Hands-on: Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X is the next-gen experience I was waiting for

Laurent Giret

Microsoft Flight Simulator received critical acclaim when it was released back in August 2020 on PC, and it’s finally launching tomorrow on Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. I’ve been testing the game on my Xbox Series X over the past couple of days, and I’m glad to report that this is probably the first game to really showcase the power of Microsoft’s next-gen consoles.

On PC, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a pretty demanding game that can really struggle to run well with max settings on high-end gaming machines. However, developer Asobo Studios deserve credit for what is a really well-done Xbox port, even though everything isn’t perfect.

Microsoft Flight Simulator would have made a great launch title for the company’s Xbox Series X|S consoles last year, but it was well worth the wait. If you’ve been waiting to be truly blown away by next-gen graphics since last year, I think that Microsoft Flight Simulator is definitely one of the best-looking games you’ll be able to play on your Series X and Series S starting tomorrow, July 27.

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Solid performance on Xbox Series X

The game targets 4K at 30FPS on Xbox Series X, and you don’t get an alternate Performance mode that unlocks the frame rate to 60FPS at the cost of smoother graphics. This is a bit unfortunate, though a 30FPS performance target is acceptable for a slow-paced, contemplative experience like Flight Simulator.

Overall, performance is pretty solid on Xbox Series X, though there can be some micro-stutters here and there, which can occur more often when you fly above busy places. You’ll likely get a better experience with a fast Internet connection, otherwise, you may notice that textures on the ground may take some time to load. However, it’s worth noting that the game can be played offline if you download the dedicated 59.7GB package on the Xbox Store.

I haven’t been able to try the game on the less powerful Xbox Series S yet, but others have reported that it runs really well with no real difference in performance compared to what the Xbox Series X offers. Overall, it’s pretty amazing to be able to get a satisfying gameplay experience on a $300 console, and this really something that you won’t be able to find on a similarly-priced PC.

Now that Microsoft has upgraded its Xbox Cloud Gaming servers with custom Xbox Series X hardware, I hope that Microsoft Flight Simulator will soon be playable on other devices via the cloud. I’m not sure if this will be easily feasible considering the game’s data consumption, but Microsoft Flight Simulator has the potential to become a great casual game for aviation enthusiasts.

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A very accessible game

Microsoft Flight Simulator could already be played with just an Xbox Controller on PC, and the Xbox Series X|S version of the game provides the same straightforward experience. Asobo Studios created an in-depth tutorial system to learn the basics of flights, takeoff, and landing, but you can skip all that if you want and start flying right away.

The Xbox version of the game also supports mouse and keyboard input, as well as officially licensed Xbox peripherals such as the TFRP Pedals ($129.99) and the T.Flight HOTAS One. New peripherals developed by pilots and aerospace engineers will be released in the coming weeks, and you can learn more details in our previous post (https://www.onmsft.com/news/here-are-the-first-officially-licensed-xbox-accessories-for-microsoft-flight-simulator). Anyway, you can be assured that the game is easy to handle with a regular Xbox controller, and you can turn on and off various assists in settings.

The beauty of Microsoft Flight Simulator is being able to fly anywhere in the world, starting from any airport or points of interest in the game’s database and choosing the plane or weather conditions you prefer. It’s really fun to see places you’ve been to from above, and when you want to really relax, you can also use the game’s Flight Assistant to automatically take you to specific locations.

The game also offers a series of Discovery Flights allowing players to discover some of the world’s most beautiful places including Egyptian pyramids or an incredibly detailed New York City. I don’t think you can ever get bored of playing Flight Simulator, and Asobo Studios keeps adding more details to the game with free “World Updates” that need to be downloaded from the in-game Marketplace.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4

Microsoft Flight Simulator still needs a bit more polish

Even though Microsoft has been available for almost a year on PC, the little things that made a bad first impression on me are still there on the Xbox Series X|S version of the game. First of all, the game makes you wait almost 3 minutes when you launch it to check for updates, and I was disappointed to find that support Quick Resume is missing.

Additionally, the game uses its own download system that’s separate from the Microsoft Store on Xbox. This also applies to the various “World Updates” that need to be downloaded from the in-game marketplace, and I would have preferred if all these optional updates went through the more familiar Xbox Store.

Anyway, the bad news is if you think you’re ready to start playing the game when you’ve finished downloading from the Microsoft Store, you’ll have more things to download when you launch the game for the first time, which isn’t exactly the best onboarding experience for newcomers.

It’s worth noting that the game also crashed quite often during my testing period, and when you add the long initial loading time, this can become quite frustrating. Microsoft Flight Simulator is definitely a big, complex game with lots of things happening in the background, but I’m hoping that these stability issues will be addressed in future updates.

Last but not least, Microsoft Flight Simulator supports Xbox Play Anywhere, cross-save, and cross-play across Xbox and PC, though I still find the multiplayer experience really confusing. I tried multiple times to play the game with my colleague Arif (who was on PC), and most of the time we couldn’t see each other at all, or only of us could see the other player.

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Asobo Studios still have some work to do to simplify the multiplayer experience so it can reach its full potential, but there are already more than enough things to do for solo players. With 10 years of support planned for Microsoft Flight Simulator, the French developer is just getting started and we can’t wait to see what’s in the pipeline for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

If you previously purchased the PC version on Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Microsoft Store, you’ll get this new Xbox Series X|S version for free tomorrow thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere. Otherwise, the game still starts at $59.99 on the Microsoft Store, but you can also play it for free with Xbox Game Pass.