AVSIM Commercial Flight Sim Review

Microsoft Flight

Product Information

Publishers: Flight

Description: A new flight game.

Download Size:
71 MB

Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Luis Feliz-Tirado: Contributing Reviewer - February 29, 2012


Microsoft closed down the ACES studio, put all the great developers out of work, threw away a fantastic simulator, and then slapped together this game for kids, an arcade game at that! It shouldn't deserve a review so what is this all about? That is probably what many people are thinking now. Right?

Well, they are completely wrong, wrong on all counts. First of all, while the ACES studio was certainly shut down, the developers were not scattered to all corners of the globe. Many of the principal developers remained with Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) and have taken the leading part in developing Microsoft Flight. Secondly, Flight is built over the legacy code from Flight Simulator X; it is not a completely new game. Anybody with only a passing knowledge of Flight Simulator (FS) will immediately recognize all the familiar elements, the aircraft models, flight characteristics, terrain and land class, weather, etc.

Those like me who have spent years, even decades, studying the inner workings of FS will quickly unpack the files and find essentially the same file structure. And Flight has many of the same issues and problems that have carried over from previous versions of Flight Simulator. In truth, Flight is Flight Simulator 11, the latest version of the 30 year old franchise.

And why so down on games? Not only kids play them. Games are a noble activity, perhaps the principal activity of our species in one form or another. All the higher forms of animal life play games, and the more complex the species, the more games it plays. One could even say the greater the intelligence, the more game play.

Flight Simulator is an excellent game where we all pretend to be pilots of different sorts, landing on dirt strips in Alaska, soaring high on a thermal, taking a chopper up for a spin, running an airline company, or flying the NAT according to the book. Flight is no more, nor less, a game than Flight Simulator X and has all the same hunts and hoops that are present in that game. And in the same way that many paid little or no attention to the game elements there, they will be able to do the same with Flight.

(Editor’s Note: we were told by Microsoft during media day that this is not Flight Sim 11)

Change is in the air

Much has changed with Flight Simulator 11 (a.k.a. Flight) so let's take a look at some of the major differences. First of all, there are no jetliners, in fact, no jets of any sort. No helicopters, no sailplane, no Extra aerobatic airplane. No Cessna, no training syllabus, no Rod Machado jokes. No Artificial Intelligence (AI) aircraft traffic, no Air Traffic Control (ATC), no Flight Planner, and no Real Weather. No worldwide coverage with 24000+ airports. How's that for radical change? It's almost as if MGS had taken a close look at what we used and what we did not use and gave us a sim that reflected that.

What, you say? But, I want and use all that! Of course, you do, as do we all. But we have, in many cases, immediately replaced Microsoft's content with that of some other developer whose content we considered superior somehow to the default. And if Microsoft were to have included all those elements in Flight, that is probably what we would do all over again. MGS saw that we were not using their content and were giving our money to others for replacements. They did not include these elements in the initial version of the game.  But there is still hope, and plenty to indicate that Microsoft will, in fact, offer much of that content in the future, as we shall see later in this review.

Another major change is that of the business model - the game is not available in a boxed version at all. We can download the Basic Module (call it the "demo" if you like) for free directly from Microsoft, and then any extra Downloadable Content (DLC) that MGS makes available can be purchased from the Games for Windows - Live Marketplace. Just for those who don't know, the Entertainment Division at Microsoft, including Games - Live, is one of the most dynamic and profitable; earning almost as much as the Windows Division, and it makes one wonder if Microsoft will not soon be principally a games company.

Many have worried that they will have to register with a game website and pay extra for content, but many of us do just that already - we are registered with Avsim and many other sites throughout the Internet, and we often purchase extra content from Third-Party Developers (TPD) like PMDG, Carenado, or Orbx, so this does not seem very different.

And there is no obligation at all to register with Games - Live or to log into that site in order to play the Basic Module. Although there are major advantages in doing so. First, those who create an account will receive a free aircraft, the Boeing PT-17 Stearman. Given that the Basic Module only includes The Big Island of Hawai'i and the Icon A5 seaplane, an extra airplane is all the more interesting.

Also, Flight includes a very nice Multiplayer mode and it can only be used with Microsoft's servers, thus requiring this logging in. In addition, since Flight will essentially always be connected to the MGS servers, it can receive continuous updates and bug fixes. The days of a limited number of Service Packs that never get around to fixing all problems should theoretically be over. And finally, MGS has promised to continually propose new and interesting content, whether aircraft, different regions of the world, or other features and elements that are not currently present in the game, and the only way to get them will be through the Games for Windows - Live Marketplace.

On another note, Flight finally unleashes the power of your advanced graphics card, unlike FSX which was CPU-limited, where it did all graphics processing. All those who complained of the CPU handling the graphics in FSX will now be able to complain about their graphics card being completely saturated by Flight. Which it does, as we shall see later.

MGS has clearly said that they want to attract a lot more people to Flight who would not normally have become users of FS. The content and format of Flight certainly are oriented in that sense. But they have also repeatedly stated that they will provide the same simulation experience for those long-time FS fans who expect a lot more content than is present in Flight. Let's see if we can take them at their word.


The Basic Module of Flight is available as a free download from the Microsoft Flight web site. At approximately 1 GB, it should be a relatively painless experience for those with a fast broadband connection. As mentioned, the content in this free download is limited, and covers the area of The Big Island of Hawai'i, and only includes an Icon A5 seaplane. There are also a few dozen missions in the module. With the free Stearman that is offered for creating an account with Games for Windows - Live, that is still probably not going to satisfy a lot of people.

There will be more DLC immediately available for a price. A Hawai'i Adventure Pack can be purchased that will include the rest of the Hawaiian Islands and a very, very nice Van's RV-6A kit plane, along with a large number of other missions and activities. There will also be an additional DLC, a Maule M7-260C Orion that we know, and many of us love, from FSX. It is much improved in all respects. And finally, a separate package containing a North American P-51 Mustang that, as we shall see, is not all that we might imagine.

Just a word on pricing. DLC is priced in Microsoft Points (MP); this is a scheme that was created for micro-transactions under the $5 limit imposed by credit card companies. The user who creates an account with Games for Windows - Live can purchase MP with a credit or debit card or, if they prefer, with their PayPal account. The Hawai'i Adventure Pack, which comes with the RV, is priced at 1600 MP, which is equal to about US$ 20. The price for the Maule is 1200 MP and the Mustang will cost the small sum of 640 MP. It has been mentioned that Microsoft will be eliminating MP sometime this year and no information is available either confirming this or indicating what will replace them.

Starting the Game and the User Shell

When launching Flight, one of the first screens that the user sees, apart from the ESRB rating, is a Log-in and Content Download display. It should be possible to skip this screen or cancel out of it although I have never tried. We can imagine that this is where updates and bug fixes will be initiated from MGS, but in most cases the log-in will probably not take more than 30 seconds. Ambient music will accompany you while you wait for the very simple Main Menu. Only 4 entries are presented: Play, Options, Live, and Quit. Before we get to the game itself, let's take a look at the Options menu.

By the way, all screenshots in this review present the EVGA Precision display in the top-left corner. You will find GPU temperature, GPU % used, and Fan % used on the first line, VRAM used on the second line, and Frame Rates per Second (FPS) on the third line. Given my system specifications, this should provide some initial indication of performance. Please keep in mind that most of my Graphics Settings are at their highest level.


The Main Menu in Microsoft Flight
The Options Menu for Graphics Settings

The tweakers will most likely be shocked at the sparse amount of graphics options. The tweak fest would seem to be ended (although some enterprising soul will probably soon take the files apart, find the new variables, and the fun will begin all over again! Just a tip: the same configuration files are present in the same places with the same variables and keys.) We cannot even set frame rates anymore and are limited to either the monitor refresh rate or Unlimited. As in the previous version, the game will set defaults based on system specs, and for my system that meant that all graphics settings were at Medium. This surprised me because, while I don't have the most advanced computer, it is no slouch either.

I immediately pushed all settings to Maximum, except for Shadows and Weather which still have a great impact on performance. Some items only go to High (Texture Quality and Weather), not Maximum, and Maximum will not even be available unless you have very specific system specs. Here is the official word from the developers;

Maximum settings are available under the following conditions: You have 3GB or more of physical RAM AND you have either a 64-bit OS, or a 32-bit OS with the /3G switch turned on.  We highly recommend everyone runs with a 64-bit OS if they can as it gives Flight access to up to 4GB of RAM instead of 2GB.  The /3GB switch for 32-bit OSes will give Flight access to 3GB instead of the normal 2GB, which is enough to run maximum settings but it could cause problems with older programs.

"Flight is large address aware, but it needs to be enabled by both the application and the OS for it to work.

Not all of the settings have a "Maximum", I believe "High" is the highest it will go for texture quality and weather.

For those trying to get the best performance\visual trade off here are the differences between high and maximum:

Shadow Quality: Maximum will render scenery and autogen into all shadow cascades (effectively things have shadows farther).  This has a very small visual difference, but a pretty high performance cost.

Sharpness: Maximum just increases the anti-aliasing amount over the value in High.  This has a large impact to GPU work.

Scenery Density: Maximum increases the airport, scenery and autogen load and draw distance.  This has a negative impact to load times, and performance but can make a fairly big visual difference.

Scenery Quality: Maximum increases the terrain lod radius (basically the distance higher res textures are loaded).  This negatively impacts loading times, and will also put more load onto your CPU while flying around.”

Just for your information, it was found that most beta testers, like me, immediately placed the Graphics Settings as high as possible, which demonstrates that eye candy, reviled as it is by some, is of primary importance to satisfaction with the game.

Gameplay Options
Audio Options
Game Controls
Aircraft Controls Mapping Panel

The Gameplay Panel presents some of the controls that were previously found in the Realism Settings in FSX. These assists are on by default, and many of you will probably immediately turn them off. And if you intend on taking on any of the aerobatic challenges, you should certainly not use the Increased Stability option as it will prevent you from doing loops and rolls. The same panel will also be a first stop for those who don't want to see the pervasive game elements present in Flight. You can remove them with just a few clicks here and not have to see a Heads-Up Display (HUD), most pointers, or other mission elements.

There is a simplified Audio Panel as well, and simplification seems to be a key word when dealing with Flight. The Game Controls Panel should be familiar from previous versions, although there again you will find much less to configure. And finally, you can map your joystick or yoke in the Aircraft Controls Panel, but be aware that here as well your options are more limited than before.

During the beta, many testers found that their joysticks were overly sensitive. Since this Panel no longer has sensitivity or null zone adjustments or some of the previous axis maps, you may have to make modifications directly to the standard.xml file. Here once again are the explanations direct from the developers:

It's actually possible to adjust the null/dead zones, but it is not supported in the UI currently.  If you go to the raw controls mapping file at
%localappdata%\Microsoft\Flight\Players\<some number>\Career\Controls\standard.xml
And find the mappings you're interested in changing.  In this case you probably want:


That "AxNull" value of 0.1 means that it is using 10% of the joystick's throw as the null zone.  A value of 0 would mean no null zone at all (not recommended since most joysticks have at least a little noise).  A value of 0.2 would mean 20%, etc.

Mapping Prop and Mixture axes to controller
For those wanting to map prop pitch and mixture to their joystick you could try adding an entry to the xml by copying the one for throttle and changing the Event name to one of these:

Make sure to change the AxName to match the axis of the joystick you want to use as well.
Event name for the prop lever is Propeller.PropellerLeverSetAxis
Mixture is Engine.MixtureLeverSetAxis

You might be able to adjust the AxScale value to reduce the rudder input

What's the numeric meaning, what will happen if I increase/decrease that value?
It's a percentage scalar on the total range of the axis.  Meaning if you set it to 0.5 you'll get much more fine-grain control over the movements, but your maximum deflection will be half what it would be at 100%.

There is no brake axis event currently.”

There was talk of adding sensitivity settings for the release version of Flight, and we shall just have to see if this did make it in.

The Credits, including all the ex-ACES who worked on the title.
Take part in Microsoft's automatic error reporting.

Finally, you will find the Credits page - this is where you can see for yourself that ACES members were present in the development of Flight.


The Main Menu has a LIVE option which opens a panel at the top of your screen. Here you can add friends, see a list of all gamers that you have met in Multiplayer sessions, and send messages.


Clicking on Play will immediately take you to the new Map function. At the moment, of course, you will only see the islands of Hawai'i, and some people worry that it means there will not be worldwide coverage. But you will notice if you zoom out in top-down view that the entire world is present in Flight, albeit in very low resolution mesh and ground textures. Of course, there is no reasonable way of getting there in an Icon seaplane!

The new Map limited to Hawai'i
Top-Down view of the entire world - you can make out North America and Polynesia

On the left-hand side of the screen are the icons for the following functions: Activities, Fly, Hangar, Pilot Profile, Multiplayer, and Exit which takes you back to the Main Menu. The bottom left corner displays your current aircraft with Weather Conditions, information on the Aerocache Hunts, and a list of Tips that you will want to read if only because they unlock a new paint scheme for the Icon.

Clicking on any of the airports on the Map will display the Airport Information panel on the right-hand side. Users will immediately notice the list of all Comm frequencies. All the way from Flight Service Station (FSS) and Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) to Approach, Departure, and even Honolulu Center. It doesn't make a lot of sense since Flight does not have an ATC module. Or at least not yet anyway, and MGS has certainly not said that it ever will. But then, they really haven't said anything at all concerning the future evolution of the game. But Comm frequencies are very suggestive, aren't they?

The Panel also includes the list of all Start Points, and unlike previous versions of FS, we can no longer start a flight on the apron, neither in a parking spot or at a jetway. All Start Points are now at the end of the runway and the aircraft will be started and ready to take off. However, it is easy enough to taxi to one's preferred parking place, turn the airplane off, and leave it there. The next time that Flight is launched, it will always return the user to the exact location where he left off with the airplane in the same state. No more having to save a flight.

However, make sure that you park somewhere you can taxi out of since there is no pushback or even slew in Flight. The slew options are listed in the standard.xml configuration file mentioned above, and if some user decides to add the keyboard maps to them, that would probably make a great, first freeware add-on for Flight.

The Airport Panel for Honolulu Airport (PHNL) with all Comm frequencies
A large variety of jobs for Honolulu Airport
The small Puu Waa Waa Ranch airstrip is uncontrolled, no frequencies
All the airports, no matter the size, have a Job Board with all types of activities

Another option found on the Airport Panel is the Job Board. Clicking on this button will bring up a panel listing all pilot jobs available that day and at that airport. All airports in Flight, even small dirt strips have a Job Board, and the jobs cover the entire range of pilot activities: freight and cargo flights of all sorts, whether merchandise or live cargo, charter and sightseeing tours, medical evacuation flights, and even some clandestine cargo jobs. Don't ask me what you will carry in the Clandestine Jobs, because I don't know and  I don't want to know, and all I care about is my pay at the end of the flight and to get out of there fast! The Job Board at all airports will change daily if you are connected to the MGS servers.

The flights that you carry out from these Jobs can be, how shall I say, somewhat uninteresting if you fly by the book. But if you deviate in some way, if you have a rough or difficult flight, or if you start rolling the airplane or flying loops, you can expect complications. Passengers will complain, live cargo, especially the monkeys, will create a certain pandemonium and you will receive a much lower score. Although you will probably have a lot more fun. And if you get caught flying the Clandestine Jobs, you might very well get busted!

The Activities are the game proper, the missions that users fly, and they are divided into different categories: Missions, Challenges and Aerocache Hunts.

The new Map which is the starting point for all activities
The Missions include simple tutorials and longer flights
Challenges cover landing and maneuvering skills, and can be very difficult.
Notice the Curvature of the Earth Aerocache - needs a Blackbird to get up there!

While they could be considered the game element of Flight, all the Activities are, in fact, purely related to flying skills and are the sorts of things that many pilots would normally do. In the Missions, you will find a couple of introductory Tutorials lasting a few minutes and covering a simple landing and basic maneuvering (flying around a half dozen balloons) in the Icon A5. Since Flight aims at bringing new pilots into the hobby, you will have to accomplish these tutorials first before gaining access to Free Flight mode. So what? It's a small matter, and once done you can forget about the rest of the Activities if you so desire.

But that would probably make this limited-content version of FS very uninteresting, and the Activities are usually quite engaging and lots of fun for those who like to fly. The Challenges, in particular, cover some very difficult landings, both in the Stearman with some extremely short and rough dirt strips that you will have a hard time finding, much less landing on, and the RV, in particular a very demanding approach to land with strong quartering and cross winds that will require great dexterity and excellent technique. All the Activities are graded, and you will be surprised at how difficult it is to get a good score. But if you love to fly, then you will most likely go right back up and do it again, trying for a better landing and higher score.

There are some Gold Rush Challenges that consist in flying obstacle courses collecting Aerocaches. These are extremely difficult and require a great mastery of stick and rudder technique; they will be much easier to accomplish with the use of rudder pedals, and even then, only the best pilots will get the Gold Award for them. Here again, you will have to fly the courses numerous times before you begin to get good results.

The Aerocache Hunts are a different matter and range from the very easy to rather difficult. They are not about collecting "gold coins", as some derisively call them, at all. Rather they cater to those pilots who like to sight see, to visit the landmarks and points of interest, and who use FS as a means of seeing the world. To this end, hunting the Aerocaches requires gaining knowledge of the region, reading up on the history and geography, and studying maps.

Many Aerocaches can only be acquired by landing the aircraft close by, exiting the plane, and walking over to it. Because, yes, we can now get out of the airplane (use the "E" key to exit and enter the aircraft) and walk around (use the mouse to rotate and keep the right mouse button pressed to walk.) Some Aerocaches will be much easier to get if you use a helicopter, as Flight will often advise you. What? A helicopter? But, there is no helicopter in Flight, you will say. Obviously, at least not yet. If you log-in to Live, you will see a new Aerocache Hunt every day that will direct you to another interesting landmark or point of interest.

The Free Flight mode can be accessed with the second Icon in the Map. From there you can Fly, change the Flight Conditions (weather and time of day, season), load Free Flight if you have saved previous flight, and display the Legend, in particular Navaids.

Use this panel to display Navaids
The much simplified Weather panel - no Real Weather, only Weather Themes

Yes, we can display all Navaids, they are all there. And if you mouse-over any of them on the Map, you will see the Nav frequencies and hear the Morse. Now why would the developers have bothered putting Navaids in an arcade game for kids? They are all operational and you can fly all published approaches with IFR-capable aircraft, although the Icon and the Stearman are not.

The Flight Conditions panel displays Weather options, much simplified as is so much else. First, Real Weather is gone. This must have been troublesome for MGS because of frequent server problems. And it is no longer possible to fiddle with wind and cloud layers, set humidity and dew points, decide on exactly what cloud types should be in the sky. I imagine that few of us took the trouble to do so, although there will certainly be protests from many who enjoyed that aspect of FS.

The only Weather options are approximately a dozen Weather Themes, most of which are Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) and not the kind of weather that a weekend Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flyer would normally use, unless he were suicidal or likes having fun. But they are Weather conditions that most airline pilots routinely fly in, and they are extremely challenging. IMC means, of course, an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight. And as we shall see, the RV and Maule are fully IFR capable aircraft.

The Hangar icon will bring up the collection of aircraft available to you. The initial release of Flight only includes 2 free airplanes, but supposedly all 5 will be displayed in the Hangar, with the option to purchase any you don't own. We have been told that this will be the procedure for all future aircraft, so keep your eyes peeled for the Boeing Dreamliner - it has been widely reported that MGS thoroughly photographed both the exterior and the interior of this beautiful jetliner and why would they bother with all that time and effort, we can only wonder.

The lovely "Aero-Club of Hawai'i" paint scheme for the very beautiful RV
Available paint schemes for the Maule
You can refuel the aircraft when in the Hangar, or just use the "F" key
The Details panel for aircraft with data, but no V-speeds!
The Icon - just about the perfect airplane for VFR flying in Hawai'i
Impressive radial engine and sounds on the Stearman biplane

Due to a "Senior" moment, I did not check my account during the beta, and so did not download the Mustang. I shall have to let the Avsim staff give their impressions of that airplane. But, I can tell you that the Mustang has a very detailed and beautiful exterior model, but ... no cockpit. That's right, there is no Virtual Cockpit (VC).

I do not really know why, although there has been talk that some gamers prefer to fly from outside the aircraft, and that perhaps this Mustang is a test of some sort to see if the market will accept it. I have no idea and, of course, MGS hasn't said a word as to their intentions. Evidently, as a very "serious" simmer, I would never consider flying an airplane without a cockpit. On the other hand, I try to always have an open mind - it keeps me young! And MGS has kindly offered me the Mustang again for the final release, so I shall certainly get it, fly it 'till I drop, and have loads of fun doing so.

Pilot Profile

Selecting this icon will open the Pilot Profile Panel. This contains the pilot's progress in the game, his statistics including total of hours flown, and a new concept, Experience Points (XP). XP can be won by simply flying and accumulating time, but all the Activities will also let you add XP to your total. As your XP increase, you will pass different stages in the game, I suppose you can call them "game levels", and go from being a simple student pilot to more advanced levels. According to MGS, there will be 20 game levels altogether, but it will take a lot of flying and a heck of a lot of XP before you come anywhere near to the last level.

The stats in the Pilot Profile will let you keep tabs on just about every aspect of your flying, from the total quantity of cargo or passengers that you have carried, and how happy or unhappy (or even sick) they were, to crashes, stalls, landings, different airports landed at, etc. There are also a very large number of Awards and Achievements, and they are extremely suggestive of the direction that Flight will take in the future. So, it is probably important to closely examine them. Some of the images below will help you understand, and perhaps hope for what is still to come.

Still at Level 8, slowly working my way up to ATP!
Only crashed 44 times, shall just have to try harder!
Award for 1000 tons of cargo - let's see, a Hercules or a Galaxy fully loaded ...
1 million passengers = 2000 flights on an Airbus A380
Got to try it - inverted 10 ft. AGL at 150 knots
Mach 3 award - can't do this in an Icon A5, or, maybe I could mod the air file...


Let's just say it right away - Microsoft Flight is not a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). Those can handle many thousands of users at the same time, while Flight was limited to 16 players per session during the beta. No word on the future capacity of the server or if the title will some day migrate to a platform that will support MMOG. On the other hand, Multiplayer Mode in Flight is essentially hassle free, unlike the difficult sessions that were the norm in FSX. Flying is very smooth and entering and exiting a session is quite simple.

Select the Multiplayer icon on the Map to open the Multiplayer Panel. You can set your session to Public, Invite Friends Only, or Private (no Multiplayer). If you select a Public Session, you can either go fly and wait for others to join your session, or click on the Quick Match button to search for any available session.

Once in a session, you will see the list of other players and their aircraft will appear on the Map; clicking on any player's name will bring up a panel with his Pilot Profile and more options. For example, you can see his Games-Live profile, add him as a Friend, chat with him, or view his aircraft in game. This is pretty nice as you can spy on what others are doing in Flight.

The Multiplayer Panel
Once you join a session, a list of players is displayed
A user's Pilot Profile
Viewing another user, not the same, practicing spins in the Stearman
Successful recovery from spin
Unsuccessful recovery from spin!

One very nice new feature of Multiplayer Mode is that we can now land, exit the airplane, walk over to another user's aircraft, and switch with him, entering his aircraft and flying off with it while he does the same with ours! Obviously, this will only work if both users own the other's airplane. But, this is cool! There had, nonetheless, been numerous requests from testers for improvements to Multiplayer Mode, including a session lobby so that users could pick and choose the session to join. As always, the developers decide what goes in the game, and we shall have to wait and see if anything changes.

Free Flight

I shall say this much: the airplanes are absolutely beautiful, as are the VC, and can easily bear comparison with the best that were available for FSX. They fly very nicely as well, although like so many of us, I am not qualified to judge flight models, not being a pilot and never having any time in a real airplane aside from the occasional right seat moments. But I have often been surprised at the complaints from some users that airplanes are "on rails" when designers of the real thing do their best to make them as stable as possible. The contrary would be rather messy.

The Flight aircraft are very stable compared to models in previous versions of FS - set cruise power, trim, and the plane will fly straight and level with only occasional corrections if weather conditions are favorable. Although they often are not in Flight! In the past, we sometimes had to fight the airplane all the way down and struggle to keep it lined up with the runway. But all the Flight airplanes can be lined up on Final, and you have a much easier chance of coming down on the numbers. Unless you are faced with a vicious crosswind in one of the IMC Weather Themes, and then, good luck!

As for the scenery, it is completely stunning. It is a mix of photo-real ground textures for all the airports, seamlessly blended in with some custom land class that perfectly represents the ground in Hawaii. You will be able to compare Flight terrain with aerial images and see how realistic and highly detailed it has become. The fields and orchards are where they should be, landmarks of all sorts are present, and everything just looks more lifelike than ever before.

There are very nice touches as well; step out of the airplane onto the apron and you will hear the wind blow. If it is blowing very strongly, the trees will sway in the wind. You can land the Icon next to the beach, open the canopy, and hear the waves lapping on the shore. Or, land next to one of the many waterfalls and you will hear the roaring of the water. There are some new, very high definition cliff textures that will astound you when you fly into some of the canyons and gorges on The Big Island, and the effects within the airplane, such as reflections, shadows and lighting, and even scratches on the glass just add to the impression. Overall, it is very, very nice.

The Icon A5 in its element
The icon panel with Becker radios and a moving map
Close-up of the Icon panel - tune the radios and flip the frequencies
The Stearman ready to rock on the runway!
Stearman panel - doesn't get any simpler
The Maule loves bad weather...
because it's got a full IFR panel, including an S-Tec System 50 autopilot
Close-up of the Maule panel
You've just got to like an RV
The RV panel is also fully IFR capable, with the old King radios, and EI gauges
Close-up of the RV panel
The RV "Among The Giants"
The Icon about to land at the beach!
Maule in the "cu"
The Stearman flying in the canyons of Hawai'i
Visiting the Mauna Kea Observatories
Dawn flight in the Icon - darn FBO scratched the windows!
The sun sets on the RV on Final
An overhead view of the photo-real ground at PHNL - Honolulu Int'l Airport
Flying over PHNL in the rain
Flying over Hilo Airport
In the soup! - Shooting the ILS Runway 8L at PHNL - Got to be crazy!
Just where is that airstrip I'm supposed to land at? Right in front of your nose!
Jetways, but... no jets!
Some wrecks on the North Shore - hope there isn't a Hatch buried around here!
Very complete checklists


As usual, MGS has not given any details on performance improvements. But there does seem to be some major changes in the code. Of course, now that the graphics card handles the calculations, there must be improvements. In addition, there are numerous changes such as reductions in the quantity of textures (reduced draw calls), the elimination of all those excessive Bump and Specular Maps, and a reduction in the variety of different objects. Animated water effects are now only displayed when the view point is very close to the surface, and the 2X High effect of double-pass object reflection is eliminated altogether. And evidently, without aircraft and freeway traffic, everything is bound to be much smoother.

And it is, with mostly stutter-free flights and reasonable FPS. Occasionally in challenging weather or when flying over very densely wooded forests, FPS will dip. And the very high resolution cliff textures that display when Texture Quality is set to High appears to have heavily influenced performance for the worse during the beta.

But because this is a limited-content Base Module, it is not very useful to speak of performance. After all, St Maarten too was an island with great detail that performed very well as the demo for FSX. It certainly did not portend the difficult experiences that many suffered later with the complete program. In truth, we will not really be able to gauge performance until we have Sea-Tac and full aircraft traffic as a basis, or something of the sort. Yet the developers insist that Flight is very scalable and that performance should often be good. Time will tell.

The performance experienced during beta, you should understand, will not necessarily be the same in the Release To Web (RTW) version, since the developers were making modifications up to the very end. So please consider the figures in the screenshots to be an initial, not a final, view of performance. Everybody should get ready to see some of the same limitations that were present in FSX: popping autogen, morphing ground textures, limited Level of Detail (LOD) radius, in brief, all the issues that demonstrate quite clearly that Flight is Flight Simulator. There should be no doubt about that.

Densely wooded forests reduce FPS
Check it out - my graphics card is saturated!

Is Flight For You?

Some people had rejected Flight long before the RTW date and nothing will make them change their minds, at least at first. Experience has shown that many of them will sooner or later try it and switch, certainly as soon as DLC covering their area of interest is offered.

Others, more open-minded, would like to give Flight a try; they look forward to it, but also do not yet see any content that could satisfy them. They shall just have to bide their time and wait for their wish to be released.

For many of us VFR flyers, the low-and-slow crowd, the Special IFR (I Follow Roads) bunch, those who love to sight see, to fly the airplane (not operate it), to have fun, lots of fun, will quickly take to Flight. We too shall find that the content is limited in the beginning, but this should soon change. MGS must clearly have a very precise and detailed release schedule for DLC, and I wouldn't be surprised if they started putting out more content almost right away. When that happens, most of us will probably see that Flight is everything we have always wanted FS to be.

And then, there are the new flyers, the ones who could never find Flight Simulator in its previous incarnation very interesting. They just want to get in the airplane, an Icon for example, take off, and enjoy leisurely flights. Perhaps later and with time, they will develop an interest in more complex airplanes, procedures, and everything that we find essential to flying.

But initially, it is important to bring them into the hobby, to join us and swell our numbers, to make our hobby and this game title truly viable, to give it a very long and durable future so that we can all celebrate 30 more years of FS someday. That is the essential reason for Flight and the best thing we can do is to support them and make them feel welcome, to make them part of our community. They are its future.


It is normal to resist change, even when beneficial. This is a common human trait and the reaction to Flight was to be expected. But there really is no reason to despair. Flight is a very good base for a complete flight simulator. It seems to be relatively trouble-free, highly extensible, and holds a lot of promise.

We need more DLC and we need to give it a fair chance before condemning it. There is a lot to hope for Flight and hope should be the last thing that we lose.




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