X-Plane is your classic flight simulator taken to the extreme. Like in any flight sim, you start with everything. Fly any plane you want anywhere you want. The idea of unlocking planes or items by completing missions or tasks is a completely foreign concept to X-Plane, so the sim is what you make of it.
For starters, the map covers the entire globe in stunning detail. When you install it you can choose which areas you would like, or just spring for the whole planet, which fits nicely into about 50 gigs on your hard drive after migrating from 8 DVDs. "How much detail?" you might ask. Enough to make any decent graphics card break a sweat. Fly over your own neighborhood and you will see the road you live on and a cookie cutter interpretation of your house, along with your neighbors driving their cars to soccer practice. Water in lakes and oceans is especially pretty, with reflections of trees bouncing off its rippled surface. Fly up and punch though the clouds and you will find that they billow and cluster in realistic forms. Lightning shoots down from storms and rain pelts the windshield. Fly a little higher in the right place and the right time and you can watch the aura dance around your wingtips. If you can push it higher yet, you will see the curvature of the earth, making you wish you went for the full earth install. Of course all the graphic settings are adjustable so you can fine tune X-Plane to run well on any modern system.
Weather modeling is another impressive feature of X-Plane. One could choose to simply choose from one of a hand full of presets, or fully customize the weather for a challenging experience. Everything from temperature to precipitation to thermal activity and much more are adjustable. You can even paint the perfect storm right where you want it. Or you can allow the program to randomize the weather based on ranges of parameters. Want something more realistic? The sim can download the current real world weather for you. And when you flying in it you will feel every bump and cross breeze. The realistic 3D cockpits will float around you as your head bobs from all the turbulence.
Ok. So we've got planes, we've got weather, and we've got scenery. You can get through all that soon enough right? Wrong. Don't forget that X-Plane has its own plane maker! You can let the amateur aeronautical engineer come out and try to put that fantasy plane of yours to the test. X-Plane Plane Maker is not for the feigned on heart. The level of detail offered is astounding, but then again so are the possibilities. It's hard to imagine a halfway feasible plane that can't be modeled in X-Plane. Of course you could set the parameters like engine thrust to some crazy unrealistic setting and whip your own personal hypersonic vertical landing float plane. But you don't have to do all the work yourself. Sign in to the X-Plane forum and take your pick of thousands of free planes scenery packs made by others with dozens of new ones added every week.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.