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Hands-On with Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox Series X

Posted July 26, 2021 | Games | Microsoft Flight Simulator | Windows | Xbox | Xbox Game Pass | Xbox Series S | Xbox Series X


The Xbox Series X|S landed last fall with no unique launch titles whatsoever, but Microsoft Flight Simulator solves that problem nicely, offering nearly the full PC experience on a much simpler set of video game consoles.

I’ve not really tested Flight Simulator on the PC, but the Xbox Series X experience is nothing short of astonishing from a graphics perspective. Of course, you really have to work to get there: The game itself is nearly 100 GB big, and World Updates and other more detailed views are all 10s of GBs big too. You could easily fill up an Xbox hard drive if this was all you wanted to do.

There are some speed issues, too, though not while playing the game. When you first launch Flight Simulator, an installation manager checks for updates, and this process takes a long, long time, as does the initial loading screen. And when you crash, which I did far too often, the process of getting back into the area is more time consuming than I like.

But the game. My god, the game.

I’m not a flight simulator fan per se, though I’ve played my share over the years. These days, of course, I tend to stick with Call of Duty and other first-person shooters for the most part. But as a travel fan, I’m impressed with the level of detail in this game, and the ability to fly around well-known locations like Paris is a blast.

And so that’s what I’ve done. And, if anything, I wish I could go even slower and really take in the visuals. Paris is one of the places for which there is detailed imagery, and while it’s not good enough to pick out favorite cafes amongst the buildings, the level of realism is still amazing. Not just the obvious sites, either, but many of the actual buildings in the city. It’s breathtaking.

I find the controls a bit touchy using the standard Xbox Wireless Controller, but I suspect that I will get used to it. And it would be interesting to try this game with a mouse and keyboard or perhaps even a custom flight sim controller of some kind. Indeed, there’s even a subtle hint now and then that this game is, in fact, the PC version: A small mouse pointer appears in the upper left of the display and when you touch the left thumbstick, it transitions into a more controller-friendly circle.

I’ve only had a few days to experience Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X, and much of the time was spent just installing and updating the game and then downloading better visuals. But it’s already obvious that this title is a—sorry—game changer for the Xbox Series X in particular. And that it’s available on Xbox Game Pass makes that even more true.

I could waste hours flying over Paris. In fact, I just might.

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