Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: October 23, 2007
Flight Simulator X: Acceleration is the first official expansion pack to the Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the 10th iteration of one of the most enduring game franchises ever to exist. Anyone who has ever owned a home PC has probably spent some time behind the stick of this well-developed title. Not to date myself, but I remember purchasing Flight Simulator II when it was still being developed by SubLogic. A lot has obviously changed since that time in terms of both hardware and software capabilities. This relatively inexpensive add-on brings three new aircraft to the simulator, more than 20 new single-player missions and 19 new competitive multiplayer missions. The package also updates FSX with Service Pack 2 and also includes some enhancements for Windows Vista users, including the new Games Explorer, Parental Control Feature and the improved graphics features made available through DirectX 10.
Windows Vista owners will certainly enjoy the major visual improvements made available in FSX: Acceleration through Vista's DirectX 10 libraries. However, users who have chosen to wait until Vista is a bit more mature will still see some improvements in the DirectX 9 graphics on Windows XP. Due to the use of the word "Acceleration" in the title, there have been some misconceptions regarding FSX: Acceleration's frame rate performance: Although the expansion includes the SP2 upgrade, I did not —and you will probably won't, either — experience any significant frame rate improvements during gameplay. The "Acceleration" in the title refers to the new racing features and the inclusion of a Boeing F/A-18A Hornet Attack Jet.
Keep in mind that SP2 will also install some third-party add-ons that can behave erratically or break, so you should update them before you proceed. FSX: Acceleration is one of a handful of games that supports the use of multiple monitor configurations. Keep in mind, however, that you will need a fairly high-end system to keep up the performance levels when using more than one monitor.
The sound features continue to enhance the visual experience without distraction. One change in FSX: Acceleration that will require some adjustment for franchise veterans is the need to make room for some additional key commands to control the new features of the included aircraft. There are nine new commands added, with three of them displacing older mappings. Overall, I found these changes to be only a minor and temporary inconvenience when compared to the new functionality added with the expansion.
FSX: Acceleration has included three new aircraft to fly the skies with, and each couldn't be more different from the other. The first is a race-modified P-51D Mustang, which sports shorter wings and twice the horsepower of the WWII version. This bird is the focal point of the new racing system, which will be discussed shortly. The second aircraft is the Boeing F/A-18A Hornet Fighter/Attack Jet. Although you won't be able to bop around shooting your friends out of the air (too bad), you will be able to experience the thrill of performing aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings. For those who prefer a bit less acceleration in their simulators, the final aircraft is the AgustaWestland EH101 medium-lift helicopter. With three turbo engines, this robust aircraft is a true workhorse. You'll get the opportunity to experience a wide array of uses of this aircraft in some of the new single-player missions.
One of the most outstanding features of FSX has always been the variety and challenge of its single-player missions. With the release of FSX: Acceleration, this selling point has been amplified. Using the race-modified P-51D Mustang, you will be challenged in some of the wildest racing action possible on a PC today. Keep in mind that this is not an arcade game, as evidenced by the word "Simulator" in the title. The margin for error while racing is surprisingly small, and it will take some serious skills to become successful in this area. Although you won't get to experience the weapon systems on the Boeing F/A-18A Hornet Fighter/Attack Jet, you'll still enjoy the impressive ride. Several missions will expose you to the specialized skills required to take off and land successfully on a moving aircraft carrier. The roles of the AgustaWestland EH101 medium-lift helicopter are numerous, and FSX: Acceleration includes missions that provide you with a healthy sampling of this aircraft's varied uses. My favorite of the bunch is chasing down and apprehending smugglers in the Florida Keys.
Flight Simulator X has a thriving online community that offers a wide variety of flight simulation experiences ranging from casual flying to commercial aircraft trafficking, with live air traffic control support via Voice over IP. What FSX: Acceleration brings to the multiplayer table is the addition of 19 competitive missions, which focus primarily on the title's new racing features. Be forewarned, though, that it will take some serious practice to become proficient at the racing game in the first place, much less be good enough to take on others in the multiplayer arena. It's recommended that you don't consider participating in the multiplayer races until you've had enough practice and success against the computer opponents in the single-player racing missions. When you're ready for some online racing, you'll have the opportunity to race on courses simulating the Red Bull Air Race World Series and the historic Reno Air Races.
Flight Simulator X: Acceleration adds a respectable amount of content to the original Flight Simulator X, especially for the $30 price tag. Although you only receive three new aircrafts, they offer significantly different flight experiences and challenges that are exemplified by the new, well-designed and interesting single-player missions. The new multiplayer racing capability alone could justify the purchase of this expansion pack. Anyone who owns Flight Simulator X would be hard-pressed to not add this exceptional expansion to his or her library.
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