Microsoft Flight Simulator fans have been waiting and waiting for Microsoft to say anything about some kind of new Flight Simulator (FS). Most of the hardcore FS fans (is there any other type?) expected to see something grand, something great, something that would keep them busy for a few more years. And they got an announcement of a free-to-play flight sim.
Wow. That was unexpected from Microsoft.
As the announcement was made you could smell something rotten in the state of Denmark? A flight simulator from Microsoft for free?
All of the sim community just hoped that Microsoft would not give them a half-product; something that would be oriented more towards casual players (and not simulation enthusiasts). They wanted a real simulation, a true successor to FSX. And what did they get?
Free to play?
Sure, Microsoft Flight is free to play, or to be more precise, free to get a taste of what you could do if you buy extra airplanes, terrains etc. When you start the game, you have two planes at your disposal (the Icon A5 and Boeing Stearman N25) and you are welcomed with few basic tutorials that show you how to take off, how to land and some basic flight instructions. Upon completion of the tutorials, you?re ready for the real stuff! You?re ready to try some other aircraft and see how it handles, see how good the physics model is, or simply want to have fun. But, MS Flight says no-no – these two airplanes are all you have, and if you want that P-51D Mustang we mentioned so many times before the launch, you?ll have to pay $8 for it.
Boeing Stearman N25 biplane
Nah, I don?t want to pay anything extra yet, let?s take a look at what else MS Flight offers. Missions! Well, that could be interesting! Oh, those are just the tutorials, not real missions? Maybe we?ll have more luck with Challenges? Okay, here we go, some real flying… if you consider landings and flying through nice, glowing rings in the sky "real flying"…
There must be something more, there must be! Wait, what?s this? Aerocache Hunt? Well, this is something spectacular: flying in search of a hidden cache! And the way to find it is to use the provided hint, then use Bing search engine to pinpoint the location and fly there. How cool is that!? Well, not at all, especially since only one of those Hunts is free; for the rest of them you need to buy the Hawaiian Adventure Pack.
I’m still not giving up, there must be something more. Job list in every airport? Sounds like fun! First mission is to take some woman for a burger on the other side of the island. How…creative, but I guess others will be more fun. They look like it, since in this one I?m supposed to carry cargo to another airfield (a bit more exciting than flying someone for burgers). But! – there is always a ?but? in this free game – in order to fly those jobs, you need a different airplane, and, you guessed right, you have to pay for it ($15).
Regardless of the game being free or not, the feeling of flight is as great as ever
So, if I?m someone who simply wants to fly in a free-to-play game, I?m stuck with two basic, underpowered planes and one island. Since there?s nothing else, let`s try that and give you our impressions.
Graphics of the 21st century?
The question mark might have clued you in. No, granted, graphics are not bad, but they could have been so much better! The airplane models are made really well, with great attention to detail, and so are other objects in game, like boats and ships. But what immediately catches your attention are the slightly strange textures used on the ground and the sea.
Graphics of the plane are quite good, yet the rest of the game sometimes looks… not up to par.
Sea texture is the strangest – it instantly reminded me of a blue gel toothpaste, a far cry from a real sea. Reflections are also a bit weird, rendering the whole experience a bit too artificial. We know Microsoft wanted to give the Hawaiian sea a great blue look, but they overdid it.
Ground textures are the ones that stick out the most, because when combined with the 3D objects on them, they look washed out and blurry.
On the other hand, most players will be pleased with the performance they`ll get even on mid-range configurations. On our test machine, consisting of Pentium E6300@ 3.77GHz, 4GB of RAM and GeForce 550Ti, we had a constant frame rate of over 50fps, and that?s great, especially when you recall poor optimization of FSX.
Flying for everyone!
Since Microsoft?s goal with Flight is to attract people who are not flight enthusiasts and don?t have $2000 flight controllers at home, some things had to be sacrificed.
While city textures and 3D objects are quite good, the game missed the mark on water and water reflections…
In terms of physics, they have been simplified to the point where flight characteristics still feel quite real but are also suited for everyone, even if they fly with a mouse (this is a very important feature for Microsoft).
First time you roll off the runway and start flying, you`ll notice it is not exactly an FSX in terms of the simulation, and it is far, far away from any DCS product, but you?ll still have a feeling of flying a plane, and in that capacity Microsoft did a great job; they made a "simulation" playable for everyone, not only enthusiasts.
Even though the tone of this review may be mixed, Microsoft did do a decent job with Flight, though they had a different idea for their new flight game than Flight Simulator fans had in mind.
Flight offers a simple way of flying in a pretty good physical engine with okay graphics for 0 bucks, while, of course, there is plenty of extra content available to buy. That?s presumably why Flight is free, to get you hooked. There are many flyers out there who will gladly spend $8 to try out the P-51D and other cool stuff Microsoft is offering, exactly what Microsoft?s hoping for.
If you expected a new Flight Simulator, sorry, this game is not really for you. But if you want to try flying on the computer for the first time, or you like casual flying, feel free to try out Microsoft Flight. Let us know how it goes.