Microsoft Flight Simulator is an odd little franchise. The series began back in 1982, but it never achieved the massive fame of other vintage franchises. Instead, these beautiful and highly-technical games were often regarded as more of a niche series among gamers.
Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) is looking to change all of this. It’s the biggest and most ambitious entry in the series to date. Available now on PC (and coming in the future to Xbox One), it comes out during a time in which the last thing most of us can do in real life is catch a flight to an exotic location.
So, everything is in place for Microsoft Flight Simulator to be one of the breakout games of 2020. Did developer Asobo Studio succeed? For the most part, the answer is a resounding “yes” and here’s why.
Normally I don’t comment on a game’s minimum specs. But in this case, Microsoft Flight Simulator’s specs are a subject of much conversation.
Many gamers have discovered that their computers can’t even run this game. And even gamers with fancy rigs soon discovered how choppy the FPS could get (especially when the game renders major metropolitan areas).
Overall, Microsoft Flight Simulator really impressed me. But don’t be surprised if you need to upgrade some of your gear to really get the most out of the game.
So, what do you get for all that gaming horsepower? Simply put, one of the most beautiful games ever created.
When you’re flying through the clouds, everything around you looks beautiful and textured. It’s easy to imagine simply reaching out and touching the fluffiness of the nearest cloud.
The ground looks beautiful as well. The game is powered largely by data that Microsoft has gathered over the years. This allows it to create beautiful recreations of everything from the Eiffel Tower to the local airport in your own hometown.
This title may or may not be enough to garner mainstream appreciation from most of the gaming community. But I can guarantee that gamers of all stripes will be blown away by what they see.
The simulator experience
“Simulator” has been part of the franchise titles from the very beginning. Normally, the simulator aspect is focused primarily on the planes themselves. But while the attention to flight detail is still there, the more impressive thing is how much Microsoft Flight Simulator simulates elements of the real world.
The game is constantly collecting data from a variety of real-world sources and integrating it into your experience. For example, you see actual planes recreating their daily flights as you fly your own plane around. And the navigational cues for your flights will change from month to month to match up with real-world updates.
Perhaps the most impressive simulation is the weather. Microsoft Flight Simulator collects weather details and recreates them to the last detail. There is something powerful about virtually visiting a city half a world away and knowing that you’re experiencing their actual weather in real-time.
Take out the toys
Simulators tend to attract a very hardcore audience. You know: the kind of people who converted their gaming area into a real-life cockpit as soon as they got the chance. Because of that, some gamers worry about how accessible and newbie-friendly Microsoft Flight Simulator will be.
As it turns out, the game gives you plenty of options to play as casually or as methodically as you want. For example, it’s possible to control everything with a simple keyboard and mouse or even an Xbox controller. But the game also supports all of the fancy joysticks that make you feel like you’re actually a pilot.
Microsoft Flight Simulator even supports more exotic technology, including TrackIR (a device designed to help you add head-tracking to various games). It’s a pricy gimmick that most gamers will skip, but it’s good to see the game compatible with so much tech right out of the gate.
Steep learning curve
Aside from the inevitable graphics issues (which are mostly due to the high spec requirement), there is only one downside to Microsoft Flight Simulator. And that downside is the steep learning curve for flying most of the planes.
The game provides training to help you learn to fly the Cessna 172. And this training will help you to learn many of the more important flight concepts and bits of lingo.
Every plane is quite unique. The idea that no two planes are alike is great for replay value. At the same time, you’re going to spend many hours of trial, error, and frantic YouTube searches to master each plane.
Then again, veteran players likely see this as a feature and not a bug. Planes are not meant to be easy to fly in real life, and this game mirrors that quite accurately.
Nice replay value
If you’ve never played a flight simulator, you might be confused at the notion of this game’s replay value. After all, isn’t one flight pretty similar to the next?
The answer is “yes and no.” The mechanics of flying are pretty similar and maybe even repetitive. But this is one of the few games where the destination is just as important as the journey.
Remember, Microsoft programmed the entire world into this game. You can literally explore every corner of the world from the air, and that’s likely to keep you busy for years.
But what if you’re short on time? With the game’s time-lapse features, you can travel far distances in short amounts of time. This lets you enjoy the thrill of something like a coast-to-coast flight with all of the boring bits taken out.
The final result? A thrilling flight and an immersive destination.
Is Microsoft Flight Simulator worth checking out? Assuming you have a PC that can handle it, absolutely. And it’s available right now on the Xbox Game Pass for PC, which allows you to check out the game without breaking the bank.
Ultimately, Microsoft Flight Simulator is like nothing else in your game collection. And there’s something to be said for experiencing something completely new.