Released in 2020, Microsoft Flight Simulator can be considered the first next-gen game: this title managed to represent the world in 1:1 scale, and it did that in an extraordinarily realistic way, with truly believable physics and aircraft behaviour. From that moment on, things have even improved: in the last nine months Microsoft Flight Simulator has received constant updates that have multiplied its functionality, adding photorealistic airports and cities on three different continents. In addition, the developers have planned an update roadmap that reaches up to 2022, and which will lead to the inclusion of other free content that will make this title bigger and better.
The latest update, however, is truly massive and comes in conjunction with the release of the Xbox Series X|S version of the game. This update, in fact, represents a huge step forward in the performance of Microsoft Flight Simulator: the frame rate has increased almost everywhere, and the loading times in many cases have been significantly reduced. Of course, we are still facing a very demanding title in terms of hardware resources, but it is incredible to see how - almost a year after its release and with so much new content - the team at Asobo has managed to improve the performance of this simulator.
Among the most important innovations is new world map, which is based on Bing and is particularly detailed: finding the starting point of your adventures in the skies has never been easier. In addition, a number of points of interest have been added that show a pin above a particular building, monument or landmark. This is obviously a feature designed to push the player to explore the world, and we confess that we really enjoyed flying from point to point only to find out what was beyond the horizon. Finally, even if we are far from the introduction of a career mode, this new update introduces the so-called "discovery flights", which lead us to spend a few hours flying over the most iconic places on the planet. In short: the world of Microsoft Flight Simulator is becoming more and more alive and vibrant.
So let's get to the real heart of the question: what is the quality of the Xbox Series X|S version? We already know the ability of the Xbox ecosystem to successfully reproduce titles originally developed for PC, but we confess that we were literally speechless at the work done by Asobo for this particular port. As we said, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a huge title, which requires very powerful hardware to be played at an acceptable quality, and almost never without being able to reach the coveted 60 fps. Yet, on the Xbox Series X a sort of miracle has been accomplished with very few compromises: the game runs in 4K at an inconsistent but always more than good frame rate, even in particularly dense areas. If you happen to fly over Manhattan, for example, it will only take you a few moments to understand how valuable the results obtained by the developers are: Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox is wonderful.
What is the price of all this? As mentioned, the graphic compromises can be considered more than acceptable: we have relatively low quality shadows, and a lower density of buildings than the possibilities offered by the PC version. But it would be enough for you to play Microsoft Flight Simulator on a computer equipped with a penultimate generation graphics card (which is very likely, given the prices of current generation graphics cards) to find almost identical graphics on Xbox Series X.
If anything, the most important problem is the controls: even if Microsoft Flight Simulator is playable with the Xbox gamepad, it is clear that in order to fully immerse yourself in the experience it is mandatory to purchase a dedicated controller. Unfortunately, the game is not compatible with the most popular yokes available on PC, and as a result you will have to rely on very few peripherals dedicated to the purpose and compatible with Xbox. There are new products on the way, but there isn't much choice at the moment. Furthermore, even with a dedicated joystick, it is almost a must to use a mouse to control all the instruments in the best possible way, and we recommend that you also have a keyboard handy if you intend to fly with the most complex airliners.
Also, while every add-on available on the Microsoft Flight Simulator marketplace is potentially compatible with the Xbox version, currently only a small percentage of airports and airplanes developed outside of Asobo are available. In particular, the Airbus A320 Neo FlyByWire, one of the most popular free planes on PC, is missing. This problem, however, could be resolved within a few weeks and with the help of the many small developers that are making MSFS bigger every day. It will be more difficult, however, to see the arrival of virtual communities such as Vatsim and IVAO, which allow virtual pilots to be controlled by real flight controllers, and which take simulation to a very high level. Unfortunately, as things currently stand, there doesn't seem to be room for this kind of experience on consoles.
In conclusion, the Xbox Series X|S version of Microsoft Flight Simulator is a real technical gem, a product that does not look bad at all compared to the PC version. If combined with a good joystick, this is a title that manages to provide an experience equal to the PC version, in some cases even amplified by the possibility of playing on a large screen in 4K HDR resolution. In fact, the Xbox version of Microsoft Flight Simulator gives its best while flying under VFR rules, the kind of flight that forces us to look at the landscape to find your way: when you fly over the natural beauties of your planet sitting in front of a large TV screen on your couch, you are going to be left breathless.