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(Pocket-lint) - Twenty-five years in the making, Microsoft has updated its popular and long standing flight simulator for the 10th time, but like the Fifa football series, which has been going for around the same length of time, is this just yet another update or a major overhaul> We take to the skies to find out.

The first thing that you'll notice is that Microsoft Flight Simulator X is not for the faint hearted and those hoping to get some quick flying in, shoot down some enemy planes and save the day should look elsewhere.

Flight Sim X is all about the realism. Realism to the fact that in America you can still use this software towards getting your private pilots licence.

So what do you get for your buck? Plenty. There are numerous planes including for the first time Airbus and Glass panel (G1000) cockpit's with other planes. Furthermore there are 24,000 airports to land and take off from and over 6000 weather stations to ensure that if you are connected to the Internet you can get real time weather wherever you are in the world. Raining in London, then it's raining in the game.

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But the realism and real time elements don't just stop at the weather, traffic data has also been added that means the M25 will be busier at 5 o'clock in the evening than it is at say 2pm in the afternoon and Microsoft has said that it even goes to the extent that busy urbanised areas feature more traffic than local b roads in the countryside. Microsoft has also said that with 10,000 real stars in the sky hardened professionals could theoretically navigate using them.

New to the game is improved terrain with street map data now being provided via Navteq (they supply most GPS makers) and countryside is noticeably more detailed that previous outings, however although Microsoft has picked out key landmarks apart from 38 major cities (10 more than the standard version), there is still a lot of shrub or low rise buildings in the map. London for example features major landmarks and wasteland around them. As does Las Vegas and any other major city we flew over.

Still, at least Microsoft has concentrated on airports and 45 (10 more than the standard version) of the 24,000 are highly detailed (24 new to Flight Sim X) to look like the real thing. You can now even opt to manage the tower at 3100 airports in the game for hours on end guiding in planes a la John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton in the film Pushing Tin.

Also new to the game is a feature Microsoft is calling Shared Skies; a co-op mode that allows you to fly with someone via the Internet in the same cockpit, making those real time flights to JFK from Heathrow that little bit easier.

Finally in an attempt to appeal to new users Microsoft has also introduced a mission element to the game. There are 50 in the deluxe offering (15 more than the standard version) and these involve everything from learning how to take off to racing at one of the Red Bull Racing events.


If you are into your flight sims, Microsoft Flight Simulator X deluxe edition is so in-depth and intense that it's hard to find fault. Our only grumble is that it would have been nice to see more detail in the major cities, but then the size of the world we understand that this would take a long time to create.

For the extra tenner the deluxe version certainly offers plenty more features for the real fan, however those on a tight budget should be able to cope with the standard version.

If you looking to learn to fly and want to get in some practice this will more than offer you what you need.

Top Marks.

Writing by Stuart Miles.