Take to the skies with one of the longest running flight franchises in Microsoft Flight Simulator X. Featuring 55 missions that range from 15 minutes to over an hour, you can wrap your hands around the controls of 20 aircraft including the Airbus 321, the Boeing 747-400, the Bell 206B helicopter, a variety of Cessna and Beechcraft models, and the Douglas DC-3. A tutorial is available for beginners, while professional pilots and expert gamers can attempt more dangerous and time-consuming flights. Missions feature such short flights as taking a floatplane from Seattle to the San Juan Islands, to longer and more challenging flights like emergency landing an airliner over water.
Utilizing satellites and pictures from space shuttles, Microsoft Flight Simulator X manages to include 24 million roads, 10,000 accurately placed stars, and 24,000 airports. Improvements made to the graphics engine allow 6,000 objects per square kilometer, and vegetation and items for 23 distinct regions. For example, when flying low over Africa, you may see small huts in tribal villages and elephants grazing next to acacia trees. And by using models for human density reports, the game will render the correct amount of traffic when you are close enough to see cars on the street. Online play includes the ability to fly in a populated world, or be air traffic controller for fellow pilots.
Very few game franchises get to the milestone of 10 games, so when one does reach that step the company must be doing something right. Microsoft's Flight Simulator franchise has been in the running for over 25 years, and the latest game, Flight Simulator X, improves on several concepts, and also unveils the most glorious visuals in a flight simulator ever, earning the title "The Biggest Game I Ever Had to Install." The deluxe edition of the game clocks in at over 15 gigs, and it includes much more than the standard edition: 24 aircraft compared to 18, 45 high-detailed airports compared to 40, 38 high-detailed cities compared to 28, and 50+ missions compared to 30+. I've seen plenty of "deluxe/collectors/mega ultra cool" editions of games over the years, but this one definitely provides more, and is a real bang for your buck.
I originally thought that I might as well be staring at theoretical physics when it comes to flight simulators, since I hadn't played any until I was given this game. But rather than being overloaded with gauges and manuals, the game is very approachable for newbie flyers. There are plenty of tutorials to accustom new and veteran players, making it a very approachable experience. For the sake of reviewing, scoring FSX is kind of difficult, because the game is not shaped in the terms of a standard "game." In the end, there is no over-arching story; the game is not necessarily shaped to say you're a pilot, and you have to advance in pilot wings to unlock whatever. Instead, the game acts as a massive manual, offering so much detail that it'll easily take up any pilot's dream.
Microsoft chocked this game full of things to do. With over 24,000 airports in 233 countries, you can easily spend time just zooming around the globe. If you decide to jump into the missions, there is plenty to satiate your appetite. The missions range from simple 5-10 minute take-offs and landings to the 15-25 minute airport jumps to the well-over 30 minute long missions. The longer missions include objectives ranging from trying to locate a downed aircraft, to trying to land a crippled 747 or flying a fully-loaded 747 in the middle of the worst weather you can imagine. Ever wanted to be a stunt pilot? There is a set of missions where you can wow the crowd by trying to land on various moving vehicles.
FSX highly suggests a joystick for flying, but if you don't own one never fear, because the game supports keyboard control (which is pretty bland), but also re-introduces mouse flight. The controls are fairly standard like any other flight simulator, or simulators in general. Controlling your plane can be based on how you're comfortable. If you want to fly from point A to point B, you can either do it with little-to-no bother (i.e. let the game do 90% of the flying for you) or do the complete flying mode, with the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) giving you orders. You'll have to develop a complete flight plan, make sure the weather is right and make sure the appropriate airports can accommodate your plane.
The visuals are definitely one of the high-points. But beware, if your machine is not relatively new, the game's options will have to be turned down for the sake of performance. The range of detail is definitely impressive; enhanced and improved texture resolutions, correct road routes, region-specific textures, realistic clouds (so fluffy!), intricate plane details (look at the sunsets shine right off of your plane's doors) and automatic scenery texture line-up are just some of what FSX delivers. Trust me, if you're flying over the rolling hills of a buried forest or just zooming over the dusty deserts, you'll be surprised on the amount of detail the developers put in. But as I stated, Microsoft developed this game for the computers of tomorrow, so if you have problems with today's more demanding games, FSX may prove to be too much for your rig to handle.
Along with the 50+ missions, FSX also sports a multiplayer aspect. Each host sets an online flight simulation session, and you can join up with whatever suits your style. The different online gaming modes include flying your own planes, sharing a plane with another person, and playing as the ATC while commanding other players' flights.
For the veterans and especially the newbies, missing out on a Flight Simulator this good means you should never get your pilot wings in the first place.
People who downloaded Microsoft Flight Simulator X have also downloaded:
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater, Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000: Professional Edition, X-Plane 8, Microsoft Train Simulator, Battlefield 2
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