Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

In this review we will analyze Microsoft Flight Simulator, the long-awaited flight simulator with the entire planet as a game map

Flight enthusiasts or not, Microsoft left everyone speechless with the presentation of its new Flight Simulator at E3 2019. The promise was to create the most ambitious simulation title ever, which had as a game map the planet Earth in its entirety. Microsoft has provided us with a preview copy of the title, which as we will deepen in this review, we do not hesitate to define the first true next-gen experience.

The fine line between reality and simulation

The simulation created by the Asobo Studio team has aimed from the beginning to reach levels unthinkable until now. Thanks to Bing satellite data, and the power of Microsoft Azure cloud computing, in Flight Simulator we will be able to literally explore every corner of our planet, with a level of detail that is nothing short of breathtaking. The most important cities and places also enjoy an even greater graphic realism, achieved thanks to the technique of photogrammetry.

Added to this is real-time data from air traffic, weather conditions, date and time, and even air pollution, which obviously affects our flights. For example, the power of Azure even allows you to calculate the impact of mountains on wind strength and direction, and then calculate any turbulence. Without yet dealing with the possibilities of customizing the experience, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a simulator from the depth never seen before.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

For fans, but not only - Microsoft Flight Simulator Review

Being a simulation title, accessibility to the general public did not necessarily have to be a priority of Flight Simulator 2020. Due to the promises of the game, it was inevitable, however, that it would attract many more users, even non-flying enthusiasts than in previous chapters, and it is that's why the game it fits perfectly to all players

The various simplifications in fact make the control of the plane really within the reach of anyone, and over time they can always be gradually deactivated. A series of eight tutorials they then explain the basics of flight, how to read the instruments and maneuvers such as landing and take-off.

The main focus of the game, however, remains the simulation as realistic as possible, and here too Flight Simulator 2020 excels. From communicating with air traffic controllers to dimming the cockpit lights, virtually every aspect of the flight experience is faithfully recreated.

The even more impressive aspects of the simulation are in the reception in real time of data relating to weather, and air traffic. When planning the flight (or during the flight itself) we can in fact choose to populate the skies with flights actually going on in reality, and with the real weather conditions, provided by Meteoblue servers.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

The first true next-gen title - Microsoft Flight Simulator Review

Doing justice to the incredible world recreated with the combined efforts of Bing Maps and Azure is Asobo Studio's proprietary graphics engine. The team has rightly paid enormous attention to the rendering of the sky, and to the lighting system. If you set to ultra details the new volumes are almost indistinguishable from reality, and combined with the incredible sunsets seen from above and possibly the suggestive storms can be activated at any time, Microsoft Flight Simulator continues to blow your mind even after dozens of hours of gameplay. 

At night the title shines even more, with the countless lights of the cities and vehicles approaching the stunning accomplishments of the stars and the moon. The detail of the aircraft, both internally and externally, is equally impressive. Each aircraft has been faithfully recreated, with one polygonal density and a detail that does not make them disfigure not even getting as close as possible with the view. 

The only aspect that Microsoft's simulator lacks now to offer total immersion is support for virtual reality, which the developers promised to add this year. Flight Simulator 2020 is in fact only the basis of an infrastructure destined to expand for ten years, which will see continuous updates from both developers and the community.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

Performance - Microsoft Flight Simulator Review

The PC we tested the game on is equipped with an Intel i5-6600 processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 video card and 16 GB of RAM. With the graphics settings on the "Very High" preset and in 1080p, but raising the level of detail to 150, we kept a framerate most of the time stably above 50 fps. We could have raised the bar further or lowered it to aim for the fixed 60 fps, but we found these settings to be the best compromise. Compared to the "Ultra" preset, the graphic differences are not so evident, and in such a slow title a higher framerate is not so essential.

As easily understood a game with a similar level of graphical realism couldn't be too light on the hardware, but we stayed anyway pleasantly surprised. In any case, the level of performance is very variable compared to other titles, being strongly influenced for example by the distance from the ground and the amount of clouds. We also occasionally found some huge drops in performance for a few seconds, probably due to the loading of assets.

In the case of Flight Simulator we must also focus on another important requirement: a good one internet connection. The data of the entire planet at that level of detail weighs in fact about 2 Petabyte (2.000.000 Gigabytes) and it would be unthinkable to download them all locally. Against an installation of approximately 150 Gigabytes the game will then receive in streaming in real time the data necessary for the area we are flying over.

For this Microsoft recommends a connection of at least 5 Mbit, and 20 Mbit for an optimal experience. If you do not have a fast enough connection, you can still disable data streaming, however, going down to a much lower level of detail.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

Control Peripherals - Microsoft Flight Simulator Review

Another noteworthy aspect of Flight Simulator 2020 is compatibility with a huge variety of input peripherals. In addition of course to Joystick e virtually any peripheral designed for flight simulators, the title is also suitable for simple controllers or keyboards.

However, we do not recommend the use of the latter enough, which cannot guarantee input accuracy comparable to that of an analog. Using a controller will still require a keyboard for certain commands or to change settings more comfortably, but the experience remains much better.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Review: At the Limits of Simulation

A unique experience in the videogame panorama

Concluding this review, Microsoft Flight Simulator manages to propose an experience at the limits of realism both from a technical and gameplay point of view. Microsoft and Asobo have built a platform that is already incredible, and that will only improve over time. Absolutely unmissable for anyone who is even remotely fond of flying, we recommend trying the title (included in the Xbox Game Pass) even to those who are just fascinated by the possibilities of exploring the world.

Microsoft Flight Simulator will be available from August 18th, 2020 for PC on Steam and the Microsoft store. The basic edition of the game is included in the Xbox Game Pass, and an Xbox One version will arrive in the future at an unannounced date. For other reviews, news, guides, and specials on the gaming world, go to the dedicated section on our site!

9.8 One of the best simulators ever created

Points in favor

  • Technical sector that borders on photorealism
  • The entire planet Earth can be explored
  • Excellent performance
  • Incredibly deep simulation level

Points against

  • Support for Virtual Reality is missing at launch
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