I’m a Microsoft Flight Simulator fan. I’ve purchased several versions and add-ons over the years. Unfortunately the Flight Simulator development team was disbanded by Microsoft after the release of Flight Simulator X. It was a great run and I probably would have been satisfied with FSX for many years until the next thing came along.
A few months ago I was made aware that MS picked up the flight sim program again and their next generation product “Flight” was in it’s final testing stages. I was not a part of the beta and waited for the GA release like most others.
Last Wednesday, Microsoft released “Flight” to the masses. What’s new in this release? For openers, the price. It’s a FREE download How does that work? The free content is fully functional (including multiplayer) and consists of a few planes, one very beautiful Hawaiian island, several airports, tutorials, missions, challenges, aerocache hunts, and pilot leveling. Current and future bolt-on content such as terrain, planes, and perhaps other types of content can be purchased through the Microsoft Marketplace. At this time, Microsoft offers the Hawaiian Adventure Pack (the additional Hawaiian islands), the Maule M-7-260C (required for cargo missions), and the North American P-51 Mustang (by far the fastest plane with the highest service ceiling, unfortunately, no cockpit; as such, this plane is sold at a discount compared to the Maule).
Let’s see, what else – We’ve now got the ability to open the cockpit doors and exit the planes to have walk or run around. This gives us the ability to explore the terrain and other objects in sim more closely. In addition, it provides the ability to reach some of the difficult aerocaches which would otherwise be unreachable by plane.
The scenery is gorgeous and landmarks well done with incredible detail. By default, my installation was set for “Medium” detail across the board and my nearly 3 year old Intel Quad Core i7 920/8GB RAM/Nvidia GeForce GTS 250 handled it flawlessly. I bumped up all detail to “High” and my machine handles it well enough that I’ve left it on High. Occasionally I’ll lose a few frames during rapid and massive scenery transitions but it doesn’t happen too often. My machine is not quite fast enough to further bump the individual settings to the Maximum setting. The frame rate isn’t smooth enough but wow is the scenery beautiful and thick.
Microsoft has gone a little educational with this release which I think is a great element. Everything from aerocache hunts to the passengers in the back seat will give you some history lessons about the many beautiful features of the Hawaiian islands and of course one of the most well known landmarks in US history – Pearl Harbor. For a guided tour, complete the photographer mission. It’s long but well worth it.
What’s missing? Obviously the multitude of planes, liveries, and the rest of the world. Some of the more complex and interactive navigational elements don’t appear (yet). The RV and the Maule support VOR navigation (including DME), ILS guidance, separate COM radio channels for keeping conversations private with buddies, but no Garmin GPS, ATC (Air Traffic Control), auto pilot, hold course, or hold altitude. There’s no push back or a key to bind to that feature. All of this may be on the horizon with the larger jets. There is no slew but we can essentially pick up our plane and drop it in any spot on the map and fly from there. There is no time advance feature for long flights, but MS alternatively offers waypoint advancement which essentially accomplishes the same task – long flights for those with challenging real life schedules. Be aware that using the Next Waypoint feature is fine, but it may reduce your total achievable score if used during a mission or challenge. By the way, following are links to helpful instructional videos on VOR navigation:
VOR Navigation Tutorial (Part I) – MSFS
VOR Navigation Tutorial (Part II) – MSFS
VOR Navigation Tutorial (Part III) – MSFS
VOR Navigation Tutorial (Part IV) – MSFS
VOR Navigation Made Easy
Short VOR Navigation Lesson
Navigation Using a VOR
A blogger by the name of peterb wrote an opinion piece on Flight yesterday. The review was positive overall and much of it was consistent with my thoughts. Thus far, Flight leans a little more toward the game genre than its predecessors. However, I feel there’s plenty of sim left in it for my tastes and I think it’s really going to appeal to those who might have been intimidated by the complexities of previous versions. It is still a sim, not a game. Case in point: I ran into a younger generation during a multiplayer event who downloaded what they thought was a video game. They conveyed through online chat they didn’t understand the point of the virtual flight world they were bored to tears with. I can’t think of a better compliment than that. In addition, this is an unfinished project. There’s a lot more coming which could fill some gaps. For me, the rest of the world and commercial jets can’t come soon enough but I had a lot of fun this past week, logging about 10 flight hours, completing missions and challenges, rescuing a kayaker, finding 53 of 54 aerocaches, and reaching level 16. On the leveling, if you’re looking to advance quickly:
- Grab all the aerocaches available (except Curvature of the Earth). They range in value between 1,000 and 5,000 points a piece depending on difficulty level.
- Run repeated Gold Rush challenges. Up to 6,200 points is available in each run which only takes a few minutes.
- Try some of the other Challenges or Missions. There are a few in there worth an easy 12,000 points one time only (one example is the aerobatics competition).
Regarding multiplayer, the installation of Flight will apply the necessary Windows firewall policies to host a game, but I found that my NAT router was blocking incoming game requests which prevented me from hosting. By looking at my router logs, I determined that UDP port 3074 was required to be open in both directions on the NAT router (where incoming UDP 3074 traffic would be forwarded to the PC hosting the MS Flight session).
Following are some screen shots from my flights.
Updated 3/8/12: I picked up a lot of points tonight while trying several challenges to unlock paint schemes. In doing so, I reached level 20 and at this point I’m able to level no further. Level 20 appears to be the cap in this first release of Microsoft Flight. I’ll continue to fly as it’s still a lot of fun and not really about leveling.