MS Flight Simulator, it’s here, finally here. Eleven months have literally ‘flown’ by since the amazing PC version hit the skies. Console gamers have had to wait patiently like Air New Zealand flights landing in Sydney, (behind Qantas arrivals). Not only that, it’s also on bloody Gamepass, which is turning into the must have service on the planet.
“Microsoft have a sure fire system seller, right here, right now. Pure, console magic.“Richard Armitt
Let’s be honest, I know nothing about avionics. My first flight sim game was Flightpath 737 on the Commodore 64, anything after that generally came loaded with chain-guns and sidewinders. Top Gun barrel rolls in an F18 off an Aircraft Carrier? Yep, that was me. Fly upside down under the Golden Gate Bridge? Me also. Shoot down Airforce One after diligently staving off angry Migs? Well….maybe, but they never caught me.
Over the years I’ve walked a fine line of piloting. I can steal a VTOL jet from a moving train in Just Cause 3 and wreak havoc. However, I’ll never take the plane in Battlefield, because I know I’d bottle it. These are games and fantasies, which is all well and good, but MS Flight Simulator has delivered us the world, literally.
When is a Sim an Experience instead of a Game?
The world has been doing it tough, there’s no mistake, and that echoed strongly in Gerard’s piece almost a year ago. Travel bans, pandemics, lockdowns, etc, etc. We all need nice things, and MS Flight Simulator gives us exactly what we need, an escape.
From the moment I fired up the game I was at ease, the title music is perfect and the soothing scenes just reinforce the scope of what’s coming. I had concerns that the translation from PC to Console would cause some issues in the control department. I did also feverishly rush out and buy a Thrustmaster HOTAS stick, which I’ll write about when we’ve made friends. While I love the concept of the stick and all its buttons I switched back to the controller after a while. That’s going to take some getting used to, and I’ve had hands on with Steel Battalion.
Considering my lack of expertise, I found I could jump in and fiddle my way around some rudimentary controls. In terms of accessibility, you can get up there and flying in seconds. Landing may be an issue, as well as being polite on the radio, but who cares when you’re up and away?
Not only that, but the conversion has been really smart. The game feels really robust in its own right. Sometimes PC ports just don’t click, this game, if ‘game’ is a suitable label, is near perfect.
What is really clever about MS Flight Simulator is this.
It’s the biggest Open World you’ll ever see, and thanks to the amazing realtime trickery under the hood it’s pretty much alive. I get quickly tired of Open World games in general, quests, repetitive task, drawn out narratives. This game doesn’t have any of that, but I can’t wait to keep playing it, as a game it’s as scaleable as you want it to be. Make it easy, take a tour, just explore some crazy one-way trips, find extreme landing strips to challenge yourself. Or make it hard, learn how to fly properly, go fully Postal buying flight manuals and charts, turning your spare room into a cockpit. However you want to play, you can and nobody can judge you.
There is an array of well built tutorials that will get beginners up and down safely, honestly, I’ve barely looked at them. I will however go back when I’m ready to stop rushing off everywhere sightseeing and really want to get good.
Personally, having lived in NZ and AUS since 2005 I’m loving aerial tours of my old haunts in the UK. Documenting places I’ve lived, sharing nuggets of knowledge, remembering special times in secluded parts of the world that I will likely never visit again. It’s joyful, and that’s the first time I’ve said that about a game in a long while.
It also keeps drawing you in, because there is the whole world to play with, you’ll always have a bright idea of where to go next. Last night I was touring Buckinghamshire, then made my way to Mount Snowden, which was a Welsh rain washout. Before I turned in I was planning a tour of the Wainwright Coast to Coast path, but then what about The Grand Canyon or Barcelona, Hell, what about the Arctic?
Risk free travel and tourism for the soul, does it get any better?
Being in Queensland, Australia and playing at night I have been concentrating on the other side of the world. Yes, I can change the time, but I really don’t want to, I want to enjoy the game in its live form. Spending an hour circumventing Wales in zero visibility rain is testament to that. My flight of fondness over Hawke’s Bay will have to wait until the weekend, which is fine, because today we’re off to the Paris and Brussels.
We’re at risk of waxing lyrical here. So, let’s get back down to earth. The game engine is incredible, live weather, air traffic, the mapping and the modelling of significant cities. On the whole beyond the envelope, sometimes when you get really close you can see the seams. The traffic on the roads is often on the wrong side, it;’s a cursory effect that does its job well. The landscape and textures can be challenged when inspected up close. In honesty, you’re not supposed to be seeing them from under 100 feet. There is of course some loose translation in some of the buildings, places I know well, like WWII emplacements near Weston Super Mare now look like a lovely row of cottages. Not many people will notice, and you have to forgive that stuff.
Minor quibbles aside, because they have no bearing on the experience, MS Flight Simulator is stunning to look at. Every screen capture has the potential to be a work of art, the lighting, lens flares, the landscape, it goes on. Last year Social media was inundated with screens and video captures, get ready for it to begin again.
The Final Approach on your journey
MS Flight Simulator is a magnificent piece of software, the level of detail in every cockpit is incredible. The atmosphere of sitting in a Cessna, listening to rain hitting the roof across my Xbox Wireless Headset just made me wish I had a flask of coffee to open up. I knew it would be good, I just never knew it would be this good. A non-competitive game, where you can literally sit back and chill as the views glide by, with or without your mates. The pace is part of the magic, there’s no rushing or twitchy combat, it’s gentle and draws you in to soak up the views. While behind your back, the game is well aware it’s almost 2am on a school day. A serious sim that offers everybody their own personal journey, like I’ve said before its scaleable to be exactly what you want it to be. That’s the magic sauce.
Everybody with any itch to travel needs to experience this game at some level. If you haven’t got a kickass PC, get an Xbox, get Gamepass and get flying.