This may well be the most anticipated game of the year, if not a couple of years. Essentially 14 years in the making – it’s been a long long time since Microsoft released a new version of “Flight Simulator”.
For me though, this is only partly about the simulation. The graphics and detail in this game are next-level and none of it should be taken for granted.
Digital Storage capacity is a staggering thing. Think about that photo you just took on your smartphone, it’s probably 4 or 5 megabytes in size. Wouldn’t even fit on an old 3.5inch Floppy Disk.
So imagine you’re building the very latest, most state of the art flight simulator software and then you decide you want to ensure that every inch of the earth is photoreal, in fact, not just photo-real, but building and tree real.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is just that, and the storage required to keep “the world” available to you is 2 Petabytes. How big are 2 Petabytes I hear you ask? Take that good old Floppy Disk. Lay it flat on the ground. Now put another one alongside it. Then another. Adding them up 1.44mb at a time, you would need to go three times around the EARTH with that line of Floppy disks to demonstrate the data capacity that is two petabytes.
If you wanted to take in every part of the earth using Microsoft Flight Simulator – flying a Cessna, assuming you can see around 15km in each direction left and right of the cockpit – flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week – it would take you 14 years to see it all.
I hope you’ve got a comfy chair.
I have been quite simply blown away by the 2020 version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
In preparation for this review, I purchased the latest version of X-Plane. I owned version 10 for a while, enjoyed flying about. Version 11 is a big step up, but right off the runway at Kingsford Smith here in Sydney, it was clear to me that this was simply a map of Australia, with random buildings and roads outlined below me.
Fire up Microsoft Flight Simulator and it’s like taking a flight with actual satellite imagery below you.
Every inch of the earth – just think about that.
But it’s not flat. Every single building on earth is represented in 3D form. Even my own house.
Now in some cities, that is ultra life-like. In Sydney, the Opera House is a stunningly accurate 3D model, but the Harbour Bridge is a flat structure, the City buildings are true in that they number the same, but they are not the same 3D models.
My own home is a close match, but not 100% real, and my Mum’s rural pub is a home, not a pub.
But. My home shows as a two-story building with a single story side to it. Accurate.
My Mum’s pub has beside it a building which is the accommodation – that is shown. So while the building’s are not real – each structure is represented.
And here I am, I haven’t even started talking about the simulation. Because for me, the casual virtual pilot, this detail is what makes Flight Simulator so perfect, so compelling, so moreish.
Loading the Main Menu and choosing to pick a departure airport, I zoom in on Sydney and see what appear to be flight traffic on a map.
Slip out my smartphone, open Flight Radar, that’s real-time aircraft traffic. WTF. Wow.
Then there’s the time and weather. Microsoft has real-time weather information across the world, so if in your city it’s cloudy, expect clouds in the simulator.
If it’s night time where you are, it’s night time in the Sim.
Of course, you can modify this with ease – but it’s the level of detail that really blows my mind here.
On the ground, sitting on the runway I’m a nuisance to Air Traffic Control because I’m stuck looking in awe at the graphics that represent the plane, the runway, the sky, the sun, the clouds – it’s so beautifully real.
A few false starts and I’ve customised my controls so I know where that parking brake is, and I’m across the throttle and flap controls. The basics.
Shortly after, I’m airborne and taking in this wonderful real-world environment.
There are hours and hours spent flying over places I know, places I’ve lived, places I’ve been.
And then places I’d love to go to. Like Uluru. It looks brilliant.
I can’t speak to the realism of the Simulation – only to say that it’s not as easy as you’d think. It’s almost iRacing to Forza style comparison. This is in the iRacing league, flying a plane in Far Cry 5 is like Forza.
After a few days, I decided to take on the tutorials, and be instructed. This is highly recommended because it taught me a lot of the real basics that matter as you fly more.
Then I accepted challenges, flying into crazy difficult situations, or epic runways. Really enjoyable, except for when my score was shown and it was clear there are far far better pilots playing this than me.
I couldn’t find a place to view those leaderboards outside of the end of a challenge, and I’d like to be able to scroll further down past that top ten.
Perhaps that feature will come. Microsoft plan monthly updates to the game, and the world. Expect free incremental improvements, as well as some interesting new downloadable content packs, like new planes, or even helicopters.
The Standard version of the game will set you back $99. Premium versions feature more handcrafted airports and more aircraft, it’s really that simple.
You’re going to need some gear though, this is not a mouse and keyboard game. More on that soon as I look at what Logitech and Honeycomb have to offer.
Anyone who has used Microsoft Flight Simulator over the many years and iterations of it will utterly love this game. The detail alone is five stars, the simulation to me seems first class.
There are challenges, both online and offline to play so you are always kept entertained, whenever you want to fly.
It’s out August 18, pre-order now.
Initially, this will be on PC only, but XBOX is “coming”. No word on when Sorry.