Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox Series X|S impressions: Consolation prize

A year after it turned heads on PC, Microsoft Flight Simulator prepares to do the same for home consoles.


The release of Microsoft Flight Simulator last summer was a big deal for a number of reasons. It more than delivered on its promise of allowing pilots to see the world and is one of the few PC-focused AAA titles to come along in ages. While it was rough around the edges and was capable of bringing even the most powerful PCs to their knees, the on-screen results were too impressive to ignore. Now Microsoft Flight Simulator gets its time to shine for a new audience on Xbox Series X|S and it delivers a faithful translation of the PC experience, with all the positive and negative that implies.

Going over the pre-flight checklist

If you have even a passing interest in flying a plane, you should go ahead and buy the game now. No other piece of software on the Xbox Series X|S can compare. For those who might want a bit more information before committing, Microsoft Flight Simulator offers the ability to pilot a wide number of aircraft above locations across the entire globe. 

When I say the entire globe, I mean it. Microsoft Flight Simulator puts all of the airspace on Earth into play, from the Great Pyramids of Giza all the way to the Burger King by your old high school. Once you become familiar with the game’s front-end interface, you can plan a trip to and from any of the roughly 37,000 registered real-life airports in no time.

Becoming familiar with that interface will take some time for those new to Microsoft Flight Simulator. Most of the interface from the PC version has made the trip over to Xbox Series X|S and navigation is handled with the player needing to guide a virtual mouse cursor around the screen. 

It works well enough in menus, but you’ll likely run into frustration if you want to take the simulator side of things more seriously. There are only so many buttons on the Xbox Series X controller and most aircraft have countless toggles and interface points. When playing the PC version, I swapped between my gamepad and mouse+keyboard all the time. Some tasks are just easier with the mouse or keyboard. If you need to do a checklist for a craft like the Airbus A320neo, using the virtual mouse control is really rough.  

That being said, with the PC interface coming along to Xbox Series X|S, you gain the customization advantage. If you aren’t after a perfect simulation, it is possible to use assists and custom controller mappings to get a great experience out of the gamepad. If you are like me, you’ll be gawking at the scenery so much, you often opt for the simplest control operation. There are also some new custom controllers on the way for Xbox Series X|S from Honeycomb and Turtle Beach that will help you take your flight to the next level.

The visual presentation of Microsoft Flight Simulator was a showstopper back in 2020 and it remains so for its console debut. This game was famous for pushing PCs to the point it became a meme. While it was awesome to have software that looked so amazing, it was obvious that there was no way the Xbox One could handle this. Prior to playing, I was pretty sure that Microsoft Flight Simulator was going to be the first game to make the Xbox Series X fans start wailing like a goose being whacked with a mop handle. To my surprise, the dark grey breadbox continued to maintain its composure. 

For the most part, I seemed to be getting a pretty solid 30fps no matter where I traveled. I arranged some stops at parts of the globe that caused me issues on the PC version to see how the Xbox would cope. Just like on my PC, Chicago, IL presented some choppy output and terrain loading in later than normal. This could be a result of my home internet not being up to the task of downloading the cloud map data, though. I took a wonderful sunset flight into Tokyo that was stupendous on the 75-inch HDR TV I was using.

Hey, we didn’t even need the evacuation slide!

No, it doesn't look like the PC version at native 4K with the highest settings when you walk up close to the tv, but it doesn’t matter and most people won’t care if they were shown the difference. What does matter is that you can tell this is a real next-gen game within seconds. PS5 got its first clear-cut next-gen software with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and now Xbox Series X|S has its killer app. Microsoft Flight Simulator is on Xbox Game Pass, so console owners should start planning out their in-game vacations now. Just beware of the monster download that serves as your ticket price.

These impressions are based on the Xbox Series X version of the game. The key was provided by the publisher for coverage consideration. Microsoft Flight Simulator release for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox Game Pass on July 27.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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