The first part in a series of reviews covering Flight Simulator 2004.

Microsoft Flight Simulator – perhaps the most well known title in computer flight simulation – has gone gold. The developers have finalised the program, which will be on sale in UK high street stores early August. This latest release, version 9, has been billed as the most realistic ever with many new innovations and the Pilot review team take a first look into how the program meets the demands of flight sim enthusiasts and pilots.

Flight Simulator 2004 has been given the title “A Century of Flight” with this being the centenary year when that first powered flight at Kitty Hawk took place and spawned a century of innovation that was to significantly change the world in which we live today. This version of the program contains many new features and several new aircraft reflecting that development in aviation technology. Much improved usability over previous versions is evident, aiming at a broader range of users.

On loading the program, users will notice two fundamental changes over FS2002 – the starting location and the weather. By default users are positioned at Seattle-Tacoma airport, and the weather environment has had a radical makeover. The Weather deserves a review in it’s own right (to follow), given the complex nature of a totally re-written module but, in brief, users can expect to see the kind of weather real world pilots would find – from haze to fog, from fair weather to rapidly building storms, with the emphasis on more user control over a totally dynamic system. A weather system that’s modelled on actual physical characteristics is what the programmers have created; an ever-changing scenario is what the flight sim pilot can expect. The rendering of cloud formations has been improved. They have density, volume and transparency, and flying in and around cumulus pilots can expect a little light chop – or more significant turbulence in the vacinity of a thunderstorm.

To view more screen shots click here…