When you think about a Microsoft Flight Simulator game you don’t think about the experience on a console. Most of the time, you sit back and think about all the money you’ll need to spend in order to get the massive, graphically demanding game to run on your PC. Either that or you just miss out on the experience completely because you don’t even own a gaming PC. Thankfully, Microsoft Flight Simulator has finally arrived on Xbox platforms and it is a dream. I dipped my toes in the PC release last year but to be honest, the game was way too buggy and crashed too often for me to enjoy it. Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox means it is time to put your feet up, grab a controller and enjoy exploring the world.
The sheer enjoyment that comes from a console port of this kind is seen through how well it has been ported onto the platform. Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Xbox Series X looks stunning in 4K and packs most of the visual bells and whistles you would expect from the game. There is a new tutorial system that is centered around the controller too. This eased me into the various ways I could move the camera, interact with the buttons and levers on an aircraft and generally navigate the world using a limited set of buttons.
Even on the PC version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, the controller experience was kinda lackluster. I often tried to play with an Xbox Controller but the game constantly asked me to press keyboard buttons even though my backside was on the couch 3-meters away from the PC. That is no longer the case with this port. Everything has seen some sort of attention be it with the camera controls, how sensitive the analogue stick is or how fast the controller detects a button press.
I do have to say that even though the tutorial has been tailored for the controller, complicated movements often do plague the game. I had to sit and tweak a lot of the settings for a few days of playing just to tailor the experience to the way I expected it to play. Again, this just goes to show how fantastic the game is. After a few toggles and adjustments, it feels incredible to interact with. Sure, some movements and actions are layered on a combination of button presses that might be hard to memorise but the controller approach just works.
There is also a cursor that can be enabled at any time in the game. This replaced the traditional D-pad movements and helps a lot. It may be slower than using a mouse but gives you the freedom to explore the menus and navigate the switches in an aircraft a lot easier than before.
Microsoft Flight Simulator comes in at over 100GB on the Xbox Series X which is not a small game by any means. Once installed, there is also a robust content management system where I could browse the store and download a range of add-ons for the game. This content included extra aircraft but most importantly, the asset packs that help enhance certain countries and regions around the world. These packs are a few gigabytes big and after downloading them all the game size increased by a further 30GB.
I can then add and remove the content as I saw fit and everything downloaded in-game while I was flying through the air. I did take issue with how slow this download was at times. I felt as if the content packs just took hours to install even with a 1-gig speed line. This is most likely due to the game running at the same time. It would have been so much better to have these add-ons install outside of the game similar to other content on the console. That way I could put it to rest mode and come back later to enjoy it. A small irritation but easily forgotten once you have everything installed.
Microsoft Flight Simulator also looks superb in motion and honestly, this is probably the most ambitious game ever to release on a console. The game runs at 4K 30FPS and is stable for the most part. There were times when the frame rate dropped and some mountains rendered while I was changing the camera but it is still damn impressive. The game also takes advantage of all the fancy tech in the Xbox Series X so there is no screen tearing and the latency in movement feels next to nothing. It also helps a lot here due to the fact that Microsoft Flight Simulator does drop frames so often. It creates a smoother viewing experience.
The game also loads and renders to the best of the console’s ability most of the time. Sometimes I would fly through New York City and some skyscrapers would just not load into view correctly. However, it still looks impressive and the odd visual glitch is forgivable given how detailed everything is in this game.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is also exactly what it says it is – a simulator. This means there is very little “game” on offer here. You can play through the Flight School tutorials and Landing Challenges but this is an experience meant to take you away from the world. It does just that. You can go anywhere, see any location and experience the beauty of the world on your massive TV. Just don’t expect any real gameplay mechanics because there aren’t any. The flight tours are nice to see and took me to set locations in an instant. However, I could just do the same thing by picking the point and taking off.
There is also a great sense of accessibility here for all players and it helps a lot. If you aren’t a pro like me who just wants to fly through the air and see the world beneath them you can. I simply turned everything on easy and even then, enabled the AI pilot when I simply wanted to sit back and enjoy the flight. You can, however, up the challenge by tweaking the game settings to make flights a lot more unforgiving. You need to worry about petrol, handling, weather and all the stuff pilots trains years to master. The challenge is definitely not lacking here if you go looking for it.
I also need to mention the Xbox Series S version of the game. I tested it out for a bit and it is impressive. It runs at 1080p 30FPS and for the most part, remains stable. There are some graphical downgrades compared to the Series X version such as more texture pop-in and reduces draw distance. It is nothing to really complain about. I do have to say that the game is huge when it comes to the file size and the Series S’ tiny SSD is going to have a rough time hosting it alongside your other games. That is if you haven’t upgraded your storage yet.
Microsoft Flight Simulator Review
With everything said the main point here is how fantastic this experience is for a console. There is truly nothing else like it out there and I never thought I would play a game so massive and ambitious as this on something that isn’t a PC. It really makes the Xbox Series X glow and you should try it out.
This Microsoft Flight Simulator review is based on an early version sent to us by Microsoft
Available On: Xbox Series X/S, PC | Reviewed On: Xbox Series S | Release Date: 27 July 2021 | Price: R1,055 / Free with Xbox Game Pass