Hands-on at CES with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator successor, Flight

hands on at ces with microsofts flight simulator successor microsoftIt wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft’s Flight Simulator was at the pinnacle of PC gaming. In truth, it was not a game at all, but a program that just happened to look like a game. The Flight Simulator series was so popular and respected, that even Air Force pilots would occasionally fire it up to keep their skills sharp in a pinch. But then the property seemed to fade away. Microsoft put its support towards its consoles, and while the PC gaming division wasn’t totally gone, it was a shadow of its former self and the Flight Simulator series disappeared.

But if Hollywood has taught us anything, it is that reboots and remakes are hot, so everything old is new again, including Microsoft’s Flight series. But there have been a few changes.

This week at CES, Microsoft was showing off its upcoming program/game Flight, the successor to the Flight Simulator series, and I had the chance to give it a go.

The first thing to realize about Flight, is that the loss of the name “Simulator” is both intentional and correct. The simulation factor is still there, but it is just a part of a bigger package. In previous Flight Simulators, the flying was basically all there was. It was exceptional flying, but there wasn’t much more to it. With Flight, there are now missions, challenges, and even a progression system that unlocks planes and further missions.

There are countless options, from landing through increasingly difficult weather to finding hidden icons that can be collected for experience which leads to further progression, as well as many other challenges. These aren’t the main focus–that still lies with the flight simulation–but they do play a major role.

The flying is a cross between realism and a carefully balanced edge of forgiveness. The original simulator was at times brutal and unforgiving (and realistic), requiring you to use everything from your flight controls to the instruments to successfully not crash and die horribly, digitally speaking. The new version is far more forgiving. There is still a very realistic feel to it, but it is also far easier to control than before, which is good and bad.

Flight can use either a keyboard or a controller, and oddly, the controller offers more realistic controls, including pitch and yaw, where the mouse has a bit of auto correct built-in which makes it easier. A joystick will still offer the best options, but a controller will make for a solid second choice.

The game was only showing off a pair of planes, and the level of difficulty will likely increase significantly with the complexity of the planes. It isn’t yet confirmed, but there is also a very good chance of helicopters being added eventually. For now though, Flight feels like a somewhat complex game more than a simulator. That may widen the appeal, but it also leaves it in something of a gray area—it doesn’t have enough to be a fun game, nor is it complex enough to be a real simulator.

The system requirements have also been announced. The minimum specs will be: a 2 GHz Dual Core processor, a 256 MB graphics card, and 2 GB of RAM.

The high end recommended specs will be: a 3.3 GHz Dual Core or better, a 1 GB graphics card, and 6GB of RAM.

There will be several aircraft available for purchase, and more will be available by unlocking them. The game will debut later this Spring, and be free to play.

Without more aircraft, it is hard to fully judge Flight. What there is, is a solid flight experience that left me wanting to try out more planes and challenges before I make a decision on it. 

Business

Singapore reclaims longest flight, but could you sit on a plane for that long?

Singapore Airlines has reclaimed the record for the world's longest commercial flight with a service it scrapped five years ago. The first flight takes off from Singapore on Thursday and takes nearly 19 hours to reach New York.
Emerging Tech

Space tourism: Virgin Galactic ‘weeks’ away from first test flights in space

Virgin Galactic chairman Richard Branson said this week that the first commercial flight for its space tourism service should be coming "in months and not years." A seat on the spacecraft costs a wallet-melting $250,000.
Gaming

From Blackout to Zombies, here's everything we know about 'Black Ops 4'

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 arrives on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 12. Here's everything you need to know about the game, including info on multiplayer, Zombies, Blackout, and Signature Weapons.
Gaming

GameStop manager marks ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ launch by mimicking cover art

To celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, GameStop stores held midnight launch events across the United States. One manager even cosplayed as the cover star from the game, complete with an accurate haircut.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Mobile

Here’s our guide on how to get ‘Fortnite’ on your Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

'Black Ops 4' learns a few new tricks, but it's Call of Duty to the core

Despite nods to hero-based tactical gameplay, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s multiplayer feels as stable as ever -- even as the game trades in its story-driven campaign for the new Blackout mode.
Mobile

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.
Gaming

Open-world video games are getting too big for their own good

As technology has progressed, open-world video games have grown increasingly bigger. What seems like a universal positive has shown problems preventing the genre from truly moving forward, however.
Product Review

The Oculus Rift is cheaper, the Vive Pro is better. Is the original Vive still worth it?

The Oculus Rift may have brought virtual reality into the public eye, but HTC’s Vive, built in partnership with Valve, does it better. Does the Vive still represent the true future of virtual reality, or are there better competitors on…
Gaming

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Computing

Nvidia is slowly rolling out its next generation of GPUs. Here's what you need to know about them

Nvidia's new RTX 2000 series graphics cards are impressive pieces of hardware, with some amazing advancements and some rather high price tags to match. Here's everything you need to know about Nvidia's new top-tier cards.
Gaming

Grab a comfy saddle — ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ campaign clocks in at 60 hours

According to Rockstar Games co-founder and head writer Dan Houser, Red Dead Redemption 2 features a 60-hour story. Houser said "superfluous" content was removed from the game. It launches October 26 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.