"Fantastic simulation, heavy specs"4.0 starson by simtim
Pros: Selection of aircraft, living scenery, multiplayer
Cons: Requires high-end computer to run smoothly
Summary: So you love aircraft but don't have the opportunity or money to hop in a CRJ700 at your local airport? No problem! Fly Microsoft Flight Simulator on your computer instead....!
Seriously, Microsoft has been making Flight Simulator since before Windows existed. This is the culmination of 20 years worth of versions starting in the early 1980's. This product has nearly everything one would expect plus a few surprises. There is a large selection of aircraft (from single-engine props to heavy multi-engine jets, helicopters, and historical planes) and more can be added simply by searching the popular flight simulation related web sites. No weapons can be fired from the aircraft, making it mainly a civilian flight simulation. So if you are looking for a dogfight, this is probably not for you. Although, support is added for possible releasable objects from your aircraft.
A very nice touch this time around is the missions. FSX has taken note of other games in which awards are given after completing a task. In this simulation, awards and certificates are given to the pilot after completing missions and goals. For instance, "Tin Wings" are presented to the user for successfully landing for the first time. A Private Pilot certificate is presented once the user has completed the flight training course. And other awards are given to the pilot for completing specific missions, like being offered a contract from a flight demonstration squardron after completing the Red Bull course in record time! Having many missions to complete keeps the simulation fresh and fun.
The scenery itself is immaculate! As you are flying you will see trees and houses in the suburbs and buildings and streets in the cities. This is not new - but what is is that there are cars on the roads, birds in the air, whales in the ocean, and elefants in the Sahara! This is what Microsoft calls a "living environment." Ships are at sea. Harbors buzz with activity from pleasurecraft and sailboats. Speaking of sailing, sail-planes can go far in the simulation, since updrafts are properly modeled for the first time in Flight Simulator, giving non-powered pilots a chance to go gliding on the winds. As an added bonus, a tow plane is required to get you airborne instead of starting from mid-air like in previous versions.
Multi-player is quite fun in the version. Support for multi-player is included in the game, including voice transmission from the cockpit, instead of needed additional software for the task. The user can either be a pilot, or act as an Air Traffic Controller and peer down from the tower.
With all this fun stuff going on in the game, is there anything bad to write? Well, I'm afraid so. Unless you are running a high-end PC, it will be very difficult to use these cool features or even see the beautiful scenery. Sliders are included to allow the user to scale back processor-eating features like AI traffic and scenery intensity. But if you can not see the scenery, what is the point of the software? On a basic system, you can expect to get a frame rate of 15 frames per second or less. That is barely adequate to fly a plane. Mid-range systems can expect 17 to 25, which is for the most part ok. The more memory you have, the faster your processor, the more up-to-date your video card, the better your copy of FSX will work. Microsoft boasts of even better-looking scenery once Windows Vista and DirectX 10 comes out. In Microsoft's defense I can say that this situation has ALWAYS occurred with EVERY version of Flight Simulator. It is always on the cutting edge of technology, pushing the boundries of how realistic PC flying can be. Just about the only thing missing from this simulation are passengers for your planes. If you are considering this simulation and do not have an up-to-date computer, consider getting the previous version (Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight) since even though it was cutting edge at the time of it's release, nowdays high-end systems can easily run circles around the frame rates. Besides, it still is fun! (I personally run a copy of FSX for modern aircraft simulation, and FS9 for historical aircraft with highly customized scenery to appear from the golden age of flight.) Undoubtedly, in two or three yeaars (2009?) FSX will no longer be something only the high-end computers can run and everyone will be able to enjoy all the great fun.
What is the difference between FSX basic and FSX Deluxe? This review was written for the deluxe version. The higher-end version includes more aircraft, and includes the software development kit allowing users and third-party developers the ability to highly customize their product.
Be warned, the base installation on your hard drive is about 13 gigabytes (that's gigabytes with a G) and comes on 2 DVD's. My personal recommendation for enjoyable play system specs: Microsoft Windows XP or Vista operating system; 2.8 gigahertz processing speed (or higher), SLI duel-video card setup with 256 megabtyes or more Video RAM, 2 Gigabytes RAM. joystick with throttle(s) and rudder.
This review was written after approximately 50 hours of actual flying time in the simulation. The system used matches the suggested specs above. I generally got 25 fps except in high-traffic areas.Updated
Microsoft recently released Flight Simulator X Service Pack 1 which addressed a number of issues users had which the initial release including slow frame rates and content updates. I have to say that I have never seen such an incredible boost of performance out of a single patch. After installing the update and reconfiguring my graphics setup I never drop below 20 frames per second, which is very good for a complex simulation. The download can be obtained by going to http://www.fsinsider.com/. Happy flying!