The user interface, on the other hand …
I’ve been flying around Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X all morning with very few hiccups, and while it’s not quite as lavish as the Windows PC version, it looks damn good. But the game’s many quirks have been ported over to this new platform as well. If you’re a console die-hard looking for an easy way into the skies on July 27, prepare for a lot of turbulence.
Polygon was given access to an early version of Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox, which unlocked for us on Thursday. After a lengthy 102.1 GB download and installation, I had everything I needed to get started when I logged in Friday morning. From there, it was just a couple of clicks to get flying — an experience that was virtually the same as playing on PC.
Notice I said “clicks.” Microsoft Flight Simulator uses a virtual mouse on Xbox, which makes interactions slow and tedious. That’s especially true in the cockpit, where literally dozens of switches and dials fill the interactive dashboard wherever you look. The imprecise nature of the virtual mouse makes cold-starting anything off a checklist a nightmare.
Control surfaces are easy to manage, with good placement all around the controller. While the rudder was twitchy on the default setting, it responds well with the controller’s analog triggers. Even adjusting the trim and the angle of the flaps is a breeze. Meanwhile, the camera controls are smooth and responsive, both inside and outside the cockpit.
Where things begin to bog down is in the menu interface. On Xbox, Microsoft Flight Simulator uses the same byzantine menu structure as the PC version, but with a few graphical hitches thrown in for good measure. Entries have a tendency to overlap one another on occasion, making selecting or even reaching some items impossible. Rebooting the game was the only way I found to clear those errors. The game’s most elegant feature, active pause, is also buried a few layers deep into the UI. That makes grabbing the best screenshots a hassle.
If it sounds like I’m coming down hard on the Xbox version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, understand that it’s partially because I’ve been playing the PC version for a few years now. There are plenty of oddities on the PC side that I’ve simply gotten used to over time, and it’s likely that many of those in the console version eventually will be patched out or smoothed over.
But you must understand that the game world — our world, delivered thanks to petabytes of streaming satellite data and photographic detail provided by Bing Maps — looks just as stunning on console as it does on PC. That includes all of the major world updates released so far for free — enhancements for the U.S., the U.K., Japan, and more.
Our early testing seems to show that Microsoft Flight Simulator, for all its rough edges, is every bit the technical marvel on Xbox as it is on PC. It will also be part of Xbox Game Pass when it launches next week, which will open up the world of flight to a whole new audience. They’ll just need to get over a few quirks to enjoy the trip.