A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know Microsoft Flight Simulator is a game that realistically simulates the experience of flying a variety of aircraft for Windows PCs. It's completely free of iffy content, including sex, language, and substance abuse. Planes can crash into the ground and buildings, which will end the current activity, but the screen fades to black before impact and no damage is shown. The sophistication of the simulation -- which includes authentic modelling of aircraft cockpits and controls -- is bound to foster an interest in piloting and/or the physics and engineering of aircraft, assuming the player has the patience to learn and practice what the game teaches them.
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What's it about?
MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR reboots one of the world's longest running game series, offering a hyper-authentic simulation of what it's like to fly everything from small, single-seat propeller planes to jet airliners. It provides players with authentic virtual replicas of each aircraft's cockpit, with virtually every switch, dial, lever, and control stick made functional and interactive. That forces players to learn about and understand concepts such as throttle, flaps, trim, attitude, vertical speed, elevators, rudder, and heading (various optional assists can be enabled to provide guidance and simplify aircraft operation). Players can take on various challenges, such as long haul flights or notoriously difficult landings, but will likely spend the bulk of their time creating and executing their own flight plans. The one-to-one world-scale map is based on satellite imagery and includes airports large and small in communities across the globe, from mountain ski resorts to tiny rural airstrips. Most players will recognize landmarks as they navigate their way over cities, across countries, and between continents, viewing the world from both inside and outside cockpit windows as they travel in real time.
Is it any good?
For players of specific passion and disposition, this is a nearly perfect game. Microsoft Flight Simulator is undoubtedly the most realistic video game simulation of flight yet created. Not only does it authentically recreate the look, feel, and controls of dozens of real-world aircraft -- a hallmark of the series -- it also provides players with an absolutely beautiful virtual copy of our world founded on scores of gigabytes of satellite data. You can fly virtually anywhere on Earth, and enjoy nearly photorealistic scenery of city skylines, natural landmarks, and plaid-like farmers' fields grids along the way. More than that, the wind and weather simulation is more realistic than ever, impacting not just aircraft handling during take-off, landing, and mid-flight, but also potentially damaging aircraft systems, forcing players to think on their feet. (Remember to pull that landing gear in on your private business jet before taking it above 250 knots or you'll risk losing it!)
While the simulation is deeply believable and difficult to fault (at least for novice and amateur pilots), it does have some drawbacks worth being aware of before jumping in. For starters, it's a huge game (it requires more than 100GB of disk space), often takes a long time to load, and will be difficult for older machines to run smoothly. A powerful PC is recommended to take full advantage of everything it has to offer. And keep in mind that this is a flight simulator, not a traditional game. It has a bounty of handy assists to help draw in rookies, ranging from flight checklists and reminders to training lessons and GPS navigation guidance, but the goal is to create as realistic a cockpit experience as possible. You'll spend long hours at the controls doing little more than slightly adjusting altitude, attitude, and heading to maintain your Navlog flight plan. If you're looking for something with action, a story, and constant rewards, this isn't it. That said, anyone with a true love for aircraft or an interest in the details and mechanics of flight and piloting is bound to be absolutely delighted with this reboot of Microsoft Flight Simulator, which, it can be safely said, is among the most authentic simulations of any complex human activities available to the public.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Microsoft Flight Simulator realistically simulates hours-long flights in real time, but you can pause your progress, so how many play sessions would you break a cross-continent or pan-ocean flight into?
Do you think you have what it takes to be a pilot? If you were to design aircraft, what would you change to make them better or safer?
- Platforms: Windows
- Subjects: Science: engineering, physics, weather
Social Studies: geography
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, spatial reasoning
Self-Direction: set objectives, work to achieve goals
Tech Skills: using and applying technology
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
- Release date: August 18, 2020
- Genre: Simulation
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptors
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: August 26, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.