Cessna while knowing that you could crash into it and die. It’s equally surreal to fly over war torn nations in Eastern Europe, monuments in Africa and even military bases in the American desert. This is something that no other game has come close to replicating, and to say that it’s the best gimmick you’ll ever experience in a game is the understatement of the year.

This amazing feature goes hand-in-hand with the game’s ability to use real-world weather, air traffic and time data in your flights. If you want to, you can simply select one of the game’s near infinite number of airports, check the box that says you want to use real-world data and set off on a trip that’s as realistic as you can get this side of a computer. Just like with how weird it is to visit your hometown in a Boeing 747, it’s equally strange to see it raining outside your window only to notice that the same thing is going on outside of your virtual cockpit. You do need to be connected to the internet for this feature to work, but that’s a small price to pay for an otherworldly experience.

I can see for miles and miles


These features and the game’s aforementioned gimmicks only works  because the actual game is enjoyable even without them. It’s one of life’s more complex pleasures to take off in one of twenty diverse planes from London and then try to land it on a road outside of the Queen’s house before having to take off after pissing off a pack of lorry drivers. As with games like EuroTruck Simulator 2, it’s simply relaxing but fun to navigate around the world without any direct task besides getting to your next destination.

It’s worth noting, too, that the game has more actual simulator elements than you can shake a logbook at. There’s multiplayer for up to fifty people, you can choose to communicate with ATC towers, you can access tons of different logistical options on long flights and there’s even a working flight radio for you to talk with other pilots. These mechanics will undoubtedly be where a lot of the game’s longevity comes from and are still cool for anyone just looking to fly around without signing a contract with a virtual airline. 

When you select your departure airport, the game will even show you how far you can make it without refueling with a circle on the map


It should go without saying, then, that Microsoft Flight Simulator is an absolutely surreal experience. It stands apart from other flight simulators with its detailed tutorial, solid graphics and wealth of content. However, the ability to visit literally anywhere on Earth with real-world weather and air traffic data make the game feel totally unreal to play. For anyone who’s into flying, the game is an obvious must-buy. But even for those who aren’t really into flying planes, there’s no other game that allows you to fly over your house and that alone makes it well worth the asking price.

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10
Microsoft Flight Simulator has enough quality-of-life features to make it well worth a purchase for any virtual pilot, but the ability to fly anywhere on the planet makes for a game that’s uncanny and impossible not to recommend to anyone who’s remotely interested in the view from above. 
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.