Hands-On with Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox Series X

Posted on July 26, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Xbox, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X with 32 Comments

The Xbox Series X|S landed last fall with no unique launch titles whatsoever, but Microsoft Flight Simulator solves that problem nicely, offering nearly the full PC experience on a much simpler set of video game consoles.

I’ve not really tested Flight Simulator on the PC, but the Xbox Series X experience is nothing short of astonishing from a graphics perspective. Of course, you really have to work to get there: The game itself is nearly 100 GB big, and World Updates and other more detailed views are all 10s of GBs big too. You could easily fill up an Xbox hard drive if this was all you wanted to do.

There are some speed issues, too, though not while playing the game. When you first launch Flight Simulator, an installation manager checks for updates, and this process takes a long, long time, as does the initial loading screen. And when you crash, which I did far too often, the process of getting back into the area is more time consuming than I like.

But the game. My god, the game.

I’m not a flight simulator fan per se, though I’ve played my share over the years. These days, of course, I tend to stick with Call of Duty and other first-person shooters for the most part. But as a travel fan, I’m impressed with the level of detail in this game, and the ability to fly around well-known locations like Paris is a blast.

And so that’s what I’ve done. And, if anything, I wish I could go even slower and really take in the visuals. Paris is one of the places for which there is detailed imagery, and while it’s not good enough to pick out favorite cafes amongst the buildings, the level of realism is still amazing. Not just the obvious sites, either, but many of the actual buildings in the city. It’s breathtaking.

I find the controls a bit touchy using the standard Xbox Wireless Controller, but I suspect that I will get used to it. And it would be interesting to try this game with a mouse and keyboard or perhaps even a custom flight sim controller of some kind. Indeed, there’s even a subtle hint now and then that this game is, in fact, the PC version: A small mouse pointer appears in the upper left of the display and when you touch the left thumbstick, it transitions into a more controller-friendly circle.

I’ve only had a few days to experience Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X, and much of the time was spent just installing and updating the game and then downloading better visuals. But it’s already obvious that this title is a—sorry—game changer for the Xbox Series X in particular. And that it’s available on Xbox Game Pass makes that even more true.

I could waste hours flying over Paris. In fact, I just might.

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Hands-On with Microsoft Flight Simulator for Xbox Series X”

  1. navarac

    Pity that Xbox Series X is unavailable, then! By the time they are available, the game market may have moved on. Better stick to playing it on the PC I reckon.

    • MoopMeep

      The S seems pretty easy to get.... Best Buy has had it for the last couple days.

      I guess I am wondering how things looks on the Series S vs the X. The S could be a nice option for some people.

      i am guessing the PC with the best nvidia card would be better than the Series X and the X probably crushes the S.... but depending on what you want, a series S might do nicely.

    • thretosix

      Have you really been trying to get one though? I've heard of people getting them pretty regularly, checking stocks and such. I'm not saying they are easy to find, but those that are looking are finding them.

    • bettyblue

      I scored two on the opening night from Target. My son and I got an early xmas present.

      Recently two of my friends got one as well. In both cases they just hounded multiple retail outlets for 4-6 days until they got one. Yes it is probably and effort but they do trickle in at the stores.

      I also just checked Craig's List for my city and there multiple for sale, sealed in a box for $599. I think the scalpers are starting to get nervous. Once enough of the population gets one, the insane demand will drop and drastically, hopefully hitting the scalpers in the wallet :)

      I also just checked for "3070 GTX" middle of the road next gen GPU...starting at $1100 and up.

    • jeff.bane

      You can't get modern graphics cards right now either, so no neither side is in good shape.

  2. paragon

    Paul there is a new feature in the game called Flight Assistant where the game AI does the flying for you, leaving you free to enjoy the scenery. It may not necessarily *slow down* the experience for you (I wonder if you can set airspeed?) but it will give you the opportunity to relax and take in the scenery :)

  3. ringofvoid

    I'm curious as to how many Gamepass customers that wouldn't normally purchase Flight Simulator will try this for 'free' and become fans

  4. sydney2k

    Lots of Youtube videos featuring simmers who received early access copies, some astounding visuals out there. Klobrille posted a link to a French group showing Series S [email protected] video of flying around New York! While Flight Simulator is locked at 30 frames, in this case the game allows for unlocked frames for VRR displays.

    There are now tutorials for simmers new to consoles to set up and adjust the game and controllers, so have a look at some of those prior to launch time.

  5. chrisltd

    Will Flight Sim be available on Xcloud?

    • bleeman

      Rumor is eventually as that’s the rumor as to how you’ll be able to play on the Xbox One X. But so far just rumors nothing official yet.

  6. remc86007

    I'm super excited for this release as I've been playing it on my PC with full yoke, throttle, and rudder. It's great for actually practicing flying, but not so great for sight seeing as I only have a 2560x1080 screen. I can't wait to see this game on my 4k tv.

    This release again highlights my primary problem with my Series X: not enough storage. I currently have a 8TB hdd which I use for storage, but as you know that can't be used for Series games. I am constantly having to jostle games around and several times have finished a game and not been able to play the next game I wanted to play just because it was going to take 40+ minutes to transfer the game back to the SSD. I have been holding out on buying the 1TB expansion card because I really want a 2TB or more and I refuse to swap them back and forth. Any idea when bigger expansion cards are coming?

    • darkgrayknight

      I purchased a 2TB M.2 Nvme external drive (in the slight hopes that it would be fast enough, though I suspected it isn't actually testing if the drive is fast enough--it is extremely fast, but the system won't play Series X games from it). I'm still holding out for a larger expansion drive.

    • sydney2k

      I joked that the only reason for me to get the expansion card was for Flight Simulator- not so much a joke now.

    • bleeman

      I haven’t seen anything bigger or heard about anything either. I’m doing the same thing with my 8TB drive I used to use on my One X.

  7. bleeman


    I haven't seen the simulator on the Xbox Series X yet (Will be doing so tomorrow) but have been running it on my desktop since release. I believe the marketplace is the same for both the Xbox and PC so check out the Asobo Ultralight. It will go as slow as 47kts so you can leisurely view the scenery. If I remember correctly it was something like $9 or less.

  8. shark47

    Out of curiosity, is this a game or more of an experience? As in, are there things that you have to do or do you just fly around?

    • Paul Thurrott

      Both, honestly. You can go in either direction.

    • sydney2k

      The flight sim audience is rather resistant to "gamifying", but in this case Asobo have introduced plenty of user-active activities.

      Obviously there are the tutorials, the lessons designed to get you off the ground and controlling your flight. These now have a score to them, so there is now an incentive to better your score.

      There are also landing challenges, to land at difficult airports, and in all sorts of weather conditions

    • bleeman

      There are several lessons, bush trips, discovery flights built-in and you can always fly with others via the multi-player option. MSFS 2020 is pretty popular on Twitch and there are a lot of good streamers with it. Many are real life pilots on general aviation and commercial aircraft. All are very willing to help. There is a strong community out there for MSFS 2020.

    • vladimir

      On PC you can set the simulation level on different degrees between very easy and realistic. On the easy level, you just jump on the plane and fly, impossible to crash. I think it’s the same on Xbox

  9. ben lee

    Are there helicopters in the game? You could do fly at a more leisurely place in one around cities.

    • bleeman

      Officially Microsoft doesn’t have helicopters on the schedule until next year. Their are several good add-ons but unless they are in the marketplace (They aren’t at this time) you can’t install on Xbox, only PC.

    • vladimir

      Not on the base game but some helicopters addons are being developed. They will likely come to the Xbox sooner or later. However, helicopters are rather difficult to fly

  10. crunchyfrog

    I remember when I bought this at launch for my PC, it was hopeless to find a flight stick or yoke anywhere in stores or online for many months. Mouse and keyboard with MFS is not a great experience and the Xbox controller only improved the experience to a degree. I don't really have need for a full yoke setup but I am going to get a flight stick nevertheless mainly because I don't have one and it'll make the experience much better.

  11. jrswarr

    I ended getting an Xbox S which was available at the Microsoft store. Plenty good enough for my level of play. Looking forward to tomorrow when I can finally try out Flight Simulator.

  12. Jester

    Don't have to download all 100 GBs. Game only needs 46 GB with the optional 59 GB for offline play

    • Pierre Masse

      I'd like to know if this is playable on the S. Since I only like two or three games, I reckon the price of the S is a better fit.

    • bleeman

      I didn’t see an option to download less. The preload released over the weekend was 95gb.