Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight
Oh no, Flight Sim again? Wasn't it like all of two hours ago we were reviewing Flight Sim 2002? (More like a year and a half - Ed.) We've heard that for the next one Microsoft will apparently be teaming up with EA to produce a range of Flight Sim titles, including Flight Sim 2006 Premier All-Stars, Road To Flight Sim 2006 and Flight Sim '02-'06 Challenge. Like the FIFA series, each game will have a different professional pilot on the front cover depending on territory - France will have Roland Garros the first Frenchman to cross the Mediterranean by air; Britain wi have Terry Thomas and Eric Sykes from Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines; Colorado will have John Denve.
Anyhow, that's all just made - up speculation for the future (although wouldn't it be great?). For now we're being presented with Flight Simulator 2004 -A 4 Century Of Flight, celebrating 100 (and one) years of powered aviation. At least that's what it says on the box. What it means in practice is that basically we've got Flight Sim 2002 with fluffier clouds, a handful of historic aircraft and menus with a more educational bent than normal.
Of course, I'm exaggerating for comic effect. There's more to it than that, but you don't become one of the country's leading literary humorists like what I am by sticking with mere fact. Microsoft has made a noble attempt to foster the spirit of a century of going up-diddly-up-up, even if at times you do feel as though it's skimped on making a thorough examination of the last 100 years.
Of the nine historical planes included, there's nothing from the jet era, nothing military and none of the experimental X-plane models that were used to break sound barriers during the '60s. For Microsoft, aviation history apparently stopped in the 1930s and picked up again in the present day. While the cynic in me detects an expansion pack in the works, the eager-young-gamer-standing-at-the-counter-with-a-crisp-fifty-quid-note in me wishes they would do these things property first time round.
Mind you, what is included is nicely handled. Each of the historical winged jalopies comes with a raft of pre-generated flights designed to let you relive the glories of the past. One thing that definitely can't be faulted is the range of activities on offer. A quick stunt ride through an open barn in a Curtiss Jenny, or a truly ridiculous 136-hour flight from England to Australia in a pre-WWI Vickers - there's no shortage of stuff to do. Having these epic 'missions' actually highlights one of the biggest flaws that's plagued the entire Flight Sim range since the very first entry back in 1951 on the old Babbage home valveswitching arithmetic calculation device X100 - there's never any sense of achievement and reward system on offer.
Surely by now, after 20 years, it's time that someone at Microsoft said, "Hang fast chaps, what about adding some bally gameplay mechanics to the dashed thing?" When you play Tomb Raider you're safe in the knowledge that between the levels you'll be treated to some pre-rendered scripting as a way for the developers to say thank you for having stared at Lara's arse crack jumping around the platforms for the past hour. Why not something similar here?
Need For Speed
All I'm saying is alongside the Create Flight'. 'Select Flight' and 'Comedy Stylings of John & Martha' (see boxout) options on the menu, add one that says 'Career Pilot' and bolt a rudimentary progression factor to things. Start with a singleengine Cessna in a small aerodrome, ferry things about for cash, gradually affording bigger and faster planes, tying in the flight lessons with your journey in a Gran Turismo licence stylee. Suddenly the series opens up to a far wider audience (cha-ching, Microsoft!), surely a good thing? Anyhow, back to the present and really, what's to say?
Other than all the history stuff, there's nothing in Flight Sim 2004 that you're not expecting. Better graphics of course (they're really quite lovely now). A totally revamped weather system that's as real as anything we've seen to date. The auto-gen scenery engine works with the respective terrains much better than before (meaning cities now actually look like proper cities when you fly over them). The ATC has had a complete upgrade and despite one or two minor bugs involving aircraft disappearing from runways and the like, makes the skies around you feel as busy and alive as they used to in the old Flight Unlimited series (the previous standard bearer). Virtual cockpits are also now included in every plane in the box, which helps the flight experience immensely.
Fundamentally it comes down to whether you like flying planes for the sake of flying planes or not. There's no reason not to like Flight Sim 2004 other than for the subject matter. Technically it's a near flawless product, and certainly the best civil flight sim on the market. The history aspect adds a new dimension to the proceedings and is as good a reason as any to make you rush out and buy it - a move lean highly recommend. Not that the fans won't already be installing it anyway. Must be nice to have a guaranteed audience like that.
Download Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Released in 2003, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight is a very ambitious flight sim. There is no shortage of these games, but this one here stands out for many reasons and is fun if you are an aviation enthusiast or someone like me who just likes to mess around with cool-looking planes!
100 Years Of Flight
The big “gimmick” if you can call it that of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight is the fact that the game does not let you just pilot modern aircraft. The game was released as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers and you can even fly that plane in this game! It features many different kinds of aircraft from 100 years of flight which is really cool.
Even cooler is that each of the planes handles differently. I am no flight expert, but I found this to be cool and trying to fly the Wright Brothers plane and go on their first flight was not only really awesome but very challenging too. The number of times I smashed that thing into the ground after just a few seconds was insane, but I mean that in a good way. At the time this was a very graphically impressive game and I think it holds up pretty darn well to this day, to be honest with you.
So Many Buttons!
If you want to learn how to fly a plane in real life then I think this would be a good place to start! The number of things you have to do and keep an eye on is insane, but part of the challenge. The game offers flying lessons which I found pretty easy to understand and they are also really handy in that they are basically the tutorial of the game
How Do You Want To Fly?
Ok so I played the game just using the keyboard and eventually I got the hang of it, but the word simulator is in the name of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight for a very good reason. This is a game that has a lot going on. While I got into it with the keyboard just fine. I have heard that you can get a very expensive flight stick which makes the experience even better. Being the cheapskate, I am no way I am buying a flight stick just for a handful of games!
What Do You Exactly Do?
You can take flying trips all over the world which is really cool. There are various challenges to complete such as certain maneuvers like flying over a bridge for example. There are weather effects that you have to take into consideration too which are incredibly well done. Especially more so when you consider that the game is 15 years old! In all, it has more than enough to keep any flight enthusiast very busy and happy.
I will admit that Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: Century of Flight is not usually the kind of game I get into. However, the whole Wright Brothers thing really did spark my interest and as a result, I found myself getting into what the game has to offer. It does have a rather large difficulty curve to learn how to fly, but that is just part of the challenge.
- The tie into the Wright Brothers is very interesting
- I like how many different aircraft there are
- Flying all over the world is cool
- Some of the challenges are a lot of fun
- The graphics have held up very well
- The flight sticks you can use with this are super expensive
- The game is not easy to get into
2003 IS A BIG year for the world of flight. Exactly 100 years ago today, mankind finally told Mother Nature and her physical constraints to kiss his hairy, fat arse as the Wright brothers took to the skies in a rickety wooden death trap for a magnificent 12 seconds. To celebrate this momentous occasion in man's idiotic legacy, Microsoft is dedicating its latest version of the popular Flight Simulator range to a history of the last century of unnatural soaring.
Glossing over the fact that strictly speaking, cal the game 2004 maxes it 101 years of flight, Microsoft's E3 presentation stressed that as much of the last 100 years of aviation is represented as possible. Taking FS2002 as a starting point, FS2004 contains recreations of everything from the Wright's original flyer, through such legends as Charles Lindbergh's record-breaking Spirit Of St Louis, Amelia Earhart's Vega 5B and more recent long-haulers such as the DC-3, right up to modern jumbos and choppers.
What's more, all of the famous flights made by these pioneers are included. We were lucky enough to get behind the stick on the Wright's Flyer and not only equalled their 12 seconds but went so far beyond, we were about to pull off a barrel roll until it was pointed out that collision detection was switched off and we were playing in simpleton mode. Still, all the shakes, shimmies and seat-of-your-- pants tension in the X moments before take-off \ were there in full.
Aside from the history, Microsoft has upped the bar with the technical elements. Weather has had a complete overhaul, with stunning storm and cloud effects, plus brand new weather 'themes' - letting novices bypass the complicated dewpoint level and barometric pressure screens. You can even continually download real-world weather conditions as you fly for added realism.
Location, Location, Location
Scenery has had a major revamp, with more ground detail than ever before and more than 24,000 airports now modelled in painstaking detail. Even Blighty's various runways look half decent for a change. One issue addressed since the last version is that of virtual cockpits, with every plane in the pack now including fully 3D real-time flight decks, even when they amount to little more than some sticks of balsa wood tied together with horse hair.
Add updated navigation, radio and GPS systems, better front end menus, a multimedia reference library and the return of the unintentionally hilarious John and Martha King (guiding you through the features like you were a lobotomised two-year old), and Microsoft's unassailable stranglehold on the flight sim market looks set to continue for another century.
Without a doubt Microsoft clearly has outpaced any competition with their flight simulator series and continues to increase the distance with Flight Simulator 2004. Out pacing the competition does have its issues however, as Microsoft must now convince you that their latest release is significantly improved from their last. The good news is that Flight Simulator 2004 offers a number of new features and improvements that brings the experience to a new level while not losing the formula that continues to bring success.
The improvements to Flight Simulator 2004 include expected updates like increases in aircraft, airports, and additions like GPS units. Flights can still be set up to numerous places all over the world in an array of possible craft ranging from helicopters to passenger jets. Also new this year is a wide variety of historic flights such as the Wright Brothers first flight, Charles Lindbergh's "The Sprit of St. Louis" flight, or Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega flight. After flying some of these aircraft, a better feel for the magnitude of these early achievements will also be gained, as you'll see first hand why some of these first flights were lucky to just get off the ground. In addition, all of the different aircraft have that same realistic physics engine that captures the essence of an actual flight specific to each individual aircraft from take-off to landing. Other options like the learning center are also available to teach the finer points of piloting and helping those unfamiliar with flying become accustomed with the different terminology.
The real highlight however is the improvement to the graphics engine. The scenery is improved along with general detail enhancements but the weather system is quite remarkable. You can see weather patterns develop and even fly through thunderstorms that achieve a realism that almost justifies the game by itself. In addition, real-world weather updates are available from the Internet, adding a new dimension to the game.
Although not an action oriented game, Flight Simulator 2004 will still appeal to a broad audience because of the realistic experience it offers. Few games are able to bring this level of detail and accuracy together as Microsoft obviously allows resources to be available to have a high quality product. Unless you have no interest in flying whatsoever, Flight Simulator 2004 will give a unique experience that is worth the price of the game.