The day I have been waiting for is almost here. Flight Simulator X is only a few months away. A couple of days ago, the first playable pre-release trial demo thingy version was released. There are some good bits (some very good bits)... there are some bad bits (not that many, but enough to annoy you). Here is my take on the next iteration of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
(Disclaimer - this is based on a few hours with the TRIAL PRE-RELEASE version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X. I am sure things will change between now and then, and therefore this is no reflection of the final release (due in October hopefully!). All trademarks, logos and whatever are owned by their owners... not me)
The Fluffy Details!
First of all... there is a huge discrepancy between what the official Flight Simulator X website says, and what really is in the demo (note to Microsoft - fix it up!!!)
In the trial version you get
two TWELVE airports, three TWO missions (technically two, I don't think free flight counts as a mission) and three FOUR different aircraft . The trial is based around the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean, which would have to be home to one of the most famous approaches in all time. The three FOUR aircraft available in the trial are:
- AirCreation Trike Ultralight
- Beechcraft Baron 58
- Bombardier CRJ7000
- de Havilland Beaver DHC2
Update - there are two more in the flour bomb mission - land at SXM, then taxi up to them to change!
- Robinson R22
- Learjet 45
The website state in the Deluxe full release there will be 24 aircraft, 45 high detail airports, and 50+ 'structured' missions. From the experience with the trial, we can take that with a grain of salt until we see the finished product.
System requirements are what you would expect... XP SP2 or Vista, 1Ghz+ processor, 256MB (XP SP2) or 512MB (Vista) RAM, 14GB of disk, 32MB 3D video card (with DirectX 9), and speakers so you can hear the somewhat annoying musical fanfare every-time you start the game ;)
Personally I am running the trial on a AMD Athlon 4200+ 64 X2 Dual-Core proc (2.21 Ghz according to Vista - thats plenty power), 1GB RAM, a shitake load of disk, a 256MB Radeon X700 3D video card... and Windows Vista Beta 2 Build 5456.
Download and Install
First - download the trial (636MB) from http://www.flightsimulatorx.com/
Install was pretty easy. Start the self extracting zip file, and then run through setup. Simple one click install if you want the default settings... if you want to fiddle with where it is installed on your system, then you have the option to do that as well. I guess i was up and running about 5 minutes later (just a guess, it felt about that long).
Starting the Game
Ok, this is one of the bad bits... unfortunately the game is very unpredictable when it comes to working or not. 50% of the time it will load perfectly, the other 50% it will crash and burn (much like my first flight). Unsure whether this is to do with Vista or not, but since Vista is mentioned in the system requirements, I am taking the hard line that it should work perfectly :)
When it starts, you get greeted with a welcome page, similar to previous versions. Plenty of options greyed out due to the fact that this is still a trial version. And then there is the musical fanfare in the background (to turn off.. hit the mute button near the minimize/maximize section on the top right of the window).
Ok... they rock. Seriously! However, whether or not your system will keep up is a different story. The default (at least when installed on my machine) was for pretty average graphics (relatively). Game-play was smooth at that setting, and the scenery objects did not take long to load. Crank the graphics right up though, and on my machine it was starting to get jumpy, and took a lot longer to load.
But hey... even the 'pretty average' graphics are still very very impressive!
(Disclaimer - I haven't played flight simulator for a while, especially since I got my Pilots License. Since I have known what the real thing is like, flying in flight simulator has never been the same! Over time I have forgotten all the keys, so I am sure that has some effect on my views, especially in this section.)
Aircraft performed as expected!
(ok you were expecting more I know, but in all honesty, they performed just as they would in real life, perfect in fact. Two big thumbs up here!).
The flour bombing mission (included with the trial) is very accurate... having participated in a number of flour bombing competitions flying a Cessna 152 in real life I can confidently say that it is bloody hard to hit the targets.
Other bits I was impressed with was the radio communications (especially in the Princess Juliana approach mission)... very clear and crisp, along with appropriate accents! Much better than scrolling text, or garbled voice which you may be familiar with from previous iterations.
Ok... I guess I should wrap this up... here is my summary of the good bits, and the bad bits of the Microsoft Flight Simulator X pre-release trial
The Bad!... What Sucked
- Unreliable and unpredictable when starting up.
- That startup music (arrrgh)
- Inability to accurately describe the product on the official website
- With the graphics pumped up, game-play started to suffer (even on a half decent machine)
The Good!... What Rocked
- Location - St Maarten has to be home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world - great for a Flight Simulator
- GRAPHICS, GRAPHICS, GRAPHICS
- In game sounds (especially radio communications)
- Nice, quick, and easy install!
- Realism is spot on
- The full version is almost here!
All in all... I was impressed, however there are a few niggly annoying things that hopefully will be fixed before release. However I am sure that opening music will still be there, so just remember where the mute button lives!