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Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator

Genre: Simulator
Developer: Asobo Studio
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date:
August 2020
Microsoft Flight Simulator Review
Review By @ 05:01pm 17/08/20
PC
The landing of a plane is never less than a marvel of scale. Eyes fixated at the landscape beyond a bit of plexiglass; cities and countryside, geometric shapes... colours. All coming together to form a larger and more wondrous picture of a time and place. Tiny structures and moving parts. Vehicles on highways, dirt roads, maybe even a boat or two. Yet even with landing gear extended, tray-tables raised, and seatbelts fastened – right up until that exact moment wheels touch tarmac, there’s a sense that what you see through that plexiglass could fit in the palm of your hand.

The miracle of flight is something to savour, no matter your seat. Microsoft Flight Simulator not only captures that feeling, it manages to put the entire world in your hands.


The latest instalment in the long running Flight Simulator series from Microsoft continues the trend of being as focused on ensuring the propeller on a Cessna 152 is the same dimension, size, and weight of its real-world counterpart as it is presenting the sort of distance and scale we rarely see in digital form. In 2020, Microsoft Flight Simulator leverages technology that feels as much of our current place and time as it does the immediate and distant future.


"The miracle of flight is something to savour, no matter your seat. Microsoft Flight Simulator not only captures that feeling, it manages to put the entire world in your hands."



From small towns to large cities, high-resolution satellite imagery is then processed by sophisticated AI to let Skynet-by-the-way-of-Azure cloud computing recreate structural and environmental shapes, heights, and detail without the need for an individual to go in and spend months modelling Sunshine West in Melbourne. It’s impressive to say the least. But again, throw in scale – as in the entire planet Earth – and the mind boggles. Especially when real-world weather tracking and entire systems that ensure clouds look and behave realistically, in addition to how wind affects your craft depending on which side of the mountain you’re flying, are also in place.



As a simulator the goal is to present the right real-world feel but also a photorealistic visual representation of the locations and various craft you’ll fly. With every airport and runway accounted for and only a small percentage of those hand-crafted, the results -- at their best -- rival anything we’ve ever seen in the digital realm. And in the ‘beautiful open-world to explore’ stakes, Microsoft Flight Simulator creates and exists in a tier of its own.

Is it perfect? No. There are entirely visible seams, places, and locations where you’ll notice a shadow mistaken for something else or what should be a building textured onto a hill. A weird line or elevation that looks like a glitch in the Matrix. At height and from a distance, it’s not a major issue nor is it a problem when so much of the world, the entire planet on which we all live, looks stunning.


By that same token there’s the understandable and immediate response you get from familiarity – flying over your home or a recent vacation spot. The latter of which takes on a whole new meaning thanks to 2020 being what it is. The intention going in is to heighten and reinforce memory, or at the very least a sort of spatial awareness. If something is missing or out of place, there might even be a sense of betrayal. Which is a natural and human reaction to have.


"In the ‘beautiful open-world to explore’ stakes, Microsoft Flight Simulator creates and exists in a tier of its own."



After features and videos began appearing following Alpha and Preview builds for Microsoft Flight Simulator, weirdly this sentiment took on a level of national and personal pride the likes of which no game or single piece of software has ever seen. Melbourne may not look exactly like Melbourne, but the photorealistic visuals bend the needle towards unbridled awe, more often than not. Even when it garners a mixed reaction, Microsoft Flight Simulator is always in the realm of wonder.


On that note Microsoft Flight Simulator lets you spin the globe, pick a spot, set the conditions, pick-out a plane, and soar. Visit the deserts of Algeria, the cloud-jutting mountains of the Himalayas, the vast countryside of Thailand, the beautiful nights of Kyoto, the scenic seafronts of Malta. The golden hour of sunset is miraculous here, godly in its pure warmth, as is watching a sunrise or taking on the not-so-simple task of piercing the edge of a storm.

A moment that once experienced, bathes you in sumptuous colours. Greens, blues, yellows, and more. At its best, Microsoft Flight Simulator feels alive.

As a PC title, and in all honesty Flight Simulator should have been used as a technical showcase for the upcoming Xbox Series X, flying at higher resolutions with detail settings cranked is taxing on even the most formidable rig. The footage above, as beautiful as it is, is bolstered by a top-of-the-line and clearly sweating NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU and AMD Ryzen 3800X CPU combo. Scalable across a wide range of hardware, it’s no secret that to get the most out of Microsoft Flight Simulator you will need a powerful bit of kit.


But even here a wider appreciation for Flight Simulator’s scale enters the picture. As detailed in a recent preview session with developer Asobo, the studio and Xbox team at large view Microsoft Flight Simulator as a 10-year project. That is continual improvements made to its underlying technology, new features like VR support, a community-driven marketplace, new planes, more detailed locations, and a lot more.


"Microsoft Flight Simulator lets you spin the globe, pick a spot, set the conditions, pick-out a plane, and soar. Visit the deserts of Algeria, the cloud-jutting mountains of the Himalayas, the vast countryside of Thailand."



Like seeing flashing lights on the horizon, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a platform, a runway. The flight-path is clear, the journey smooth, and it’s one that’s only just begun.

In the end the big question that revolves around any sim is whether it’s a game, a piece of software, or something in between. On that front with Landing Challenges and engaging Flight Lessons that ease you into the world of Yokes and Rudders and Trimming, there’s enough to classify specific elements within Microsoft Flight Simulator as a game. Especially when Landing Challenges and events have scoring and leaderboards to inject that classic time-trial feel you might find in a racing sim. A whole genre whose game-cred is never really is brought into question.


Does the sense of awe wear off? Is the sense of isolation there when you’re alone at 15,000 feet? The sheer beauty and scope of the explorable Earth is here to tell us no. Equally, all doubt evaporated once we experienced the multiplayer side of Microsoft Flight Simulator -- a seamless group-up or drop-in deal that lets you explore the world with friends.

It was taking off high up in the Himalayas with propeller planes that presented a sense of challenge to following each other in such a stunning backdrop. Choosing the right path, attempting to elevate and climb high-enough to fly over a peak. Here the limitations of propeller planes were brought to the fore, physics and beauty at war as failure and decisions on where to go switched up, well, on the fly.

Lets try that again, but this time with a pair of jet-powered birds. Reaching the clouds wasn’t an issue, nor were there any impediments due to bad weather or poor visibility. You can change the weather mid-flight, which is awesome. With Mt. Everest in sight, amid the clouds and peaks and vistas the likes of which we may never see in person, a sense of freedom crept in. Pure bliss. So, we picked a spot between peaks, untouched by man, and decided to land our multi-million-dollar hunks of metal.
What we liked
  • A technical feat of staggering proportions
  • The entire world to explore
  • Every airport and runway accounted for
  • Incredible detail in how planes both look and behave
  • An entire world of vistas and beauty to discover
  • Intuitive lessons for flight newbies
  • Fun and challenging Landing Challenges
  • Multiplayer is seamless and wonderful
What we didn't like
  • VR not ready for launch
  • Needs an in-flight tracker to find your group
  • Some satellite imagery and locations not as detailed as others
More
We gave it:
10.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
KostaAndreadis
Posted 05:27pm 17/8/20
A note on the 'ol score... 10 doesn't mean perfect and that a game is without faults. It's simply the highest score we assign. Microsoft Flight Simulator more than earns this, and if you have any specific questions relating to elements -- let us know.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 06:22pm 17/8/20
Can I fly in this world as Iron Man?
Steel Praetorian
Posted 06:23pm 17/8/20
Definiton of Miracle:
An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.
Human flight is a combination of science/technology/mechanics, not the divine.
KostaAndreadis
Posted 06:32pm 17/8/20
Indeed!

Didn't use 'Miracle' in the strictest sense of the term. More humility than the divine, more my understanding of flight versus ol' Xenu done did it.

The question is, is Iron Man "a combination of science/technology/mechanics"?
fpot
Posted 08:36pm 17/8/20
Definiton of Miracle: An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency. Human flight is a combination of science/technology/mechanics, not the divine.
What an odd thing to say.

What sort of bandwidth was being used? Are you able to set a max limit?
KostaAndreadis
Posted 10:49pm 17/8/20
Basically ~1GB per hour on average, though location hopping I was using more than that. Might be wrong but I reckon 4GB easy an hour for intensive looking at different spots to find a scenic locale (check my vid). There is an offline mode and you can set data limits, how much to stream, track total data usage and so forth. The tools are there to help manage and you can turn the streaming off completely for an "offline" experience.
trog
Posted 09:19am 18/8/20
Basically ~1GB per hour on average, though location hopping I was using more than that. Might be wrong but I reckon 4GB easy an hour for intensive looking at different spots to find a scenic locale (check my vid). There is an offline mode and you can set data limits, how much to stream, track total data usage and so forth. The tools are there to help manage and you can turn the streaming off completely for an "offline" experience.
Is it possible to offline cache the entire world?!
fpot
Posted 11:09am 18/8/20
You can set your maximum cache size, so your SSD space is the limit.

edit: just had my first quick little run around. Manhattan ran well on high settings some things turned up to ultra. Can't wait to get all my s*** done today and then really get stuck into it.
ravn0s
Posted 12:25pm 18/8/20
Is it possible to offline cache the entire world?!


you got 2 petabytes laying around?
KostaAndreadis
Posted 12:51pm 18/8/20
There's the answer... the world is big... petabytely
fpot
Posted 03:15pm 18/8/20
Can't wait to visit the Great Australian Petabyte.
trog
Posted 05:32pm 18/8/20
Dumb lazy question but how does one buy this; it's not on Steam that I can see - is the only digital option the MS store?
fpot
Posted 05:39pm 18/8/20

It's on Steam - https://store.steampowered.com/app/1250410/Microsoft_Flight_Simulator/

It will download a client that you open and then downloads the game. This is incredibly annoying because it's a big enough resource hog to stop me playing HZD while I wait and will also void your refund because the game will be open longer than two hours.

Grab a Gamepass subscription if you haven't already. $5 a month and Flight Sim is included. You'll need to download off the Microsoft store but due to the annoying download client there isn't much difference anyway.


trog
Posted 11:57am 19/8/20
wtf, so weird - I went through Steam yesterday and couldn't find it anywhere.

Thanks for the tip, I'll check out Gamepass. I think I'm gonna wait a bit as I think I might need to upgrade to get the most out of it.

Looks so awesome though.
trillion
Posted 08:47am 22/8/20
src=“https://i.imgur.com/6uXxZAW.jpg“>
Spook
Posted 12:17pm 22/8/20
is this thing still there!?

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8652751/Melbourne-monolith-Microsoft-Flight-Simulator-created-mistake.html
fpot
Posted 12:59pm 22/8/20
Yep it's still there. Hasn't been an update yet so I'll check again later.
fpot
Posted 07:01am 17/9/20
A patch which has improved performance greatly has just dropped. I haven't tested it out yet but apparently the difference is very noticeable.

details
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