Graphically, leaps and bounds have been taken since the last edition. The majority of the time, framerates are not a concern, staying near 25 even on mid-range machines such as my Pentium III 866 system with most details enabled at 1024x768x32. Eye candy such as water reflections and shadows cast by ground scenery add immensely to the experience. Flight Simulator 2002 takes complete advantage of 3D acceleration with options to enable hardware T&L effects and anti-aliasing. Unfortunately, you pay for it in the end with increasingly long load times and steep system requirements. The minimal installation is 650 MB, and the full installation eats up 1.5 GB of hard drive space. The game is playable after a full installation without any of the three CDs in the drive.
Audio produced by aircraft is equally as impressive, with each emanating its own unique engine and landing gear sounds, which are perceived differently depending on the point of view. There are Doppler effects when the camera swings from behind the aircraft to in front of it, and the propeller noise is deeper when heard from inside the cockpit as opposed to out in the open.
One can explore the world through the window in Flight Simulator 2002. The scenery is awe-inspiring in its grandeur. Thousands of trees are planted among the hills and mountains, with gorgeous lakes in between. Not just any lakes, but ones with detail and reflection. Metropolitan areas are even more magnificent than before, with each having numerous recognizable landmarks with smaller, appropriate buildings and suburbs stretching out to the horizon. Ground textures are no longer simply blocks of color, but roads and fields of crops. The new autogen feature of Flight Simulator 2002 generates scenery appropriate for the location as you fly over it, ensuring that the days of a featureless landscape are gone.
Raindrops are equally as beautiful. They distort the view after splashing onto the windshield before fading away. When dawn is impending, the sky gradually turns pink or orange as the sun peaks above the horizon before traversing the sky during the course of a lengthy flight. Then you are presented with the counterpart as the sun sets in the west, highlighting the ground, clouds, and your aircraft in brilliant colors. In fact, after you have confirmed a location, Microsoft includes the ability to download real world weather data for the ultimate in realism. The alternative is to specify such variables as wind speed and direction, visibility, and cloud density on your own to create the desired atmosphere.