Microsoft Flight is the current incarnation of a long and illustrious franchise of games, dating back to 1977. Unlike SimCity, you can start playing Microsoft Flight for free: Simply download the game and embark on a series of missions planned to both teach you the basics of flight, and hook you into buying later missions and additional aircraft. Microsoft Flight is the last of its kind: Microsoft permanently stopped work on the game in July 2012, just a few short months after releasing it.
Microsoft Flight's graphics are gorgeous, and the scenery feels realistic. Hawaii serves as the backdrop for the first introductory missions, in which you get to fly two aircraft bundled with the free download: A thoroughly modern Icon Deluxe light aircraft and a WWII-era Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane. These missions run you through the rudiments of taking off, controlling the craft in the air, and landing.
You can fly Microsoft Flight with nothing but a game controller. There are realistic touches like preflight checklists, but in the early stages, the game runs through them on its own, checking items off as you look on.
While the introductory missions are interesting and fun to play (especially the landing tutorial) and the graphics were strikingly beautiful, gameplay is marred by having to navigate using landmarks, rather than traditional waypoints. In particular, one of the challenges starts out midflight, and you're supposed to land the plane. The trouble is, it's not clear where the airstrip is. No heading is provided, and there's no clear way to figure out which way to go. The careful narration that leads you through many of the other missions is utterly lacking on this one. Manually switching on the aircraft's GPS map does reveal an airstrip, but after navigating all the way to it and executing a landing, I discovered it wasn't the right airfield and failed the challenge after all.
Another point of frustration is the low number of available missions. Microsoft Flight starts you off with less than ten missions and once you want to make progress, you have to pay up.
In other words, the game suffers from the same issues plaguing many other "pay to play" titles, and even its fancy graphics were not able to redeem it. It is easy to understand why Microsoft ceased developing the game.
Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
This story, "Microsoft Flight Looks Beautiful, Might as Well Stay Grounded" was originally published by PCWorld.
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