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First Impressions Microsoft Flight: The Future of Casual Flying

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 29 comments

Microsoft's Flight Simulator has always been something special. It has always been a game that we used to describe what a simulation on a PC could be -- and should be.

If you could not afford to buy an aircraft and if you did not happen to be a pilot, this was the way to experience the challenge and joy of flying on the PC screen.

For some time, Microsoft teased us with images about the new "Flight", which was released this week and is offered as a free 1.5 GB download. Free, of course, is a term I should be careful to use, because only the basics of Flight are free and Microsoft is evaluating its chances to sell a game via upgrades and in-app purchases. What you get with the free download is the ability to fly around Hawaii in two airplanes, the Icon A5 prototype and the Boeing PT-17 Stearman WW2 training aircraft. Adding the remaining Hawaiian islands as well as another small passenger airplane, a Vans RV-6A, will cost you 1600 Xbox Live credits. More aircraft are priced between 600 and 1200 credits. Buy the "Hawaiian Adventure Pack" and two airplanes and you will spend slightly more than $40. So, "free" is really a relative term if you want to play this game.

It is also noteworthy that this game is not called "Flight Simulator", but "Flight" - with good reason. The game is by far much less complex than any previous Flight Simulator. Every game can be controlled either by keyboard or by pointing the mouse cursor in the desired direction. Surprisingly, the mouse control is much more accurate that the keyboard control and the planes react much smoother to a change in direction with mouse movement than with key input. While some of us may have never learned to fly an airplane in Flight Simulator from airport to airport, Flight has a few lessons and "challenges" that teach a basic flying experiences within a few minutes. From previous teaser images, we know that the graphics of the game are a big deal; and in Flight they look fascinating especially with adjusted weather conditions. However, much of the surface is obviously pulled from satellite data and the joy of sightseeing is somewhat limited, especially in areas with graphics that have no 3D effects and are decidedly flat as a result. For hardcore gamers, the graphics don't break any new ground.

However, that may not be such a big deal, since Microsoft may not go after hardcore gamers after all. The feel of the game is much more "casual" than previous Flight Simulators and the in-app purchase model may also be an indication that Microsoft is trying to reach many more gamers with Flight than it did with Flight Simulator. It doesn't feel like the hardcore simulator it once was; it’s a casual game that you play when you have 15 or 20 minutes of time.

For a casual game, the graphics are impressive and Flight continues a trend we have been seeing for some time. Casual games increasingly require substantial hardware horsepower and a netbook won't cut it anymore. In this case, Microsoft recommends a dual-core 3.0 GHz CPU, a 1GB AMD Radeon HD5670 or 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800GT, and 6 GB system memory. I personally felt this was a rather conservative guide.

Flight is definitely an enjoyable game, but it is tough to justify more than two or three hours in it without getting bored. The game lives through the extensions and is likely to convince plenty of people to shell out extra money for it. However, if we consider it an example of a new generation of high-end casual games, the prices Microsoft is asking for may be a bit high.

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  • 15 Hide
    ultraman , March 3, 2012 11:53 PM
    I tried this a few days ago and was severely disappointed. I know that most 'casual' gamers don't require a lot of realism, but this provides absolutely *no* realism relative to flying an actual aircraft.

    The worst thing is that when you centre your joystick, it actually pulls the aircraft back to wings level. I have encountered *zero* planes that act in such a way. Another thing is that banking the aircraft always leads to a rudder input, but no rudder input is needed once a bank angle is established -- the aircraft should already be in a coordinated turn (provided you're at a medium bank angle where no additional control input is required).

    Those facts might seem a bit nit-picky, but they're part of the fundamentals of flight and MSFlight can't even get them right.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    mr_wobbles , March 3, 2012 11:49 PM
    A flight simulator with "Micro-Transactions". Sounds like a bad idea as it is. Equally, if they allowed for "Tycoon mode" where you could have multiple planes in a "company" I would probably be more inclined to spend more money than none on a flight sim game.
  • 15 Hide
    ultraman , March 3, 2012 11:53 PM
    I tried this a few days ago and was severely disappointed. I know that most 'casual' gamers don't require a lot of realism, but this provides absolutely *no* realism relative to flying an actual aircraft.

    The worst thing is that when you centre your joystick, it actually pulls the aircraft back to wings level. I have encountered *zero* planes that act in such a way. Another thing is that banking the aircraft always leads to a rudder input, but no rudder input is needed once a bank angle is established -- the aircraft should already be in a coordinated turn (provided you're at a medium bank angle where no additional control input is required).

    Those facts might seem a bit nit-picky, but they're part of the fundamentals of flight and MSFlight can't even get them right.
  • 6 Hide
    whatismyproblem , March 4, 2012 12:15 AM
    hate at first sight...
    really just wanted the graphics in fsx to be improved dx9/10 vs dx11

    i think i'll be buying x-plane 10 very soon and deleting this ms flight garbage
  • 1 Hide
    molo9000 , March 4, 2012 12:54 AM
    I think the free to play idea is the right way to go for flight sims (or most sims actually). Check the sim out before you sink money into it and only pay for planes you actually want to fly.

    They just didn't execute it properly. Two more or less boring airplanes for free and only 2 more planes to choose from. Not having a cool or challenging plane to fly instantly kills a flight sim. Add to that the low detailed and very small terrain and you get bored way too quickly.

    Flight physics feel boring, too.
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , March 4, 2012 1:57 AM
    I rather download flightgear v2.6 and give some bucks to the developers...or start playing with fs2004 again...
  • 3 Hide
    killerclick , March 4, 2012 2:53 AM
    Thanks but no thanks. I'll stick with X-plane and Orbiter. First time I ever heard of Flightgear (thanks, nothanks) so I'll check that out as well.
  • 3 Hide
    AznCracker , March 4, 2012 3:14 AM
    Google Earth flight simulator is free. Try it!
  • 2 Hide
    magnetite , March 4, 2012 3:34 AM
    It's not a simulator, so I'll just stick with FSX. Runs pretty well on my Sandy Bridge system. All 8 cores are being used, sometimes to 100%. CPU also offloads things to the GPU when it's busy (tweaked it), so my GPU is around 60-80% usage. I get around 30-50 FPS without any artifacts with my addons.
  • 0 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , March 4, 2012 3:45 AM
    I like Google Earth flight simulator very much except there's one thing that kills it for me; they swapped the throttle and rudder controls with each other so you have to use ninja acrobatic gymnastics to control it with a joystick.
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , March 4, 2012 4:26 AM
    nothanksI rather download flightgear v2.6 and give some bucks to the developers...or start playing with fs2004 again...

    I've been playing with FlightGear for a little while. I don't like the fact that it's a pain to install new scenery.

    Otherwise, this new Microsoft Flight Simulator...I tried it once. It's garbage. Way to get 6 year olds into flight simulators.
  • 5 Hide
    The-Darkening , March 4, 2012 4:51 AM
    As is becoming standard... "Casual" ruins another franchise.
  • 0 Hide
    Benihana , March 4, 2012 6:05 AM
    I haven't played a flight simulator since F/A-18 Hornet on my Performa running MacOS 7.5.3. I guess flight simulator's are still in the market! :) 
  • 2 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , March 4, 2012 10:50 AM
    Strike 1 : Points
    Strike 2: No option for an advanced flight model.
    Strike 3: No providing a full game for the price of a full game.
  • 3 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , March 4, 2012 11:25 AM
    A flight simulator that is not a simulator...lame
  • -2 Hide
    freggo , March 4, 2012 12:13 PM
    Reminds me of Apple products. Flashy Design over serious usability.

    But as was mentioned in another post; it is NOT called Flight 'Simulator'.
    So if it is a 'game' how can we complain. Maybe they can add some Angry Birds trying to get into your engine that you have to avoid while 'flying' :-)

    As for the M$ Points..... stuff it !

  • 2 Hide
    DRosencraft , March 4, 2012 3:02 PM
    Don't care about the MS points; MS said they'd be phasing those out at the end of the year. Don't much care about the graphics; a game that intends to cover so many areas of the globe, I don't really expect detailed buildings, forests, and recreations of every locality's distinctions as that would be ridiculously infeasible, particularly for a game that is free until you feel like buying the extras.

    The problem I have is the loss of a genuine flight simulator. The Ace Combat series has lost what made it a great arcade sim by trying too hard to shy to the real-world side of things. Now Flight has gone too arcade-like. Even if you forget the history of the Flight Simulator series, this looks like some amateur company's attempt at a simulator, but they couldn't deliver a real quality product.

    So, what happened? The same thing that's been happening to a lot of games and old game series. These game developers feel too strongly they need to completely remake the fundamentals of their game to try and satisfy a perceived audience. They may or may not be successful at that and bring in a new audience, but in the process the fans of the old game become disenchanted. DON'T LIKE SOCIAL GAMES. It is the boiling down of gaming to the greatest common demoninator - whatever gimmicks or basic components that catch most eyes and dollars. From a publisher or comapny standpoint it makes a lot of common sense, but from a consumer standpoint this is a horrible trend.
  • 0 Hide
    gkreymer , March 4, 2012 3:27 PM
    Shame on you Microsoft !!! You've truly destroyed another franchise with the release of another sub-par product, that you feel will generate a higher revenue stream than the award winning Flight Simulator marked.

    In my opinion, you've committed another huge mistake. First, you've strategically dismantled a core group of talented Sim developers (the Aces Team) which had brought the FlightSim community a top notch flight simulator worth of incredible growth potential and becoming a formidable product among Flight Sim competitors. In its place, you've decided on a business model that would earn more by changing the way a consumer buys your product - a concept which you've once again stolen from your competitors, who by the way are more business-savvy and smarter enough to make it work for them.

    Next, you've stumbled, fumbled and crashed during your embarrassing 3+ year development cycle of Flight. This latent release is proof that you truly don't know what your doing and have lost your vision, as you have with your operating systems, grasp of new technologies, and your never ending downward spiral business decisions as a software developer.

    Flight is a step backward and is proof that Microsoft, once again, by letting down its customer base, with the release of a amateur-level product, and a back stab move on its once-loyal flight simulator enthusiasts, is dwindling to a third-rate software company.

    Long Live Laminar Research!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    upgrade_1977 , March 4, 2012 6:17 PM
    Was interested in trying it out until I read the article and the comments. Was hoping it was gonna be a new advanced game engine, but guess not. I decided to avoid all games that base income exclusively on in game purchases. Only thing I don't like about flight simulator X is it runs like crap even on a super high end system. not so fun when you average 20fps on a $4000 PC. Hopefully microsoft will smarten up and hire an out of house development team for there next flight sim game...Seriously, they should hire Dice to create a flight sim. The flying in BF3 might not be "Technically" a simulation, but it "feels" real when your flying, and I think they could pull it off without sacrificing graphics or performance.

    Gonna have to stick with everyone else and stick with Xplane.
  • 0 Hide
    HeXrays , March 4, 2012 6:56 PM
    Very arcade like. A far cry from FSX. Even the aircraft engine sounds are weak. And no rotorcraft!
  • 0 Hide
    michalmierzwa , March 5, 2012 12:50 PM
    Microsoft should place effort in producing a new space simulator, its been ages since the likes of Freespace 2. Improve graphics and expand universe. Imagine playing a space sim with MW3 equivalent graphics? LOL
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