Flight Simulator X

Microsoft's Flight Simulator is one of the most enduring franchises of all time, and one that completely dominates the simulator genre. So, what could Microsoft do to make their sandbox in the sky even more appealing? Plenty, it seems.

"Next-gen" is a term we usually reserve for the world of consoles, but Flight Simulator X is the first shot in a salvo of rule-changing games that are beginning to emerge on the PC. This internet-connected simulator offers up real-time weather, 24,000 real-world airports, as well as seasonal modeling and 16-player multiplayer.

Over 50 missions for players will be introduced, banking sharply away from the Flight Sim franchise's usual sandbox fare. The missions will range from newbie-oriented tutorials to challenging expert airdrops and landings (including one onto a moving truck). The nerve-wracking Red Bull Air Race series is even included, where you'll slalom through pylons in cities across the globe - at only 50 feet off the ground.

But the biggest news is how FSX looks - and it's nothing short of jaw-dropping. The included ground details look like they'll stomp lesser computers to tiny little pieces. Microsoft claims these luscious visuals will improve by an even greater degree with the introduction of the next generation of graphics technology called DirectX10, a much touted feature of the new Vista operating system planned for 2007.