Seeing the world from your sofa has never been so easy… or has it…
I must start this review by pointing out that I am by no means an aspiring or qualified pilot, I am playing this game on the Xbox Series X as an intrigued consumer. The game is also free on Game Pass, so really apart from the gargantuan download why would you not take it for a spin? I have played many flight sims over the years, including Flight Sim 2000 and Combat Flight Sim on PC. My interest in these games was always inspired purely by the challenge presented, possibly also the sneak peek at a profession or hobby very few get a chance at.
The first thing I realise about firing up this sim for the first time is that the biggest attraction for me is actually the graphics. Thinking back to those earlier sims the majority of the them looked like they were existing in a constant state of texture pop or glitch. Running smoothly on the Series X the game targets 30 FPS or higher if your screen supports Variable Refresh Rate, like the LG OLED C14. It is a marvel that a console can run this at all, let alone at 4K, smoothly and with real live air traffic and global weather conditions! The ground is populated using an AI technology called photogrammetry, this involves mapping the likes of google earth in real time to the map and then pulling this into 3D shapes based on the data it can see. This is clearly an art form that is not yet quite perfect as the Reddit memes about council house Buckingham Palace show. However, planes are not really designed to be mostly flown at ground level to look at the brick work of buildings. From their rightful place in the sky the effects are stunning, flying through London and looking over the wing of my biplane on my way from Biggin Hill it really is impressive. The sun cuts through the buildings and I drop down to nip through the skyscrapers and bridges, complete with helpful markers to show me what I am looking at. With the flight assistant mode on, which is no doubt working overtime to account for my complete lack of skill, I could get around relatively easily. This accessibility is key, I will be one of many, here only for a few scenic flights, and to stare at my garden shed as I crash distractedly into the neighbour’s house.
As this is a console port, the sheer amount that is available in the cockpit and in the menus does make it a little tricky to get used to. To have reduced the options would surely be the worse sin. I accept, I am not using a mouse and keyboard with a proper stick, many will, and can get maximum enjoyment from twiddling all the settings and dials to their heart content, this is a simulator after all. For me, as I sit bored now at 30,000 ft, having underestimated how long it takes to fly between continents, I am just pushing buttons in a 747 cockpit until it falls out of the sky, simple pleasures.
This creation is a work of technical genius, it does so much in such detail many of us will barely get to fully appreciate all the nuances. This is a sandbox in which many can play, satisfying each level of interest and rewarding it. The curated content gets me to experiences I can enjoy with a few clicks and little effort, while others can spend 2 hours doing professional level flight checks. It’s an experience that will keep on giving with literally an entire world to explore!
Author: Joe, Bath store