Microsoft Flight Simulator | Assists and Casual Controls

Microsoft Flight Simulator (PEGI 3) is the latest in Microsoft’s series of flight simulators and was released on PC in 2020 and both Xbox Series X and S in 2021. In this video and written post we will be focussing on the console version of the game when played using an Xbox controller, such as a standard controller,  an Xbox Adaptive Controller or an alternative compatible controller. All gameplay footage and screen shots are captured on an Xbox Series S.

This type of game is generally known for having complex controls and gameplay, and as a simulator the game is able to provide an in-depth and technically challenging experience for those who want it. However, it also has a range of settings that could help make it a much more accessible experience for many players and also allow the game experience to be enjoyed more casually. In this video we will be focussing on playing this way with the full range of flight control-related accessibility settings switched on.

A screenshot from behind a small aircraft flying over Oxfordshire towards Blenheim Palace.

We will first look at the settings and then show how you can start the game with your plane already in the sky, which means that you do not need to either take off or land, and can potentially play with access to less controls. We will then look at the AI controlled plane, meaning that you can ask the computer to fly for you, before taking a look at the basic controls for taking off and landing a small aircraft, which means that you would potentially need to use more inputs on the controller. Finally, we will have a quick look at the controller remapping options to customise the control inputs you use.

Settings

A screenshot showing the All Assists options in menu.

On first start-up, the game will offer some different settings including assistance settings. By default, the selected option is All Assists. These can also be accessed after this by heading to Options and then Assistance Options, where you can also select from three different global accessibility settings.

All Assists provides both assistance and instructions when in flight by an AI co-pilot. Middle Ground provides some guidance, but less so than All Assists. True to Life is designed to provide a more authentic experience with less help from the AI. All three of these global settings also allow you to customise individual assistance settings by clicking on each option. For example, if you wanted all of the assists on but wanted to switch off Unlimited Fuel, you can do this by going into Aircraft Systems and switching Unlimited Fuel off. This means that you have the benefits of the assists when controlling the game, but still have to consider fuel consumption and plan your flight around this, which some players might enjoy. To change back to default and have all of the assists switched on, press X.

Flying with One Stick Only

Small aircraft shown from behind flying over sea towards land.

To start a journey, you can either start on a runway or in the sky. If you choose to start on the runway you can either manually take off or opt for the AI co-pilot to take off for you. If you would like to start in the sky, you potentially will not need access to as many controls, and you can also pick anywhere in the world as your departure location. The first option is to try the Discovery Flights, which can be accessed via the Main Menu or by pausing the game at any time.

A screenshot showing some of the Discovery Flights locations.

Here there are several experiences that are included as part of the initial download of the game, and several more which you can download. By clicking on one that you have already downloaded, you will start that flight already in the sky.

You control the plane with the Left Stick, by default controlling the pitch axis by pulling back to ascend, forwards to descend and left and right on the stick to control the roll axis, to steer the plane left and right. It is possible to enjoy casual flights, exploring locations just using the Left Stick, especially within the Discovery Flights.

It is worth noting that by just using the left stick, you do not have some of the other basic controls such as throttle control, meaning that you cannot control the speed of the plane. This means that it may not be possible to ascend to the maximum height, so getting over higher ground can be difficult. One useful assist included in the All Assists option is the AI Anti-Stall Assist which will keep the engine running if you attempt to ascend or descend too quickly.

A screenshot of the Sensitivity options.

There is the option to go into the settings and change the sensitivity and deadzone of the stick which may be helpful for some players. A lower sensitivity combined with a larger deadzone may mean that the game does not pick up some accidental movement of the left stick.

A screenshot of the Flight Assistant options.

Another way to use a single stick would be to have the AI control the plane, and you can use the right stick to control the camera whilst the computer controls the plane for you. To set up AI control, press the Left Stick Click to enter Cursor Mode; the AI will temporarily take over controls whilst in this mode. Now, go to the Flight Assistant option and press A. Move the cursor down and select AI Piloting. Click on the small Cross icon or Flight Assistant icon to close the window, and then press Left Stick Click again to enter Cursor Mode. The AI will now control the plane for you, giving you the option to use the Right Stick to look around.  Right Stick Click will recentre the camera.

A screenshot showing the view from inside a small aircraft.

If you wish to see from inside the plane, press the View button and then use right stick to look around. It is worth noting that whilst the AI pilot can take off and control the plane, taking you to your next destination, it can at times fail to adapt to certain situations and may not fly around or over obstacles, and may crash. Despite this, it could be useful for many players who wish to play with a single stick or who need to take a rest when playing. To switch the AI Pilot off, you need to go back into Cursor Mode and switch it off manually.

A screenshot of the world map.

You can also choose to start from the sky by heading to the world map and clicking on any starting location. If you would prefer to start at an airport or airfield, you can do this also, but will need to take off or get the AI pilot to take off for you.

More Controls

If you have access to some of buttons and the trigger inputs on the controller along with the Left Stick, you will be able to fly with more manual control of the plane’s functions to control actions such as speed, yaw and braking to enable manual take-off and landing, whilst still using the assistance settings.

If you have access to the Right Stick, you can use this to control the camera which can be useful for looking around in these situations to navigate your surroundings. The use of the Left and Right Stick can be alternated as they do not have to be used simultaneously. The Right Stick is also used for scrolling to navigate many of the menus, along with the Left Stick which controls a cursor. The D-pad can be used as an alternative way to navigate some menus.

A screenshot showing some of the Take-Off and Landing Flight Training missions.

It may be useful to try some of the training activities to practice and learn more about the controls and handling of the plane for these situations. We will go through some of the more commonly used controls used for casual flying with All Assists on, including some of those used for taking off and landing a small plane. Controls can be remapped in-game, which we will discuss later on in this post.

By default, the A button is to increase power with the throttle, which can be used to increase speed whilst in the air or on the ground and can cause the plane to increase altitude (depending on your pitch). You hold the A button down until you have reached your target rpm and then release it. The B button, by default, is used to decrease power with the throttle which will lower your speed and can reduce altitude, again depending on your pitch. You hold the B button until you have reached your target rpm and then release it.

Taking Off Basic Controls

A screenshot of a small aircraft from behind during take off.

First, press Left on D-pad to remove the parking brake. Now hold down on A to increase the throttle to maximum. If required, you can use the left and right triggers to control the rudder and keep the plane in centre with the runway, although in clear conditions this may not be required. When prompted, pull back gently on the Left Stick to take off.

Landing Controls

A screenshot of a small aircraft from behind when landing.

When landing, B can be used to decrease the throttle. Left Stick can be used to line up with the runway, bring the nose down and flair the nose just before touching down. X is then used to brake once on the runway and the triggers can then be used to turn the plane on the runway. Up and Down on the D-pad can be used to adjust the plane’s flaps which can be used to slow the plane further. Right on the D-pad can be used to manually lower or raise the landing gear.

Remapping Casual Controls

A screenshot showing the controller remapping.

If you find that accessing certain parts of the controller are easier than others, then there are some remapping options that might help. Head to the Options tab, and then Control Options. From here pick the control that you would like to change, and select which input you would like to change it to. The game may warn you if this button is already mapped to another control so in some instances it may be best to do a complete swap, especially if you are swapping with a control that you do not need.

A screenshot of a small aircraft shown from behind flying over mountains.

We hope that this post and video about playing Microsoft Flight Simulator in a more casual way have been helpful. If you have any questions about video game accessibility, please contact us.