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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 is the best Flight Simulator for the PC.
Microsoft Game Studios have once again proved their expertise and knowledge of PC Flight Simulation with this, the ninth installment of the amazingly popular Flight Simulator series.
I bought FS2004 upgrading from Flight Simulator 98 and I am truly amazed at the massive improvements and new features.
Amongst the new and improved features are almost real life graphics, an ultra-realistic Air Traffic Control feature and over 20 planes.
Getting Started: The basics of getting flying are fairly simple, you select your aircraft, with livery and choose an ATC name for it. You then select an airport to start from (virtually every one you could think of is included, major international airports, regional hubs, military landing strips and private airfields are all in it, with correctly mapped runways, taxiways, ATC frequencies, navigational aids (ILS and ADF) and sceneries. Alternatively, rather than just choosing a start airport, you can create a full flight plan for use with Air Traffic Control which allows you to set start location, destination, route and cruising altitude.
Once you've set up your start point and destination, you can choose the time and date of the flight, which has a realistic effect on the scenery, for instance at night all the lights come on at the houses and in different seasons there are different effects, for instance in winter all the fields are brown and covered with snow (depending on weather settings), whereas in summer the fields are all green and everything generally looks a lot happier!
Finally you choose from a wide range of weather options including some pre-set conditions, or you can create your own weather conditions, or a brilliant new feature, real-world weather which is downloaded from the internet and loaded into Flight Simulator every 15 minutes.
Now you can get flying!
The Aircraft: With FS2004 been the Century of Flight edition, it was only right that Microsoft included aircraft right from the beginning of flight to modern day in the game, and they have done it superbly!
From the 1904 Wright Flyer to the modern day Boeing 777, there is a massive range of aircraft in FS2004. For those looking for an easy, yet modern and smooth flight, the Cessna aircraft are brilliant, including a tiny trainer and an amphibious aircraft. For people looking for an historic flight there are many old aircraft from years gone by including the Wright Flyer, mentioned above, Patty Wagstaff's aircraft, the DH88 Comet and the Douglas DC3 Dakota. There are some modern business aircraft, including the Bombardier Learjet 45 and the super-sleek Mooney Bravo. Of course, there are also the big Boeings, including the massively popular 737, the huge, super-long range 747 and the new 777.
Each aircraft is has a realistic flight model and dynamics. The graphics are amazing (as long as you set the detail level to full). The aircraft all have fully moving parts like landing gear, flaps and spoilers plus loads of great lighting effects like panel lights, cabin lights, landing/taxi lights, strobe lights, nav lights (I could go on!).
The aircraft panels are fantastic and super realistic with loads of buttons that all do something, although it takes a while to work out what they're all for!
The game also features two helicopters, a Bell and a Robinson.
Plus, there is also a gigantic online community of freeware developers who design hundreds of great planes of all types and manufacturers which you can easily download for free and easily add to the game.
Air Traffic Control: One of the most impressive features in the game is the realistic ATC feature. The controller will guide you from taxiing to take-off at the departure airport all the way to taxiing to parking after touch down at your destination.
On the ground, the controller will guide you to and from the correct runway and help you to avoid collisions with other aircraft. When ready for take-off or on approach for landing, the controller will make sure you avoid other aircraft and follow the correct procedure.
Then, once in the air, the controllers will guide you all the way to your destination, giving you directions, informing you of the altitude you need to be at and warning you of nearby traffic.
All of the Air Traffic Control feature is done realistically, with the correct frequencies, procedures and speech.
Using the Air Traffic control feature is simple. You control what you want to say/do using the number keys when you are prompted in the ATC window. You dont have to use Air Traffic Control but it makes the game much easier and more realistic.
Graphics: The graphics are amazing, the aircraft are very accurately modeled and have reflective textures and very detailed parts. The airports also have very good graphics, with runway lighting and signs, terminal buildings, Air Traffic Control towers and even refuel stations quite accurately modeled. The scenery is very impressive, with 3D buildings of different types and sizes, motorways and main roads are also well mapped.
There are some major cities which are very accurately reproduced like London and New York, where you can actually fly around and see monuments and buildings (e.g. the London Eye, Millennium Dome, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and many more major landmarks). These accurate cities are very impressive and are really well designed.
Cloud & Sky effects in the game are fantastic, the clouds really are like in real life, a big improvement of the 2D clouds in FS98. During the day, the sun is high in the sky creating some amazing views, and at night, the moon and the stars can be seen.
Multiplayer Mode: The multiplayer mode is a good feature as long as you have a fairly fast internet connection. It is done through msns Zone.com, youll have to have a Microsoft .net passport to play, which you can easily sign up for.
You then choose a session to join, which can be a private session with just you and your friends or a public session with Flight Simulator players from around the world. It takes a while to load up, but when it does you can fly with everybody else in the session. You can use the message window to keep in touch with them and discuss your flight plan, position and landing intentions. It can be quite easy to get lost though, seen as there is no ATC feature in the multiplayer sessions.
Multiplayer sessions can sometimes get a bit slow though, when there are a lot of people in the same area, the frame rate gets slow and the game becomes jumpy and unstable (depending on what spec PC you have).
To play Flight Simulator 2004 properly, you tend to need a fairly fast computer. The system requirements that are stated on the box arent really very good. If your PC only just meets the minimum system requirements, you will only be able to play the game at the lowest detail settings, which kind of ruins it.
I manage to just get away with playing it at full detail levels, but it can sometimes be a little jumpy and unstable.
My PC has a 2.66GHz processor, 256MB RAM, 80GB Hard Drive and a 128MB Graphics Card.
These specs are a pretty good guide for working out whether your PC will be able to handle FS2004. If so, I would definitely recommend it to you, if not, maybe you should consider FS2002, which I have heard is nearly as good, just some missing features.
When I first started up the game I expected it to be just another of the attempts at simulting fliying with limited terrain and control. How wrong I was, the choice of aircraft was extensive and varied. From antique craft of a bygone era through World War 2 up to the present day with the best known aircraft i.e Boeing 747 'Jumbo' and many variants within a type. Setting up the aircraft, flying conditions and default control settings was a task in itself. All this preperation was certainly worthwile as it made the actual flying extremely realistic, especially with a 'Force' Joystick. I must admit my first attempts were dismal failures, but like 'the real thing' practice, whilst not making perfect, certainly made for more enjoyment when I was able to take glimpses 'outside' the cockpit. Not being an actual pilot I cannot testify as to exactly how real the experience was. I do know , however, that a pilot friend of mine has aquired the 'full kit' of yoke, pedals and throttles and practices his instrument flying regularly. This is a great testament to the realism as he says its a darn sight cheaper than a real Flight Simulator. I highly reccomend this game to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to be at 'the sharp end' of an aircraft.
I have been playing flight simulators since 1999. I have always had an interest in civil aviation but at the age of 16 this is about the closest to flying an airliner I can come at the moment. First of all, I have to say Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 is very realistic. If you want something to muck about on, this isn't for you. This game requires a lot of skill and has a slow learning curve. If you are new to flight simulation or aviation, then the flight tutorials by Rod Macho will come in handy. If however you are in training for you PPL, CPL, ATPL or any ratings, this simulator would be great to familiarize yourself with the flight deck of the aircraft required and how the aircraft handles. This flight simulator will also teach you the basics of every aspect of flight from taxiing, takeoff, climb, cruise, turning, descending to landing. If you wish to take your flying a little further, you can learn some of the more advanced procedures built into the game such as tracking a NDB, using ADF and DME. From Flight Simulator, you can also pick up a little ATC terms and how to structure your sentences when speaking to the ATC. I have been using Flight Simulator 2004 from the day it was released and have found it by far the best of recent times. I have now started my PPL and have found that the cockpit interior on FS2004 has helped me adapt to the real life situation a lot. The only downfall with FS2004 is the helicopters, they just don't handle like they do in real life. If you are to buy this simulator, I must insist that you acquire a decent joystick with thrust levers such as the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback II; this will enhance your experience unlimitedly! The greatest advantage with purchasing FS2004 to any other flight simulator is the amount of downloads available for the game. There are thousands! From aircraft to scenery to AI aircraft. A little tip: go to www.projectai.com after installing FS2004
and download as many AI airlines as possible to enhance the realism of hundreds of real life airliners flying within your virtual world. This means you won?t have to buy any Flight Simulator add-ons which can be quite expensive. The graphics on FS2004 are amazing. I cannot stress that enough. You can have reflections off of the aircraft and shadows caused by every object in the game, including clouds! The fixed wing aircraft are also superb. The sounds are all recorded from real life which adds to the experience. They react as they do in real life and you can even schedule engine failures and faults with the aircraft just to challenge yourself! The scenery in this game is all real. Where ever there is a mountain in real life, the is one in the game. A of the runways are also in the exact direction they are in real life. As the slogan goes, "as real as it gets" this is so true. All of the frequencies for the ATC are also real. The airports in this game are excrement. Most of them are just default blocks but the major airports such as Heathrow and O'Harre (Chicago) are so detailed, it is unbelievable! You have to see this to believe it! This game is superb. The only problem is you will need a very fast computer to run the game to the max but you can run it sufficiently with a decent computer. You will also require a joystick. You will not be disappointed with this game!!!
Cynics of Microsoft?s regular developments of this product may be expecting a revamped version of the 2002 simulator with a few old planes. I guess, in essence that is what you get. But WOW! What a revamp. HISTORY First of all a little history. Flight simulators have been around for about 25 years and obviously initially were a collection of lines and numbers on the screen. It is only really since Microsoft Flight Simulator 95 that the graphics have become a significant part of the package. In Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 the graphics had such realism, the world?s gaming press was positively drooling. Now! Be prepared to be blown away. The graphical impact of this version of Microsoft?s long running flight simulator series is stunning but amazingly the realism runs alongside making this easily the most realistic flying experience available on the PC today. In talking about the history we should note the history of aviation because that is a major focus of this product. One hundred years ago, there existed one aeroplane on the planet. Amazing heh? This product is subtitled ?A Century of Flight? and instead of giving a small range of modern aircraft for users to fly, it gives a larger range of aircraft representing the hundred years of aviation. Now, people are going to debate forever why there favourite plane isn?t there and why some models have got a look in. We all have our favourites. What Microsoft have done though is included planes that bring us through the hundred years and planes that were significant in their time. There are omissions. There always will be but the range of aircraft really does make for a fascinating range of flying experiences. REALISM Now, this is where Microsoft claims on the box to beat the opposition. ?As real as it gets? is the claim. There is no disputing this. The package encompasses over 24,000 real airports with all correct navigational aids and runway markings and lights as they are in real life. No
w, add to this the astonishing weather graphics such as clouds, rain and snow and you really do have an incredible realism. The planes included have been flight tested by real pilots to support the model and realism of handling. The included scenery is great but the autogen element of the scenery that constructs a small range of buildings in areas that are built up can create strange effects. I was taking off from Plymouth airport in the South West of the country and had two gothic cathedrals to the west of the airport! You can lower the level of autogen scenery which helps and you can of course spend out on add-on scenery packs. (£19.99 buys a photographic quality scenery pack for your area of the country ? awesome!) With a multi monitor set-up, say three monitors, you can set the centre monitor to be the view forward, the left monitor to be the view left and you guessed, the right monitor to be the view right. With this get up you have a visual surround of the cockpit ? WOW. THE GAME Any review of a Microsoft Flight Simulator has to be honest at some point and say ?This is not a game?. This has never been truer than in this release. This is a simulator. Flying even the most basic of light aircraft takes many hours tutorial in real life. While you can just jump in and fly ? you really wouldn?t be getting much pleasure from most of the products features if you did this. Downloading real world weather from the Internet introduces cross-winds and a whole new challenge. So, this is not a game, then is it fun? Certainly but only if you are naturally excited by civil aviation. If you are looking for a quick fix adrenaline rush you need to go to a combat flight simulator of which there are many. THE COMMUNITY When you buy a Microsoft Flight Simulator you automatically join an exciting and enthusiastic world wide community. This is still true and the community of users continue to develop new and exciting ways of enjoying the product. Did you kn
ow for example that you can fly for a virtual airline, receiving flights from the management for which you gain promotion? Did you know that with a free download of software from the Internet you can have voice communication with other online pilots and that there are even systems with online air traffic control provided by other enthusiasts? This makes for an amazingly real experience. Your graphically stunning simulator with real world weather and voice air traffic control in a world populated by other pilots! And the cost of these additions ? free. Beginners to the exciting world of modifying their simulator with add-ons will find the flight-sim community a friendly and helpful place. VALUE FOR MONEY £49.99 What can I say? It?s a gift! For less than the price of a return train ticket to the next town, you can fly the world yourself. OVERALL Be prepared to give it time. This is not a game and requires time input if you are to really enjoy it. Be prepared to be hooked and loose your friends and family for many months as you fly around the world hooking up with friends from the flight-sim community. Be prepared to become obsessed, buying new and better joysticks, rudder pedals, scenery packs, and for the ultimate, 3D glasses. With 3D glasses, you can actually look to the left and have your view change as you turn your head ? what an amazing experience.
Reviewing a Microsoft flight simulator is always a tricky affair. Not because of the merely reasonable graphics, or the below-par sound effects, but because it isn't a game in the true sense of the word. Before all the flight sim aficionados start complaining, let's look at the facts. A game needs an objective. In the majority of flight sims, this objective is to blow something up and return to base to collect points or promotion. But FS2004 doesn't have an objective or a challenge. It's flying purely for the sake of flying. As its title suggests, this latest version commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight from Kitty Hawk airfield. And believe it or not, the Wright Flyer is one of the aircraft available - despite the fact that it only flew for a few seconds - along with other famous classics such as The Spirit of St Louis. But there are some glaring omissions. No Concorde. No Tri-Star. No De Havilland Comet, the world's first transatlantic jet. In fact, looking at FS2004, you'd think aircraft development stopped in the 1930s and restarted in the 1970s. Cynics might conclude that this is a deliberate ploy to make an add-on pack a necessity. Time will tell. Graphically, FS2004 is good, but IL-2 Sturmovik has surpassed it. The young pretender is pushing boundaries in the technical department too, and that's not a good thing for Microsoft, which prides itself on Flight Simulator being 'As real as it gets'. This is very boring but it is worth £40 for the graphics