Ratings: Gameplay: 25/25, Graphics: 15/25, Creativity 20/25, Fun 25/25
Being the tenth flight sim from Microsoft would have to be some kind of record, or a great run of some awesome games. I have played most of the flight simulator games from Microsoft and enjoyed every one but am truly torn between two of the latest, Flight Simulator X and the older Combat Flight Sim 3. I just love flying in general and I do like the adventure and excitement of combat but then there is something to be said about a leisurely ride on a sail plane. The wind whistling past the canopy as you sail across azure skies in the dawn of the desert over North Africa. These are things, at least the leisurely plane rides, not the combat, that you can do in Flight Sim X.
As I mentioned Microsoft Flight Simulator X as the name implies is the newest flight simulation game from Microsoft and is truly a great software program as well as a flight sim. This program is not merely a flight sim but an entire software suite of flying games, flight training and pilot tutorials wrapped into one huge package. Flight Simulator X is one of the largest projects in flying to come along in the history of the video game and it does take its toll on computers. I just received my new system and found that it does tax even a really good CPU and other components.
I have tried Flight Simulator X on an AMD Athlon 2600+ with 1 GB Ram and an Nvidia 6600 256 MB graphics card and am now playing it on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ with 1 GB Ram and a 7600 GS 512 MB graphics card. The frame rates I am getting on my new system are about average for the game as far as what everyone else is saying on simulation forums. I am getting 12.3 frames per second on my new system with quality settings at medium high. When I try setting the quality to ultra high in Flight Simulator X on the new system I get about 6.5 FPS which is pretty good as the game is playable at that setting if your not near much civilization, like the desert. I also recorded some frame rates on my older computer and was getting 14 to 15 FPS at low quality settings which is about the highest I could set them on that computer. The game gets stutters and becomes unplayable if I would set them any higher.
From what I understand reading on the Internet and from Microsoft’s website this is normal and very expected considering how much is being rendered and stored into memory with the graphics and world scenery. After all what game can you fly around the world and not have any loading, the whole world is loaded into your memory, so some frame rate loss is certainly expected. With more memory I would have some better frame rates but this is not really a game that you are going to have combat in or anything other than normal airport traffic of several large planes and some smaller ones in the near vicinity so the frame rates are fine for playing.
And speaking of airports they look great, the graphics are so much better in Flight Simulator X than FS 2004. The game begs to be played on a better system but the graphics and gameplay is so much better. Flight Simulator X comes with some very good and easy settings to render different areas of the game at their own settings; graphics, aircraft, scenery, weather and traffic. All these settings affect different parts of the game and depending on where you are in the world like at a large city or out in the open desert will depend on how much this affects what you see and how much loss of frame rate you will experience accordingly.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X is not just a flight simulation game though, it is a whole suite of flying from beginner tutorials to free flight and a whole host of things in between. There are two versions of Flight Simulator X, standard and deluxe, and you get better stuff in the deluxe of course.
40 high detail airports (16 new to Flight Simulator)
28 high detail cities
30+ structured missions
45 high detail airports (21 new to Flight Simulator)
38 high detail cities
50+ structured missions
Glass Panel (G1000) cockpit
That does not sum up the value or benefits of buying the deluxe edition of Flight Simulator X though, not by a long shot. The missions are great and to have the extra ones is a plus as the real benefits for the deluxe edition are those extra missions. Missions range from things like simple flight tutorials using the wide variety of planes available with either edition. There are also things like rescue missions or delivery using several planes or helicopters, a fun flour bombing run using an Ultralight or even a race of plane against jet powered car. The missions will be varied in time as well as difficulty and the mission objectives ranging from five minutes to over an hour estimated completion time.
Whether you purchase the standard edition or the deluxe you will get the great benefits of several tutorials learning how to fly from the basics of small engine and even the ultralight to the big jumbo jets and helicopters. Flying is easy to learn but the multi engine aircraft can be tricky and the different tasks of flying in and around an airport such as air traffic control and flight patterns are also a skill you can master using Flight Simulator X. And speaking of air traffic, ever wonder what all that talk over those headsets to pilots is all about, now you can find out from either side of the conversation. You can be the pilot requesting clearance for take off or you can direct traffic as an air traffic controller in the tower with so many planes under your finger tips. The Tower Controller is only available in the deluxe edition only though.
You can literally pick any airport in the world and start your adventures from there in free flight mode. The high detail airports and cities mean that they have added more to those particular areas but the rest of the world is still there. You can pick from most any of the real world airports and start flying using the available planes. Or you can download additional planes and other great content from one of a number of sites for free. There are things like vintage aircraft, military and civilian jets and a host of tweaks, effect enhancements and other things. The flight sim enthusiasts have been very busy since this came out in October 2006 creating new additions or editing the previous ones for Flight Simulator X.
Its pretty fun to get out a map and find an airport in the real world and find it in the flight sim game as well. You can also use this real world comparison to help with navigation in the game. Find out where things are in the world and fly there in the game such as the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower. I had fun flying over my home town and even my current residence as it is on the map in the game just not rendered other than as a flat map. But you can pick out my street on that flight because it looks like the game has used real world aerial photos for much of the cities. These are some of the benefits of a real world rendered in a game and you can experience them all with Flight Simulator X.
There are a host of additional things set up in the game that have an added fun factor like being able to use real world weather that updates every 15 minutes while flying. Just start the mission or free flight and change the weather settings to either real world or updating and you will be in the weather at that particular location with up to date weather from the Internet. This is really a fun way to check out what the weather is like any where in the world and if you see something particularly interesting like a snow storm in some part of the country or world you can be in the middle of it in minutes. There are other settings in free flight like time of day and season, location, aircraft and of course the weather.
Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X has a lot going for it with all the different areas of gameplay and the community has so much more to add to it. You can go on line and play multi player flying based upon real life events such as regular flights from one city or destination to another with others as pilot and co pilot or even the traffic controllers at various airports using the Internet. You can also fly with others in stunt shows or all kinds of different things that people are conjuring up over the Internet. Gamespy has an open lobby where you can set up or join other flying sessions for some realistic or just plain fun flying of all sorts.
Many of the online sessions have things like a regular day at any particular airport for people to learn how to fly and have fun doing the various tasks. Sometimes you get some people, like me, that are not sure of what they are doing and those that are already playing are usually pretty nice and helpful teaching you what you need to know. Many of these lobbies are just for fun but the people running them are trying to learn and teach others how real flying works. This is especially helpful for people wanting to learn how to fly and getting the essential experience and knowledge without having to pay for flying lessons as much. Learning things like airport rules and how you need to communicate with the air controllers. Just exactly how to do this is all a big part of flying and to learn it by taking lessons from a flight school is expensive.
If you learn on a sim game first you will cut the cost down for those lessons as long as you make sure your learning the correct way. This is one big advantage of Flight Simulator X and the other flight sim games from Microsoft, flight training and tutorials in real world simulation. Learning the language of flight and how the airports work is a great help to learning if you have what it takes to be a pilot before you spend more money on flight lessons. This game will teach you about aerodynamics first hand and what all those things are inside a cockpit of just about any plane you will encounter as a pilot. But if you do want to be a pilot I would warn you that this is not exactly real life flying but it will teach you the basics and get you a good idea of what is going on at airports and in the pilots seat.
There are several things that make this program great and to put it all down would take a long time. Suffice it to say that the ratings average on the Internet for reviews of Flight Simulator X say it all and then some, average rating is 80% and that is a bit lower than what I rate it. If you have Flight Simulator 2004 and are looking at upgrading to the next big sim game I would recommend you look hard at your system to see if it meets or comes close to the recommended system requirements, not the minimum.
This game is a system hog but it is well worth it for the missions and extra fun involved. If you have a lower system you might want to avoid this game as it does take a good computer to play it at reasonable frame rates. You might want to wait till you get a better computer and then get it. Microsoft Flight Simulator X is a great flying sim game with so much content that it makes for great value. I really can’t wait to see how much Vista and DirectX 10 will change it for the better.