One of the first places I wanted to fly in Microsoft Flight Simulator was the Grasberg Mine, an open pit mine high in the Sudirman Mountain Range of Indonesia.
That might seem like a strange destination. But when Microsoft Flight Simulator was announced at E3 in 2019, it came packaged with a signature promise: the ability to “fly anywhere” on the planet. Yes, the trailer for the latest installment in one of gaming’s longest-running franchises was plainly gorgeous—wide vistas, sparkling cities, and gleaming aircraft, all rendered in crisp 4K—but so were all the other flagship titles debuted at gaming’s biggest show. What made Microsoft Flight Simulator special was the scale of its world—our world, a frankly Icarian bit of posturing that, if somehow true, signaled an evolutionary leap forward for games, built on and out of Microsoft’s suite of “next-generation” services. And when journalists and YouTubers received alpha access to the game earlier this year, many of them fixated on calling Microsoft’s bluff by finding their houses–which was really falling into its trap by looking towards the densely populated areas the game’s designers likely assumed they’d want to visit.
(Correction, 7:20 p.m.—An earlier version of this review mistakenly stated that the Grasberg Mine was not in the game. The article has been updated to reflect that it is, with text changed throughout. Kotaku regrets the error.)