Spiced up lanscapes, more airports and new planes don't make up for nothing to do.
Microsoft's newest edition to their library of flight simulators just got a face lift. Nothing to be described as a "total breakthrough" but a face job, nonetheless.
We continue the reign of "Microsoft Flight Simulator X", being the number one selling aircraft oriented game. The first thing you'll notice in Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 are the graphics. Although they are less impressive than many other landscapes I've seen in games, they are better than the last update (95). To my dismay and disappointment, most of the game looks like squashed, scrambled eggs with a hint of city hall and residential apartments. I must give Microsoft credit for taking the time to make many improvements to populated areas. They added many more historical landmarks (flying over the Grand Canyon was fun) and TONS more airports (over 3,000) all over the world. The landscape was for the most part nicely textured, but only in certain areas, and many textures are very ugly without a 3d accelerator card. This game is definitely not for the slow running computer (despite it's 66MHz minimum). Another addition was the virtual cockpit. Nothing that had a dramatic effect on the outcome of the final product, but it was a great alternative, panning around the cockpit instead of starring out the same old window constantly.
Sound effects are excellent. Digital recordings of all aircraft engines in the game were very accurate, along with accurate, well versed "flight talk" to the control tower. Sound effects well matched the change in engine temperature, and all other forces on the airplane.
Microsoft did an excellent job taking this style of game to the max in terms of Internet support. Due to their extensive resources, Microsoft has the advantage over smaller companies to be able to financially support web play, and designated forums were virtual pilots can share landmarks, flightplans, and even enter international airshows and aerobatic competitions. There is no argument, Microsoft brightly included many Internet options which probably the biggest revolutionary step in the history of the Flight Simulator.
The learning curve is proportionate to the amount of time necessary to become a pilot. Within a few hours, landing a plane is possible, and can become second nature with enough practice. The great part is the completeness with which Flight Simulator 98 goes about making your flight plans. Using navigational devices is essential in piloting long distances or over terrain that is not identifiable. Also, just like in real life, you can't just land anywhere you want, whenever you please. Calling in the tower and requesting permission to land is a detail well represented. In all aspects of private, general aviation, I can easily say this game IS as real is it gets. By no means is the accuracy of this simulation under argument. However, the playability, and how fun it was, is another matter...
In my opinion, Flight Simulator 98 is still lacking the same ingredient that its predecessors did: There's no damn point!!! Anyone who is looking for a "game" where an objective is clearly laid out, and once you have achieved that objective, you have beaten the game: go away now, stop reading, this is not for you, stop wasting your time, look elsewhere! Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 is simply not a game. There is no point to this simulator other than to fly around, see places from a different angle and maybe practice some piloting skills. All those dedicated pilots out there who are looking for a great way to keep in shape, but don't have too much time to get to the airport, this would be an excellent solution to keep the wings nice and shinny. Just like the previous Flight Simulators, this one is no exception to the inevitable boredom that comes along when you're done flying underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm just warning you: don't think this will be any different.
Besides the lack of a preset mission, Flight Simulator 98 is an excellent representation of what modern, civil, general aviation is. In that aspect, I would give it an 'A'. Unfortunately, for the audience with looking for a great challenge with added entertainment, it simply won't cut it for you. But you people aren't reading this now anyway, because I told you to go away in the last paragraph. In the end, I give Flight Simulator 98 a B+ because of its failure to declare a specific mission, and its not-quite-cutting-edge graphics. I am completely aware of Microsoft's intent when they made a simulator and nothing else; however, as a result, many people will find themselves becoming quickly bored.