I've built a shamefully large carbon footprint this year, jetting off to London, Zurich, Berlin and the like to play videogames in various hipster basements. The thing is, you never really get to enjoy the cities of the world from a tin terror-tube in the sky. Fortunately, Microsoft Flight Simulator is turning out to be quite a looker. We got our first look at the flight sim's digital destinations last week, offering up a cheaper and less environmentally-damning way to enjoy an urban break abroad.
Here are 13 minutes of gentle engine droning courtesy of IGN: perfect ambience for a cold autumn morning, or another sample for your next post-rock EP.
Our aerial tour takes us over nine cities, from picturesque Barcelona and Naples to the more familiar grey skies of Southampton and Brussels. It can't all be fun in the sun, after all.
Rolling landscapes are easier to approximate from 15,000 feet, but cities are a more challenging test of Flight Simulator's world mapping. Flight Sim's cities are rendered in full 3D, and as anyone who's perused Google Earth's satellite view knows, 3D approximations of satellite photos tend to look a bit melted. Buildings and trees in particular coming off rough. You certainly get a little of that here, even if there's a bit more sharpness to structure.
From a distance, it's all remarkably convincing. Naturally, the lower our guide flies, the thinner the illusion becomes, but Flight Sim has a few tricks to help seal the deal. Even something as small as tiny cars driving along city streets helps sell the impression that you're flying over a living, breathing city rather than a particularly lumpy photograph.
Microsoft confirmed a bunch of partnered plane manufacturers last week, including the "queen of the sky", the Boeing 747. At least our urban tour reassures that, yes, you can still enjoy the skies without ferrying businessmen and babies to Barcelona in a giant flying bus.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is scheduled for departure in 2020. You should still be able to snag a ticket for early test-flights by signing up for the Insider Program.