Touch the Sky

Flight Simulator 2004
Reviewed On
Available For

It’s 1903, do you know where your airplane is?

It’s hard to believe, but just 100 years ago there was only one airplane in the entire world. We have come a long way in a short period of time, and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight celebrates the centennial by letting users cruise around in some of the most historic airplanes ever built.

Flight simulators are nothing new, but computers have finally advanced to the point where the flight not only looks realistic, but the planes handle very much like the real thing. Assuming you have a good CPU, a fast hard drive, plenty of memory and a good graphics card, you are going to be amazed. We had some pilots test fly some of the planes in Flight Simulator 2004 that they were familiar with, and they were amazed to find characteristics so close to the actual aircraft.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 is to early simulator programs what the Concorde is to the Wright Brother’s first plane. Everything about flight in this game is realistic, right down to actual real weather in your local area. If you choose, the game will check a weather server online while you play and change the local weather in the game to match what is going on in the real world. It really works too. When flying around DC it started to rain in the game, and I ran outside and got my car windows put up in the real world just before the storm hit. Talk about art imitating reality.

This massive four CD set celebrates the fact that man has been flying in powered craft for 100 years by concentrating on historical flights and aircraft. The game comes in a very nice metal box that makes is a bit of a collector’s item, and is suitable for such a grand event. It would make a great gift for flight enthusiasts.

You are even given enough detail about each aircraft and pilot to write a full history paper before you even take the controls. I was just on vacation in North Carolina and visited where the Wright Brothers first flew. It was a real treat to come home and try to pilot the 1903 Wright Flier for more than 12 seconds. I don’t see how they did it. And of course, the terrain was very real, almost like I was still there.

The scenery has also been greatly improved from the 2003 version. The 24,000 airports modeled around the world all have proper markings and signage now to help you taxi to the right place. I visited a few obscure airports I knew about to make sure.

When in the air, the automatic scenery features generates photo-realistic landscapes for that part of the world, with farms, roads and towns drifting by outside. And Amsterdam and Asia look completely different from the air too, because they pull their random content from a different database. You will actually feel like you are over the right part of the world, whether going past cities, towns or desert.

The cockpits are also more realistic now. You can look around the cockpit while flying and flip switches, tune the radio or anything else you like without leaving the main flying view.

But the coolest part of the simulator by far is the historical aircraft. Think you can you endure 33 hours, of real-time flying, in Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis over the Atlantic, or follow Amelia Earhart’s route in her Lockheed 5B Vega? Now you can find out. There are also 15 modern airplanes to compliment the nine historical ones. So the game lets you see where we have gone in terms of flying machines, and how difficult it was to get there.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 earns a perfect 5 GiN Gems for being the most realistic flight simulation ever created, and for smartly celebrating 100 years of powered flight with some really cool and challenging aircraft.

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