Amid an avalanche of quirky simulators that ask us to do everything from drive bus routes to powerwash dirty grills in the backyard, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to discover the upcoming AirportSim just straight up had me work a job at an airport. And yet, this seemingly benign 9-5 shift put me through a whole host of emotions, from wondering if I’d been tricked into doing someone else’s work to laughing hysterically when everything went horribly wrong. Although this early look at a game that’s still not finished sometimes made me wonder if it was tragically broken in the worst kind of way, it also provided more than a few moments where the clouds parted to reveal a potentially awesome new sim game. After more than a dozen hours sorting luggage and scraping jetways against the sides of commercial planes, I can honestly say I learned a lot about airports – namely that I should never be allowed to work at one.
If anything is true about AirportSim, it’s that unless you already work at an airport or are an aviation enthusiast, you’re going to learn a whole heck of a lot. As an aircraft neophyte with an inexplicable attraction to realistic simulators, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the three hours worth of tutorials that schooled me on everything from how to refuel different kinds of planes, to the merits of guiding pilots in a “follow me” car. At times, taking it all in and trying to remember all the complicated steps involved could be exhausting, but that uphill battle was actually my favorite part of my time in various virtual real-life airports. Even when wonky controls and tons of glitches disrupted an otherwise good time, at least I felt I was gaining something from the whole process.
It’s worth giving a big, fat caveat that AirportSim still isn’t slated for release until later this year, and the version I played was therefore not finished, but boy oh boy, did I run into some insane technical issues. I saw characters and objects fall through the world, textures in the distance coming to life with bizarre movement, and controls suddenly not working for me, leaving me unable to interact with certain objects or complete tasks necessary to the scenario. The worst of these bugs were situations that left me wholly unable to progress, like one time where all the passengers got stuck in the jetway for seemingly no reason and were left to seizure bizarrely in a giant pile. Stuff like this would often occur half an hour or longer into a scenario that would then have to be abandoned, and that just felt terrible.
But I’ve gotta imagine these rough edges will be smoothed over in the coming months, and when things worked properly, I could definitely see potential in the chaos of navigating a complex schedule of incoming and departing flights, all of which demanded to be serviced in a timely manner. Loading and unloading luggage in particular made for a good time, as I creeped inside cargo holds and operated conveyor belts, which occasionally went sideways, resulting in the personal effects of passengers flying every which way.
I will say, though, that I was pretty surprised to find AirportSim doesn’t include any airport building or management aspects. I had assumed there’d be some element of constructing my own airports and/or charting out the financial future of my travel business, but none of that’s included in AirportSim. You just pick one of a handful of airports, hop in, and get to work setting up traffic cones. That feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to me!
Thankfully, multiplayer immediately made managing the tarmac easier and more fun, whether it was the obvious advantage to having an extra pair of hands to the hilarious hijinks that ensued when things went terribly wrong. Working at an airport is normally a pretty lonely existence, as the blurry, expressionless creatures you shuttle to and fro don’t make for the best company, so throwing one or two more players into the mix adds a desperately needed social element. It was nice feeling like the expert for a change, as I explained to a friend how to connect a jetway or operate a belt loader, especially since none of my friends were down to play through three hours of tutorials first for some reason. It’s honestly just great to have someone with you to experience the highs and lows of working at a virtual, sometimes broken airport.