Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Xbox first impressions: Am I really playing on a console?

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Xbox First Impressions

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020 launched last year on PC, and brought with it some truly realistic visuals. It was announced shortly after launch that Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 would be making its way to Xbox at some point, and while many were excited, just as many were skeptical of its performance and graphical clarity. Well, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 launched today on Xbox and our first impressions are… wow! Honestly, I know how powerful the Series X is, but I never thought it would be this powerful. Let’s take a closer look.

Controls are so easy a child could fly, unlike on PC

Sure, you can hook up an Xbox controller to your desktop to play Flight Simulator, but who would do that when you have a keyboard and mouse? Honestly, I’ve tried to play Flight Simulator 2020 on my gaming desktop, and it’s just not a fun experience for me. The keyboard controls are cumbersome, graphic settings are hard to dial in, and the experience really is geared more toward professionals.

However, with the launch of the game on console, I was a bit skeptical myself as to how the controls were laid out. Would it be easy to communicate with air traffic control? How would flying be? Well, I’m here to tell you that, if you can play a sports or car-racing game, you can play Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox. The controller layout is quite simple to understand, and after just 5-10 minutes of flying, you’ll be handling planes like a pro. While some planes are a bit more touchy than others, when doing some of the more exploratory flights with smaller aircraft, it’s fairly easy to keep things under control.

I tried two different flight styles, one where you start mid-air and are already flying over an area with unlimited fuel and no air traffic control, and another where you file a flight path and try to make it from one airport to the other, talking to air traffic control along the way. The second one you start on a runway, take off, and are supposed to land. Supposed to. Hey, I was enjoying the scene and didn’t realize I put that much strain on the aircraft that it crashed, OK? In all seriousness, it’s such a simple experience regardless of which mode you choose that you’re going to have fun no matter what.

With only one graphics setting, the game looks absolutely stunning… no tweaking required

The only graphics setting is whether you want HDR on or not, which means that you won’t have to tinker with options to make the game fluid. It just is. I’ve tried to play on multiple desktops, including an 11th Generation i7 + RTX 3080, and I spent more time trying to tune my graphics settings than I did actually enjoying a flight. With Xbox, I just turned the game on, took flight, and enjoyed the scenery. Honestly, if Microsoft wants the masses to enjoy this game, they did it right.

I flew in multiple areas, including my home city of Nashville, as well as New York City, Egypt, Mount Everest, and Bora Bora. Each one looked as though I was there in real life, and after showing a few screenshots to friends and family, many of them wouldn’t have known it was a game without some of the graphical things pointing out different POIs around the map. It’s that real.

You don’t need a flight yoke to enjoy the game, which is the best part

Back on the topic of controls, I was fully expecting to feel like the Xbox controller gave me a “gimped” experience when flying, but I was quite surprised after a little while in the skies. Sure, you don’t have as many buttons as a computer’s keyboard, and a flight yoke or other similar system would give a much more realistic experience, but neither are required. Taking to the skies with the controller gives you all the required buttons and functions within easy reach. The left joystick handles your main movement while the right one pans and tilts your camera to see what’s going on around your plane. You have rudder control on the left and right triggers, brakes, as well as increase and decrease throttle. Of course, you can customize these buttons and change things up as needed, but for just recreational flying, everything you need is right there on the controller.

9to5Toys’ Take

If it wasn’t already evident, I’m absolutely blown away by the performance and graphical quality of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox, especially considering it’s included for free with Game Pass. I’m personally playing on Series X, but if other reports hold true, even Series S delivers a quality experience overall, even if not in 4K. It’s quite nice not having to worry about graphics settings or whether it’ll work well on my specific setup, as I know that I can just launch the game and start enjoying it.

While I haven’t used my Series X much since getting my gaming desktop up and going, I have a feeling that I’ll be playing Flight Simulator 2020 more often now that it’s such a great experience on the console.

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