Flight Simulator X
Flight Simulator X (more commonly known as FSX by it’s users) is Microsofts’ latest offering in their long line of Flight Sim software. Despite it being the latest, FSX is now over ten years old with it’s original European version having been released on October 13 2006. Since it’s inception, FSX has seen two Service Pack updates (known as SP1 and SP2) and an the ‘Acceleration’ Expansion. In 2014, Microsoft signed a licencsing deal with Dovetail Games who then took over development of the software.
FSX Steam Version
Once Dovetail Games received the licence in 2014, they wasted little time in identifying an opportunity to increase the gaming audience of FSX and, later that year, released it on the popular Steam gaming platform/website.
FSX: Steam Edition (also known as FSX: SE) Incorporates both of the service pack updates and the Accerleration Expansion. Additionally, Dovetail offer a variety of DLC that’s available from the Steam store and ranges from additional aircraft, to missions and beyond.
FSX: SE does have some working differences some the boxed version and, while the vast majority of addons, aircraft and scenery are compatible, I have come across one or two third-party downloads that just don’t seem to work quite as they should.
Simulator Quality and Gameplay
Well, it’s a software that’s now ten years old and, to an extent, that should give you an idea of what you’re likely to experience when you load up and take your first flight into the unknown. There are other, newer, flight simulator products out there that carry much higher quality graphics and therefore offer a better ‘immersion’ into the experience but on the flip-side of that statement, it does provide a relatively inexpensive way to get into flight simulators
Standard terrain graphics in FSX are rather grid like and not the most aesthetically pleasing, but they do still give you a good feel for flying as you’re shooting around the sky at 250kts. Again given the age of the software, I’m not going to grumble too much about that and, in any case, the rather patchy ground textures can be easily remedied by a purchase of Orbx FTX Global.
Gameplay itself in FSX is, by and large, still as competent now as it was at release. Stock aircraft that come with the software are plenty varied (everything from passenger airlines and prop craft to gliders and helicopters) and adequate to get going. They’ll give you plenty of game time before you start to get curious about other aircraft that are available from the plethora of offering websites.
FSX offers a large and detailed range of lessons to help any new user understand basic flight dynamics and how to use the systems in the range of offered aircraft. These are well worth messing about with if you’re new to flight simming and really will assist you in getting to grips with things. There’s also a wide range of ‘missions’ that you can undertake, which range from simple take-off, fly for 15 minutes and land missions to racing P-51 Mustangs and performing oil rig transports.
Third Party Addons
This is where FSX really noses ahead of the crowd in terms of it’s competitors. There are so many available addons, downloads and expansions out there that you will literally need two lifetimes to try absolutely everything. I’ve heard, more than once, my fellow virtual airline colleagues who use Prepar3D or X-Plane state that they aren’t able to access a particular aircraft model because no one has developed it. If variety is the spice of life, then FSX is very, very spicy!
I even came across a flyable freeware Thunderbird 2 for FSX a few weeks back. How cool is that?
FSX (including SE) is heavily resource intensive, even by the standards of todays’ computer technology. I’ve heard of people talking about OOM (Out of Memory) issues and, I myself, have had numerous software crashes over time. It seems that FSX can be a bit buggy somtimes, and when it is, boy does it let you know about it. In my experience, these crashes are often related to the amount of addon software that’s running at the same time. Add on global scenery, flight recording software (often used with virtual airlines as well as organisations such as IVAO and VATSIM) and a high quality aircraft over a long flight then I can see why the resources might be stretched a bit, especially when the age of the base software is taken into account.
In some cases, installing addons is straight forward, especially in the case of payware, as they include exe installers/unpackers. However, many of the freeware developers don’t place their creations into installers, so adding in that shiny new aircraft you’ve just downloaded does require some basic knowledge of the FSX file structures. On the plus side, it’s not that hard once you’ve had a peek around and, in the vast majority of cases, it just means you have to unzip the package and copy it into the right folder.
Comparable software, prices and store links: