As gamers focus more and more on intense first-person shooters and elaborate RTS titles, it's once again time for the series to adapt to the new PC gaming environment. With Flight Simulator X, Microsoft is making a lot of improvements in an effort to bring both old and new fans into the mix.
sn't going to be your father's Flight Simulator. The demo took place in an eye-popping tropical paradise that featured sandy beaches, lush foliage, and crystal clear waters. One could seemingly see miles into the distance with perfect clarity, and there wasn't a bit of pop-in throughout the demo. Michael Gilbert, the game's Program Manager, zoomed in on the helicopter we'd be flying in to show off the stunning lighting engine. As he rotated the camera around the chopper, you could see reflections off of the windows, and there was even a bit of color change depending on the angle the fuselage was viewed from. There's no denying that this will be one of the best looking PC games ever released.
The first thing that we noticed when Michael took off was the fact that he was actually using an Xbox 360 controller (a PC-compatible USB version has been available for a few months now),rather than the joystick that many people prefer. He confessed that while he was a longtime joystick user, the 360 controller just felt more natural and made precise controls a bit easier. While flying around, he mentioned that while the previous games featured unrealistically sterile environments, the processing power found in today's high-end PCs makes it possible for the developers to create a living, breathing world. Flocks of birds flew through the air, dolphins frolicked in the surf, and cars drove down the roads we cruised over. All of it contributed to making the game much more immersive than its predecessors.
One of the biggest changes to this iteration of the series is the addition of structured gameplay. The previous games merely gave you a huge world to explore and fly around, but many gamers felt like they would be better served with some sort of direction. With that in mind, the team designed a number of missions, including point-to-point objectives and skill-based flying (barrel rolls, anyone?). Of course, you can still leisurely fly around the world if you'd prefer that to ferrying passengers or cargo around. We were briefly told that the online multiplayer game had been reworked, as well, but Microsoft declined to elaborate for now.
Thanks to the fact that the game will be released only on DVD (rather than the 4+ CD-ROM releases of the past), the developers were able to make everything up to 16 times more detailed this time around. You'll once again be able to fly anywhere in the world, landing at any of the over 24,000 airports on the seven continents. Using an advanced GPS technology, there are authentic road layouts, and you'll actually be able to fly over your hometown and navigate by the streets below. Flight Simulator X will feature approximately 24 real-life aircraft, including an Ultralite for those gamers who don't want to deal with dozens of dials and knobs.
There's no denying that Flight Simulator X is going to be one of the best looking games the PC has ever seen, but it's nice to see that Microsoft has done more than just slap a fresh coat of paint onto the series. From creating a deeply immersive world to providing more structured gameplay elements, they've done a lot to ensure that there will be something for everyone.