Community Review: Microsoft Flight Simulator

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Community Review: Microsoft Flight Simulator
Image: Asobo Studio

A group of friends were over the other night, and after a few too many drinks, someone asked: “Hey, can we fly over North Korea?”

It’s a question that doesn’t come up in video games often because places like North Korea don’t really have any need to be replicated in virtual form. Games are set in particular places, often restricted by the realities of memory limitations, caches, hard drives, internet connections and all sorts of boundaries that are just part and parcel of doing business.

But as we transition into the next generation, more games like Microsoft Flight Simulator will be possible, streaming and pulling in data from massive open libraries and databases like Bing Maps and Open Street Maps.

So when people ask things like “who wants to fly around Cherynobl”, it’s something that Flight Simulator is more than capable of doing.

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Something that Asobo Studio’s really nailed too, and something that has gone under the radar a bit, is the sound mixing. There’s just the right balance between the sound of the playing flying and the ambient sound from the wind, rain, snow or thunder. It’s just enough to help lull you into a state of relaxation, where you just drift off as you slowly venture from point A to point B.

I’d love to know how well Microsoft Flight Simulator has done on Xbox Game Pass. The game was already a massive hit in the sim community, which had spent the last decade basically making peace with the fact that they’d never get a product with the kind of AAA — or AAA adjacent — scope and support as Flight Simulator. It’s just as staggering to me that Asobo built this whole game within three years.

But when I spoke to friends over the last week about Flight Simulator, many had no idea that it was accessible on Game Pass at all. They were pondering what version to buy fully, instead of just trialling it for $1. That’s a messaging problem, I think, and one that makes no sense to me given just what a unique moment Flight Simulator has found itself in.

After all, who would have had Microsoft Flight Simulator right next to Last of Us Part 2 on their 2020 bingo card?

Microsoft probably didn’t. I can’t imagine the developers did either. And that’s all despite the fact that the game absolutely slaughters modern PCs, so much so that even a RTX 2080 Ti and a Ryzen 3950X barely manages 20fps while landing in New York. It’s not helped by the game being locked to 4 cores courtesy of its DirectX 11 implementation — the kind of performance oversight that a lot of other games would have been slaughtered for. But then again, enjoying Flight Simulator is very different than a lot of other games.

Basically: Microsoft Flight Simulator is quite literally the new Crysis. Even a RTX 2080 Ti at 1080p isn’t hitting 60fps on Ultra when landing at large, detailed cities like Sydney.

What a weird time we live in.

For everyone who’s eventually downloaded and given Flight Simulator a whirl, how have you found the game? How’s it running on your PC, and where have you explored so far?

Comments

  • I have been loving it so far, been doing short joy flights around Adelaide and SA.

    I tried to fly the big Boeing from Adelaide to Melbourne and crashed it about 500m from the runway.

    I have it on the Xbox Games Pass, i might buy it on Steam when it gets a big discount,

  • I’m trialling it for $1 on xbox game pass. it is incredible.

    Actual cities look a great but the lower you are the more like a computer game the buildings look, but with some elevation, and especially when over some great landscape like the blue mts or tasmania, it just looks…. real.

    I’m amazed at the attention to detail – i started a flight in late afternoon, and it finished just after sundown. I watched as street lights came on below, and it was bizarre that they seemed to illuminate trees correctly – it didn’t just look like a light shining on a ball-shaped object, it looked like some leaves illuminated, others in shade etc.

    and the ground crew person with the illuminated wands didn’t just do random actions, they were doing turn left, and come forward, and slow down and stop. so much detail.

    One thing I think reviewers are overblowing is the system needs. Flight Sim does not “slaughter” any system, most of the time. It’s just in certain circumstances, such as when you are at ground level in a big/busy airport. But when you are in the air – where you spend most of your time – its smooth as butter.

    I have an RTX2080 and an i7-6700K, and i play on max settings at 1440p. I can accept a bit of choppiness at ground level in a big airport for a minute or so, while the rest is totally smooth. I have a friend with 1070, and he doesn’t seem bothered at all.

  • I also tried it on Gamepass but only for about 5 minutes. Then I realised that I just wanted to blow shit up so I downloaded and launched DCS World for the first time in many years. Similar experience only with better framerates, VR support and I get to blow shit up. No realworld map or Melbourne monolith sadly 🙁

  • Played it on a friends computer and loved it. Just wish I had a better rig so I can play it at home.

    Still holding hope that it comes to Xbox like they said but I’m thinking now it will be coming to nextgen and not current gen.

    • Yeah, I just don’t see how it’s going to run on the current gen, even the Xbox One X. It’s still running on DX11 as well, so the merge over to DX12 hasn’t even happened. That’s an enormous enough task and the optimisation list they had planned has probably grown tenfold based off the data they have now.

      It’s probably easier for everyone’s sanity, let alone workload, to just drop any Xbox One aspirations at this point.

  • I plotted out an eight our flight from the top of Japan to the bottom on Saturday, and spent most of the day letting the game do its thing. Unfortunately the game crashed seven hours in, but it was an amazing thing to watch regardless.

    It’s basically a video game adaptation of “slow TV”.

    • Also feral posted this app on the Kotaku AU discord. It lets you plan flights outside of the game, getting around some of the in-game limitations. From what I can tell, it only works on the Steam version right now, but maybe it’s possible to get it working with the app store version as well.

      https://albar965.github.io/littlenavmap.html

  • Hey this is a big step forward. It’s really a work in progress and I’ve had crashing and joystick issues, but the engine is vastly better. There will be a string of updates and fixes no doubt, but this one is starting from a vastly more efficient engine. I built my first DIY box in 2007 for FSX and ended up chasing that sim through 3 different builds (AMD 3200, then intel e8400 and 2500K) trying to get it smooth. Even two GTX260s SLI then a 770 in a 4.8ghz 2500K wasn’t enough. Crappy stuttering that took you out of the moment, even with everything turned down. But as with crysis, the other big game from 07, we now know the basic game engine design made systems weep. I will put the 2500K back together with a 770 and I bet it runs FS2020 vastly better than FSX.

    I run a lounge 3600/1080ti at 4k and desktop 2700x/1070 at 1080p. It looks smooth and spectacular on both. Kicking back and flying up NZ valleys in 4k is pretty spesh. The last level of jagged edges to the mountains is missing, but it’s an experience to enjoy and show people.

    The game can not yet utilise all the cores etc – apparently a DX12 update is coming that will allow that? Love to hear more from you guys on that. 8 cores singing away and a decent GPU and yay for us!

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