Microsoft Flight Simulator X is an incredible piece of software, providing almost unbelievable capabilities for a consumer product. Unfortunately, on most systems at anything other than the lowest of the game’s graphics settings, the simulation has significant performance issues. How much these issues hinder your enjoyment of the game will depend upon what kind of frame rates you need to enjoy a civilian flight sim.
All of the features hardcore simmers have come to expect in the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise are here in spades, such as the entire world being modeled in exquisite detail; simulations of everything from ultralights to gliders to Cessnas to commercial airliners to helicopters; realism that makes the sim a great trainer for those seeking a real pilot’s license; and more. But Flight Simulator X also adds significant features tailored to the player who would be bored to tears by simply flying from Akron to San Francisco in real time, most notably a series of goal-oriented missions (and an editor that will surely result in a huge number of add-on scenarios). These include well-done tutorials and many missions with compelling goals and surprising midflight twists. Some are lighthearted fun, such as playing the role of a stunt pilot (complete with announcer) trying to land on a moving bus or racing a jet-powered truck. Others are intense–for example, trying to fly a chopper to an exploding ocean oil rig and rescue stranded workers. Even simple missions have a compelling nature to them, particularly search and rescue scenarios where you may be seeking a capsized sail boat or a lost camper in snowy mountains. You collect rewards and souvenirs, which is a nice touch that adds an extra incentive to complete the tasks. Even hardcore simmers will find themselves sucked into these missions, wanting to find out just what’s behind that clandestine mission flying into Area 51 or what is going to happen on your flight to pick up a famous movie star.
There are about 50 missions in the deluxe version of FSX and about 30 in the standard version. The deluxe version comes with 24 airplanes, versus 18 in the Standard version; more high-detail airports, 45 versus 40; more high-detail cities, 38 versus 28; the advanced Garmin G1000 glass cockpit; and the new tower controller module. This last feature lets you step into the control tower and take the role of the air traffic controller in multiplayer mode. While it probably won’t keep you out of the cockpit for long, it is an interesting (and stressful) option. And for the record, if you’re interested enough to purchase Flight Simulator X, you should go ahead and purchase the Deluxe version. All of the additional content makes it worth the added costs.