Updated review (Xbox Series X version, July 2021): Microsoft Flight Simulator has finally arrived on Xbox Series X|S, and following on from our review of the PC version last year, we've had a chance (thanks to Xbox Game Pass) to get hands-on with the Xbox Series X edition over the past few days.
Simply put, Flight Sim makes a superb transition from PC to console, rivalling some of the best visuals you can get on PC and achieving pretty good performance for the most part. The frame rate does dip from time-to-time based on where you're flying and pointing the camera, but this is nothing out of the ordinary on PC either. It's capped at 30fps for non-VRR displays, but that doesn't feel like a deal-breaker in this scenario.
The Xbox Series X version remedies some of the issues we had with tutorials last year, adding more of them and expanding beyond just the Cessna 152, which is a nice touch. The menu system, however, is certainly more cumbersome to navigate with a controller, and you can clearly tell it was designed for a mouse and keyboard.
Ultimately though, Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox Series X retains all the best qualities of the PC version, and that's all we could ask for. It's one of, if not the best-looking game on the console right now, and we can't wait to spend the next few days, weeks, months and years exploring all it has to offer on Xbox.
Original review (PC version, August 2020): It's not very often that a game makes us audibly gasp (in a good way). But then, Asobo Studios' Microsoft Flight Simulator isn't any ordinary game. There's been a lot of hype around the series' first major entry since 2006's Microsoft Flight Simulator X (watch the reveal trailer, and you'll know why) - and we're pleased to report that the latest version absolutely lives up to that hype, delivering a breathtaking technical achievement wrapped around a highly enjoyable and largely accessible flight sim.
The basic concept of Microsoft Flight Simulator remains the same as ever - pilot your chosen aircraft, explore the world, and attempt to navigate from Point A to Point B without suffering any nasty accidents. And while the planes themselves are meticulously detailed both in and out of the cockpit, the star of the show is the game's utterly stunning recreation of planet Earth, which incorporates over 37,000 accessible airports in total - some of them carefully handcrafted.
By the time you've taken off, carried out all your procedures and given yourself a chance to finally peer out the window, you'll be struck with how utterly stunning this game looks from the air. This is particularly true if you turn on the map streaming feature, which uses real satellite data to make every location appear as authentic as possible, whether you're gazing down at busy city streets or small countryside towns in the middle of nowhere.
Because of this, the possibilities for exploration are almost endless. You can embark on big commercial flights and marvel at the most detailed clouds in gaming history at 30,000ft, or hop in a light aircraft and explore some of the famous monuments around the world. And yes - you can even try and find your own house, workplace or favourite sports stadium. You begin to see some of the cracks in the details when you explore these up close, but it's entirely possible to track down even some of the most remote locations throughout the world, and they're often surprisingly accurate.
And as if a realistic representation of the entire globe wasn't enough, the game even incorporates features such as real-time traffic and live weather, transforming it into a living, breathing world. You can explore sunny skies, rainstorms, heavy winds and intense snowfall at the exact locations and times they're taking place in real life, as well as track the paths of legitimate flights that are occurring at that very moment. It's seriously mind-blowing stuff.
I'll happily admit that when it comes to actually flying the plane, I'm not exactly what you'd call an experienced pilot. Fortunately, Microsoft Flight Simulator comes equipped with a handful of tutorials that teach you skills such as performing a successful landing and understanding traffic patterns. The downside to these is that they're far from exhaustive and only detail how to use one specific plane - the Cessna 152 - but fortunately there are also a range of menu options and in-game assists that allow you to tweak the game's difficulty to your liking.
In fact, the entire experience can pretty much be customised in one way or another. Want to encounter other live players on the map while you're in the air? Make it so. Feel like changing the weather mid-flight or even altering the position of the clouds? It's possible at the click of a button. You don't even have to fly the plane yourself if you don't want to - your co-pilot can take over as much of the journey as you like, including handling pre-flight checklists, or you can simply skip between different sections of the flight at will. There's plenty of scope to make every journey your own.
We can't compare the experience of flying in Microsoft Flight Simulator to someone who has years of actual real world experience at the controls, but it certainly feels responsive, intuitive and highly enjoyable. Our only nit-pick would be the lack of a damage model, which means that in the case of a crash, you either find yourself bouncing off the ground or abruptly facing a black screen with an ugly single-line prompt. Don't get us wrong - we're not asking for ultra-realistic fiery wrecks, but it would be nice to see some kind of collision model in the future.
In terms of modes, there's more at your disposal than the game's primary World Map feature, although it's certainly the highlight of the package, allowing you to pick literally anywhere in the world to begin your flight. But if you feel like testing your mettle online, you can compete in tricky landing challenges with full leaderboard support, as well as long-distance Bush Trips. And of course, Microsoft Flight Simulator includes full multiplayer, allowing you to take the experience online with your friends and fly anywhere in the world together.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, too. As you might expect, Asobo says it's planning to support Microsoft Flight Simulator for many years to come, and the developer already has some exciting updates in the pipeline (at least on PC) including the addition of VR support later this year. It would be great to see some kind of career mode implemented into the game at some point in the future, but even if the team at Asobo doesn't get around to it, Flight Sim has a famously active mod scene that will likely transform the game with incredible new features over time.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is nothing short of revolutionary, featuring an almost impossibly large, authentic and living open world that's bound to take your breath away. Asobo and Xbox Game Studios have delivered a truly special entry in this historic franchise, and it's only going to get better in the years to come.
It’s the true technological marvel for next-generation gaming bringing new experiences of realism and simulation. Can’t imagine how it looks after Ray Tracing and VR update.
If anyone has any questions, let me know!
@FraserG It would be nice to know what GPU you played it on? Just to know how comparable your experience would be to my own.
I'll play it on Series X. An old version of this was a friend's favourite PC game, now with these graphics the game means something else.
@Ryall I'm running it on an AMD Ryzen 5 2600x with an RX 580 - the game defaulted me to high settings at that setup.
This sounds amazing and seems the realism is as close to real-life a game can get. I cannot wait to play this on Series X.
@FraserG Is it possible for a plane to develop a technical/mechanical fault in mid-flight and then able to make an emergency crash landing anywhere in the world other than an airport?
@MaccaMUFC I didn't experience that personally. You can certainly land in locations other than an airport though - you can even land on water if you use the Icon A5.
Great review, Fraser! I'm not a PC guy, so I'm looking forward to the console release.
@FraserG Thanks. I’m close enough that I’ll probably get a similar experience .
Watched some gameplay of this yesterday and I don't know what it is about it but it just looks so enjoyable! I'm not a huge aviation guy and have only flown probably a dozen times in my life but I really want to play this for some reason. Thanks for the review, seems to be scoring very very well all over!
What is the actual gameplay loop of this game? If you're doing a long haul flight are you literally killing time for hours doing little to nothing or how does this work? I get being interested in this as a sim but could this be regarded as a game in the traditional sense or more of an experience?
@blockfight It's more of an experience. The gameplay loop is simply about piloting aircraft from one destination to another - long haul flights take literally as long as they do in real life, although you can skip through them if you want to.
If you just want to instantly drop into areas of the world to visit famous monuments, for example, you can do that as well.
Very excited to try this out
Microsoft have to get this as a launch title for the Series X. That would blow everything away. It looks so so good. I can't wait to play this. Its the ultimate open world game, Planet Earth.
'How are load times?' - Initially long, but not so bad after that.
'Can I really find my house?' - It depends on where you live, but I'd have thought you'll be able to find your street/the general area. The map data is generally very good, but the game uses different building models to try and imitate what your house looks like.
I found the stadium of my favourite football team, for example - it includes the pitch and an accurate geographical layout of everything around it, but it uses buildings for the stands because it doesn't appear to have a preset model for football stadiums. It looks very impressive regardless.
'Can I do some smaller flights' - You can go anywhere you like. There are tiny, tiny airfields near me that I didn't even know existed - they're in the game. If a location exists on a map, you can go there.
Thanks for the review. Coincidentally I switched the PC on this morning for the first time in weeks as I've been pretty busy with Paper Mario, and The last of us remastered.
So I'll get downloading this 😁
I'll just add that the lack of damage system doesn't really bother me!
@pip_muzz I agree. I know Flight sims are something of a niche genre in games, but this would still make a great launch title on Series X because 1) it would be an exclusive (something Xbox is sorely lacking at the moment, especially with the delay to Halo Infinite) 2) it looks gorgeous and would show off what Series X can do, and 3) most people won’t have a PC powerful enough to run this game at its best, so the console port will be the more practical option.
On a side note, does anyone know how many gbs this takes up on install? I imagine it’s huge!
@Nightcrawler71 100GB download, around 150-200GB install size.
@FraserG OK. Thanks. Wasn't sure how it worked. I think this will be one I watch some videos on Youtube for as it looks cool, but won't be investing in.
@FraserG 😮 Wowser!
As a newcomer to the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, you had me at accessible. I cannot wait to get my hands on this one when it comes to Xbox Series X!
@FraserG Obviously this is best played with a joystick/yoke but did you have a chance to try it with a controller on your PC? (if it even allows it)
@redd214 Yep, the game has native Xbox controller support. It works really well (although I did have to use the keyboard for some functions).
@FraserG Thanks for answering!
I have never been a flight sim guy, but this game has me super intrigued!
Also, great review!!! 👍🏻
@FraserG how detailed is detailed? Can I see my house?
Wow. This looks fantastic....
Could anyone guess at the percentage chance that this will eventually come to Series X? Could be a console seller for me.
@XBontendo Here's one of the answers I gave above -
"'Can I really find my house?' - It depends on where you live, but I'd have thought you'll be able to find your street/the general area. The map data is generally very good, but the game uses different building models to try and imitate what your house looks like.
I found the stadium of my favourite football team, for example - it includes the pitch and an accurate geographical layout of everything around it, but it uses buildings for the stands because it doesn't appear to have a preset model for football stadiums. It looks very impressive regardless."
@Alstil Xbox boss Phil Spencer has been quoted as saying it's coming to Series X, but it's not known when.
Here's what he said about it:
Who knew BING maps was a thing?
@FraserG Haha, thanks. & Sorry mate, clearly I can't read
Not a PC gamer so won't be able to play this for a while, wish it was on Xbox One but if not having to worry about a version for the current gen means it's a bit better on Series X I'm all for that.
Anyway, nice little run going here for Asobo. A Plague Tale: Innocence, a game everybody slept on, ended up being one of the best story driven games this gen with a cool a new gameplay mechanic in the sling and now this. MS may want to make another purchase.
I hear ya! I have been waiting for them to bring Age Of Empires to consoles! I loved playing RTS games on my 360.
And also Halo Wars, obviously. Those were a blast. 👍🏻
I completely agree. I hope Microsoft snatches up Asobo.
Clearly both MS and Sony have spending $ based on studio purchases, 'console launch exclusives,' DLC timed-exclusives, etc. You'd think one would've took a flier on Asobo by now. Talented studio working on a shoe-string budget. Imagine what the next Plague Tale game could be with an AAA budget.
@FraserG I’m someone who has never played a flight sim. What’s the learning curve on this game? How long would it take for me to get used to the basics of flying?
@xMightyMatt14x It'll take you about 30 mins to an hour to get to grips with the basics - you'll need to do the tutorials.
After that, the learning curve isn't bad at all if you want to keep all the assists on.
Exactly. Asobo is the kind of studio I want Microsoft to buy. I’m not big on the WB rumors bc (other than I don’t think it’s going to ever happen) you only get Mortal Kombat IP in that transaction. Obviously, Rocksteady & Monolith are great developers. But 4 billion?!!
Instead they could buy studios like Asobo or like they did with Obsidian, inXile, etc. Talented studios that just need financial help. I would also love it if they just brought Bungie home, as well. 👍🏻
@FrazerG hey, quick question! How's the single player experience like with this game? I know you can fly to your heart's content, but is there content like missions present? Thanks.
@veeflames Hey! There are activities like landing challenges (with online leaderboards) and long distance Bush Trips, but there aren't any specific missions outside of those.
@FraserG Heh, you mentioned those in the review but I was thinking they were bit-sized minigames or something along those lines haha. Would you say it's enough for someone looking for an A-Z type of experience (something so I can say I've "beaten" the game)? The game already looks like it plays fantastic, but I want to know the extent of how much free flights would make for the single-player experience of this game.
@FraserG The cracks in detail up close, is it bad?
@veeflames Ah, I see where you're coming from.
There's no kind of A-Z mission structure here - you set your own destinations and make your own fun (outside of those activities I mentioned), so there's no actual way of "beating" it.
@SalmonTag It depends where you are and how close to the ground you are. The game isn't designed to look incredible from the floor - you'll see cars doing weird things, buildings and roads lacking textures in some locations, that sort of thing.
Of course, when you're high enough in the air (and you don't need to be that high), it all looks photorealistic.
I used to want to see Bungie return, but that studio isn't the same anymore and 343 has Halo now (for better or worse, mostly the latter but it is what it is, I don't think modern Bungie would do much better with the series). Asobo brings something different to the table. Awesome sims like this? Check. Story driven games? Check. It'd be much lower risk $ wise than WB and, if managed correctly, could yield better results. Mortal Kombat isn't worth $4 bil especially when MS already has the underutilized Killer Instinct.
As far as Bungie goes, I just meant bring them back to make a new IP (which Bungie wants to do). They can keep Destiny 2 multi-platform. As you said, 343 is there for Halo.
And you are right, Bungie is not the same company it was years ago. A lot of people left the company. But I think it would be interesting to see what new IP they have in mind.
I think Asobo would be perfect. Also Bloober Team would be another great pick-up, in my opinion.
@Royalblues It didn't seem to be too bad for me at all. But if you're concerned about it, there are loads of options that allow you to put limits on data usage, restrict the bandwidth, etc.
@FraserG ah, okay. Thanks for the update! I have a huge backlog, but if this game had some single player missions I'd pretty much get the game and put it as a priority as it looks and plays so good. I guess it would make sense if I just got this game to mess around too, but I'll just pick up the game later down the line at that point.
Watched someone play the game yesterday, and yah. This game is without a doubt GOTY 2020 😅
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