Microsoft Flight hands-on: It’s a blast, and no mere game

Posting from Las Vegas: The Consumer Electronics Show here this week offers a sneak peek of Microsoft Flight, the successor to the company’s discontinued Flight Simulator franchise. I spent some time playing Microsoft Flight at the company’s CES booth this morning, and if everyone else has as much fun with this thing as I did, the company might just have a hit on its hands.

The most important point, particularly for traditional Flight Simulator fans: This is still very much a simulator. Microsoft has added more game mechanics to the experience, such as challenges to test flying skills, but in the end it’s too realistic to be considered a mere video game. It works via Xbox 360 controller, joystick or keyboard and mouse.

The Microsoft Flight Control Assistance panel, for adjusting the level of difficulty. (Click for larger version.)

The controls default to the greatest level of flight control assistance, but even with all that help, I struggled to properly land the light sport aircraft ICON A5 that will be featured in the simulator. (Obviously I’m not a pilot.) That said, even when I crashed, it was a fun and challenging experience, enticing me to keep playing and improving my meager aviation skills.

In that way, Microsoft Flight is far more approachable to a wider audience, which could actually be a good thing for aviation in general — as long as people aren’t inspired by the game to follow in the footsteps of the Barefoot Bandit.

Hard-core Flight Simmers and real pilots will be able to adjust the controls to make the experience more realistic, and tough, by removing the built-in assistance for stability, braking, fuel mixture and propeller effects.

Microsoft closed Aces, the team that was responsible for the nearly 30-year-old Flight Simulator franchise, as part of its broader cutbacks nearly three years ago. It was a highly controversial move among the hard-core flight simulation community.

Microsoft Game Studios plans to release Flight this spring, under a free-to-play model. Details and signup here for the closed beta.

  • Guest

    Too realistic to be a mere game, and not realistic enough to do flight training.  That’s a no-mans-land if there ever was one.

  • Guest

    Flight simulators are definitely a niche product. That said, I don’t think Microsoft has any competition here: to develop a sophisticated simulator typically requires a budget of many hundredthousands of dollars or a fanatically-devoted open source community. Flight Simulator customers have neither at their disposal.

    I, for one, welcome Microsoft back to the flight simulator market with this attractive freemium offering.

    • hapybrian

      You might try taking a look at Flight Gear then.  It looks rather awesome.

      http://www.flightgear.org/

    • uh60blackhawk

      Too bad this isn’t a flight simulator. I’ll “welcome Microsoft back” after they make a new true flight simulator product.

      This…is just a game…regardless of the lack of skill of the writer.

  • Adrain555

    Tried the beta, but the ground textures are too blurry, clouds look inferior to FSX, houses and roads are cut in half with trees and textures, unrealistic patches of buildings immediately cut by trees and auto gen, world doesn’t feel lively, there are no cars on roads.  Speaking of realism, no ATC, no options to set the axis for a four-engine throttle setup with flaps and spoiler axis, we have yet to see a single screenshot showing a jet flying anywhere outside Hawaii.  This sucks big time.  It can appeal people who just like flying in an arcadish style game, but it can never appeal the flight sim community

    • Guest

      That’s b/c Hawaii is all you get (at least until they start selling DLC)

      • Adrian555

        Sure Hawaii is the demo and the base software, and I would happily buy the DLC’s as long as they are available on launch day.  But suppose if after launch they say “we’re gonna release a Boeing 737 after 3 months” or say “oh we’re gonna release the Asia or Africa rigions textures next year” then thats a no go for us. My point is, they haven’t shown a single screenshot of what the actual fully loaded Microsoft Flight can be (up to this point in develeoment).  I’m afraid it’s not ready yet and on launch day all we can do is fly boring props.  The main problem is the textures and realism.  FSX plus a third-party scenery add-on looks much better than this.  I’m not buying it if final product looks so blurry

        • Anonymous

          Not to mention how Microsoft have removed any possibility for third party add-ons. Meaning the only add-ons we get will be from Microsoft. Hence I dont see it likely that we will see a Boeing 737 at all.

        • Anonymous

          Not to mention how Microsoft have removed any possibility for third party add-ons. Meaning the only add-ons we get will be from Microsoft. Hence I dont see it likely that we will see a Boeing 737 at all.

      • Fast_Red_Dragon

         if they expect us simmers to pay up the butt for all this DLC there crazy I’ll put in what I think the game is worth. I wonder what is going to cost to buy the world????

  • Guest

    the COD-style xp levelling up and scoring is too unrealistic.  i was hoping to see something like a real pilot progresses in his career, such as hours under his belt.  no real life pilot earns points for a soft landing, thats bs

    • FSman

      Hahahahahahahaha you heard it here first, getting better at something over time is unrealistic

  • Wingsofgold

    having spent about 8 hours using MS Flight, my feeling is that the flight dynamics absolutely stink.  I am a GA pilot (SEL) and I have owned every Microsoft flight simulator since the first.  I love the graphics but I don’t feel like I am flying a true to life aircraft even with all of the assistance turned off.  The world is completely dead unless playing multi player mode and that has major issues with latency.  It is pretty cool that you can get out of the plane and walk around but I don’t see what the purpose of being able to do so is because you can’t really do anything except walk around flat level surfaces.  You can’t fall off cliffs, you can’t go swimming, you can’t get into a car and drive somewhere (no cars).  I want a simulator, not some some goofy arcade flying game. 

  • Anonymous

    Pass on this, FSX still has a bright future

  • Guest

    Looking for Air Transport Pilot Career modes, complete with IFR and (almost) fully functional instrumentation. Am thinking this is a VFR game. Will most likely stick with X-Plane, FSX in combination with a Virtual Airline.

    • DonG

      Pick up (if you haven’t already) Air Hauler. It is unbelievably fun. You manage a fleet of a/c, can hire other pilots, and grow your air cargo business within FSX. I like virtual airlines too, but … Air Hauler actually provides motivation and rewards, more than just a log entry.

  • Lulunmark

    CRAP!!!  XPLANE 10 OR FSX

  • Microsoft S*cks

    THIS IS NOT A “SIMULATOR” THIS IS AN ARCADE GAME. ITS LIKE PLAYING PACMAN FLYING…

  • X-PLANE 10

    Who’s the 1d1ot from GeekWire that said “This is still very much a simulator”  IT IS NOT A SIMULATOR. IT IS NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT A SIMULATOR. ITS AN ARCADE GAME.

    • DonG

      Flight sims that use an XBox controller are indeed games, not simulators. Agreed.

      • N4gix

        Now that’s a silly thing to say, considering that FSX has supported XBox360 controllers since day one!

        • Alx_747

          And considering the US military fly some of their drones using Xbox controls (or adaptations of them).

          • uh60blackhawk

            Just because you CAN do soemthing doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something.

            That applies to xbox controls and pretty much anything not ona n xbox, to include the supposed military drone xbox controls.

            Oh, and BTW, last time I was inside the mobile control center for a predator drone, it looked like my PC desk:

            Two monitors, two keyboards, rudder pedals, and…wait for it…….a joystick…….

    • MattX

      Whenever I read a comment like this, I imagine the person frothing at the mouth and bashing their fists as hard as they can on the keyboard.

      Kind of makes it hard to take seriously.

    • FSX

      MS Flight is the most un-cool flight program in the market today. Made for babies and little tikes to play.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M25HG22BA5OB3Q36Y5HL2XASSA Michael

    Will I be able to fly from Hawaii to LA? No
    Will I be able to purchase texture packs from ORBX? No
    Will there be ATC or other AI traffic? No

    This is not a sim. This is an arcade game and nothing more. ORBX has already stated they and other developers have been cut off from flight and will continue on with FSX for the foreseeable future. I have zero desire to buy over priced regions from Microsoft without the ability to fly in between those regions. Pay to play is not the future.

  • Barryrg

    I disagree with this review. I’ve been beta testing and unfortunately have been let down. This IS an arcade game, nothing more. Shame!

  • Flightsimmer

    oh my god, what a trash is coming there. Flightsimmers don´t need a arcade game. MS go back to the roots, it´s never to late.

  • NasH

    Ridiculous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X3QYS2KFYQWI53YGDYMSGRNP2U Antonio

    Bullshit….

  • Flight

    I don’t believe it is a simulator either, but it would seem that they are taking the ideas and implementation of some of the great addons for the Flight Simulator series and making them their own.  Can anyone tell me what addon assesses your landing with vertical speed/ rate of descent?  Anyone?  Anyone?

    The most dissappointing thing in the video is the landing from the racing car perspective.  Then add that the 60+ degree bank angle did not actually cause altitude loss.  Then ,,, well need I go on.

    Simulator my ***!  Might get it just for Sh*ts and giggles if the price is nice and cheap (and MS will never do that!) but for me it will remain FSX with my many addons that pretty much do everything that Flight does only better and anywhere in the world.

  • http://twitter.com/irsanss Irsan S.

    hmmm .. will we have STARTREK “plane” :D .. . … just to add some fun to the game

  • Anonymous

    Here is a copy of an Email I sent to the dev team.

    Dear Flight Dev team,
     
    As a veteran Flight Simulator enthusiast, who has owned every version of Microsoft Flight Simulator ever offered, I am very disappointed with the announcement of the the new franchise, I understand your need to reach a greater range of people by offering a game not a simulator, unfortunately I fear that you are alienating the veteran community. With offerings like X-Plane, Pro flight and others you may very well be losing your core customers that have long kept the Flight simulator franchise at the fore front of flight simulation. If I may be so bold, my suggestion is continue with your current plan of free initial offering with dlc’s but also offer the hard core simulation for those of us that have come to know and love the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise, which we would gladly pay full price for. Without such an offering for my part at least FSX will be the last Microsoft Flight Simulator I will own, which saddens me deeply.

    • FSman

      Alienating the veteran community is probably the right thing to do. When your target market is a handful of sad old men, you need to reevaluate the direction you’re going in.

      • http://www.facebook.com/clinton.h.davis Clinton H Davis

        41 is old, good grief!  Fire congress, they are all elderly……..

        I’d be willing to put my life up against yours any day and see just who is “sad” and who isn’t.

  • :(

    This is just terrible, Microsoft has ruined the Sim, Better move to Xplane and stay with FS9/FSX :(

  • http://twitter.com/jclaussftw Jason Gerard Clauss

    Why the hell are they using a game controller? Shouldn’t they be using a joystick and hard throttle?

  • hmslion

    The words “this is very much a simulator” and “you can use an x-box controller” in the same
    ‘graph pretty much say it all about this farmville version of flight sim.  Don’t look for any PMDG planes for it (if you can afford to buy more scenery) – they will not be producing any of their terrific jetliners for this version.

  • Anonymous

    Ridiculous! Microsoft has completely abandoned a large and loyal fanbase by removing any kind of simulation aspect from the game. No ATC, No AI traffic, no jets, no real simulation. Its always sad to see a company betray loyal customers. “Fortunately”, I dont see Microsoft Flight being much of a success with the wider audience anyway, so maybe they will realize what a mistake this all is.

  • Fast_Red_Dragon

    I have no problem staying with FSX if this “game” fails.

  • Fred

    It will never amount to anything other than an arcade game until they release a SDK and let the developer market get their hands on it.

    The Microsoft Flight aircraft are a little better than the default FSX aircraft but will never be good enough for simulation. For example, the MF aircraft will never be able to compare with the likes of PMDG 737NGX for FSX.