Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, a real pilot's review

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Who I am
Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez

The visceral love for simulations is a feeling that has always characterized this sector and that in recent years, hand in hand with the improvements in the technique, has ended up attracting more and more users and players. Just think of the first chapter of the saga of Microsoft Flight Simulator which dates back to the distant past 1982 while, on the other hand, this year, the series makes its glorious return to the shelves, fourteen years after the last and appreciated iteration.


Yes, the previous chapter released in 2006 and which refers to the name of Flight Simulator X, still represents a point of reference for the genre, thanks also to the third-party content and the improvements that have followed over the years. This, therefore, should give us an idea of ​​the size and relevance of the project that has been undertaken ASOBO, the development studio of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and of the intrinsic value that this release assumes for fans.


With in mind the idea of ​​wanting to speak to a wider audience and supported for the first time by a truly incredible graphics sector, FS2020 is looking for a risky balance between producing the ultimate flight simulation and creating a more accessible and capable product. to wink at the general public. Will they have succeeded?

I wanted to be a pilot

Here then, to do justice to this dual soul embodied by Flight Simulator 2020, we have decided to offer our readers a special review, one of a kind. The piece you are about to read was in fact written by four hands and is the result of a confrontation between two people as different as possible. On the one hand there is me, who had never tried a flight simulator before - but I am no stranger to the genre, having spent several tens of hours on Euro Truck Simulator 2, ed - which therefore I will limit myself to explaining if the title is approachable or not for those who do not really know anything but just want to be enthused by the graphic reproduction or by the so-called 'magic of flight'; on the other hand, you will find a strictly technical opinion, a godsend for fans, as it was created by a Gameplay Café friend like Gabriele, a real commercial pilot who lent himself for this experiment, playing and thoroughly studying the gameplay structure to understand how much the proposed flight experience is faithful to the real one.



An opinion for fans and one for those who don't know where to start.

An element that can be understood from the beginning and that we can confirm in a preliminary way, is the care that the developer has taken in the creation of this game. The small team of ASOBO, who you have probably already known for A Plague Tale: Innocence, has really worked hard to package a rich and multifaceted product; an applause therefore also to the effort made by some members of the team, who have also tried their hand at practice, taking several hours of flight before even locking themselves up in the office to write code.

The first impression you get when you start Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, whether you are a novice or a veteran, is that of finding yourself in front of a real video game: therefore, the titles scroll one after the other, up to a dynamic screen that shows different stages of VFR flight and a couple in IFR (Which already gives us a glimpse into the attention the two types of flight received over the course of development). In short, something more propulsive and captivating also as regards the main menu and the first clickable options, far from the static screens proposed by the previous chapter and from P3D but slightly closer to the style of X-Plane 11. Similarly, even the home screen is well-ordered and has a management part, both of the contents in case you want to remove something to lighten the data package, and graphics, with a whole series of settings about the rendering of the image, HDR, the resolution and the inevitable fps.

An important index of that bidirectionality we mentioned at the beginning, can be found in the “Assistance” menu part which offers the player a very varied series of options to reduce complications in flight or more generally to simplify the overall experience. In a way somewhat similar to that developed for The Last of Us Part 2, the developer has well thought of giving the player the ability to fully customize each game: in this sense, there are options to make each process easier to manage and others to produce an even more immersive gaming experience, eliminating HUDs and notifications of sorts. For more experienced users, obviously, the presence of notifications, alerts or points of interest on the map is almost annoying and therefore to be put at the door, in the case of novice players like myself instead, not only these elements have proved to be a lot useful but, along with other options such as unlimited fuel, the ability to eliminate damage and problems that may arise in flight or even the simplification of the take-off and landing sections saved me more than a frustrating moment. It would have been interesting if the developers had also chosen to introduce other types of failures that can happen in flight (eg failures to the electrical system, mechanical failures to the control surfaces) and not only the most catastrophic but infrequent ones such as loss of an engine, oil leak, fire etc.



The damages present are few and not too varied, more could have been done!

To frame the work done in terms of controls and compatibility, we tried the simulator with different configurations: the first was that of mouse and keyboard and it turned out to be really impractical, both for experts and non-experts and, above all, guilty of distorting too much the perception of flight that you should have with a title like that. In addition to the much more expensive and professional controls (Thrustmaster USB Joystick and a more fulfilling one Saitek X-52 Pro), we also got to experience the game with a controller Xbox One. This 'curious' configuration is halfway between the two mentioned above since, thanks to the use of analogs, the feeling returned is more credible but unfortunately is lost in an excessive simplification due to the few keys available. But be careful, because if you are really a beginner, starting in this way could make you familiar with some names and processes that it is good to know, for example before, after and during a take-off.

A negative aspect that you may encounter, if you have already navigated in this area, concerns excessive use of localization in Italian which, unfortunately, ends up intervening even where it would not have been necessary, changing English terms but used universally in aeronautics such as flaps which become 'overstuffers' and the trim which is proposed as 'equalizer compensation'.

Authorized to take off

Also from the main menu it is possible to access some rather interesting tabs: for those who start a simulator for the first time, Asobo has dedicated theFlight training to teach fundamentals and allow you to experience the magic of flight. For others, experienced and intermediate users, in full video game style there are events such as landing challenges and a leaderboard; the introduction of the naturalistic excursions. In short, you have such a fascinating and vast map available, so why not give users the opportunity to explore these areas as a real one would do. bush pilot?



Avionics and flight physics after fourteen years, take a big step forward.

But the improvements that accompany the release of this simulator do not only concern a greater variety of the content offer but also many small but relevant details for what concerns the physics of flight and, more generally, the avionics of many models. Basic aircraft such as DA40, Baron 58 (Avionics: Garmin G1000) are much more credible than those proposed by competitors FSX and P3D. You can really interact with avionics, the GPS really works and is very close to a real G1000. The advantage of the other products, however, at the moment, is that they have been on the market for much longer and therefore be able to count on third-party applications developed by Flight1 and Carenado, which have managed to return a more accurate Flight Simulator experience. 2020 and from which Asobo could have already taken inspiration, having worked with Garmin (the company logo appears when the screens on board are turned on, ed).

And this aspect must be taken into consideration if you are people who have been chewing flight simulators for years: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is really a big step forward practically from every point of view but it is something that still struggles to compete with products that have dozens of years of improvements and great support from third parties behind them. The potential is really crazy but, in fact, at the moment there remains a potential that will take a few more years to be truly realized.

When we talked a little while ago about improvements compared to the simulator landscape, we are not referring only to the proposal of a realistic game world but also to many technical aspects that make, for example, weight balance credible. At the pilot level, the position of the center of gravity (CG) is perhaps one of the cornerstones of flight: putting the CG in the wrong position can lead to catastrophe. Flight Simulator 2020, as in reality, makes the aircraft difficult to manage and leads us towards some management difficulties such as early rotation, typical of a badly positioned CG and out of the rear limit.

Live weather, turbulence and more!

As for the whole system of causes, effects and forces that act during a flight, it is necessary to make a premise: replicating reality in all respects is not at all simple. This is also because, trivially, every plane on which you get on in reality, especially if experienced, differs from its peers. Weight, performance, equipment… in simpler terms we could say that two identical aircraft of the same fleet, although identical on the outside and twins to the naked eye, almost never reproduce the same identical flight conditions. These peculiarities are often acquired over time and with the activity carried out by the airplane. This 'wear' factor is not present but it would have been useful to differentiate the flight experience since, in FS2020, every time a plane is started it is as if it left the factory, everything works, there is no log that identifies pre-existing defects or anomalies. As for the weather, on the other hand, as elsewhere, there is the possibility to set a specific temperature or atmospheric pressure but also, for the first time, to take a cue from reality and use the weather and time function in real time (without resorting to plugins like Active Sky, ed).

USEFUL INFO

Microsoft Flight Simulator renews what was seen in 2006 with FSX, offering an even more extensive and layered simulation experience, seasoned with truly excellent and unprecedented graphic care for this category of products. We reviewed it thanks to a review copy provided by Microsoft on a PC with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 3.4Ghz CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a Crucial SSD and an RX590 8 GB DDR5 GPU.

Duration
  • The contents are not lacking and, as with any self-respecting simulator, the playing time tends to infinity.
Structure
  • Accurate flight planning like never before
  • Ability to play online, with real weather and air traffic composed by other users
  • Simulation based on VFR (visual flight), with the possibility of IFR
Game Card
  • Game Name: Microsoft Flight Simulator
  • Release date: August 18 2020
  • Platforms: PC
  • Dubbing language: English
  • Texts language: Italian

The response that the plane gives to the different weather conditions is realistic as, for example, you will find that taking off from tropical places with airliners will require more use of the runway than in colder areas. Furthermore, the climb rate of a given piston engine aircraft will be higher in an airport like Milan than in Nairobi (high temperature and high altitude above sea level). In addition to this, some small turbulences have been introduced, absolutely pleasant because they stand out and are still easy to correct.

undoubtedly in the background the part linked to the control tower (managed by AI) which is used to help us practice or enter the world of communications without having to use apps to talk to others, as was the case on old simulators. Therefore, if before they could interact with real people and thus increase our involvement, now this aspect is entrusted to the computer and this has probably been designed to better manage the online traffic component. It would be nice if the developers could organize servers to be divided according to what users want: one for beginners or for those who fly freely, one for VFR flight, one for IFR and so on. Another localization problem close to the one we mentioned earlier concerns l'ATIS (i.e. the weather description reproduced in audio form in each airport on a dedicated frequency), which is made by mixing (randomly?) both English and Italian words.

Unfortunately, there is also a code that is still a bit too immature

Probably also due to a somewhat more difficult period for everyone, FS2020 arrived on our PCs with definitely too many technical problems, bugs of all kinds and crashes, starting with the lengthy installation process. There is a lot of data to download but there are also various problems related to the absence of packages, the game that sometimes required the insertion of the disc or screens that were irremediably blocked. Similarly, it has happened more than once to witness also in game, during the preparation of a flight, to black screens in loop or blocks on "press a button to start". It should also be noted that, in the months prior to the release, Microsoft had asked users to subscribe for participation in the alpha and beta phases but something must have gone wrong since many invitations were not delivered and, unfortunately, lightness about the testing phase was reflected in the final release.

Conclusion

Defining Flight Simulator 2020 as an ambitious product is perhaps an understatement. The Microsoft-licensed simulator returns to peek after fourteen years and does so by offering users an incredible reproduction of the globe, with many airports and different aircraft (if, however, you have purchased the Premium Deluxe edition, a little leaner than the standard one). The proposed contents are therefore many (and in fact require a lot of space on your SSD) starting from the different scenarios. Flying over Milan, Naples or Manhattan is something fantastic but it doesn't end there. You are free to fly wherever you want thanks to the use of artificial intelligence that Asobo has exploited to reproduce certain areas of interest, starting from the 2D images of Bing maps.

So if you are at the first or very first weapons, Flight Simulator 2020 is undoubtedly the most satisfying and least bumper flight simulator you can find on the market: there are the right options to simplify the approach and thus approach the world of aviation. If, on the other hand, you are more experienced players or who still have a certain confidence in the medium, you may be (at the moment) disappointed by some unexcused absences. In addition to those already mentioned, the replay function is missing (which was instead present in FSX) to review some parts and study the take-off or landing phases to learn from our mistakes. In short, FS2020 is an investment in the future: a mammoth product that will probably take a few years to blossom and officially become the reference point for enthusiasts.

Thanks to Gabriele, commercial pilot, who chose to try the game with us to give us his impressions and to give an opinion on the exquisitely simulation part of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

Videogamingallday.com review
Graphics

A graphic sector that, in its highest quality, is nothing short of amazing: you will spend hours exploring the places you know, your city or exotic environments to enjoy the excellent lighting effects and an always exceptional glance.

90
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

A good but not perfect grade, penalized in particular by an all too present localization of the game, which chooses to translate and also intervene on terms that are universally known in the English language in aeronautics, generating a bit of confusion in experienced users.

70
GAMEPLAY

Realistic avionics and with which you can interact XNUMX%, very credible flight physics, management of the center of gravity which, combined together, constitute a truly satisfying flight experience in terms of realism. The aspects related to real weather and turbulence are interesting; more could have been done with regards to damage and failures in flight.

90
Total Rating scale
83
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