A ton of people will finally be playing Microsoft Flight Simulator from today, since most Australian internet connections take an age to download 90-100GB. And if you’re jumping into a flight sim for the first time, you’re probably doing so with a controller. So if that’s you, I have one massive piece of advice worth following.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is perfectly playable with a controller, and it’s something I fully recommend if you’re not too worried about getting into the weeds with how realistic the sim can play. But if you are going to play with an Xbox controller (or Switch/PS4/third-party gamepad), here’s a real big tip: Turn your controller sensitivity down.
The default sensitivity is great for getting started, but it’s really high. It’s serviceable for the Cessna 152 that you start out in, but the second you move to lighter aircraft, or start flying in any conditions where the wind kicks you around a bit — like this especially windy trip I was taking above from Queenstown to Jamestown — you’ll find yourself lurching from side to side far too often.
The problem isn’t that the sensitivity is so high that you’ll end up doing backflips or anything. It’s that you want to make smaller adjustments so you don’t end up, say, 15 degrees off course from where you’re supposed to go. And the game never tells you during the tutorial where the sensitivity controls are buried, so here’s how you do that.
When you go to the Controls tab in the Options page, you’ll see your various inputs plugged in like such. Click on your “Controller” input, and on the left hand side you’ll see a blue (or white, if selected) box called Sensitivity.
Click that, and you’ll get the following pop-up:
By default all the sensitivity bars will be set to 0 per cent. You have to tweak each axis individually, so make sure you keep all the values the same, unless you want there to be a greater impetus on, say, pitching up and down than left and right.
If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend notching the sensitivity down by at least 10 per cent, as I’ve done here. If you’re going to spend a lot of time flying lighter aircraft, which can be especially twitchy, then you might want to go even further to -20 or -30 per cent. This’ll help, especially during the landing challenges where you get scored on precision and accuracy.
If you’re flying bigger aircraft, like the Boeing Dreamliner or the Airbus A320, then you might want a different sensitivity profile. Or a full upgrade to a yolk and flight rudders, since those big beasts handle completely differently. But I’ve found the game is more than enjoyable if you’re sticking to light aircraft and doing bush trips — basically joy flights around an area checking out the landmarks and going from one waypoint to another.
There’s also another bonus if you’re playing Microsoft Flight Simulator with a gamepad: The game happily takes inputs from the gamepad while Flight Sim isn’t the active window on your PC, meaning you can keep your plane flying straight while mousing around on the desktop or doing something in Chrome with the mouse.
For more help with Flight Simulator, see our coverage below: