I haven't been able to get Flight Simulator 2020 off my mind since I had to uninstall it with a sharp pang of regret. Even when it dropped to 12 FPS on my creaky i5 processor, it showed me an exciting vision of the future—one where I could soar over a perfect recreation of my hometown or dive into Hurricane Laura as it gathered over the Gulf Coast.
Such feats have made it a social media staple in ways I never could have anticipated. When putting together USgamer's editorial calendar for the month, we shied away from Flight Simulator because hardcore PC sims aren't normally our purview, and because few of us actually have the equipment necessary to play the thing. It's proven to be a hit in ways that are impossible to ignore though, making it the clear choice for USG's Game of the Month for August 2020.
That a fairly complex flight simulator has resonated to this extent is a tribute to both its technology and its accessibility. The ability to visit a photorealistic recreation of basically any place in the world is a remarkable hook, giving rise to a form of virtual tourism that feels truly astounding. I've watched, hypnotized, as YouTubers have flown over the familiar streets of my hometown, past buildings that I recognize from my old commute. I've been able to pick out minute details like the Athletics logo on the seats of Oakland Coliseum and elephants running across the African plains. One minute I can be flying over my house in Alameda, and the next I can be winging past Dubai's Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world.
These technological feats are wrapped within a surprisingly accessible interface, which gently explains all of Flight Simulator's knobs and buttons without compromising the overall depth of the experience. It took me less than an hour to get to the point where I was taking off and landing in a Cessna all by myself, effortlessly navigating traffic patterns as I circled around the airport at Sedona and admired the world below. I certainly won't be getting behind the controls of a real Cessna anytime soon, but it nevertheless gave me confidence that I could eventually pilot any one of its 20 flyable planes.
Once I was up to speed with Microsoft Flight Simulator, I dearly wanted to continue playing it. Unfortunately, there was the little matter of it taking up the entirety of my CPU's processing power, sending frame rates plummeting whenever I tried to fly over a city. Even with the graphics turned down, my processor just wasn't up to the task. Plus, anyway, it felt kind of wrong to play Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on anything less than max settings. I uninstalled it with sorrow in my heart and turned to YouTube videos to satisfy my longing to get back in the air.
The rest of August has generally been good, though no game has excited my imagination to the extent of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Fall Guys is an obvious standout, its cartoony mix of Gang Beasts and Nickelodeon Guts proving to be an especially big hit with streamers. Spiritfarer puts Stardew Valley on a boat and adds a touch of supernatural whimsy to the mix, not to mention some truly gorgeous art.
But good as those games are, it's pretty clear that Microsoft is on to something truly amazing with this edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator. It makes me wonder what lies ahead as cloud technology like this becomes more powerful. Will we soon be playing open-world games that take place over an entire planet? Will we be able to enter fully reactive sandboxes that can be dynamically generated on the fly? Whatever happens, Flight Simulator 2020 has revealed the possibilities of next-gen, and they are absolutely dizzying. Now I just have to sit tight and wait for it to come out on Xbox Series X, where I'll finally be able to fly through downtown Minneapolis in all of its 4K glory.