Flight Simulator for Windows 95
also called: Flight Simulator 6.0
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $55
Genre: flight simulator
Release: November 7, 1996
Developer: Flight Safety International (Microsoft)
Publisher: Microsoft
Phone: 800-626-8636
Website: www.microsoft.com/games
Requirements: Windows 95, 486DX2, 66 MHZ, 8 MB RAM, 40 MB hard disk space, 2X CD ROM, SVGA graphics card, mouse and sound board

Company line: The world leader in flight simulation takes you to new levels of realism, adventure, and challenge. You've never flown like this before! Ultra-realistic planes provide an unparalled flight experience! See the world in spectacular detail! Start flying in seconds! Take off for adventure!

History: Long before the "Microsoft Knows Games" buttons were handed out at the 1996 Los Angeles Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft produced the world class Flight Simulator. The first version of Flight Simulator was released in 1982 for the DOS platform. Now that DOS is dead and has been dead since the Winter of 1995, it is about time that Microsoft updated its long standing title to the Windows 95 platform.

Never heard of the Microsoft Flight Simulator (MFS)? In the last 13 years, MFS has had five successful versions of ultra-realistic games, produced by SubLogic and the Bruce Artwick Organization. There is a dedicated following and an immense number of upgrades and add-ons available, including maps, scenario builders, and other enhancers. The list of enhancements is so large that they make up the largest chapter in Shay Addams book on Flight Simulator 5.0 for InterAction.

In the brave new world of mergers, SubLogic has been acquired by Sierra who will be doing Pro Pilot, so Microsoft has obtained the services of another flight simulator house (Flight Safety International) to keep up the long tradition of this extremely well received product, that is so accurate that some have mistaken it for an FAA approved simulator. Go figure.

Plot: You take off, you land, you try out manuevers, you look at the highly detailed scenery, you use the navigation beacons, you try to crash into buildings, and you are impressed by the realism and boredom of flying a commercial aircraft. Now, Microsoft wants to change all that. The new game will contain interactive flight training and will develop special flying experiences for the pilot to accomplish that mimic the real excitement of flying commercial and private air transports.

Game play: Like the many flight simulators before the current version 6 for Windows 95, you need to fly the plane in the most realistic fashion. You need to go through the preflight check, use com and nav beacons to fly by, and it really does not hurt to prepare a detailed flight plan. The game realistically applies brakes, throttle, flaps, taxiing from your hanger to the appropriate runway.

Many feel that previous game have been boring in many aspects, save the landing sequence and others I will mention later, so Microsoft has provided some training exercises. You can fly between the twin towers in New York and under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. While these are a step in the right direction we can only hope that Microsoft takes these criticisms to heart and produces some more challenging adventures in future versions. One such flying activity that is both challenging and fun is landing on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier I the middle of the ocean.

Interface: First person perspective interface. Menu based system up until the actual flying where there is a first person perspective view of the cockpit, with the instruments below the large windshield on the sky. The instruments are large, the panel takes up half of the computer screen, and contain a full compliment of instrumentation: altimeter, speedometer, horizon, gyro compass, turn indicator, and others including the navigation radios.

Views: No flight simulator is worth its salt without multiple external views. The main view is too the front through the viewscreen in first person perspective

You fly: New for this version are the Boeing 737, yes the one with the rudder hydraulics problems, and the Extra 300S aerobat, which you can also fly in Looking Glass' Flight Unlimited. You can also fly the old standard Cessna, Learjet, Sopwith Camel, and sailplane. Those who think this game is too easy I challenge them to land in Jackson Hole Wyoming in a Learjet and take off in a Cessna. See if you can survive those combinations as easy as blasting a thousand baddies in Quake.

The five scenery discs included with the game are Las Vegas, London, Tokyo, Rome and Miami. Unfortunately, my favorite and most challenging airport, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is not included in the scenery discs that are now included at no extra charge.

Graphics: Airports and other details such as skyline, com and nav frequencies, and other details are accurately represented in the true three dimensional world of the flight simulator. The cities and other scenery are now done in three dimensions and are enhanced to the point that is conforms to satellite imaging, and official road and river data.

Animation: The planes are realistically depicted and animated smoothly. The best graphics and animations are on the plane.

Difficulty: While different realism settings can be made, the game is made even easier with the inclusion on the internet and in the game of a flight school. Patti Wagstaff in her Extra 300S, an acrobatic pilot.

Voice actors: Samples of the voice actors can be found on the Microsoft Flight Simulator web site.

Music score: None

Sound effects: Sound effects should provide useful feedback to the pilot as they do in Flight Unlimited, but they do not. Otherwise the sound effects have been enhanced to include three dimensional sound, but they are far to few when compared to what is needed.

Utilities: The help file has been improved in this edition

Multiplayer: This is a single player game which would be enhanced substantially by multi-player options. There are no wing persons here. Future releases will support the Microsoft DirectPlay multi-player technology.

Future plans: Perhaps new mission disks should include: Benita Schwarz Bush hopping rural physician, Adventures of a United Parcel service international pilot, Air America Exploits in Cambodia staring Mel Gibson, Air Rescue in the Bermuda Triangle, Chasing Drug Lords with a Cessna and a slingshot.

Summary: In the past this title has suffered from lack of things to do in the game and the difficulty of obtaining the dozens of add-on programs that were produced by and for the die hard Flight Simulator fan. While it is still difficult to find the add ons, except the five scenery discs included with the game, there is still little to do beyond taking the acrobatic training from Patty Wagstaff.

Compare to: Looking Glass Flight Unlimited and Sierra Pro Pilot.

Reviewer: Steve quotes, "The add-on flying experiences disks will, according to Ed Fries, General Manager for the Entertainment Business Unit at Microsoft, 'allow us to continue our goal to deliver the most realistic flight experience on the PC.'" This is the first review that I have seen from newcomer Pete Deemer.

Bernard Dy, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 9, February, 1997, pg. 86, 70%.
Steve Bauman, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 14.
Pete Deemer, http://www.gamespot.com/simulation/msflight/, (70%).