INTERNATIONAL (and domestic) travel is largely off the cards in real life, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people (including me) taking to the virtual skies anyway in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
The latest (and free!) update for the game focuses on Australia, and according to the Xbox Wire announcement, will let virtual pilots “soar over the renowned Great Barrier Reef, visit the vast regions of Western Australia, and marvel at the natural beauty of Mount Wellington. From the dusty red outback to shimmering coastlines and sugar white sand beaches, [and] explore the country’s most spectacular sights.”
Melbourne-based Orbx Simulation Systems have handcrafted four airports (Longreach, Mount Beauty, Paraburdoo and Shellharbour) and reportedly added high-resolution detail to more than 100 others.
The free update adds 94 custom crafted points of interest, as well as five “bush trips” (Tasmania, South-eastern Australia, Sea to Desert, Great Barrier Reef, and North-western Kimberly Coast), six discovery flights (Gold Coast, Sydney, Perth, Darwin, Melbourne, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park), and landing challenges for Brisbane, Shellharbour, Mt Hotham, Katoomba and Mabuig airports.
Using data from Bing Maps, new photogrammetry data has been added for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Bunbury.
I do enjoy a spot of flightseeing so fired up my copy of Flight Simulator on PC to see the new content, and while it was very much an improvement on the previous state of affairs, it’s still important to engage in a spot of expectation management.
While the photogrammetry brings the CBDs, regions around the major airports, and the major landmarks/points of interest to life, the rest of the city and areas are still populated by generic buildings (albeit in the correct locations, as far as I could tell) – for example, I flew over a major shopping centre I visit frequently and while it was in the correct location, the building looked almost nothing like the real one.
It’s not really an issue from 10,000 feet up, but it’s still important to understand the new enhancements don’t suddenly add Google Street View-like detail to the game either. Having said that, the Sydney and Brisbane cities looked really nice.
As part of the update, a new aeroplane has been made available in the game’s marketplace – a Fokker F.VII Trimotor, with a number of liveries including the iconic Southern Cross (the first plane to fly across the Pacific from the US to Australia, and also the first plane to fly across the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand) colour scheme. Fun aviation fact: The real Southern Cross aeroplane is sitting in a display hangar near the international terminal at Brisbane International Airport.
The in-game plane is not free, however – at time of writing, it costs AUD$22.45 – but it does look extremely detailed in the marketplace images and does rectify one of the criticisms I had in my original review (the lack of vintage aircraft in the game).
World Update VII is available for free for all Microsoft Flight Simulator players, and the base version of the game (PC or Xbox) is included with Xbox Game Pass (PC or Xbox) which makes it even more appealing.
Free content is always good, free content about Australia is even better, and free content about flying around Australia is a wonderful addition to an already amazing game.