Flight Simulators are one of those love it or hate it genres of gaming, and for many people Microsoft's Flight Simulator might be as far as they'll ever venture. For everyone wanting to go that little further in to the world of flight simulation, X-Plane 8 should certainly appeal.
Our initial impressions of X-Plane 8 were mixed, with a number of odd quirks and some highly annoying bugs causing the flights to be less than enjoyable. Thankfully the latest patch appears to fix all of these problems, and a bit of perseverance with the flying eventually helped to make X-Plane's many strengths shine through.
It's well worth pointing out though that getting to grips with X-Plane 8 takes quite a considerable amount of time and seems harder to master than other simulators, mainly because of how ultra-realistic the flying seems to be, and almost certainly made that much harder to master by the varied range of aircraft which have been made available.
X-Plane has a lot to offer though, and some of the more enjoyable aspects include trying to land a jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier out at sea, or piloting a SeaKing helicopter down on to a small landing pad perched on the side of an oilrig. Nothing however can prepare you for the co-ordination required to carry out in-flight refuelling in a jet following the KC-10 aircraft.
Equally impressive is bringing a space shuttle back down to earth from orbit, which requires a great degree of skill due to the fact that your craft simply has to glide in to the runway for touchdown and can't rely on an extra bit of power if you're going to under-run on approach like you would do in a Cessna or jumbo jet.
To make flights even more challenging vital aspects of your aircraft such as the engines and landing gear or flight-deck instruments - 35 in total - can all be set up to manually or randomly fail, giving you a challenge to deal with and putting your skills to the test.
A good level of customisation is possible using the built-in tools, which allow you to change both aircraft and scenery, although they're not as easy to use as we'd have hoped for and seem more the territory of real X-Plane addicts - thankfully there's a huge community of users much like Microsoft's Flight Simulator, providing an enormous amount of additional content for use in X-Plane
If you're looking for a pick-up-and-play simulation, which is going to work first time and every time without much hassle then Microsoft's Flight Simulator is almost certainly a better bet, but if you're wanting to experience a wider range of aircraft straight out of the box, and see a visually much more impressive skyline from the cockpit of your favourite flying machine, then the steep learning curve of X-Plane 8 is well worth putting up with.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Horizon Simulations
Recommended Price: £34.99Buy X-Plane 8 for the PC from Amazon.co.uk