Developer: Asobo Studio
Publisher: Microsoft Reviewed On: PC
Microsoft's latest entry to their flight simulator has recently just released on 18th of August, It's been a whopping 14 years since their last instalment of the franchise hit (Flight Simulator X). This is easily one of the most ambitious and large-scale developed games I've personally seen in a long time. Before i jump in and tear this game apart from the ground up, please note that I've NEVER had any experience with a flight simulator before, I've played numerous other simulators but flight has just never really caught my eye... until now.
The only reason I even took a peek into flight simulator 2020 is the fact that Microsoft is continuing to take full advantage of their ever-growing and popular GamePass service, which they made the standard edition of the game available to players on day one of release. As I've said, I have never actually played a flight simulator but I have others, such as the highly-rated Euro Truck Simulator 2, which released in 2012 and is still receiving DLC packs and maintaining a large player base. When it comes down to playing a simulator, I like to be sucked into fully role-playing and experiencing that profession as close to real-life as possible. I want to know the in's and out's of all systems in place and learn as much as I can about the roles, this is one of the great things about gaming in general, you get to be what you've always wanted to be. From a wastelander exploring the remains of nuclear war in Fallout, to exploring medieval kingdoms as an assassin in the Assassin's Creed franchise, all the way to building your own career in the Formula 1 games. This is the height and the main appeal of gaming, now you get to learn how to be a pilot! And for my first dive into the flight simulator franchise and community, I can easily say that this title is going to suck hundreds of hours out of me and I love every second of it! Now let's take a look at my thoughts and experiences of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
After a very lengthy download and install period the simulator was ready to go, On opening the game I then remember telling myself that I literally knew nothing about planes or flying them. With truck simulator at least I knew how to drive and had very basic logistics knowledge, flying, on the other hand, I had zero knowledge on anything at all. So off I went to begin the tutorial, and after successfully crashing straight into a building before even lifting off the runway... I knew this was not going to be simple, and that excited me more to learn, after-all I wasn't sure how deep the simulator was going to play out. Was it going to feature simple flight mechanics that were easy to grasp and I could just enjoy the sights of the planet? No, and I'm so glad. This sim can get as complex as you would like it to, Just like Alice, It gets more complex the deeper you go into the rabbit hole. After my first few hours, I felt a slight sense of accomplishment as I had learnt to take off safely, fly and also land safely. Obviously I had already piled up myself a nice dozen or so wreckage's from the steep learning curve, I was also still in the process of fully adjusting and configuring my Xbox controller.
So after my first few hours of finally grasping some of the basics from the tutorial, I said to myself that it was time to explore the game in free flight and fully immerse myself within my new role of a self-appointed professional pilot. How wrong I was, The tutorial only covered basic flight in a basic propeller aircraft, There were Jet's and full-scale passenger airliners which featured dozens of switches, knobs and levers inside the cockpit. I was clueless on how to even start the engines up, never-mind actually flying them. I needed help, deep help which couldn't be provided by the short in-game tutorial or google, I needed a teacher!
I had seen that Microsoft had already made their own discord server to bring the community together, and it now stands at 55,000+ members and growing. I spoke to a few random people in different rooms and eventually, I got asked if I wanted to join a small side server which was aimed at helping and teaching new and rookie pilots. So I joined where I learnt that the teacher was actually a real-life pilot and then learned there were numerous other pilots who played the simulator were present. So off I went, I joined a classroom channel on the server with 15+ other newbies to flying, whilst the teacher streamed his game and showed us the basics of the passenger airliner (The airbus A320 Neo). The lesson took 2 hours which only showed us how to fully start the plane up, basic flight controls, a small understanding of auto-pilot and a very brief look at the built-in plane computer. But with just those 2 hours, I was confident and ready to take to the sky with my plane full of passengers, tasked with getting them to their destination in one piece. Fast forward a few hours and with deep regret, I have to break the news that the passengers did not arrive at their holiday location and are sadly deceased. I have somehow managed to swindle my way into keeping my pilot licence and even got the chance to fly another A320 Neo, The airline must sense that the force is strong with me and never gave up hope.
Skipping to the present day where I have just over 20 hours of gameplay, I'm happy to report that I've made multiple flights and passenger fatalities are very rare. I had done it, I was now the king of the skies, Jonny Travis (Flight callsign 'Scooby'). Now, I still have much to learn with the onboard computers and flight plans which I'm more than excited to tackle. The learning discord even has daily world tour group flights where we slowly make our way around the globe. The sense of belonging when you're queued behind friends on the runway awaiting your departure, then flying side by side with numerous other passenger planes all whilst teaching each other things you've learnt, joking around and fully enjoying what the simulator and the community have to offer. To add more to the experience, you can use websites like Simbrief.com to generate full flight plans which also consist of a full 60+ page flight plan just like a pilot receives in real life, everything on winds, approaching and everything else technical (most of which I had even yet to learn) this just adds to the overall experience.
Now, after listening to my experiences in the simulator, lets quickly discuss the overall view of the flight simulator. The world is huge and uses Microsoft servers to hold and transfer game data of 2 petabytes! For reference, 1 petabyte of data is equal to 1,000,000 GB. That's right, the game in total is over 2 million GB in size! The game includes over 2 million cities which are generated through maps and satellite imagery, everywhere so far is almost fully 3D with structures from large cities to small towns, It really is mind-blowing the amount of work and data involved. On top of the 2 million cities, the simulator also features over 2 trillion trees and 37,000 real-world airports. If you own the premium edition of the game you also receive more aircraft and more fully handcrafted Airports, as some of the largest and most popular airports are simplified for standard edition users. On top of all this, I was amazed to see the game has a fully A.I operated Air Traffic Control system, they actually say your callsign, communicate with you about your altitude, other traffic in the sky, landing vectors, weather reports and permissions on runways, which immerses you more into the experience and you never feel like you're just left alone in the sky.
Graphically the game is gorgeous! The 20 aircraft, featured in the standard edition, are crafted to perfection. Reflections, lighting, clouds, terrain, water... everything is out of this world and especially on such a large scale. Even after playing for over 20 hours, It's hard to comprehend that you have the whole world to explore and I'm not sure if it will ever fully sink in. Controller wise, to get the most out of this game at the moment, I'm using my Xbox controller for manual flying and controlling the throttle and various other things, I use the mouse to navigate the cockpit and flicking switches and I use the keyboard for shortcuts. Ideally, I have wanted to purchase a joystick and throttle, maybe some switch boxes too so I don't always have to search the cockpit when I could just adjust things at my desk. Unfortunately, it appears that hardware companies were not expecting a large amount of traffic seen from this flight simulator. Almost everywhere is out of stock on every model of joystick and yoke, even resulting in people reselling their hardware at almost three times the price. It appears I'm just going to have to wait until stocks replenish which is also made difficult from the current state of the world at the moment.
Now, to wrap things up, I do have to talk about negatives within the game. It all starts from installation, numerous people including friends have issues even getting the game to install. Hours of searching forums we have found fixes for the issues but other issues plague the game too. Disconnecting of connecting USB devices causes the game to crash, on occasion the game has instantly closed itself. Frames can be unstable at times whilst flying around large cities with graphics up high. The old standard joke for computers was if they could run the game 'Crysis' It appears that MSFS 2020 has now stolen the crown but is actually a really good benchmark to test your computer hardware.
Now there is a patch coming in the following week to address crashing and install problems, along with various other performance fixes. More patches are to follow too which will help make the game more stable and fix any bugs with multiplayer and aircraft glitches in their systems. Also on multiple aircraft, there are numerous buttons and switches in the cockpit which aren't yet operational but Microsoft has stated that more aircraft features will be added and enabled over time.
If you see low scores out there and take a look, most of them are directly down-scoring it due to the issues, mainly around the install and update the problems. But if you can work around them and see the simulator for what it is, then I highly doubt you will feel any regret in spending that time to make the game playable.