Remember when Microsoft closed ACES, the studio that makes Microsoft Flight Simulator, and everyone sighed and looked at their shoes and wondered if Steve Ballmer grew stronger with every studio the behemoth destroyed? That was 2009. In Spring 2012 the new Microsoft Flight will be released, and it will be a download, and it will be free.
There hasn't been a new MSFS since 2006, not least because Microsoft squished the people who made it. But in August two years ago we learned of the series' return, and then last month that beta sign-ups were happening. They still are. (Warning: this link makes you fill in 902393 forms, have a GamerTag, and deposit three pints of blood.)
In an aeronautical incarnation of Test Drive Unlimited, MSF takes place in the skies above Hawaii. (Come on - someone has to do a crossover.) It'll be freeeee, but you can buy extra bits and pieces should you wish, and naturally MS will be encouraging you to hook it all up to your GFWL, which is enough reason to never want to play it as long as you live. But crucially, it's not obligatory - you'll just miss out on some bonus content like a Boeing Stearman plane, extra missions, and - yawn - achievements. And they'll also be new content frequently released for those who don't pay a penny. Oh, and if you care what an ICON A5 is, one of those is in there too.
Of course, being just Hawaii takes away hopes for big transatlantic voyages, but Microsoft promise it'll be approachable for all, with options to tweak it from ultra-realistic cockpit simulator, right down to flying the plane from the outside with controls a dog could manage.
As for what it will be like - well, I think the safest thing to do is wait for Mr Timothy Stone to report that sort of thing. But I am confident in saying it will definitely feature
trains. Dammit. Planes.