Microsoft Flight Simulator is a game of two sides. On one hand, it’s a sublime and breathtaking recreation of Earth; a spectacle that anyone can be in awe of as they journey above endless clouds and cities. On the other hand, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a complicated, comprehensive appreciation of aircraft that will immediately turn prospective pilots away. Ultimately, each player’s enjoyment of Microsoft Flight Simulator will come down to how much they want to engage with the game’s minute flying mechanics.
If you’re someone who usually is not a fan of hardcore simulation games, then Flight Simulator probably isn’t a game you can spend hours upon hours in. But thankfully, Flight Simulator somewhat accommodates for players that just want to be up in the air without the hassle.
Flight Simulator has a bunch of modes to choose from, including Discovery Flights, Training, Landing Challenges and Bush Trips. Discovery Flights will take you to a handful of the world’s most beautiful sights, from big cities like London and Paris, to wondrous, natural monuments such as Mount Fuji or Everest. These modes will already have you all the way up in the sky overlooking new or familiar landmarks from an angle we would never see in real life.
It is hard to think that there’s any game more ‘next-gen’ than Microsoft Flight Simulator, at least on Xbox Series X|S. Weather effects and environmental details have never been put into a game at this scale. Forests and cities stretch out way into the horizon and the game’s draw distances keep up. This is because Microsoft Flight Simulator uses the titular company’s satellites to recreate our globe and, if enabled, the game will use your internet to stream in additional details, further enhancing the unreal realism.
It’s not absolutely perfect, however. While developer Asobo has gone in to handcraft certain environments – adding detail that would be impossible to pick up on from space – there are many parts of the Earth that look subpar. Places that aren’t necessarily tourist attractions generally look flat. In fact, the first thing I did when jumping into Microsoft Flight Simulator was to take a flight to my parent’s country, Cyprus. But the island I had spent so many lush summers in seemed uncharacteristically drab. It was as if someone had printed out a high-quality image of the island from a satellite.
There are other minor details that take away from the experience. If you’re above a busy metropolis, you can sometimes notice bugs. Cars will hit walls and simply do a 180 and continue. I also noticed a few trees plainly sitting in the middle of a street. If you’re not using your internet to stream in additional details, or if your internet is subpar, you’ll also notice some pop-in when it comes to terrain detail.
But this isn’t what you’ll be seeing from altitudes of 30,000ft and above. Most of your playtime will be breathtaking. High above the ground, at one with the clouds, the game looks stunning, and that’s where you’ll be for most of your flight. It’s just a shame that the areas that Asobo haven’t touched look so unremarkable up close. Either way, from on high, there’s no game that comes close to the scale and ambition of Microsoft Flight Simulator’s literally endless vistas.
Apart from Discovery Flights, pilots can chart their own journeys across the globe, picking any two airports in the world to take-off from and fly to. From here, you adjust the game’s time of day, weather effects, air traffic and more, all of which can be changed mid-flight. Flight Simulator offers a lot of options to accommodate for whatever mood you’re in and this flexibility is much appreciated, especially on long flights.
The rest of the package is comprised of Flight Training and Challenges. Training will give you the rundown on every tiny detail of Flight Simulator’s toolbox. Every single monitor, button, switch and pedal in the cockpit is interactable, but I had zero motivation to learn what all one hundred of them did. Instead of using them the game does also allow you to use the very essentials on your Xbox controller. Taking off, landing, turning, accelerating and other basic moves will all be doable with the default button layout, but if you’re an aircraft buff – or really want to be one – Flight Simulator has an incredibly detailed cockpit and an even more detailed suite of tutorials.
Outside of the nuts and bolts of training, there are tutorials teaching you how to pull off basic manoeuvres like landing or taking off. These are welcome, step-by-step and accessible guides to being able to navigate an otherwise intimidating simulation. However, they sometimes frustrate with their overly restrictive rules. For example, one tutorial continually failed and restarted me because my wheels would drift ever so slightly off the middle of the runway. It’s yet another example of Microsoft Flight Simulator’s commitment to realism… and another example of how the experience simply won’t be for more casual players.
Landing Challenges put you in a variety of different situations and locations to test how good you are at sticking a landing. Some of these are simply for the sightseeing of famous airstrips, some give you dramatic situations in the most dangerous places to land on Earth, and a few challenging ones throw some strong winds your way, testing your flight mastery.
Bush Trips present three, pre-set, lengthy flights for you to complete over remote locations. No matter what mode you choose to jump into, it’s clear that Flight Simulator has a great stack of content to choose from. All of the game’s modes – apart from Discovery – also have challenges to complete and ranks to assign players. This pushes players to get competitive with their scores but also gives the game some much-needed structure and something to strive toward.
Whether you’re soaring above the clouds or watching the sunset paint the sky red, Microsoft Flight Simulator is peerless in its attempt to recreate sights from the real world. These unbelievably real sights make Flight Simulator immediately attractive to any gamer. However, like any hardcore simulation game, Microsoft Flight Simulator is simply not made for everyone. The lengths to which the game goes to accurately recreate cockpits, dials, and the general controls of aircraft is astonishing and this commitment to realism will hook aircraft buffs. But outside of some occasional digital tourism, more casual pilots might not have much to latch onto here.
Give the all clear to Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X|S today