I’m not usually a person who thoroughly enjoys games where a majority of the gameplay revolves around flight, but Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 might be an exception. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a perfect balance between exploring the earth and learning how airplanes work (to a certain extent). While the game itself has some issues such as it’s download time and plane selection, it’s worth the price for anyone whose interested in airplanes and who may want that feeling of exploration that simply looking around in Google Maps might not give you.
Exploring in the game is really fun. You can literally see your house as you fly through your neighborhood or see famous landmarks that you might not have visited before. If you do fly around your house and notice it’s not identical to how it looks in real life don’t be too disappointed. Microsoft uses an algorithm to see structures in the satellite view of their mapping utility and then assigns a 3d model that fits the footprint of the building. As more updates come out for the game they do add hand-crafted cities to the game using photogrammetry, recent examples include Paris, parts of Scandinavia, and San Francisco. Who knows! Maybe your town will be next to receive an update!
I play Microsoft Flight Simulator on my PC using an Xbox controller. This set up may not be the most realistic way to fly the 30+ airplanes on offer, but it works for someone whose never flown a plane before. Strangely this set-up still requires a mouse to get to the photo mode and ATC menu, so I’ll be curious how they’re going to incorporate this functionality in the future Xbox version. There is of course support for the many purpose built flight controls that are available for flight-focused games and simulators.
My main gripe with Microsoft Flight Simulator is how they handle the games installation and updates. Instead of having steam or the Xbox app take care of the entire download and installation, it downloads a client which takes care of the installation/upgrades from within the game itself. This system has an issue where it caps the download speed and installation time counts towards the overall playtime of the game. So if the game isn’t what you were expecting you’ll have to work with Steam in order to get a refund since the 2 hour playtime window is long gone before you even start playing the game. My total download/installation time was around 30 hours for the 130gb game and my internet speed is 150mb/s. Normally a download of that size would be less than 5 hours, so 30 hours is unacceptable.
Graphically the planes are extremely impressive though, the planes are meticulously modeled where you can see every rivet on the side of the plane and see every part of the plane function in real time as you control it, including the flaps, engine exhaust, and landing gear. What is really cool is that if you’re playing with a mouse you can actually toggle most of the controls within the cockpit and most of them are actually functional.
I would recommend checking out Microsoft Flight Simulator if you are really into simulation games, really into airplanes/flight, or missing travel. It is a cool game that scratched my itch to get into the air and relax. It is free on game pass and has VR support as well which would be a blast to try.