Microsoft’s new iteration of Flight Simulator (MSFS), released on August 18, 2020, was one of the most anticipated games of the year. And while the game divided the audience, with ones praising its graphics and others ridiculing glitches and poor performance, the most important question for us is – how good of a simulator is it?
The biggest innovation, distinguishing the Flight Simulator’s 2020 version from decade-old Flight Simulator X, was the game’s ability to build a photorealistic world using high-resolution photogrammetry data provided by Bing Maps. Game’s engine, built by French Asobo Studio, features an AI system that can interpret map’s data and reconstruct the terrain and buildings of the entire world, in real time, in front of your eyes.
While undeniably ground-breaking achievement, it comes with a whole set of downsides. One of them is that, well, AI is an AI, and while it can achieve some impressive calculating, its perception, and – more importantly – ability to interpret things still lags behind humans. That’s how some cities ended up with skyscrapers where there were none, and indescribable monstrosities instead of trees and cars on the street.
While glitches can be infuriating and amusing at the same time, a whole other set of problems was created by the game’s performance issues. For ones it crashed, for others it lagged, for third ones the download took countless hours. And it was supposed to take long, as the MSFS weighs a hefty 91 gigabyte, all downloaded while in-game. One of the most popular game distribution services, Steam, allows a refund if the game has been played for less than two hours, but for many those hours passed before they were able to even start playing.
So, disgruntled games went on to give purposefully bad reviews, bringing down the game’s near-perfect rating, compiled by awe-struck critics and other people who were able to play the game before the release. But this has nothing to do with the game’s quality, and does not even begin to answer the question, how well does the new MSFS simulate real flight.