Expansion Pack for Microsoft Flight Simulator 95: Southern California, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., 1997, $24.95.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the grandfather of PC flight simulations and has always been respected for its accuracy and detail in simulating civilian aircraft. This accessory brings to the simulator extra locations and adventures.
The Expansion Pack gives PC pilots more options by adding new airports to fly from, such as the busy Los Angeles International. Although these extra locales are welcome, the expansion pack seems at times half-baked. The featured buildings lack the graphic detail of cities like Las Vegas, already included in the main Flight Simulator for Windows 95 package. The overhead map views in the product are taken directly from satellite photos and look great from a distance. Navigating Southern California by its landmarks and highways proves less intuitive than one might have expected, however, because the view from the cockpit reveals surroundings that are blurred and nondescript.
Given the limits of technology, one should not expect an undertaking such as the modeling of Southern California to be picture perfect, but Microsoft’s attempt appears dated when compared to the terrain graphics featured in most contemporary simulations like Looking Glass Technologies’ Flight Unlimited or NovaLogic’s F-22 Lighting II (see Jay LaBarge’s review in the September 1997 issue). Microsoft plans to rectify some of these concerns with the release of Flight Simulator 98, but until then, only the most dedicated pilots will add this item to their itinerary.