Flight Simulators are often aimed at only the most hardcore audience. Games like Microsoft Flight Simulator are actually detailed and comprehensive enough in their approach to be used as genuine learning tools for real-life pilots wishing to rack up hours of flying time whilst being sat safely at a computer. Though there probably aren't as many combat pilots using DCS World for a similar purpose, it is an incredible free-to-play game that can be downloaded as a kick-starter to your combative flight experience. Expect a physics engine of the likes you may never have encountered along with great graphics and 18 content-rich modules which add substantially to the game's depth.
The free DCS World game comes as six separate download files that come to about eight or so gigabytes. This may sound hefty but what you're downloading is the framework that the entire DCS World works within - from here you can then choose to purchase and download the individual plane-containing modules if you wish. The free DCS World version allows you to take hold of the controls of a Russian fighter jet, the Sukhoi SU25, putting it through a variety of combat scenarios as you control everything from the comfort of your computer chair.
The level of detail involved in actually flying the plane is such that it will require beginners to read through the official flight manual (this can be found here at Steam), though this will be true of all of each plane that comes with every one of the DCS World's 18 additional modules.
It has been established that DCS World is a game that requires a little patience and initial reading up, so what do you get with the free version? Well, in addition to the SU25 anti-tank aircraft, you are presented with a dynamic campaign, extensive tutorials to ease beginners in to the world of aerial combat simulation, an impressive multiplayer mode, and even a mission editor so that you can craft you own unique flight experiences.
The tutorials will involve several hours of flight time in order to make you accustomed to the intricate details of flying. The game is of course compatible with various joysticks (this makes the experience all the more realistic), though the keyboard will still be needed as there is an almost overwhelming quantity of commands that are required for various stages of the game including take-off, landing, manoeuvring, and even just staying on a steady course in the air. Tutorials cover the obvious basics before moving on to actual combat and eventually allowing you to use missiles and laser-guided bombs in the more advanced stages.
The difficulty of the game is very manageable, partly due to the different tutorials that slowly introduce you to the many features of the SU25 aircraft (of which there are many - this is testament to the sheer depth of the simulation however). The main reason the difficulty is manageable however is because you can choose anything from beginner to realistic, the latter requiring the full knowledge and understanding of every single system on your aircraft from the cockpit controls to weapons deployment and everything in between. You can even set your own disasters that you must then overcome, such as mid-air collisions and other such difficulties a pilot may get into during combat.
Besides the obvious disadvantage of only having one single plane to experience combat with when playing only the free version of DCS World, the second most annoying thing is that you don't get a dynamic cockpit. The free-to-play DCS World doesn't allow you to interact with the various dials and functions of the cockpit unfortunately, and this leads to having to memorise an unmanageable quantity of keyboard shortcuts to perform the same functions. This shouldn't put anyone off actually playing the free version since this will almost certainly encourage them to enter more deeply into the world of DCS in order to experience the different modules available.
DCS World is a free-to-play module that will be plenty for the beginner to take on - for the more experience it will act as a sort of taster that will whet their appetite for the rest of the modules. The physics that the game adheres to are incredible and feel much different to those of Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane. The graphics do feel a little outdated, but that's because the original release was 2009 and it is now 2015. Textures are incredibly realistic and the weather engine also makes for a massively true-to-life experience.
The only drawback would be that you have to pay for extra modules, but considering both the quality of the DCS World framework and the sheer depth involved as well as the massive load of content you get with each module, this game is almost a no-brainer for flight sim fans.