Earlier this week, Asobo Studios released World Update II for Microsoft Flight Simulator. This update was squarely aimed at improving both the scenery and photogrametry of the United States while also adding four new airports and over a dozen new points of interest. Here are some of my experiences with the new release so far.
What’s been changed? What’s been added?
Right out of the gate, the biggest changes are perhaps the most subtle unless you go looking for them. Asobo Studios has updated the elevation maps for huge parts of the United States. Some areas now have 4, 2 and 1 meter resolution. Meanwhile, huge areas have also been updated with new aerial imagery.
In addition to imagery, four airports have been upgraded with their own details:
- KATL – Atlanta International
- KFHR – Friday Harbor
- KDFW – Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- KSWF – New York Stewart International Airport
And then there’s the points of interest that have also seen updates:
- Chimney Rock
- Crazy Horse Memorial
- Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown MA
- Fort Jefferson
- Washington Monument, Washington DC
- Capitol, Washington DC
- White House, Washington DC
- Wright Brothers National Memorial
- Mount Rushmore
- Biltmore Estate
- Devils Tower
- New River Gorge Bridge
- United States National Arboretum
- Bixby Creek Bridge
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge
- Sunshine Skyway Bridge
- Mackinac Bridge
- Navajo Bridge
- Astoria-Megler Bridge
- U.S. Grant Bridge
- Lowry Avenue Bridge
- Lewis and Clark Bridge
- The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge
- Fort Knox
- Monument Rocks National Natural
- Coronado Heights Castle
- Ellis County Courthouse
- Monument Valley
- Yosemite El Capitan
- Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde, Colorado
- Shiprock, New Mexico
- Haystack Rock at Canon, Oregon
- Half Dome, Yosemite
- Dworshak Dam
- Hoover Dam
- Oroville Dam
- Alcatraz (water tower and lighthouse only)
- Fort McHenry, Baltimore
- Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls
- Glen Canyon Dam
- Las Vegas Strip (Night)
- Confederation Bridge
- Johnson Space Center Houston (visitor’s center)
- Kennedy Space Center Florida (visitors center)
- Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (memorial site)
- Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii
- National Radio Astronomy Observatory
- Gulf of Mexico, Oil Rigs
- Airport Graveyard, Tucson
Taking the unofficial official tour
A new scenic tour has been added to Flight Simulator that takes you from (KSWF) New York Stewart International airport all the way down to Washington DC. I ended up doing this flight, not as part of the guided tour, but with some friends in multiplayer tracing the same route ending at (KDCA) Ronald Reagan Washington.
Before takeoff, I had a look around using the drone camera to appreciate the added detail at Stewart International. Interestingly, I had previously landed at this airport after flying around the area shortly after release. The upgrade to the airport added notable details. The parking lots, the solar panels on one of the hangar roofs, the unique hangars from the airports past as a USAF base and current use as a Air National Guard base hosting C-17 Globemaster III’s and Marine Corps Reserve KC-130T’s. There’s also plenty of civilian activity here and on one of the first nights of the new world update, plenty of virtual pilot activity too!
We set out from the airport in Cessna 208’s and headed down the Hudson River. The scenery in this area is beautiful and the twists and turns in the river reveal some beautiful communities and landmarks. The Palisades, a rock cliff face on the western side of the Hudson, were a notable standout if you flew low enough or during a time of day where the relief of the terrain becomes obvious. Some of the bridges along this route have been upgraded while others suffer from the photogrammetry process just not being able to do bridges very well.
Then we passed by New York City with its many obvious landmarks. Easily visible are the city’s many skyscrapers, Central Park, and of-course, the Statue of Liberty.
We then made a slight right turn and headed past the cities of Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and then finally Washington DC.
Flying into Washington DC is an interesting experience. This is one of the most tightly controlled airspaces in the world and also the home of a great many landmarks. Quite unlike the tightly controlled airspace of the real world, Washington DC in Flight Simulator is a sight seers haven. From the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to the White House and the Pentagon, all of these major landmarks are looking great in Flight Simulator and there were aircraft flying everywhere. Someone even landed an Icon A5 near the Lincoln Memorial. Some may not be enthralled with the kind of chaos present but I think it was great to see so many exploring and enjoying the new scenery.
One oddity did sneak through, an office building on the mall near the Smithsonian.
Flying around Monument Valley
Another area given a significant upgrade is Monument Valley. These towering red sandstone buttes are distinctive and highly recognizable landmarks in the American southwest and this update helps to do them justice.
A nearby airstrip, UT25 – Goulding’s Monument Valley Airport, offers quick access and beautiful scenery right from the start so you can get up and flying around the valley area with little fuss. Take a slower aircraft and soak in the scenery as you fly around.
I did a couple of circuits of the area before settling back down at UT25 and parking my XCub. Perfect area for those times where you’ve only got about 20 minutes to get your sim time in and you want to go and see something interesting.
Check out the World Update 2 trailer
If my screenshots weren’t tantalizing enough, Microsoft’s marketing department have put together their usually impressive trailer showing off what many of the new and updated areas look like.
There’s so much more to go check out with this update. The sky is calling!