You'd be forgiven for asking what a piece of software like Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is doing in the New Business Travel section, but in a climate where 95 percent of us are thoroughly grounded, Asoba Studios satellite crafted world is the closest thing to getting our wings back.

Having been around since 1982, Microsoft Flight Simulator was a franchise for the hardcore aviation enthusiast. Barebones cockpit displays and garish green runways filled the screen with the maximum our home computers could render, whilst we tried to make sense of the cluttered dials at the base of the monitor.

In 2020, it is fair to say, so much has transformed about the series. Microsoft have called upon French studio Asobo to build not only a photorealistic planet earth (in most instances), but one with functional real-time cloud behaviour, weather and traffic patterns. Data is collated from Bing Maps satellites, combined with real time weather information to create mind-blowing moments of immersive realism. Whether you are nervously taking off from a small island runway, thunder crackling, lightning flashing and illuminates the pitch darkness of your cockpit glass as your fuselage is thrashed around, or you are cruising at high altitude over the alps, backdropped by orange, sun-blushed clouds, this is a sim that taps in to your latent desire to explore.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is accessible like the series never has been before. Assists are enabled from the outset, enabling the game to hold the hand of a new user, with their only concerns being speed, steering and altitude. For the more casual user this is an excellent way to explore our planet in rich detail, with a near infinite possibility of locations and weather patterns, chances are what you will see below you will be entirely unique. Over 40 airports within the sim are hand-crafted, with over 37,000 additionally procedurally generated. The size of the map is so staggering that I only wonder how much of their creation developers Asobo could even feasibly have seen.

Whilst the completely mapped world may be the new flagship selling point for the series from here on, for the die-hard aviation enthusiasts, switching off those assists reveals a technical depth and uncompromised realism. Whilst the game can be played with keyboard and mouse or a plugged in gamepad, if you want the full sim experience, a ‘HOTAS' flight-stick is the way to play.

Flight paths must never be strayed from, take-off and landing patterns perfectly observed, and you better be able to read every one of your in-flight instruments correctly. Tutorials guide you competently, with a nice progression curve. You will go from rattling around and repeatedly crashing a tiny bi-plane, to ably piloting a Boeing 747 on a long haul flight. Once you have perfected the nuance and subtleties of take-off and landing, flights will become somewhat relaxing. When everything is done right, not much happens. There is something decidedly peaceful about cruising over the Himalayas, having navigated a storm some distance back, but now with your trim set and your flight path aligned, time to make a cup of tea.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a ground-breaking experience, in that we have never before seen our planet rendered in such incredible detail. Whether you visit your house, the wonders of the world, or just the holiday location you saw cancelled this year, lockdown was the perfect time for this digital world to open up to us.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is available on PC now, free with Xbox Game Pass for PC, or £60 standard edition.

Ian Westcott, online editor, New Business