Microsoft Flight Simulator

Developer Asobo Studio Publisher Xbox Game Studios Format Xbox Series Release 2021


Plenty of games promise the Earth, but only one has taken that pledge literally – and come alarmingly close to delivering upon it. Flight Simulator on console is both a bit of a mess and something of a miracle, giving you a planet’s worth of places to visit from the air, while now letting you touch (or splash) down pretty much wherever you like. Whether you’re landing a jumbo at JFK or piloting a Cessna through the Grand Canyon, it offers unparallel­ed views, often provoking the kind of awestruck response for which ‘cinematic’ games such as Ghost Of Tsushima, with all their ostentatio­us splendour, constantly strive. But here the wonder is real, and it arrives frequently without anyone’s prompting but your own.

And yes, it comes at a cost, though it’s fitting that a game recreating the whole world should feel a little broken right now. At the time of writing, its missions and tutorials are all over the place, sometimes bugging out and occasional­ly failing to recognise completed objectives. On one of those compulsive­ly replayable landing missions – where a single, feather-light nudge of an analogue stick can potentiall­y be the difference between a seven-figure score and disaster – our 747’s landing gear refuses to budge, even as the D-pad leaves a deep impression on our thumb. And, though they’re mercifully rare, we see the occasional hard crash that has nothing to do with our lack of flight experience. In a hardware generation defined by seamlessne­ss, its long loading times feel like a throwback.

Yet the convenienc­e and immediacy that have also come to define the games of the past year or so are present and correct – more so now than ever. Granted, using a controller makes the game’s most exhilarati­ng challenges even more hardcore: you might be able to handle treacherou­s weather conditions, low lighting and buffeting winds as you steer a fragile prop plane toward a tiny strip of tarmac between jagged peaks, but guiding a reticule around the many knobs and dials of your cockpit with an analogue stick is another matter entirely. Yet with all assists on, taking off and staying airborne is a doddle, letting you simply soak up the scenery. As we fly by the Statue Of Liberty and Christ The Redeemer, we pop outside to steer a drone cam, framing our Cessna just so against realtime magic-hour skies. From this most serene of vantage points, our world looks extraordin­arily beautiful. And if it isn’t quite so pretty up close, whether that’s because the map data isn’t streaming properly or you’re passing over areas that haven’t been afforded quite such close attention? (It’s not a massive surprise to see that the south of England appears to have had more TLC than the north.) Well, how very 2021.

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