Microsoft Flight Simulator X Deluxe Edition review
This latest release of Flight Simulator is the most comprehensive PC simulation of aviation, if not the world, that you’ll find without leaving the house.
The series has been criticised in the past for offering incremental improvements in upgrades rather than sweeping changes, but no matter which version you currently own you’ll want to upgrade this time. First of all, the graphics have been given a major revamp. Peek out of the window and you’ll see sumptuous vistas, complete with cars and trucks tootling along roads, schools of dolphins leaping out of the ocean and flocks of birds causing all kinds of major headaches near airports. But it’s the dramatic weather effects that are most impressive. Rain clouds reflect off wet surfaces, lightning glares off the panel and sunsets are simply beautiful. Ground scenery at airports has also been improved – it isn’t just AI planes that you’ll need to be aware of, but also moving fuel trucks and coaches on the taxiways.
The scenery has also been improved. This Deluxe Edition includes more high-detail airports and cities (and more aircraft) than the Standard Edition. Houses and factories glide by, and several different mapping companies have supplied terrain data for various parts of the globe. In practice, things don’t look too different once you get away from towns and cities, but it does mean that even in rural England you can navigate by pilotage, using roads to find your way around without needing to resort to GPS.
The number of planes available has increased as well, and now you can fly anything from a slightly glorified hang-glider to a four-engined Boeing 747-400 and most things in between. There are 24 different planes to fly, including two difficult helicopters, all of which have feature-packed 3D virtual cockpits.
Best of all, FSX no longer starts by dumping you in a complicated cockpit in a foreign country with no clue which button to press first. There are over 50 different missions, which run the gamut of civil aviation from mastering take-offs and basic turns to instrument approaches in zero visibility in jumbo jets with failed engines. It’s a comprehensive range, which neatly takes care of the steep learning curve of the previous games. Fly each mission in sequence and you’ll barely notice the increase in difficulty.
The planes themselves handle beautifully. Finding someone who’d flown a 747 proved tricky, but the real-world pilots among PC Pro’s staff attested to the realism of the smaller planes. To get the most out of FSX you’ll need a force-feedback joystick and throttle, and it’s here that Flight Simulator can make the leap from mere game to weekend-consuming hobby. There’s a whole community supporting Flight Simulator, and you can get everything from third-party planes to scenery expansion packs. It also provides a huge number of online companions, so you can share a cockpit with someone else as your co-pilot.
Even on your own, there’s so much to appreciate, including air-traffic control. There are a multitude of accents to hear, which means that if you fly from London to Japan you’ll no longer be treated to the same three American voices.
Flight Simulator X doesn’t do anything radically different from its predecessors. There are plenty of minute but repetitive adjustments to make to keep your plane on track, even in the missions. But dedicated fans of all things aviation will find it as comprehensive as they could possibly wish, and it’s the first upgrade in years that can be justifiably described as a must-buy.