Computer gamers have been enjoying flight sims for decades. But the modern sims are so far removed from those first blocky titles of the early 1980s that it feels odd even to put them in the same bracket.
The genre took its most significant leap forward last year when Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 launched to an expectant PC market, nearly 40 years after its first release of the series. The game is technically and visually so much better than anything we have seen before that players are still coming to terms with it.
And the best news is that the title will be coming to the Xbox X|S later this year.
We’re promised that the console version will have everything that the PC version boasts; that incredible flight dynamics, realistic weather, and simply stunning visuals based on real satellite imagery. Take off or land at any airport around the world. Explore dozens of aircraft types, from the smallest single-seater to a 747 airliner.
Just how much detail is there in MSFS 2020?
- 37,000 airports
- 5 billion buildings
- 2 million cities
With photo-realistic scenery, PC gamers have been exploring their own towns and cities in the sim, even finding their own roads and homes buzzing over them in the ultimate joy ride.
However, to run smoothly on a PC, your set-up had to be high-end, with enough memory and processing power to deal with the load. After some early stability issues, Microsoft and the developers of Asobo Studio issued a short series of patches to sort things out.
It remains to be seen how much space the game will take up when you come to download it to your Xbox, expected sometime in the early summer. But it’s entirely possible you will need to invest in extra storage space and hope your broadband connection is up to speed. The game runs smoothly because it downloads the scenery in real time as you zoom through the sky.
We’ve also not heard anything about the price of the game. However, as a guide, the base PC game costs £60, although you can spend £120 and get extra aircraft and high-spec airports. Most gamers will be more than happy with the base model.
If you spend that sort of cash online downloading the game for Xbox, consider the additional cost of a VPN for your console to protect your financial and private data. A VPN for Xbox X keeps you safe, and when it comes to flight sims, it will help provide a stable server speed. VPNs are becoming standard purchases for PC and increasingly for mobile phone users, so the addition of VPNs for consoles seems a natural step.
One boon of Microsoft Flight Simulator is the number of third-party add-ons you can purchase, and the same is expected for the Xbox version. In this case, the VPN takes on extra value as you will be purchasing from relatively unknown sources – plus, you can use the VPN to look at MSFS content that might not ordinarily be available in your country. That’s because you can use your VPN to make it look like you are located anywhere in the world.
What to Look Forward to with Microsoft Flight Simulator
You will literally have the whole world at your fingertips. Fly anywhere you wish, explore big cities, the Himalayas, Caribbean islands, the Australian outback – anything that takes your fancy.
To whet your appetite, here are 10 fun places to zoom over:
- The Grand Canyon, United States
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal
- Mount Fuji in Japan
- The pyramids in Egypt
- Hong Kong
- Las Vegas
- Niagara Falls
- The Alps
In the game, you can choose to begin and end your flights anywhere in the world. But it’s not flying around 20,000 feet or more up in the air. The sim also has some landing challenges at some of the most testing airstrips worldwide.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal (next stop, Mount Everest) is one such challenge. Settle down for your approach and try to land as accurately and smoothly as possible – and see how you rank on the world leaderboard.
There are also bush tours, which are multi-legged flights to enjoy.
There was speculation last year that anyone who purchased the official PC version of the game might be able to use their license to get hold of the Xbox version, too, but it’s unclear whether that will still be the case.
But the title will be enough of a draw, and Xbox gamers looking for something different from the usual first-person shooter game are in for a treat. Where will you fly?