Practice with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 in VR: If Real You Might Need a Pilot’s License
I recently got my hands on the Samsung Odyssey HMD + Windows Mixed Reality headset so that I could try out the VR experience in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and it was truly a breathtaking experience.
Towards the end of last year, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was updated to make it compatible with the most popular VR headsets. Headsets Oculus, Valve, HTC and even Windows Mixed Reality now let you experience the simulator from a whole new perspective.
I recently got my hands on a Samsung Odyssey HMD + Windows Mixed Reality headset so I could try out the experience, and it was truly breathtaking. I took to the skies over my hometown of New York and playing Flight Simulator 2020 in VR really felt like piloting a real plane.
But just my words won’t do justice how real it was. Watch the video above for a hands-on look at the experience and why it’s so real you might need a pilot’s license.
Editor’s Note: You might notice a “black bar” effect and a slight lag when I turn my head in parts of this video. This black bar is not visible to me when I have the headphones on, it’s just the hardware limit and the effect of saving the Windows Mixed Reality stream preview in the background for this video so that you can get the same view that I have through the helmet.
Before I get into anything, I’ll mention the minimum specs for VR in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. You will need a PC with at least an Nvidia GTX 1080 or equivalent, 16GB of RAM, 150GB of free space on an SSD or HDD, as well as Direct X11 installed.
I played on my HP Envy 15, which I had previously reviewed. I’m able to get * decent * frame rates at 30-40 fps on high settings, and beyond on medium settings, but your experience may depend on your hardware.
My specs include the following – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM. 16 GB DDR4-2933 SDRAM memory. and the 6-core Intel Core i7-10750H processor. If you are hoping to run Flight Sim in VR, I suggest you open and run the Windows Mixed Reality Portal to see if your PC is compatible. It will give you a checklist of things and suggestions on how to upgrade your PC for maximum VR compatibility. You can also check out the Flight Simulator forums, where people post information about their setups and what works and what doesn’t.
The initial setup
Launching Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 in virtual reality is a multi-step process. First, I had to configure my headset through the Windows Mixed Reality portal. From there, once everything was set up, I took off my headset and started Microsoft Flight Simulator on my desktop. With the game fully loaded in the menu, I had to press CTRL + TAB to switch the simulator to VR mode. This caused my headset to restart and to open Flight Sim as an app.
When this happens, I put on the headset and see the menus in a virtual space. It is suggested to press the space bar key on the keyboard to center the headset and images for the best experience. Once in VR, I also suggest pausing the simulator, going to the graphics settings menu, going to VR graphics options, and changing your graphics card and PC settings. Don’t override the settings if you know your PC can’t handle VR well.
Note that Windows Mixed Reality controllers are currently not supported in Simulator 2020. I needed to connect my Xbox controller to my PC via Bluetooth and use it for navigation, as well as controlling the airplane. You can also use a flight stick, if you have one.
Pre-flight checks and initial experience
The first time I started into Flight Simulator in VR my mind was instantly blown away. I felt like I was on the runway next to a real plane. The Robin Cap10 I was sitting in front of me in front of my eyes on one of the shortest runways at JFK International Airport. I moved my head left and right, and it was as if I was standing on the tarmac next to the plane getting ready to board.
But that was just the start. Right away, I switched the views to cockpit mode. I moved my head forward and back, the simulator moved with me in the game. It knew I was looking closer at the dashboard and it zoomed in for me. I was able to do pre-flight checks, walk forward to check all my gauges, look at the wings out the window, and even turn my head back and check the tail of the plane. Tracking in Windows Mixed Reality headsets is flawless, although it only uses sensors built into the headset itself.
By the way, I want to mention that you can use a keyboard and mouse to touch these gauges and change some settings as needed. It would have been great to see support for WMR controllers, but I can see the technical issues in achieving this.
Either way, it’s not like the gauges are out of focus. The closer I got my head to the plane’s dashboard, the more real the gauges looked. I was able to spot the carbon emissions sticker, check the mileage on the plane, check the buttons, watch the frequency on the radio, and explore the cockpit in all its glory.
Take-off and flight experience
I thought seeing the gauges and looking at the plane on the ground was amazing, but as soon as I started my take-off run on the JFK runway it got even better. Thanks to the spatial audio and built-in speakers of the Samsung HMD Odyssey +, my ears have been blessed with the greatness of aviation which is usually only reserved for real pilots.
I heard the tires howl as they took off from the runway. I heard the motor gears start to move up as I accelerated, and even heard and saw tiny particles of dirt hitting the windshield as I started to climb. It truly is a breathtaking experience.
What was even more breathtaking was to turn your head and look out the window. As I slowly pulled on the analog stick to gain altitude, I felt the sensation of speed as the airport grew smaller under me. I could even see a departing plane taxiing down the runway too. Even the radio on the dashboard reflected my change in altitude and the change in radio frequencies as my flight transferred from Kennedy Ground to Kennedy Departure. It doesn’t get more real than that!
The exterior views and the flight
Much like the main game, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 in VR isn’t just about the cockpit view. Once in flight, I switched to the outside view as I approached some of the New York sights after leaving JFK airport. This experience itself is quite unique as well.
In the exterior view, you will be positioned behind your aircraft during the flight and will be free to look around with your head turned. You can have a “bird’s eye view” from anywhere you fly and watch the world as if you were in a glass helicopter. I did this when I was playing in Central Park in New York, the trees and the water looked so realistic. Even looking at the west side and east side of Manhattan looked real, especially as we approached the MetLife building. It’s like I’m a bird flying over my own city. I could make out the smallest details.
A great simulator, which shows Windows mixed reality at its best
After spending over a week doing virtual flights in Microsoft Flight Simulator, I have to say that this should be the new flagship game in virtual reality. The way Flight Sim pulls from Bing Maps and the high level of detail in planes and environments along with the head tracking make for a truly realistic experience. I’ve tried other titles like Project Cars 2 and Starwars Squadrons, but Flight Simulator has the perfect combination of everything to ensure realism.
If your laptop or desktop is capable of it, I strongly suggest that you download the game, invest in a Windows Mixed Reality headset or other VR headset, and give the game a try. You won’t regret it and you don’t. will not need a pilot’s license.