Microsoft Flight Simulator (aka MFS2020 or MSFS2020) was released for the PC on August 17, 2020. Now that we’re approaching a one year anniversary for the sim, I thought I’d take a semi-quick look at how it’s been doing since launched on PC. Has it improved? Gotten worse?
Please note this is only one person’s take on it’s current condition after spending more than 380 hours with the game (including update downloads) and 150 hours of actual in-game flight time thanks to NEOFLY.
MFS2020 is visually hands-down the best flight simulator available on the market today. It was in 2020 and it still is one year later. On July, 27, 2021 the simulator was released for console for landing on the latest Xbox. Although many argue (including myself) that the visuals have degraded on the computer version since the sim was released for the Xbox, MFS2020 still is a beautiful masterpiece. My goal here is not to debate points about why things may or may not have changed for the PC version of the sim since the July 27th release on Xbox, however I will note some of my experiences of those changes.
Photogrammetry is a game changer
You can visit any place on God’s earth you wish. Many updates to the simulator over the past few months have provided some visual upgrades to models of real-life buildings around the world such as Stone Henge, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Pyramids in Egypt and other iconic buildings in major cities around the world. With the use of photogrammetry, the sim can replicate a 3D image of satellite imagery. The satellite images are streamed from the internet within the sim as you fly over! Thankfully this part (photogrammetry) of the simulator has not been downgraded or changed (at least that I have noticed). Apparently however some textures at higher altitudes do appear fuzzier than when the sim was first released. Some draw distances of trees and buildings as you approach them have changed as well. Many users, including myself report noticable pop-in of objects as you pan the camera which I do not recall noticing only months ago.
Performancewise, the simulator is fantistic, provided you have the computer to run it. I do not have the latest computer with only a GTX 1070ti and a i7-8700k cpu with 16 gb of memory but have been mostly pleased with my overall experience.
Before the July 27th update, flying on high settings was mostly a joy, with smooth panning and banking of the plane, even over major city centers like Los Angeles and New York. However there would be small stutters when landing at major airports like LAX or JFK. And yet I was still pleased with the performance since the visuals were breathtaking and this mine isn’t even a VR experience! After July 27th, flying has gotten smoother and framerates have improved even at major airports. Cleary there has been some kind of performance boost. You would think this would be a good thing, right? And it mostly is in my case, but many users are reporting game crashes (and I don’t mean plane crashes because we’ve all had those, virtually speaking).
More flight time with Neofly
Early this year in 2021, I discovered a free mission based program called Neofly which is run while flying in MFS. With Neofly, you start with a Cessna 172 or other small plane and build up an income doing various missions, passenger flights and deliveries. Neofly tracks your flight in the sim. Currently I am in the process of flying around the world. I started a KACV with a Cessna 172 and now the plane I use is a Cessna Citation Longitude. It’s been a long journey down to South America and back to Alaska as I prepare to head to Asia and Europe. MFS now has a purpose and it’s a great way to visit places virtually even it’s all for pretend. The last fsix to eight months of flying hasn’t seen any game game crashes. Now since July 27th, I’ve experienced two. Hopefully that gets sorted out sooner than later.
Satellite imagery has been added to the World Map page in MFS in the July 27th update. This is a great feature but it also has caused game crashes for some, including myself. Currently airports history of last flown from or to are not remembered on World Map as they once were. I would love to say that overall the simulator has grown and gotten better since August 2020 but with some the strange behavior with flight dynamics, rapid speed changes, game crashes and over visuals issues, it’s hard for me to say it’s better. Before July 27th it was better. A month or two after the August 2020 release, I had had some random game crashes during flight (aka CTD’s, crashes to desktop). These were to be expected since the sim had recently been released. Then some updates later and the game settled down. The visuals even increased and I went months without a single CTD. The simulator was improving even if there was only Autogen (not photogrammetry) when flying over my town.
Today the game is working for some and broken for others. For me, it’s still fun to fly in and learn how to fly in, as long as the simulator behaves itself and doesn’t crash to desktop. I have pretty high hopes that future updates will iron out any steps backward MFS2020 might have taken since July 2021.
images credit: personal in-game screenshots of MFS2020