Microsoft Flight Simulator has pushed my computer to its limits.
With all manner of wizardry behind the scenes to stream inaccurate city data, real-time weather effects, and so on, this latest iteration of the classic franchise is both technically groundbreaking and ambitious.
Flight Simulator is still a lot of fun, but it’s a lot more CPU intensive than most AAA games.
So I was intrigued by the new version of Game Pass, which will be available tomorrow for Xbox Series consoles.
As a matter of fact, it’s the first Microsoft game for Xbox Series consoles that won’t run natively on any Xbox One model at all, though an xCloud version is also coming to mobile and will eventually hit older Xbox consoles, too.
In the past few days, I’ve been playing an Xbox 360 preview build on my Series X. As with my PC, I think this is the most intense test of the hardware so far.
Fly a variety of aircraft around a beautifully rendered version of our planet in Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox.
There are now a series of shorter tutorial missions that should make it easier to get up to speed, and the various commands have been mapped to the Xbox controller in a straightforward, accessible manner.
As for the flight model, you can make it just as complex as the PC version if you want, although there aren’t many flight stick options for the Xbox.
Flying Simulator runs in 4K resolution on the Series X, and targets 30 frames per second. On the whole, the Series X was more stable than my own i5 6600K/GTX 1080 setup from five years ago, which was impressive at the time, but less so now. When flying low in dense areas like downtown Manhattan, for example, the frame rate can drop below 30 — it’s noticeable. Thanks to the LG CX OLED TV, I didn’t experience tearing or stuttering even when the frame rate fluctuated above or below 30.
Visually, the game is on par with a good gaming PC. While in the air, the game looks absolutely stunning, and any flaws in the experience are only apparent when you’re flying close to the earth.
If you fly quickly into Manhattan or Shinjuku, not every skyscraper is going to be loaded into memory at once, which is why some buildings might appear a little wobbly.
It was also amusing to see cars driving on the surface of the Thames in London instead of directly above Tower Bridge.
Tom Warren has spent some time testing the Series S, and the results are impressive for a $299 box. In 1080p with reduced graphical effects and draw distances, the game delivers a solid Flight Simulator experience and will be by far the least expensive way to do so. Watch the video to see for yourself.
This year’s Microsoft Flight Simulator has gotten a lot better, thanks in part to “world updates” that expand the more detailed photogrammetry data further around the world.
You can play it on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 as well. The Xbox 360 version includes the most recent Nordic update, which includes hand-rendered airports and other points of interest in Scandinavia, Iceland, and Finland. Also, the PC version is getting an update this week that Microsoft promises will improve performance across the board.
Sometimes the Xbox version feels too similar to the PC version, with a cursor-driven interface that can be a bit clunky.
In the graphic settings menu, for example, the only option is to turn HDR on and off. What matters is that the flying experience is as good as it can be given the hardware available.
In my limited experience with Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Xbox One, I don’t think Asobo has missed much. As a technical achievement, it’s worth checking out when it launches on Game Pass.