If you ever tried one of the old Microsoft Flight Simulator series then you’ll know that learning just the basics took time, effort and real commitment. Which, of course, was why some people liked it: there was a real challenge involved.
If you were more intimidated by the program’s complexity, though, Microsoft Flight, the free successor to Flight Simulator, may appeal as it’s far more accessible.
After installation, for instance, you’re launched straight into your first mission, where you must manoeuvre around some balloons and bring your plane in to land. The voice of an instructor (and some helpful captions) walk you through exactly what to do, and there’s no need for a joystick as you can fly very well with just the keyboard and a mouse. It’s all very straightforward, and we landed almost perfectly, first time.
Other missions then crop up, courtesy of your instructor, who asks you to fly here and there, land on water, and carry out other tasks which generally extend your flying skills. Although if you want to take more control then you can simply ignore what she says and fly around the attractive scenery (the Big Island of Hawaii), exploring the coastline, the cities and more.
This all looks good, at least initially, and if you’re a flight simulator novice then you’ll have a few hours of fun here. But more experienced simulator users will quickly notice issues. The scenery is essentially one big still photo, for instance (there are few other planes to interact with, nothing moving on the ground). The missions aren’t that interesting, the default planes aren’t anything special (forget about flying a jet airliner here), and you can only fly around a single Hawaiian island in the free part of the game.
Of course this is because Microsoft are hoping you’ll pay for more content, and there are already a few options available. You might purchase a Hawaiian Adventure Pack to add more scenery, for instance, or upgrade your plane to a P-51 Warbird, or a Maule M-7-260C (and then fly extra passenger or cargo missions). But just giving yourself more room to fly and an extra plane or two may cost you around $30, which means the program isn’t quite the bargain it first appears.
Microsoft Flight looks great, then; it’s also accessible, and easy to learn and play, even with nothing more than a keyboard or mouse. And if you like the idea of a simple flight simulator which doesn’t involve shooting everything in sight (and don’t mind a setup program which must download around 1.4GB of data) then you’ll have a few hours of fun here.
Whether the program will have any long-lasting appeal is more open to question, though; right now there’s arguably just not enough to do. Still, this is just Flight v1.0, of course – Microsoft will presumably extend the program’s abilities in the future, and for the moment we’re just glad that Flight simulator has a modern day successor.