Review – Microsoft Flight Simulator (Xbox Series S/X)
When I first checked the reviews for the PC version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, released last year, I was shocked at the high scores it was getting from pretty much every single gaming outlet in the known universe. Sure, I knew the game was a technical marvel, and given how there are actual flight pilots in my family who can’t shut up about how “fun” these games are, I knew there was an audience for it. But I never thought I, someone who actually doesn’t like flying in commercial planes, would end up liking it as well (you can check more about my disdain of being stuck inside a plane for hours on end in my Airplane Mode review). Better yet, I would have never imagined I’d become addicted to it.
This is the first time a Flight Simulator game has been released on consoles, which is already a cause worth celebrating. These “games” (and this is not an insult, just a fact) have always been way too CPU-heavy for any puny console in the market, putting even the most powerful of computers to the test. They are incredibly demanding titles that are supposed to render literal thousands of miles of the entire world in a realistic degree, for hours on end, without loading times… and now they are available on consoles. What’s even more surprising is that you can play Microsoft Flight Simulator on a console that will only cost you three hundred dollars.
Granted, the Xbox Series S/X versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator aren’t as impressive as the PC version. These versions had to be downgraded in a few areas in order to properly run on both consoles. Thankfully enough, given how Microsoft Flight Simulator is more CPU-heavy than GPU-heavy, you will get good results no matter which console you pick, since both Series S and X feature identical CPUs. The differences lie in some graphical aspects, such as textural quality and draw distance, which will also vary on the city you decide to fly through.
Not all cities are rendered with the same degree of polish and fidelity. New York is as realistic as it can be, putting Insomniac’s Spider-Man to shame, for instance. Meanwhile, a city like São Paulo doesn’t feature well-rendered buildings and roads, looking more like you’re flying past a city with the Google Maps 3D viewer. Is that disappointing? Yes, a bit, but that was also a very specific nitpick. I was flying at a low altitude, trying to look for my house, my old college, my city’s landmarks, and so on. If you decide to do a proper long-haul commercial flight from one place to another, you won’t have to deal with any graphical setbacks. On the contrary, you will be amazed at how realistic everything will look.
In theory, this game sounds quite pointless for “casual” gamers. How will we be able to find fun in a flight simulator? Well, I played this game for almost ten straight hours on my first day with it, so I supposed that somehow Microsoft Flight Simulator finds a way to entertain without you even realizing it. As soon as I noticed how realistic the visuals were, as well as how easy it was to pick a place and start exploring, I started looking for my house, my old exchange program house in England, my college, then Machu Picchu, the Statue of Liberty, Kilimanjaro… I would always look for a new place to explore, and completely lose the track of time as a result. Not to mention the tons of tutorials and challenges at your disposal!
The Flight Simulator series is known for being stupidly realistic with its controls and physics. With that being said, this version is being released on a console, and what’s even more important, on Game Pass. Everyone will want to try it out, but only 0.001% of those players will know about the innards of a plane, as well as how to fly one in a realistic manner. Thankfully, the developers have masterfully crafted a brand new gameplay system that’s unbelievable when it comes to how customizable it is.
You can either play Microsoft Flight Simulator with zero assistance, requiring you to manually press each button on the cockpit with a shocking degree of realism, or with the most easygoing and casual settings available, with tons of AI-driven assets and simplified controls that work pretty well on an Xbox controller. I thought the control scheme was even easier to deal with than the flight controls from Grand Theft Auto V, for instance. Granted, you will still need to perform some checkup steps before and during takeoff, but the game will always help you out with prompts and tutorials. In no moment did I feel like it was impossible to pilot any of the planes available in here. Hell, I even managed to land a Jumbo jet! Nobody died!
In all honesty, I’m still shocked at how much I enjoyed Microsoft Flight Simulator. It is completely devoid of action. You are the one who’ll have to look for an objective to complete in it. But there’s something about it that makes it addictive and irresistible. It’s such a relaxing game that asks very little from you. It literally gives the entire world for you to explore, with an astonishing degree of realism, with simple controls and a laid-back atmosphere. I never thought a “game” like this would work on a console, but here we are. This is the first next-gen exclusive I’m playing on my newest Xbox, and I’m loving every second of it.
Being able to play anywhere you want in the entire world with a shocking level of fidelity will never cease to amaze me. With that being said, some cities are clearly more detailed than others, with some major cities looking like the Google Maps 3D viewer at best.
Despite being a full-fledged simulator, the game features simplified controls for newcomers, being even easier to control than games like Grand Theft Auto V, for instance. There is a shocking amount of customization when it comes to controls, physics and realism, all depending on your skill.
The game does feature realistic engine noises and a ton of radio chat with radio towers, which will only please aviation lovers. This is the perfect kind of game to play while listening to a podcast.
Fun Factor: 9.5
In theory, this shouldn’t be fun. Somehow, I ended up playing Microsoft Flight Simulator for an entire day without noticing, and had a really hard time being able to turn the console off. There’s something about it that makes it irresistible and addictive.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Microsoft Flight Simulator is available now on Xbox Series S/X and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.