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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 feature showcase outlines ray tracing, on-foot gameplay, and more

Something to look forward to: When Asobo unveiled Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 last year, some might have seen it as a moderate upgrade over the already technically ambitious 2020 edition. Since then, the developer’s lengthy deep-dive presentations have explained how the new entry is far more complex than its predecessor.

Asobo Studio used this year’s FlightSim Expo to explore the visual, gameplay, and physics improvements it plans to introduce in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024. Launching on November 19, the update aims to add numerous activities that enable players to see the world in greater detail.

The company mainly concentrated on activities that bring players closer to the ground than in previous flight sim games, like search and rescue, agriculture, low-altitude training, gliding, and more. Since players will see the Earth up close, Asobo overhauled various lighting, mesh, and procedural generation systems to make environments look more detailed, including remote locations handled entirely by machine learning.

One new visual feature is ray tracing, which the company confirmed using a screenshot of a cockpit with detailed shadows. Although Asobo didn’t mention ray tracing elsewhere in its presentation, it repeatedly noted improved lighting features, including indirect lighting throughout the world, which suggests the use of ray tracing.

Another area the showcase touched on is the ability to step out of a plane and walk around on foot. Unfortunately, it is unclear precisely what role on-foot travel will provide. Will it just be for performing pre-flight checks outside of an aircraft, or will it be more involved than that? The studio didn’t say.

Asobo also has some new partnerships that bring a few new planes and gameplay features into the mix. FlightControlReplay will bring detailed replay features to the game, including ghosts. Meanwhile, Global Ship AI Traffic will provide the game with real-time updates on the positions of seacrafts all over the planet. Additionally, Got Friends is designing the systems underpinning gliders.

Last year’s FlightSim Expo presentation covered other technical changes. Asobo is optimizing Flight Simulator 2024’s textures and other elements to decrease load times and storage requirements. It also wants to maintain the same minimum system requirements as Flight Simulator 2020. The new version will lean more on the cloud by only downloading what it needs for locations players are currently viewing. Additionally, more granular surfaces will give aircraft makers more control when building new planes.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 launches on November 19 for Xbox Series consoles, Steam, Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.

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