A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the recommended age rating of "14 and older" isn't due to graphic material -- Microsoft's Flight Simulator products are family-friendly adventures with no violence, sexual content, or inappropriate language. But this simulation is very challenging and not suitable for younger kids. And for parents who are concerned about post-9/11 sensitivity, you can't crash your plane in this game -- you actually right through buildings (in the default setting). If you want to turn on collision detection, crashing causes the mission to start back at the beginning.
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What's it about?
Microsoft Game Studios' ambitious FLIGHT SIMULATOR X lets gamers fly two-dozen commercial aircraft -- from the giant Boeing 747-400 to the deHavilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane and the Bell 206B Helicopter -- with incredibly lifelike graphics that include authentically re-created cockpits, airports, and scenery (even cars and livestock). Players can even choose a season, time of day, the weather conditions, and more. In addition to free-flight modes -- either starting in the air or working with air traffic control to follow protocol and take off from a busy airport -- players can accept more than 50 challenging missions. These missions include successfully completing a transatlantic flight, demonstrating an Airbus A321 at the Paris Air show, dropping relief materials in the Congo, and landing a stunt plane on top of a moving school bus.
Is it any good?
Talk about attention to detail: the game lets you fly to or from more than 24,000 airports on seven continents. But be forewarned: Players must install two full DVD-ROMs on a Windows-based machine, totaling an incredible 14 gigabytes of hard drive space. What's more, installation takes about 35 minutes, and another 10 minutes to launch the first time you play. After this, however, it's smooth sailing.
Gamers can join other players online, where one chooses to fly the plane while others assume the role of co-pilot, air traffic control, and so on -- while chatting via a headset. If you don't own a flight stick peripheral, you can easily use a regular console-like gamepad. A recommended pick is the Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows ($29.99). If you want to try Flight Simulator X before you buy, visit the official Web site to download the playable 817MB demo.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges commercial pilots face, including poor weather conditions, busy airports, and fuel management. Because you can fly to and from more than 24,000 airports around the world, not to mention take on more than 50 specific missions, families can discuss how important it is for pilots to understand world geography.
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