The flight simulator series has been around almost as long as PC computer gaming itself, with the original Microsoft Flight Simulator released back in 1982. Since then it has been evolving and accumulating a steady fan base leading up to this latest release, number ten in the series. With that sort of legacy it would be expected this game would be something special, and the short answer is yes, it is.
Flight simulators have always appealed to a specific market but do not necessarily appeal to everybody. There are no Aliens to battle, no world conquest, no guns. It’s just you, a plane and the greater challenge of not hitting the ground or a mountain. Sounds easy enough, but the true art of the Flight Simulator is mastering every aspect of flying. From wind direction to air traffic control, there is so much to consider and Flight Simulator X literally offers the world as your playground. With thousands of airports from around the globe pilots are given everything they need to take to the digital skies.
Even a complete novice can be gently guided through the steps of flying via the great tutorials, all the way up to flying commercial airliners. There is a lot to be learned from this game, not only about aviation, but also geography. It is entirely possible to take a scenic flight past many landmarks of the world, such as the pyramids or perhaps Niagara Falls; in fact, if you can name it you can go there. Of course the detail in environments varies. Some of the well-known areas are well reconstructed, while other off the beaten track locations can be a little scruffy. Many landscape textures are built from satellite maps which look great while flying but the closer to the ground you get, the more it looks like you’ve zoomed in a little too close on Google earth. As appealing as it may be to park a 747 on the street in Wellington, it just doesn’t look as pretty as one would expect. Also, one of my first priorities was to fly under the Auckland Harbour Bridge only to find it was not there so I had to settle for the Sydney Harbour Bridge instead! Oh well. Still, New Zealand is fairly well represented with roughly 80 airports around the country to venture from.
Generally the graphics are great for a game of this scope, and there are some wonderful little touches to make the world feel alive, like animated street traffic and even wildlife. While landing in the mountains somewhere in the United States, I encountered a bear randomly wandering across the runway, which was an unexpected surprise.
The game interface is basic but easy to use while the game itself is divided into a couple of different components. First there is free flight where you pick a plane, airport and fly wherever you want, then there are the missions where flight tasks are set. There is a wide range of objectives like dropping flour bombs
on targets, landing at Singapore in a typhoon or even flying into Area 51. There is always something interesting to tackle.
A high end PC is required to get the most out of the graphics and the game requires a 15Gig install, which takes a certain amount of hard drive commitment. The deluxe addition comes with 2 additional aircraft too, making the total count 20, consisting of a number of smaller planes, commercial airliners and even helicopters.
There are also plenty of multiplayer options, like live tower control and shared aircraft, meaning you can bring an online friend along with you on your eleven-hour flight to Japan for some company. And if that suggestion actually does seem appealing then this is certainly the game for you as it is all about patience and passion.
Flight Simulator X continues the legacy with another great leap forward graphically and technically for the franchise. Already there are a number of expansions available to fill out various parts of the world, plus the large online community, all passionate about flying and some even creating additional content for the game.
For the hardcore virtual pilot or the casual flight enthusiast, it is hard not to recommend
Microsoft Flight Simulator X as being one of the best realistic flight experiences on the market.