Review

Microsoft Flight Review (PC)

Planes have an ability to unnerve even the bravest. After all, humankind as a species was never meant to fly. Regardless of our technological evolution, it's not a natural concept – flight unsupported by an airplane is always going to end badly for the individual. Understanding the principles of flight do little to calm the nerves when realistically it's actually one of the safest things someone can do.

However, it’s worth considering at this point how different flying is to being flown. Getting behind an aircraft’s controls is a whole new story. It’s an activity that presents sheer freedom – the clear blue sky beckons with its exploratory seduction. The golden age of flight is undeniably a thing of the past with budget airlines and booking fees, but the accessibility of modern aviation has opened the world up to everyone.

The Red Baron Lives On

Furthermore, flying is no longer an activity reserved for the rich – courses are open to people and it doesn’t take much to get yourself in the air behind an aircraft’s controls.

And then there’s simulation – the genre, if it can be called that, which caters to those without the time, money or real desire to indulge their interests. Microsoft's long running Flight Simulator series is a prime example of the dedication gamers can devote to a virtual hobby. As the games have developed, it’s offered a true representation of flight without any possibility of accident and death.

Then everything went quiet.

Microsoft Flight is a reboot – a back to basics intended to welcome back series’ fans, but at the same time gently bring in a new era of players. Previously you needed to earn your wings – a simple love of aircraft wasn’t enough – you had to have an extensive knowledge of control systems, readouts, flight instruments and the patience of tortoise. It was about minuscule corrections and a flawless landing. Complexity was the stumbling block for many.

With Flight, this complexity is still present, especially if you remove the assists. You’re given a more raw experience. Alternatively, if you’ve never played a Microsoft Flight game before, you’re welcomed with open arms.

Perhaps the most impressive change is the fact the game’s free. Delivered through the tetchy Games for Windows Live platform, you’re provided a tiny Hawaiian island, several basic planes and a smattering of content to keep you going. To expand your desires, you’ll need to purchase downloadable content – at the moment there’s several planes and the whole of the Hawaii Island chain.

The New Xbox Controller's Got A Bit Complicated

It’s obvious what Microsoft’s intentions are and it’s a liberating concept. Many will complain about removal of free-modding and the sparse amount of content initially available, but this is a complete redesign.

Everything’s been reset – it’s a fresh start. Flight, in its current form, is the beginning – a teaser of what’s to come. The cost-point of the DLC will be too much for many, but the series has shown in the past just what veterans are prepared to pay. There’s nothing forcing a player to pick up the DLC. This is a long-haul strategy by Microsoft and one the game will surely benefit from.

You’ll notice Flight’s being referred to as a game rather than a simulation. With full mouse/keyboard support, as well as the Xbox controller, it’s extremely welcoming to players. A series of tutorials gently ease you into the concepts of flying a plane. Unlike before where it’d plop you in the pilot’s seat and leave you to crash into a tree at the end of the runway, this explains everything. The result is extremely welcome. Sure it hand holds, but that’s necessary for those who have never played the series before.

The same goes for the content that’s available. The Free Fly mode returns letting you fly to your heart’s content (a mode that now includes multiplayer co-op functionality where a limited amount of people fly around the same island chain peacefully coexisting).

For those after more direction, assorted missions are available or you can search for hidden aerocaches. Some dubious implementation with search engine Bing gives you a not-so-sly prod in the direction of where the caches are hidden, but you can’t blame Microsoft for product implementation.

Ashcloud Grounds Flights

At the end of the day, Flight will live or die on its virtualisation of its core concept. It’s certainly accessible, but it’s the diehards who’ll decide its fate. The satisfaction from a perfect take-off / landing cannot be underestimated, but that’s not what makes money.

It’s a new horizon and early days. It’s hard to say what the outcome of the series will be. Currently there’s a tiny slice of the world and the most limited amount of content ever seen in a game. Flight has nothing to do with Flight Simulator and the sooner people realise that the better.

Top Gaming Moment: Mid-Air flyby with other players.

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Comments

By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 13, 2012
herodotus
I will be interested in how this "game" develops, as coming from a soft-simming background with Microprose games in the '90's I'm all for them. Might be a nice break from "Rise of Flight" and "DCS:A-10C Warthog, the true sims of today.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Mar 16, 2012
Kres
I expected you're gonna be interested in this. Didn't played these kind of games since Tom Clancy's Submarine, or what was the name...