With Microsoft Flight Simulator coming to Xbox Series X|S on 27th July, Microsoft has revealed a set of five new features and improvements that will make the game more accessible to console gamers. These range from more assists, to more guided entry-level flights that let you take in the sights of the world from the skies.
While the game on Xbox will aim to deliver a deep simulation for those that want it, Microsoft and Asobo Studio recognise the need to lower the bar for entry as well. Part of this just comes through having more suggested and guided content, but there’s also revised tutorials, new AI to assist you, and new features for your planes.
In order to help onboard new players, Jorg Neumann, Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator explained, “If you’re becoming a pilot [in the real world], the first thing you do is a Discovery Flight. Basically, you have a flight instructor next to you who does most of the work usually, but you get to steer the plane and feel really good about yourself, and so we said we need to recreate that.
“We picked ten places on Earth, some of the most compelling places like Mt. Everest or Rio de Janeiro, or New York or the pyramids, and we put you in the plane. It’s ready to go, it’s beautiful weather, and all you need to do is fly. It’s fun. As an onboarding experience it really is super good.”
The second area onboarding feature is to do with exploration, with new labels integrated into the game for all manner of landmarks. “[Exploring the world on PC] was only visuals and so you didn’t quite understand how everything fits together. So now we’ve added labels. Bing has all these labels for every [Point of Interest], every river or mountain, so we have those now and we put that into the world map. If you go down and try to plan out your flight, you can now see all the cities around you. It totally transforms the experience.
“It’s the same in-game, so you can see here’s Everest, and over there is whatever. You learn about the planet more and it’s a much more enriching experience just experiencing the planet.”
Third are the new tutorials, revising the eight tutorials that were present at launch on PC, to create 22 shorter, more focussed tutorials. These are now scored by a performance indicator, so you can retry them and try to improve your technique.
“The next feature is called Flight Assistant, which I use a lot!” Jorg said. “Imagine if you fly over New York and you actually want to just look at the landscape and the city, but you know that eventually you want to go to Brooklyn Bridge. So in the Flight Assistant, you can now click on ‘Go to Brooklyn Bridge’ and the AI, almost like a co-pilot sat next to you, will fly you to Brooklyn Bridge and you can just look around and have an interesting time.
“The same with airports, which are sometimes challenging for people. You can click an airport and say ‘Please land me at New York Airport.” Then the last thing [the AI does] is if you really get into trouble, like you stall out the plane or something like that, you can now go and say ‘recover’.”
The fifth and final new feature is called Land Anywhere, a real Ronseal of a game feature.
“We learnt that everyone is good taking off, but some people are hesitant to land,” Jorg explained. “Specifically when you look at big international airports and they seem scary and you talk to the air traffic controller and all that super technical stuff. So we added a new feature called Land Anywhere.
“Just land anywhere! And then when you can do that, you see that 71% of the planet is water, so we added floats to a bunch of our planes, so you can land on oceans or in rivers or wherever. The same with snow, so we have skis on our planes now, so you can to the polar regions and mountain tops, or where it’s snowing, because we have winter and it’s snowing, and you can land anywhere.”
Through all these changes, Jorg asserts that this is still very much a simulation. “We’ve made the decision not to dumb down the flight sim,” he said. “It’s not easier, it’s not gameified. We gave assistances to help you learn how to actually play and fly a plane.”
Microsoft Flight Simulator will release for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox Cloud Gaming on 27th July. The game is out now for Windows 10 PC via Steam, the Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass.