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Author Topic: Microsoft Flight Simulator X (PC)  (Read 1261 times)

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pathogen

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Microsoft Flight Simulator X (PC)
« on: May 17, 2006, 09:36:12 PM »

Microsoft Flight Simulator X Impressions

Don't laugh. Few franchises rival Microsoft Flight Simulator for longevity or success, and the latest version is visually incredible.

Microsoft's venerable Flight Simulator franchise is nearly 25 years old, something very few game franchises can also say. Though it doesn't generate the same buzz as a Halo or a Grand Theft Auto, Flight Simulator has proven to be a very successful and dependable franchise, thanks to its large and dedicated fan base, many of whom are real-life pilots. Yet for the 10th chapter in the series, Microsoft has rethought practically every aspect of Flight Simulator. The result is Flight Simulator X, a game that promises a huge leap in believability and realism for fans of realistic flight sims.

In terms of visuals, the differences between Flight Simulator X and its most immediate predecessor, Flight Simulator 2004, are downright startling. We were shown examples of remote areas on Earth as rendered in Flight Simulator 2004 and then in Flight Simulator X, and it was hard to believe that both products are only two years apart from one another. Microsoft and its internal Aces studio have raised the bar even nearer to photorealism. Texture resolutions have been quadrupled, there's much more accurate definition in terrain letting you see ridges and hills even better than ever, the autogen system can now automatically place 6,000 items per square kilometer to make the world look occupied (Flight Simulator 2004 could only do 600 items per square kilometer), and there are now 24 million accurate roads and highways in the game. Birds fly low in the sky, animals such as giraffes and elephants roam the African plains, traffic flashes by on highways, and there's a real sense that you're flying around a real place.

There are also a ton of new dynamic objects in the world. Land at an airport, and you'll be surrounded by tarmac vehicles such as luggage carts. The world has been divided into 23 zones, so if you fly over a tropical zone you'll see palm trees and other appropriate foliage. And we should mention that the water effects are absolutely photorealistic, thanks to new shader technology (though you'll need DirectX 10 for that). Other new features include an integrated voice-over-IP chat system, which means that you can now talk to your fellow pilots while in multiplayer without having to rely on a third-party system. There's also 5.1 surround sound.

Flight Simulator X will ship this winter with support for DirectX 9, the current standard. However, when Windows Vista is released early next year, Microsoft says it will release a free update to support DirectX 10 hardware, the next standard. Company representatives showed us the difference between DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 in the game, and the DX 9 version looked great, but the DX 10 version was substantially better. There was a much better sense of atmosphere and light, as well as the incredible water noted above.

The game will also introduce "structured experiences," a fancy word for missions. Hard to believe, but Flight Simulator has made it for nearly 25 years without any kind of mission-based gameplay. That will change, and an example of that was shown in a video in which an offshore oil rig is on fire, and you must pilot a helicopter quickly to the scene and evacuate the crew off the burning platform, with things exploding all around you. That'll prove a nice change of pace, but expect that the mainstay Flight Simulator experiences (being able to explore anywhere in the world by air, as well as being able to enjoy an incredibly realistic flying experience) will stay the same. Expect Flight Simulator to ship later this year.









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