Microsoft Fight Simulator X
Microsoft's Flight Simulator X is the 10th and latest version of the venerable entertainment title, one that played such a significant part in the history of the microcomputers and PCs. Some credit the 1982 MS-DOS version of the civilian flying sim with being a secondary "killer application," after spreadsheets, that made an IBM PC worth owning.
In this latest installment, with another graphics quality upgrade (Microsoft claims a 16X improvement in terrain graphics) you can fly of over 50 missions -- from a simple fly-in at a wide-open Midwestern US airpark to landing a passenger-laden 747 in Singapore during a monsoon. Or, for the less structured flyer, in Free Flight mode, take off from one of over 24,000 airports around the world and fly to any other (Really old flight simmers will miss the first departure point from the initial PC version. Old Meigs field in Chicago is no longer with us.) Or forget about flight plans and use the map to place your plane at most on any spot around the globe (except, apparently Machu Picchu,) at any altitude and heading.
There are 24 different aircraft models included in this version, with over a hundred variations of them, ranging from an ultralight to the Boeing 747, with a variety of prop-driven craft, jets and even a sailplane (glider) and helicopters in between.
Highly detailed and interactive air traffic controllers are an improvement. You'll hear localized voices with accents giving instructions in an airspace full of other air traffic, the amount of which can be set higher or lower in the Options.
There are 10 preset weather themes ranging from Clear Skies to Winter Wonderland, or you can fly in conditions dictated by another addition to this version -- dynamic weather will update your computer's entire virtual world from an online weather source, if connected, updating every 15 minutes.
The missions include 10 helpful tutorials, and you can start your self-training at three different points, one for a newcomer to flight sims, one for someone who has used other versions, and there's one starting point if you are a real life pilot. The extensive Learning Center covers every important topic in a quick, accessible web-style format.
The MS Flight Simulator X is resource-intensive, so even though there are low settings for all graphics and activity options, to get the most out of this latest version of the state-of-the-art civilian flying software you'll want to run it on the fastest hardware you can get your hands on.
Other than that, for folks familiar with the most recent of any of the nine previous versions, it will be an incremental improvement with a few interesting new features. If you haven't stepped up from some earlier version in a while, this would be the time. Flight sim newbies will want to start here.