Simulation games are among my favorite variety, and are practically the only type of game that I play on my computer. My longtime favorite is Microsoft Flight Simulator. Recently, I picked up a copy of the 2004 version, which is the latest edition of this game. It is called A Century of Flight because its release falls 100 years after the birth of aviation.
You should know I have played every version of Flight Simulator since version 95. Long, long ago, I even had an even older version that came on 1/4″ floppies. Ancient! I can’t imagine what it would look like today if it were presented side-by-side with its modern equivalent. Today’s 2004 version comes on 4 CDs and uses 3 GB of hard drive space if you choose the complete installation. Wow! A far cry from the old days of computing. To my dismay, you must keep the fourth disc in the computer in order to launch the game. I am sure this is to deter copying, but it is also a bit of an annoyance.
The new game has a lot to like. The graphics engine in the 2004 version uses the new DirectX 9.0. Scenery and landscapes look crisp and detailed. Improved Air Traffic Control makes the simulation very realistic with other airplanes in the sky around you. Communication with the ATC and airport tower are essential for safe flying. The game boasts having 24,000 airports around the world coded into the game. There are add-ons that one can purchase to add aircraft, graphics detail, and scenery to the game. I do not have any of these. The aircraft that come with the game give you a wide range of planes to enjoy. You can fly something as basic as the original Wright Brother’s airplane, a number of single-engine planes, up to a 747-400, and even a helicopter. I cannot seem to find a Concorde to fly, though I remember seeing one on the box cover for the old 2000 version of FS. Perhaps that plane is available in the Deluxe or Pro versions of the game. I don’t know. It doesn’t appear in my list and for that I am a little disappointed.
The game’s performance has been good, even though my computer is an aging Pentium-III. Lots of RAM and a great video card will help the performance. I have had good success while using modest settings in the game display. Of course, the better your computer, the more you can crank up the settings and detail. I’d imagine this game would look breathtaking if it was maxed out to take full advantage of it. I do not know why, but this game has crashed on me twice while I was flying. That upset me, but I am not ready to suggest that it is the game’s fault.
If you like airplanes and simulation games, then pick this one up. It is much more fun with a joystick. Using the keyboard is not smooth at all. The game has an online mode where you can fly in the skies with other real Internet users that are playing the game as well. I have not tried this feature, so I cannot comment on it. It sounds intriguing, though. My number one gripe about this game, as was true in the 2002 version, the airplanes do not crash properly when you hit the ground. The simulation simply stops and it says “CRASH”, without any fire or explosion of any kind. I think that sucks and takes half of the realism away. Also, make sure you don’t have the crash tolerance set too high the game, or your plane will bounce off of objects in a very cartoon-ish way, and keep on flying, which I don’t have to tell you, is ridiculous.
If you have version 9.0 (2004) of Flight Simulator, be sure to go online and download the 9.1 update.