Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Update 5 : First Impressions

Update 5 for Microsoft Flight Simulator was released on on 7/27/21 this week, and my first impressions (after waiting 2 days for my download to complete) are … WOW.

It’s smooth, buttery smooth. In 1080p with a Ryzen 5 3600XT and a RTX 2060 I was previously getting around 30 fps at best, and dipping below that in heavy city areas like New York. After the update with the same settings I’m now getting around 60fps, but the even without the increase in fps, the sim is noticeably smoother with less stutters that I used to notice before.

There’s plenty of other updates and changes:

  • the world map now shows satellite imagery and place names on the map which makes it much easier to find interesting places to fly (unlike the plain grey non-descript map we had before)
  • while the game load time seems about the same, the load time from creating a flight from the map and arriving on the runway ready to fly has definitely been improved (it seems at least twice as fast as it was)
  • particle effects have been added for water, dirt and snow landings. For float planes, you now get a somewhat realistic wake behind your plane when you land or taxi on water. This is a massive improvement over none at all that we had before
  • there’s a number of ski and float plane options added for the stock planes
  • seaplane harbors have been added to the map, so you can start a flight from a harbor or see the locations of harbors on the VFR map
  • more POI markers on the maps and in game as you’re flying

I’m sure there’s plenty more to find, but these are the major changes I’ve seen so far.

Am I happy with the update so far? Yes, definitely. I’ve had one crash to desktop (CTD) so far after just flying for an hour, which is far more that I’ve experienced before. Posts in the forums suggest a lot of CTDs right now, so hopefully there’ll be more fixes to come. Right now though I’m enjoying being able to take off and land from water and have it look somewhat realistic, and feature we had on most of the MS FS versions.

As a comparison, shortly after launch I was comparing taxiing on water near the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in FSX:

Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, NY – Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Here’s what it looks like after Update 5 with the wake effects (but still a shame about the rendering of the bridge itself):

At least the water wake effects now look realistic (where previously there wasn’t any):

… those solid bridges really need to get fixed though.

On the plus side, one final screenshot – how stunning is this?

Microsoft Flight Simulator: UK cities with photogrammetry

At launch in September 2020, there were only two UK cities in Microsoft Flight Simulator that had photogrammetry (source) :

  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton

After the UK update in February 2021, an additional 5 cities were added (source) :

  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cambridge
  • London
  • Oxford

I’ve been checking out each of these looking for odd scenery glitches in the photogrammetry imagery, and have found some interesting examples.

In most locations even at a low altitude, the scenery is almost indistinguishable from real life:

However, where it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work with weird and comical results. Here’s some examples from Southampton:

Sunken boats along the River Itchen:

This is what happens if you don’t move your car when the city resurfaces the road:

Weird plants turned to stone:

B&Q having a meltdown:

I’ve posted a few other examples before, and I’m sure there’s plenty more weirdness to be found:

More Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 scenery oddities: Cranes as solid objects and decaying structures

I’ve shared several posts with some pics of unusual issues with Microsoft Flight Simulator (here and here). My favorites so far have to be how cranes are rendered, this is probably understandable given that they are typically very tall and relatively thin structures compared to other typical buildings. What I find interesting is that there’s a couple of ways these are rendered, varying from solid objects (the space under the crane overhang is rendered as a solid object), all the way to spindly structures that are ‘close’ but still not quite right.

Here’s examples of cranes as solid objects.

Oakland, CA docks – one solid, one as a tree:

Solid but melty:

Newark docks, NY – cranes as solid boxes:

Cranes fused into ships:

Tall solid blocks:

Rows of solid blocks:

At the docks at Le Havre, France, the scenery from above is incredibly detailed in this area:

… but as you approach ground level you see in this area there is no attempt to render these cranes as 3d objects at all, they’re just painted to the ground of the scenery (and like most ships not rendered as 3d objects the ship is partially submerged). This avoids the issues with the 3d rendering I guess:

At the docks at Avonmouth, UK (near Bristol), the cranes in this area are not solid which is a different approach, but they’re rendered as if they are heavily rusted, decaying structures:

Some of the cranes look like they could be animals:

This group is my favorite so far:

Possibly my favorite MS Flight Simulator 2020 screenshot so far. I love the Daliesque nature of whatever this structure was in real life:

Comparing screenshots of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, 2004, FSX and 2020 (part 2)

Before the launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 last year I took a number of comparison screenshots in FS 2002, 2004, and FSX but I never went back and retook screenshots from FS2020 after the launch. Here’s one example of the level of photographic detail in the scenery compared to Visual Flight’s VFR photographic scenery add-on for FS 2002. It wouldn’t be a good comparison to the base products without a scenery add on since they were only doing scenery autogen and didn’t even have photographic scenery, but here’s a good comparison just how good the FS2020 scenery is (drag the bar to compare):

FS 2002 with Visual. Flight VFR Scenery vs FS 2020

Since the recent UK scenery update, here’s a comparison in roughly the same area looking along the Southend coast. Unfortunately I didn’t have a screen from before the update showing where the pier should be – originally it was submerged in the imagery, but as you can see from the image on the right above it’s now a very impressively modeled landmark:

Southend coastline: FS2020 before the UK update (left) vs after (right)

Here’s a couple of other screenshots taking a closer look at the scenery along the sea front and the pier:

It’s interesting while the pier got a full custom model, the fun fair areas each side got a couple of buildings but the rides and rollercoaster where just left as flat imagery: