Microsoft Flight Simulator takes the dream of flight to new heights

Articles: Gaming
Aug 22, 2020 Written by:Chris_Barr

Last night, I finally got out of my house and flew somewhere I’d never been before. After months of staying home, it felt nice to fly the friendly skies again. What’s more, I wasn’t limited to a direct flight path to any particular location. Instead, I took my single-engine craft out for a pleasant cruise to take in the sights before landing right back where I started. No, I don’t have my pilot’s license or a plane of my own, but when I’m playing 2020's version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, it feels like I don’t need to.


My history with Microsoft Flight Simulator dates back to the mid-'90s, when we first got our family computer. Since my dad had previously been a pilot, he was willing to spring for this particular game. He, my brother, and I would fight over the joystick to see who could successfully pull off wild stunts like flying between buildings, doing barrel rolls, or actually landing the plane successfully on a runway. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that last task proved the most difficult for all of us.

Admittedly, it’s been well over 20 years since I’ve strapped myself into the cockpit of a virtual plane in a Microsoft Flight Simulator title. And with as much difficulty as I had flying a simulated plane as a kid, I was a bit intimidated at the prospect of flying a realistic craft again rather than using the simple arcade-style controls found in titles like Grand Theft Auto. I needn't have worried, though. The game has a fantastic tutorial section that’s a must for any newcomer. It puts you in the pilot’s seat of a single-engine Cessna 152 and teaches you everything you need to know about flying it.


Before sampling all of the carefully designed lessons in front of me, I knew the only way to truly experience the game from my youth was to hop in a multiplayer session with my brother and attempt to fly just like we did when we were kids. And much like we did in our youth, we both ended up crashing multiple times before we had to call it a night. But regardless of how poorly we did on our first trip out, it was a lot of fun finding each other in the air and flying around the countryside together.

The next day, I spent an hour or two running through the tutorial series and improved my ability to fly exponentially. The in-game instructor takes you on a series of flights, starting with the basic controls like the throttle, pitch, and yaw, and gives you all the time you need to get comfortable with each step of flying the plane before you move onto the next lesson. The lessons cover everything you need to know from takeoff to landing and culminate in a solo flight from one airport to another with only the plane’s instruments to guide you. And let me tell you, it’s a fantastic feeling when you finally spot the airport in the distance and realize that your navigation was spot-on. 


Now that I’m fully instrument-rated for Microsoft Flight Simulator, I can confidently take off and land from any of the game’s many airports. I’m still working my way up to flying larger craft, but I’m still most comfortable cruising around in my Cessna 152 as I get used to the controls. There are 30 aircraft available to fly, depending on which version of the game you pick up, including 20 that are available in the base game, which you can access through Xbox Game Pass for PC. More exciting than the aircraft available to you is the fact that you can fly anywhere in the world. There are 1.5 billion buildings and 2 trillion trees in the highly detailed game world. There’s a good chance you can even find your own house if you have the patience to fly there. Real- time weather and traffic make the world feel almost as alive as the real thing. 

Of course, rendering that highly realistic world doesn't come cheap in terms of computational power, especially if you bump the in-game settings to their highest levels. But with a high-end ROG desktop or laptop at your disposal, or a DIY system with one of our graphics cards inside, you can be assured you have the power you need to enjoy everything this game has to offer. Grab Xbox Game Pass for PC and take to the skies in Flight Simulator 2020 today. You never know—you might even catch me somewhere in the wild blue yonder.