First Impressions Microsoft Flight: The Future of Casual Flying

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.

  • mr_wobbles
    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.
  • ultraman
    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.
  • whatismyproblem
    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
  • molo9000
    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.
  • I rather download flightgear v2.6 and give some bucks to the developers...or start playing with fs2004 again...
  • killerclick
    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.
  • AznCracker
    Google Earth flight simulator is free. Try it!
  • magnetite
    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.
  • IndignantSkeptic
    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.
    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.