Microsoft is bringing back its long-running Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise, with the promise of giving players an ultra-realistic CG-rendered Earth to fly in.
The Redmond-based tech company surprised fans at this year's E3 event when it was revealed that a new MS Flight Simulator will be released in 2020. This was viewed as big news given that the last main entry in the popular video game franchise, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, came out in 2006.
MSFS is well-known for its highly realistic portrayal of flight simulations. The game allows players to take on a variety of virtual airplanes using nearly the same controls found in real-life aircraft. It also recreates different environmental challenges such as weather effects that pilots can encounter during flights.
For its 2020 edition, MSFS is taking this sense of realism to a whole new level with the introduction of ultra-realistic CG Earth. The game developers made use of data taken from Bing Maps and Azure cloud platform to create in-game assets that are as close to the real deal as possible.
Bing-Powered World Map
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will feature an X-COM style world map, where players can locate specific airports that they would like to start in.
The game's CG-rendered globe will include the entirety of the Earth's 197 million square miles of land and water, as well as more than two million cities found across the planet. It will also have more than 40,000 different airports.
Asobo Studio, the French team in charge of developing the new MSFS, built the digital world using datasets drawn from Microsoft's Bing Maps. The developers took advantage of the program's satellite imagery and 3D photogrammetry data to portray an accurate representation of the Earth.
Highly-Realistic Graphics But At A Cost
Game reviewers who were able to get their hands on early MSFS demos said the in-game graphics were indistinguishable from their real-world counterparts.
Journalists present at the game's world-premiere event in Seattle earlier this month were able to take virtual planes for a spin, and many of them were impressed at the CG depictions of famous landmarks.
However, the high quality to MSFS's renderings come at a high price, as to be expected. The game is so big that it requires 20,000 Blu-ray discs just to have it shipped as a physical copy. This is why the new flight simulator is only being offered through streaming.
Asobo promised to have certain areas of the world map pre-loaded to help provide smoother gameplay for gamers with slower connections and to allow them to play even when offline. However, players still need to have fast internet connections to experience the game at its fullest, especially at 4K resolutions.
Microsoft has yet to release an exact date when the new Microsoft Flight Simulator will be rolled out, but some observers expect it to reach stores sometime in 2020. The game will be available for Windows PC and Xbox One.