Matthew Chitty rates this 4/5
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Microsoft Flight 2012 From: Microsoft

Free to download and play on steam, realistic flight engine, beautiful Hawaii environment

Locked to Hawaii, limited aircraft

If you are interested in flight simulator or have been on the fence about Flight Simulator X then this is a must download. Well worth at least a few hours of flight training some flight missions.

Microsoft Flight is it better than Flight Simulator X ?

In the world of flight simulators Flight Simulator X has reigned supreme for many years - however Microsoft has been developing a new flight simulator named Flight.

Flight is available as a free download from Steam, when it became available I had to give it a try. As an aviation buff I find I am quite critical of flight simulators so I did not have high expectations of this one. Being that it is a free download I was expecting the simulation engine to be extremely crippled and having more of an arcade feel than an actual flight simulator.

After downloading , installing, and running the simulator for the first time I quickly realized that I could not be more wrong. As soon as you start the simulator you are tossed into a training mission where you need to fly around some balloons and make your first landing. The instructor that speaks to you through this intro mission makes you realize that you are in a full fledged flight simulator program.

First Impressions

The entire simulator is set in Hawaii allowing you to make island jumps and land or sea take offs and landings.

During this first mission you are flying the new Icon A5 light amphibian aircraft - a very sleek and light two person airplane with docile flight characteristics.

The mouse enabled flight controls are very nicely designed and you can confidently control the aircraft with a combination of mouse and keyboard inputs. (I have not tried the simulator out with an actual flight stick but I can only imagine the added level of realism with a proper setup.)

Navigating through the first mission was easy and left you wanting to fly some more - there are a wealth of missions and tasks available in the pilot dashboard when you first start the game up.

Note: One thing I did notice was that the aircraft was extremely easy to fly and that is was almost impossible to stall or get intro trouble when flying. After firing up the free flight mode I tested this theory and Flight started to feel like an arcade game more than a simulator. Was my first impression wrong? A quick foray into the Options/Settings menu I was able to turn off all of the stability and flight assists to get a more realistic feel for flying. Once these settings were turned off I was blown away by the realism of the aircraft's flight characteristics - the plane reacted to wind changes, subtle inputs, and was far more realistic to fly. You are literally forced to follow speed and angle of attacks limits, if not the aircraft will stall and you will crash.

Aircraft Selection
As can be expected from a free flight simulator of this caliber there are a limited number of aircraft that you can fly. The Icon A5 and a Stearman bi-plane are the only two unlocked planes.

There are more aircraft that can be unlocked with DLC that you are billed nominal fees for.

After a few hours of flying I realize that the A5 is such a joy to fly around, the need for more aircraft really goes away. Some of the longer missions take some time as the cruising speed of the A5 is only 70-80 Knots. (During longer missions though there is a skip to way-point key to help you get through the long sometimes boring straight flight.

Realism and Controls
Once I had disabled all of the flight assists the level of realism in this simulator became so prevalent. As far as a legitimate flight training system I found that Flight put a lot of effort into the real routines that are required from a fulls scale real world pilot, when you start a mission you are forced to go through all of the Pre-flight checks that a real pilot would go through during a routine flight.

To save time if you are just wanting to get right into flying you can automate these flight checks and watch as the AI goes through the process. Either way you are still learning the routines required before and after a flight.

Graphics and Visuals
The cockpit display is highly detailed and forwards the ability to use the actual cockpit controls and instruments instead of the HUD(Heads Up Display) for the most realistic simulation.

The environment is very detailed at a distance but as you get closer the textures look a little stretched and pixelated (but really it is not about sitting on the ground it is about flying!). All in all though the visuals of this simulator are on par with what we have come to expect from flight simulators over the years so there are no surprises good or bad in this department.

The graphics are not the best in the world but they are detailed enough to get you really into the overall experience. It seems that the majority of the development and CPU load has been dedicated to the flight engine and physics of the simulator. Is this not the real reasons why we want to use a simulator? Realism in the physics and flight characteristics.

Play Modes
To keep you addicted to this simulator there are an assortment of modes that you can fly in. There are missions which range from learning flight characteristics of the two aircraft to honing your flight skills with different landing scenarios, aerobatics training, navigation and obstacle courses, and many more...

At each of the airports there is a Job Board which allows you to take on flying jobs giving you valuable flight practice with the aircraft and flight routines. I have not dug in too deep to find out what you can do with the rewards and payments from the jobs as the flying is just so spectacular that you just want to get to the next mission or challenge so you can be back in the aircraft.

The free flight mode allows you to get more familiar with the environment and flying the aircraft. There is also a muti-player mode - although I did not get into this mode as of yet. I am sure that it will be just as exciting and challenging as the rest of the simulator. 

Side Note: Playing in free flight mode you can really test out the capabilities of the aircraft hopping from sea to land landings and take offs. During one free flight I flew over a golf course, suddenly the scene from Aviator came to my mind where Hughes lands his airplane on a golf course fairway. My first attempt ended in clipping a tree causing a crash - but on the second attempt I was able to successfully land on the fairway taxi around and take off again. The plane does react differently on grass than it does on paved runways which adds another level of realism to flying.

Overall Impression
This is a spectacular simulator which forwards all you would expect from the developers of Flight Simulator X. The best part of it all is that it is a free download from Steam. You are limited to flying around in Hawaii and there is not a large selection of aircraft as in FSX - but seriously what can you expect from something that is provided free of charge.

The level is realism is high, the aircraft you are supplied with is a really fun little light plane to fly and you can learn the ins and outs of piloting real world aircraft - without the expense and danger.

So with that said "Is Flight a better simulator than FSX" the simple answer is no, however it does have some serious benefits over FSX if you just want to get into a simulator quickly and see if it is something you would like to spend more time on. As a free download with exceptional realism and flight training Flight is a sure fire contender on the Flight Simulator market.

If you are looking to fly a large variety of aircraft and travel to a large selection of airports then of course FSX is still the champ, but in the meantime download Flight and go have some light aircraft fun. Maybe you will get hooked and want to expand into FSX or real world flight training.

Hmmm... I wonder if that is the sole purpose of developing this simulator - has Microsoft created a gateway simulator with the hopes of boosting FSX sales? I guess time will only tell.

I for one say all the power to them - Happy Flying! Maybe I will see you in the wild blue yonder of multi-player mode.
Date Reviewed: April 23, 2012, 11:28 am
Reviewed by Matthew Chitty
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