For just £59.99/$59.99 and around 130gb or so of hard drive space, Microsoft Flight Simulator gives you the world.
In fact, it doesn’t even have to be that expensive: if you have an Xbox Game Pass for PC or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you can skip the £59.99/$59.99 part.
The fact that Microsoft Flight Simulator is available via Xbox Game Pass is truly special, really. Why, you ask? Because it opens it up to more than just wannabe pilots. Not that it’s not worth the money – it truly is – but many people who wouldn’t generally get any real value out of a game of this type will be able to jump in and enjoy it for different reasons. As the name suggests, Microsoft Flight Simulator truly is a flight sim, but it’s also an escape; a chance to see lands that we can’t travel to. Under some circumstances it can be stressful, but change a few options and the experience can be almost therapeutic.
“Microsoft Flight Simulator truly is a flight sim, but it’s also an escape; a chance to see lands that we can’t travel to”
Much work has gone into making this latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator more accessible than ever. You can simplify the act of flying, for example, to the point where it’s playable with just an Xbox One controller. You can, of course, also use your keyboard and mouse, but it really comes into its own when you invest in a flight stick. It’s just so much more immersive and intuitive. I opted for the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4, simply because it was the only one available at the time. Depending on which stick you buy, you might have to spend some time in the options menu assigning buttons, but it’s worth it. There are additional accessories you can invest in to make flying any one of the game’s planes more authentic, too, but a stick makes the most impact.
After a lengthy install, it’s recommended that new players jump into Microsoft Flight Simulator‘s tutorials, which teach the basics effectively. They’re not comprehensive though; even after playing them all, you’ll still be mystified by some aspects of piloting certain planes. Those who are really serious about using Microsoft Flight Simulator as a learning experience are best also seeking information outside of the game. The tutorials do impart enough knowledge to get you up in the air and stay there though, as well as how to land. It’ll probably be a while until you’re confident about landing, however, and rightly so. It’s perhaps the trickiest part.
“The real joy of Microsoft Flight Simulator is taking to the skies and being in total control of where you go”
Of course, the real joy of Microsoft Flight Simulator is taking to the skies and being in total control of where you go and what you do. You can choose to take off from one of many real-world airports and just fly to your heart’s content if you wish, or choose a destination to aim for. And there are many planes to choose from, including those with propellers and jets. If you buy one of the game’s premium versions, your range of planes and airports is increased, too. And if you still want more, you can buy user-created content from within the game to expand and enhance the experience.
Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t just have to be about flying planes for the sheer joy of it though. If you want a challenge and to make things more gamified, Microsoft Flight Simulator can cater for your needs. There are many Landing Challenges, focusing on famous and dangerous places for you to put down your plane, as well as dealing with strong winds. There are Bush Trips, too, testing your flight skills as you cover remote locations over long distances. And if you simply want to sit back, relax and take in some beautiful views, you can even let the computer fly for you.
Whatever mode you choose to get into the air, after setting off, the thing that makes Microsoft Flight Simulator so special is revealed: the scenery. Thanks to using data from Bing Maps and the power of the cloud, Microsoft Flight Simulator lets you travel a stunning recreation of our entire world from the comfort of your chair. How good it looks ultimately depends on your hardware, obviously, but at high or ultra settings it is truly stunning. You’ll get a real kick out of visiting well-known landmarks, and the lighting at certain times of day will have you hurriedly reaching for the external plane view button so you can really take it in. It truly does offer the joy of plane travel without the lengthy waits, going through security, or actually paying for a ticket.
“If you’ve ever wanted to fly a plane or are simply fascinated by air travel, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a must-have”
Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t perfect, though it is so very, very close. Aside from the game’s tutorials not being fully comprehensive, as mentioned earlier, you’ll sometimes discover discrepancies in Bing Maps’ data. You might fly to somewhere you know well, for example, and find that it doesn’t look quite right. It’s disappointing, though also understandable given the scale; the whole world is mapped, for Christ’s sake. And then there’s the issue of performance; you need a beefy PC to do Microsoft Flight Simulator justice, and even then you might find your framerate dropping when flying over cities. It’s perhaps the game’s biggest barrier to entry.
If you’ve ever wanted to fly a plane or are simply fascinated by air travel, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a must-have. But for those with Xbox Game Pass for PC, it’s also worth a download simply for the window to the outside world it delivers. Never been to Egypt and seen the pyramids? It’s not quite the same, but flying over them in Microsoft Flight Simulator will still let you appreciate their grandiosity. Upset that you haven’t been able to go on holiday to your favourite location abroad this year? You can at least visit it in digital form while sipping a nice cocktail. Microsoft Flight Simulator is back, and thanks to modern technology it’s really come into its own.