Image: IGDB/Asobo Studio

‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ review: our first taste of next-gen is beautiful, and costly

Let me tell you what’s my favourite part of going abroad on holiday. It’s not the destination – sure, setting foot on foreign soil and experiencing a new culture (especially the food) is fun. But what’s so much more exhilarating, heart-racing, and surely increasing my blood pressure is being aboard an aeroplane. 

I absolutely love the moment of lift-off when you can feel you’re not on firm ground anymore, but instead floating in the air. I love seeing London from the night-sky when taking off or landing at Heathrow, and the beautiful jungle scenery or the desert when landing in Asia. One day, maybe my dream of going to space will also come true (your move, Elon). 

Microsoft Flight Simulator is the closest I will ever get to being an actual pilot, and it really is damn close. This is Microsoft’s first game that will only support the Series X on consoles, and it shows (something the Halo Infinite developers should take note of). It’s simply a technical masterpiece throughout. 

Below the stunningly gorgeous clouds, you can view the entire world in a surprising amount of detail

To start, the cockpit, where you’ll be spending most of your time, is hyper-realistic. A lot of attention to detail has been put to every button, lever, and switch, that you can hardly tell the difference from the real thing when on ultra-settings. 

But the real fun comes from peeking outside in third-person view. Below the stunningly gorgeous clouds, you can view the entire world in a surprising amount of detail, including Warwick’s campus if you’re sad enough. 

This is where I think the true value of next-gen shines through. Powered by Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, the game streams in extra assets to render the world from servers for added realism. If that same data was stored locally on your drive, it would be petabytes in size. 

Azure also allows the data to be updated as Bing Maps gets updated, as well as including real-time weather in-game. The irony is, cloud features like these were promised almost a decade ago with the release of the Xbox One. I vividly remember Microsoft claiming games would be able to stream in textures from the Cloud, but it took a whole new generation for that promise to come true.   

While flying over the world allows you to see its many beautiful wonders, it also shows a hard reality that the world has its dark and terrible aspects

There are some technical warnings, however. I am not exaggerating when I say it’s a next-gen game. Using a fairly new PC with a high-end GPU and CPU, I barely scraped 30 FPS at 1080p. This game will crush your machine. 

Flight Simulator itself is huge, coming in at over 100GB. It’s also resource-hungry, so I’d strongly recommend using a 256GB SSD at the very least. Finally, with all the cloud streaming, you’ll need a fairly fast internet connection with unlimited data to get the most out of it.  

What makes the best games, Flight Simulator included, stand out is that they allow the community to do wonderful and unexpected things. While flying over the world allows you to see its many beautiful wonders, it also shows a hard reality that the world has its dark and terrible aspects.

Some members of the community have put Flight Simulator to the test by finding out how it handles rendering conflict zones, military sites, and internment camps. Investigative journalists from Bellingcat have flown over several sensitive spaces with mixed results. The AI does its best to fill in gaps in the data received from Bing Maps, but it means we’re left with imperfect predictions of what buildings look like compared to their real-life counterparts.

Military sites are simply omitted since they’re blurred out in public maps. Warzones, however, are free-game for satellites, which means we get incredibly realistic visualisations of bomb-ridden cities in 3D like in Syria – it’s truly remarkable. Unfortunately, as journalists noted, it’s not useful enough for journalistic investigation, given the unreliability of the AI’s rendering.  

Flight Simulator is a joy to play for both seasoned pilots and casual controller players like me. It is a genuine masterpiece, which really shows how far technology has come in a big way. I think we all take it for granted that this is a Microsoft IP, but no other company in the world has the expertise both in cloud computing and video game development to pull off a feat like this. 

Related Posts

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *