Microsoft Flight Simulator is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated titles of this summer – as you readers have shown in the comments of every news dedicated to it -, however it is good to know that it is not a game suitable for everyone, far from it.
Over the previous months the title was on everyone's lips, creating the perception that it was in effect a product intended for the mass audience; nothing more wrong. Microsoft Flight Simulator is in fact a title designed for a specific niche of users, despite the amazing work done by Asobo Studio deserves to be touched by everyone at least once.
We want to help you orient yourself and understand if, net of the many merits and some defects, Flight Simulator is the title for you, on which to invest so much of your time. Certainly the inclusion from day one in the Game Pass catalog plays in its favor, which allows you to play it right away – along with many other titles – spending a few euros, but let's go in order.
After 14 years of radar silence (the last episode main was released in 2006), Microsoft has chosen to bring the series back to the track by entrusting it to Asobo Studio, certainly not one of the most famous teams in the industry. Recently returned to prominence with A Plauge Tale: Innocence and with a curriculum full of tie-ins linked to famous Disney films (such as Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3), the small French software house (with less than 150 employees) has made all possible fear disappear into thin air and has packaged what can be called without too much delay the best Flight Simulator ever.
Of course, the work of the single team was not enough to achieve this result; Microsoft has in fact collaborated actively on the project, to the point that one could look at Flight Simulator as a real concentrate of the best technologies developed over the years by the Redmond company, including cloud computing. Remember when during the presentation of Xbox One you looked with skepticism at the potential of the cloud applied to video games? Here, now today the time is ripe to begin to exploit them properly. As often happens, Microsoft is looking in the right direction too early, but this is a topic that deserves an in-depth study in itself.
The 2020 edition of Flight Simulator is therefore the clearest and most effective demonstration of how the relationship between all these elements is greater than the sum of the individual ones. The game engine developed by Asobo would not have offered us anything particularly innovative if it were not supported by the over 2 petabytes of data coming from the Bing maps which, in turn, would be nothing more than a simple well drawn sheet if they had not been reconstructed in 3 dimensions thanks to artificial intelligence driven by the Azure infrastructure.
Each technology adopted therefore allows Flight Simulator to offer a flight experience that before now was not even possible to imagine. The playing field is no longer delimited but takes on the dimensions of the entire globe, allowing the player to fully explore the Earth with an absurd level of detail. To all this is added the many real-time data that have been integrated into the game, from the time and weather conditions (which faithfully follow the current ones of the chosen location) to the list of flights and air traffic at that precise moment.
In short, the simulation aims to access as much data as possible in order to become extremely realistic, even if the player is still left free to not follow reality and to fly in the weather conditions and at the desired time. The weather deserves special mention, the effects of which are reproduced in a realistic way and have an incisive effect both on the driving conditions of the plane, and on some aesthetic factors such as humidity on the windows and so on.
Maximum freedom also for the available routes, since Flight Simulator includes all 37,000 airports in the world. Each structure has been faithfully reconstructed once again thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, starting from very high resolution images and floor plans. Among these we find a small group (30, 35 or 40, depending on which edition you purchased between Standard, Deluxe and Premium) which have been rebuilt by hand and have a much higher level of detail and precision (unfortunately none Italian).
The terrestrial globe and its structures are therefore the main protagonists of the title, but they are not the only ones. Obviously we are talking about the planes, more precisely of 20, 25 or 30 models (also in this case the number varies according to the game edition, the one offered with the Game Pass is the Standard) reconstructed in a photorealistic way both as regards the external aspect than that of the cockpit.
The player has a decent selection of aircraft at his disposal, from the light and traditional Cessna 152 to the more demanding Boeing 747-8. The behavior of the aircraft varies considerably from one vehicle to another, returning adequate feedback from the controls based on the category to which it belongs. Keeping an airliner at bay is quite another thing compared to driving a small 2-seater, as well as the instrumentation present in the cockpit will be exactly the one present in the real counterpart of each aircraft.
All these elements combined together contribute to creating one of the best simulation experiences available for the common user (who does not have access to professional products), who is given the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an aircraft in the most realistic way possible. The learning curve is extremely steep, so don't expect to start skilfully piloting your aircraft right away by choosing the steering-free control scheme.
Fortunately, Flight Simulator allows you to approach the title gradually, starting with a fully assisted control scheme in which the user can focus only on the main aspects of the take-off, cruise and landing phases. The rudiments of these phases are taught through a series of tutorials that help to gradually become familiar with the controls, however they are not sufficient to become familiar with the use of the various aircraft.
So we come to the reasons why Microsoft Flight Simulator, despite being a title that can leave us speechless, is not really suitable for most players. The main reason lies precisely in its nature; in fact it is not a game in the strict sense, but a real simulator.
A simulation is all the better done the closer it gets to the reality it tries to reproduce, which is why the title does not present (and MUST NOT PRESENT) the classic mechanics related to the videogame medium. Its goal is not to entertain us (or at least not in the traditional sense) with a continuous sense of fulfillment or with trophies and rewards of various kinds, but to put us in front of a realistic flight scenario.
For this reason, each leg can be traveled by taking the same time required for the actual flight (about 1 hour for Cagliari-Rome, for example, or over 5 hours for London-New York and so on), an element to be taken into serious consideration. when the Flight Plan is set. For some, this could already be one of the interesting phases of the title, since it allows us to manage the route taking into account the fuel available and so on.
This category includes all those who represent the ideal audience for Flight Simulator, that is, players who are not afraid of facing long hours of flight by checking the parameters of the vehicle, making small corrections from time to time and admiring the surrounding landscape. It is clear that the title is particularly suitable only for a small niche of users, while most of those who approach it will end up treating the game as an infinitely more powerful, detailed and interactive version of Street View, limiting themselves to making short flights around. to some inhabited centers (usually one falls back into a range of choices that includes one's own city and the main capitals of the world).
On the other hand, simulating the flight of an airplane is not necessarily an experience funny, so it's good to be aware of this before jumping headlong. Flight Simulator will do nothing to simplify the experience and take an arcade-like approach; every action on the runway, during take-off, cruise and landing, requires that various key combinations be memorized to carry out the main operations, so you have to approach the game with patience and desire to learn. The few tutorials present are not able to exhaustively cover the complexity of even the simplest of aircraft, thus leaving the player to have to learn how to drive each individual aircraft. This represents a significant stumbling block for those approaching it for the first time.
The title is also particularly expensive in terms of resources, both in terms of hardware specifications, the space available to dedicate to it and the continuous use of bandwidth for streaming information and the map in real time (it is also possible to play offline, but it drops the quality). Generally we have noticed a consumption of about 450MB per hour, certainly not a very high value, but to be taken into consideration if you have a poorly performing or consumption connection.
As for performance, however, we tested the title on an MSI GL65 Leopard, a laptop equipped with an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, GeForce RTX 2060 mobile video card, 16GB of RAM and 120Hz FullHD screen. We were able to run the game at maximum detail (in FullHD) by choosing to opt for a low and decidedly unstable frame rate, between 25 and 35 fps depending on the situation. With titles from other categories we would have preferred to opt for a higher and more stable frame rate by compromising with the graphics settings, however, given the not at all frenetic nature of the game, we advise you to give preference to the graphics sector to appreciate the aircraft models and environment at the highest possible quality.
Attention also to the required storage space; requirements recommend 150GB but you can dedicate up to 200GB for the best possible gaming experience. In short, it is clear that this is an important one investment in terms of resources, especially if you choose to install it on an SSD with a capacity of less than one terabyte.
As you can see there are very good reasons to try Microsoft Flight Simulator and some caution to pay to avoid to remain scalded or to have expectations too different from the reality offered by the title. Overall we would like to advise everyone to try Flight Simulator at least once, perhaps using one of the many promotions related to the Game Pass (but also the standard cost of the subscription is certainly not high), in order to experience the unique features firsthand. of the simulator (on Steam it is offered at € 69.99 in the Standard version, € 89.99 for the Deluxe and € 119.99 for the Premium)
Obviously this will require a small investment in terms of time and resources, but if this doesn't scare you we invite you to try the game even if you are not passionate about the genre. Flight Simulator is really the first taste of the next generation of video games, not so much as regards the technical sector alone (for example, ray tracing is not supported), but for how the technologies fielded by Microsoft work in synergy to create a world that manages to be incredibly extensive and detailed at the same time.
We can't wait to try it also in VR mode, as soon as it is made available, and we point out that Asobo has already confirmed that the next updates will introduce support for helicopters, visible damage (currently not implemented), multi player and to a single player campaign. The latter is worth keeping an eye on, as it could become the real element capable of attracting even the public less interested in the simulation aspect alone.
Flight Simulator is the title that every video game enthusiast should try even once to understand the potential that the sector will be able to express over the next few years, with the awareness that however it could be a work that is not suitable for their needs. But that's best to find out with your own experience.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator | PC | Steam, 69.99 / 89.99 / 119.99 €
- Microsoft Flight Simulator | PC | Microsoft Store, Included in Game Pass PC or € 69.99 / 89.99 / € 119.99