Home New Despite some occasional clunkiness, the Xbox edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator still manages to capture the magic of flying

Despite some occasional clunkiness, the Xbox edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator still manages to capture the magic of flying

Despite some occasional clunkiness, the Xbox edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator still manages to capture the magic of flying

Microsoft Flight Simulator hits the Xbox Series S and X 11 months after it originally stunned the globe with its portrayal of nothing less than the whole Earth. Does the console retain the enchantment that Asobo and Microsoft Game Studios created using photogrammetry, cloud streaming, and good ol’ fashioned elbow grease? Indeed. Does the experience function on a console? That one will need more work to unravel.

That magic, first of all. The console version of Microsoft Flight Simulator is essentially the same as the full PC version, complete with all of the same features, aircraft, and globe, along with an equally immersive experience that will leave you feeling completely amazed as you explore new areas and rotate the map. It looks fantastic as well; if you still have any questions, check out the screenshots here. They were all taken on a Series X, and you can see that the fidelity is simply astounding and that the framerate mostly stays at 30 frames per second (don’t worry, Digital Foundry will provide a thorough analysis soon). I’m in complete awe again, having come from my own little PC with its 1080p screen and now playing in 4K and HDR.

I’m still gasping for air after a few days of nonstop flying, even after logging hundreds of hours on the PC version during the previous year. I find myself staring wistfully at the sun setting over the Thames estuary or that amazing moment when you ascend smoothly and deliberately through dense, stormy clouds to reach the heavens above. Consider that a successful transfer of Microsoft Flight Simulator to a console is in large part due to its amazing features, which are just as good as those of its PC equivalent. This more than suffices, since it is one of the few genuine next-generation games that can be played on Microsoft’s new hardware.

The new Discovery Flights that come with the console version of Microsoft Flight Simulator are the best place to start if you want to verify all of that for yourself. Short, carefree, and breathtakingly beautiful, these carefully crafted experiences take you right to the heart of the simulator’s wonders: a tour of Everest, a sunset in Tokyo, or even a double rainbow that spans from New Haven to Stamford as you soar over Manhattan, all set to the calming ambient music that has come to define Microsoft Flight Simulator. This is basically an opportunity to see those incredible teasers and experience the grandeur up close. This is a clever new entry to the Microsoft Flight Simulator universe.

In other places, the flying School, which serves as a comprehensive lesson covering everything from operating fundamental flying controls to becoming familiar with the nuances of an airliner cockpit, has undergone some much-needed tweaks, offering a solid basis for hundreds of hours of virtual flight. It is an indisputable fact that running a simulation on a console, even one as informal and unrestricted as Microsoft Flight Simulator, will always be a slightly uncomfortable task. Although attempts have been made to make the simulation work, the elegance found in the sky sometimes falls short when it comes to the more practical issues of a functional interface.

The pointer that appears as you stutter through the interface serves as a continuous reminder that Microsoft Flight Simulator is still primarily a PC game. There is support for mouse and keyboard as well as peripherals, but regrettably not many (at least none that I have to hand in the tiny pile of plastic I’ve gathered this past year) support this console version of the game. I’ve been using a controller for all of my flying these days, both for scientific and practical reasons. However, trying to go further into flight control or even simply try simple menu navigation often leads to problems. In other aspects as well, it’s a very PC experience, requiring some deep menu diving when interacting with the content management, where you’ll have to manually download some of the most current global upgrades to experience Microsoft Flight Simulator at its peak. It’s uncomfortable and maybe off-putting to anyone who are new to the sim.

This adaptation also lacks much of the fundamental structure that console gamers yearn for, with the exception of Flight School and Landing Challenges, which include worldwide leaderboards. As with PCs, of course, there’s always the possibility of connecting in third-party add-ons, which will be feasible with the complete and official release but was regrettably unavailable in the beta version we’ve been playing for the last few days. I’m unfortunately rather sure that when the help does come, it will be a complicated process.

And the console version of Microsoft Flight Simulator will probably always be a pain to work with. This is a proper, full-fledged console simulation, and you’re frequently reminded of why that’s an endeavor that hasn’t been undertaken much in the past. Sims, by nature, require a nerdish degree of patience and poking, and this console version of Asobo’s sometimes makes things even more fiddly (trying a fully manual Dreamliner take-off in Microsoft Flight Simulator, PC or otherwise, is probably one of the most challenging tasks you could assign yourself). With excessive fussiness and less flexibility than the PC version, this isn’t the option for the die-hard either.

However, in Microsoft Flight Simulator, something else comes to life in its new setting of the living room. This may be the best version for casual tourists like myself who use it as the ultimate screensaver. Simply choose a location on the map before logging in, turn on a variety of the helpful assistance available, or even give total control to the more than capable AI co-pilot. This past weekend, I spent whole nights staring out of a 747’s window, watching the clouds drift by and following the sun as it set, lost once again in the enchantment and wonder of Asobo and Microsoft Game Studio’s incredible invention.

You may want to lower your expectations before going in since there is work to be done, work that’s already well begun owing to this version getting upgrades in the future along with the PC version. Possibly the most significant aspect, however, is that this is Microsoft Flight Simulator on console, complete with all of its splendor and magic, despite the odd clunker here and there. It is still one of the most amazing video game accomplishments of the last several years, and one of the greatest next-generation console experiences to date.


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