Microsoft Flight, the latest in the long running simulator series, will be released as a free to play download on February 29. We had an opportunity to play with the closed beta to see what’s changed with this iconic game.
If you sign in with a Windows Live account, you get additional content, but from the off there is plenty to do in Microsoft Flight. Setting off in an exclusive light aircraft, the Icon A5, you will be given a series missions around the island of Hawaii.
Microsoft Flight is easy to play right from the start. The tutorials are excellent, and they don’t assume you have any experience. Simulator purists might dislike this new casual feel, but realism can be increased whenever you want. When it’s released, you’ll be able to buy more planes and scenery, but to start with all the activity centers around Hawaii. Every mission you complete earns you experience points, which open up more things to do. If you’re signed into LIVE, you’ll get a Pilot Profile which displays your achievements.
Like Nintendo’s PilotWings, Microsoft Flight is a gentle game. For example, your second mission will see you landing your instructor next to a yacht so she can play ukulele at a wedding! This chilled lifestyle feel reminds me of an even more laid back Test Drive Unlimited (which shares Hawaii as its location). Enjoying the scenery and simple flight is essential, and made easier by the attractive island and beautiful skies.
Increasing the realism and changing the flight conditions can make it significantly more exciting. Darkness, fog, rain or wind make accurate flight more difficult and you can get extra points in many missions by doing acrobatic maneuvers. In free flight mode, you are limited only by your fuel tanks, but they do take a long time to empty! The two planes included in the beta test are small and easy to fly – we’ll have to see what Microsoft studios have in mind as far as jumbo jet flying goes!
Microsoft Flight is the most accessible version flight simulator yet. It looks great and is easy to pick up and play. Whether it can recapture fans of the original series, which was anything but casual, is yet to be seen. Check out the demo for 2007’s Flight Simulator X (FSX) for a comparison.