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  1. Australia is one of the largest countries in the world, yet it has only recently been given the acknowledgement it deserves within the flight sim community. Thanks to teams such as ORBX, there’s some beautiful coverage of the country, yet there were still many airports which, quite simply, had never been given quality scenery. Again, ORBX delivered some stunning airports, but the performance of some of them left a lot to be desired. Fly Tampa have always been consistent with their releases. Airport after airport sees both a well performing airport, alongside unbeatable quality. To most, Valentine’s day is about showing love and affection for partners, but for simmers, Valentine’s day 2013 was the day FlyTampa melted the hearts of their fans by announcing Sydney would be coming to Flight Sim in the near future. Just a little over 2 years later, we’re all ready to go down under. Sydney, as a city is important for many reasons. Being the most populated city in Australia and the State Capital of New South Wales obviously attracts visitors from all over the Globe. It’s home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and of course, the Sydney Opera House – quite simply, it’s a beautiful and rich city. The airport itself is the only major airport within the city, and sees nearly 40 million passengers a year. It’s amazing, it has taken this long to be faithfully recreated within our Flight Sim products. To be perfectly honest, when FlyTampa announced their development on the primary hub for Qantas, it just all felt perfect. I couldn’t think of a better developer to bring this huge airport to life. Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (YSSY) has three runways, with a maximum length of 12,999ft – meaning that long haulers will of course comfortably be able to fly their long distances. Being on the far east of Australia, expect to be able to fly direct to the West Coast of the USA, New Zealand and Hawaii quite easily. Even direct flights from the middle-East and Asia are all possible in your long range aircraft. As a result, VAS and Frame Rates are normally at the forethought of people’s minds. After extensive testing and a range of settings, I can confirm that it should not be a worry. Providing you use ‘appropriate’ settings, and it’s relative to your hardware, you will have similar frame rates to that of other FlyTampa scenery. Thanks to the configuration options, you can easily select what features you want on or off. Find that 3D grass gives you poor performance? Turn it off. Want to see little fishermen on the coast during approach, turn them on. You have plenty of options to fine tune it to suit your system, which is definitely a win-win solution for everyone. In regards to VAS usage, I had no troubles. I have modest settings (but my Simulator still looks fantastic), and I have installed the LITE package (sets textures to 1024, instead of the default value of 2048). Even with VAS heavy add-ons such as the PMDG 777 and MyTraffic 6, I never got close to being out of memory. It’s a little more intensive than some scenery packages, but you have to remember exactly how much detail FlyTampa have gone with Sydney. Speaking of detail, remember those Fishermen I mentioned? Well, how would you like to add sharks, moving traffic, static aircraft, traffic lights and much more to improve the visual quality? There’s so much attention to detail it is unbelievable. There’s moving fans in the rooftops of some buildings and plenty of puddles along the taxi ways. Dirt is spread throughout the airfield, as well as stones and concrete to really immerse you in the experience. Texturing aside, the modelling is quite simply, the best I have ever seen in a Simulator. The famous control tower at Sydney has been authentically recreated, and to the finest of detail. You genuinely could mistake it for the real thing. It has the perfect geometry, scaling and texturing. I remember when the first image of the control tower was released, and I had a hard time guessing which was the Sim and which was real – I still have that same problem now. Alongside the configurator, is the opportunity to change the seasons accordingly. Texturing changes depending on the month you chose, which again, just helps to differentiate FlyTampa from the rest of the competition. Not only have they done an excellent job with the airport, but they’ve also worked hard to make sure the surrounding area also. There’s plenty of satellite imagery that has been used to create some really good and detailed ground textures. There’s also been some work done to the nearby buildings within Sydney. Although it doesn’t extend too far from the airport, it’s enough to keep you immersed during the approach into Sydney (and also the departure). It is obvious that I think FlyTampa have done a remarkable job on Sydney. With a range of terminals fully created, beautiful artwork and texturing and mind-blowing model work – this ranks as one of the best created add-on packages for Flight Simulation. With excellent performance (considering its size and location) and moderate memory usage, Sydney will be the new number 1 spot for short and long haulers alike. It may be far away from home (for some of you), but it’s certainly worth the trip. See you down under! Purchase FlyTampa’s Fly Tampa Here
  2. Located in the heart of the Dominican Republic, Gregorio Luperon International Airport (MDPP) is one the most frequently visited airports in the Caribbean. With flights coming from all corners of the Globe, and being the Forth busiest airport in the Dominican, can DreamFlight Studios bring this vibrant airport to life in the world of Flight Simulation? Let’s start with location. Being so important to the tourism industry within the Domincan, it stands to reason the airport sees a lot of activity. As a result, the airport has been built with this in mind. Capable of holding 3 Boeing 747-400s at any one time is incredibly impressed for a Caribbean airport. With a range of airlines visiting, it’s easy to find a route you’ll enjoy flying to and from the beautiful and sunny destination. After the harsh winter months and bitter cold, it makes for a wonderful change to fly into such a hot airport. No wind sheer and not a cloud in sight to ruin your views of your beach approach. As for the airport itself, DreamFlight have done a great job at surrounding the airport in plenty of autogen, that lends itself nicely to the over grown nature of the island. The runway is almost lined with tropical bushes and trees that gives excellent views on your final approach. As you come in over the waves, you will notice the special attention DreamFlight have given to the coastal areas. During a sunset, it’s really quite the experience and I urge you to try it out. The airport itself is masterfully done. Despite being fairly new to the game, DreamFlight have created a detailed and well performing airport. The texturing is of a high standard and the modelling is near-life-like. Although the static and bland airbridges could use some much needed cosmetic work to really wow me with the attention to detail. The iconic red-roofed buildings are present and give the airport that rustic Caribbean feel their airports are renowned for. One problem I do have is the lack of detail outside of the airport. There’s a rather basic car park area, with low-res models of cars and coaches, as well as a few hangers and buildings. It’s a shame really, as there’s a small town just to the South of the airport. Instead the default autogen makes up for it, which as we know, is certainly not that impressive. It would really add to the beautiful approach and prove that DreamFlight mean business. Night lighting, on the other hand, is really well done. As mentioned before, approaching in the sunset really brings the airport to life. There’s some great work done on the texturing of the terminals during the darker hours, and the approach lights look truly beautiful. The night lighting with Puerto Plata Airport is one of the best features of this airport. Turn of the lights and go flying at dusk! Trust me, it’s worth it. Gregorio Luperon International Airport (MDPP) is a great airport at a reasonable price. With so many aircraft flying in and out of the airport daily, it’s easy to understand why DreamFlight chose to visit Puerto Plata Airport. With some excellent texture work and good modelling, it’s a great airport to add to your Caribbean collection. However, some short-comings from lack of detail in some key areas of the airport and the surrounding area stop me from saying this a must-buy. PURCHASE PUERTO PLATA X AT SIMMARKET
  3. It’s been a while since my last review, and as a result, I’ve had some wonderful down time to revisit some of the older airports released over the years. One such airport was Copenhagen. At the time, I forgot how much I enjoyed the quick hops from the UK over to the Danish city. It is also one of those destinations where the weather can either be on your side, or cause havoc to your flight planning. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had it all – everything from glorious, crispy sunny mornings to the CAT 3 landings. However, despite how beautiful it is, it’s never really been properly captured in the flight simulation world. Until now, however. It’s been no secret that FlyTampa have been crafting Copenhagen with support from Flight Simulator Development Group. FSDG are a relatively new developer on the scene of Flight Simulation products. I remember not that long ago downloading their fantastic Sharm El Sheik and Heraklion projects. Both were wonderfully created, frame rate friendly and breathed a new lease of life into these locations. Earlier this year, they released, quite possibly, their best project yet: Thessaloniki. A medium-sized airport, surrounded by a sprawling city. Despite everything going on, it was pretty much flawless. It had charm, atmosphere and easy on the simulator. As a result of their clear talent, FlyTampa made it clear that these guys would be great to partner with to bring about their latest airport – Fly Copenhagen. It’s immediately apparent that the best of both teams come across in the scenery. The texturing around the airport is amongst the best FlyTampa (hereby FT from now on) have ever delivered. If you’re a fan of anything from FT in the past, then you know the quality to expect here. If you think back to Dubai (their last release) and how breath-taking it all looked, then imagine the quality factor turned up by 10. The screenshots here don’t really do the scenery justice. Mostly because JPG compresses the images to a low quality level (hence why night shots look a bit bad…), but also because it’s impressive to see the detail move at a surprisingly good pace. The screenshots have been taken with the settings taken at the highest quality so I hope you like them. As for the texturing itself, it’s clear that everything is crystal clear. Taxiway markings and signage are all looking excellent. But again, it’s the attention to detail that makes it stand out to other developers out there. Scuff marks on the ground, dirt tracks and even stones can be seen on the ground. The immersion with the scenery is just remarkable. As usual, the modelling is near perfect. Every single building within the airport is present and are all high quality. There’s been no compromise on “less” important buildings or those that you may not use / see on your day-to-day flying. However, this hasn’t stopped the guys from ensuring every building looks as impressive as the last. Even the inside of the buildings have been given the now-norm 3D interior effect. What impressed me more was the fact that each section was accurate to the real airport and not just a generalisation of what you would see at an airport gate. For example, if you were at gate F5, you would see the signage on the inside clearly mark the passengers were at the same gate, with additional signage pointing to other gates. Again, all accurate and certainly not a copy and paste job. It’s this level of detail that separates FT and FSDG from the others. As you can see, I started off with the evening screenshots first. If you’re a frequent reader, then you will know, that these normally come last. However, in this instance, I felt that the night lighting here is the most impressive night lighting ever to grace a Flight Simulation airport. Words can’t describe how much I love the lighting [editor’s note: please find some, we need to boost the word count somehow!]. There’s no light that over exaggerate what the scenery is trying to show off. Nor is there a single block colour that covers the whole airport. There’s a huge variety of lights and shadow that really showcase the beauty of Copenhagen airport. The taxiways and runways look glorious on those evening approaches – certainly helpful when flying an autoland in fog. One complaint with the lighting, however, is the slow loading textures when panning around. Similar to the effect of Aerosoft’s Heathrow earlier this year, when the scenery isn’t in view, it’s somehow ‘flushed’ out of the Simulator to enable better performance. However, one downside of this is the effect of the textures taking a few seconds to load up. Not really an issue in general usage, but if you’re one for taking photos, this will become noticeable. It certainly won’t spoil anything for you and by no means something that should put you off from flying at night. Outside of the airport, Copenhagen is renowned for its beautiful surroundings and of course, the famous Øresund Bridge. For those of you who don’t know, the Oresund Bridge is the longest combined rail and road bridge in the world. It’s a beautiful landmark and makes the approach into Copenhagen that much more exciting. Luckily, the two teams have wonderfully created a fantastic replica for us to fly around (or under!). It looks great, and the moving traffic certainly makes it feel very much alive. Of course, it wouldn’t be a FSDG airport if there wasn’t the inclusion of a surrounding city. Again, the team haven’t disappointed. There’s literally hundreds of houses, buildings and other environmental obstacles that litter the surroundings of the airport. It takes a bit of a hit on performance, but for the sheer number of objects and the quality of each one, it makes it a very fair trade off. Thanks to advance techniques and an easy-to-use configurator, the impact is minimal and can be adjusted to your preferences. 2014 has certainly been the year of developers taking on board that every user has a different machine, and as a result, a different expectation as far as performance goes. FT and FSDG have jumped on board with the idea and Fly Copenhagen is the first scenery to support FlyTampa’s latest configurator. Everything from season texture, amount of traffic and whether you use the default or custom autogen. It’s highly detailed and allows any user of any powered machine to get the most from their scenery. In my opinion, the ease of use and the number of options available makes me hope that this soon becomes the standard for all scenery developers. Fly Copenhagen is truly the best scenery FlyTampa and Flight Simulator Development Group have ever created for the community. The quality is ripping from the seams and not a pixel looks out of place. As a result, there’s a relatively high price tag associated with it. However, you get bang for your buck – a huge, and highly detailed airport and a sprawling city which expands over the sea and more. If you need a winter destination for your Christmas stocking, then this is it. You’ll have a range of aircraft to fly from here, and you will never have two of the same approach thanks to its ever-changing weather conditions. Fly Copenhagen is the airport of the Winter! 5/5 | Publisher: FlyTampa | Developer: FlyTampa / FSDG | Price: 33.22EUR PURCHASE FlyTampa’s Copenhagen HERE! A fantastic effort by combining two excellent developers. The texturing, modelling and atmosphere shadows any other Copenhagen currently on the market. Although pricey, the huge amount of area covered is impressive, all whilst ensuring a smooth experience for your Simulator. An absolute must buy for a winter destination. + The best modelling and texture work from FlyTampa yet. + Huge amount of detail and coverage with minimal performance impact. - Slow loading textures can sometimes be irritating. - Pricier than most other scenery packages out there.
  4. Rome Fiumicino is an airport that people have been waiting patiently for an incredibly long time. Ever since its initial announcement, FS2004 users have been treated to many months of exploring a great looking rendition of the popular Italian airport. Fast forward and after many promises and great anticipation, Aerosoft officially cancelled the project - claiming that the quality of the product just wasn’t up to expectations. Since then, DreamFactory Studio has decided to self-publish through SimMarket, allowing countless fans the chance to finally explore one of Italy’s largest and greatest airports. Were Aerosoft right to cancel their contract? Let’s find out. Rome Fiumicino is also home to several airlines, including easyJet, Air Italia and many more. Large international carriers such as Emirates and United also fly into the airport daily. Its location and size make it an ideal destination for both business travellers and holiday makers. It’s little wonder why so many were looking forward to such a sought after airport for Flight Sim. Before we begin, allow me to clarify a few points: · I always use a clean FSX.cfg along with the simple [bUFFERPOOLS], HighMem fix and widescreen set to true. This allows consistency with the reviews when it comes to performance. · I always use the same settings within FSX and Nvidia inspector for each review. This was stress tested at several payware airports (E.G. UK2000 EGLL) with payware aircraft (E.G. PMDG 777), all achieving roughly 30-35fps. This allows me to judge performance based on other add-ons. · I will disable and lower settings to what I believe to be minimal if it means I achieve greater performance for the review. However, this is last resort as I believe if my machine can handle the point above, then it should be able to handle a simple payware airport. N.B. I never lower them lower than the minimum stated in a products manual. · I perform my tests with and without DX10 (using Steve’s fixer) and enable / disable FTX Global and similar products to test for compatibility. However any incompatibility will be noted. NOTE: I don’t regard it to be a compatibility issue if the surrounding terrain colours don’t match, but will do if the airport or the add-on then breaks because of it. · I use a variety of add-ons, weather engines and so forth in 3 stages whilst testing: minimal use (minimum to enjoy the scenery), Normal Use (a typical flight scenario) and a Stress Test (turn on all features, bells and whistles). · I solely use FSX as my platform of choice. With that out of the way, let’s jump in… As with any airport, one of the first things you will notice is the texture and modelling work of the airport. After all, it’s the primary reason why we purchase an add-on airport for our simulations. From initial impressions, it was clear to me that these were created for an FS2004 product. Certainly not as bad as FSX default, but lacking the detail and refinement so many of us of used to seeing. Computers are much more capable of displaying high resolution graphics now, and many developers are utilising new techniques. Small things such as dirt, dust and water spillages are all part of the ‘norm’ now for developers creating payware scenery – so to see a lack of it with Rome was disappointing. Clear distinctions between the taxiway and runways, and the ground markings are accurate and impressive. Modelling on the other hand looks great. The terminal buildings (and there’s many) are all rendered with a lot of precision. It’s fantastic to see so much attention placed in the architecture of the product. Everything from airport terminals and hangers to moving trains and office buildings all correct and present. There are even animated cars bringing the airport to life. In terms of placement and design, DreamFactory Studio has done an excellent job. From scanning Google Earth, everything from changes in tarmac colour and building placement has been given the upmost attention. It’s great to see a true-to-life airport in the heart of Italy. For example, car parks, runways now used as taxiways and airport development is all present with Rome. Like so many other developers, however, once you leave the airside operations of the airport, things take a turn for the worse. Texture work outside lacks as much detail and the low-resolution terrain allows the immersion to suffer. To me immersion is one of the most important aspects of any add-on scenery to me. We want to feel like we’re really taxing down Taxiway ALPHA before holding at runway 09. We want to see the nearby towns under the wing as we drop the gear down for our final approach. It’s the increase in immersion that justifies our purchase on virtual airports. The sad thing is, I felt that immersion just didn’t exist. As soon as I booted up Rome Fiumicino I noticed some strange terrain issues. Admittedly, after switching off my FTX products, the sinking stopped. However, another cause of concern cropped up. That concern, and of course it would be, is the Frame Rates. I appreciate it is a HUGE airport with a lot going on. Everything from a huge amount of taxiways, runways and buildings are all reasons for a drop in frames. However, as described above, I achieve excellent stability at high end airports from a range of developers. So you can imagine my surprise, disbelief and disappointment when my frame rates initially started in the mid-20s, before dropping to 8-12 when I panned my view near to the main terminal buildings. As time passed, it seemed go get progressively worse! Even after fixing my terrain issues described above, again, they seemed to get worse. Although no-stutters seemed to be present, if a system such as mine couldn’t handle the airport, I very much doubt a standard user would be able to. In this regard, it would seem Aerosoft were right when they claimed the frame rate would be unacceptable for most to use. Despite everything I liked about the airport, this was a killer blow for me. Switch to nigh-time and I saw frames barely reaching 5fps. Unacceptable. On the other hand, if the developer decides to go back to the project, re-work some of the code to optimise it for FSX, then this would be a good add-on for those looking at having Rome as part of their collection. There are some great little quirks about the airport. There is some lovely looking satellite imagery surrounding the airport as well as some great looking texture work on the nearby buildings. The lack of build up around the airport mean you’ll be approaching over the sea and then some local farm – it’s certainly a scenic approach and one I enjoy making. Despite its pick-me-ups, Rome falls short of expectations. The lack of manual, strange issues with PAPI lighting and a broken ASELite Menu (clearly from the old Aerosoft project) makes me wonder if this project was finished when it was released. DreamFactory Studio has done a good job at creating a life-like project of the airport, but the poor performance issues and lack of FSX-quality detail stop me from recommending Rome Fiumicino. With a few fixes this could be a worthwhile purchase, but until then, be prepared to be disappointed. 1/5 | Publisher: SimMarket | Developer: DreamFactory Studio | Price: 20.50EUR Despite some nice looking texture work, the poor performance make the airport almost un-flyable. The massive drop in frame rate and the incompatibility make it a really hard recommendation. Despite being the only option to fly into Rome Fiumicino, DreamFactory Studio have really done a disservice to the community. An unfinished and poor performing product - an update is really the only thing that can salvage it. + Good looking models surround the airport. + Some areas have some nice texture work. - Massive performance issues make the airport almost unflyable. - Incompatibility with FTX products, no manual and a broken options menu. PURCHASE DREAMFACTORY STUDIO'S ROME FIUMICINO HERE --------- UPDATE 20AUG2014 Since our review, DreamFactory Studio have released an update that appears to FIX the awful frame rate issues. I can no hold frames around 25-30, but suffer from stutters almost every few seconds. I was also able to fly at night now, but the frame rate was still poor, achieving only 18-25fps. Other issues I noted during the review are still present, however, it is at least in a more stable state. Any further updates to the product and I will revise my review and will let you know. ------- My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – DreamFactory Studio Rome Fiumicino (LIRF) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320 Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe. ****HAD TO REMOVE FTX PRODUCTS FOR AIRPORT TO WORK AS INTENDED****
  5. Flight Simulation went an age without a decent Airbus series of aircraft. Sure, some developers created visually appealing models, but nothing with systems and flows that made any sense. Never mind the complexity that comes with the vast ECAM screens and the FBW system. Of course, as Simmers we want realism, but that comes with a cost: a long development time and a performance hit – two things that every developer and simmer out there dreads. Luckily for us, Aerosoft saw a great opportunity and ceased it. Their visually appealing Airbus A320 X released several years ago began a trend for the publishing giant. They realised they could create a visually appealing aircraft, with minimal systems, yet immerse Simmers just enough to satisfy their lust. Sadly (or thankfully, depending what side of the fence you’re on) demand for a deeper system became priority for everyone. As a result, in 2013 Aerosoft released, what was known at the time, The Airbus X Extended (or AXE for short). Suddenly, fixes to the FBW, MCDU (Editors note: Nearly called this the FMC… too much Boeing on the mind) and visual improvements made this THE airbus to fly. It was well designed, light on the user’s machines, but included enough depth to the systems to allow the Simmer to follow a typical, standard flight – and at a bargain price. Unfortunately for Aerosoft, despite their persistence and hard work, after a few more months, we all got restless yet again! We all knew it was their plan to release the A319 shortly after the A320, but what we didn’t expect was for them to add even more to the overall package of the Airbus. Here we are in 2014 (and three paragraphs into the review already, without even touching up on the review), and Aerosoft’s most ambitious project has been released for sale. As you step into the Flight Deck for the first time, you will notice an all familiar location. Everything looks pretty much the same from the A320 Flight Deck, however, Aerosoft have completely redone the Virtual Cockpit to improve draw calls to help improve the frame rates significantly. Not only that, but the resolution is higher and the displays are much clearer than ever before. Despite being clearer than previous aircraft, once you zoom in just a bit, text becomes a bit blocky. After having experience inside of a A319/320 flight deck for a long time now, I feel the refresh rate inside Aerosoft’s ‘Bus to be a bit slow. It may save on performance, but having the option would allow users to adjust based on their machine. With dimmable displays and more functionality, this already feels much more realistic. Something that was missing from the previous Airbus products from Aerosoft were fire tests and a realistic APU start up time. After being requested constantly, Aerosoft have listened and delivered. Something that is still missing if the inclusion of an LBS function for our American friends. There’s a huge Airbus in operation over in the states, yet they have to convert all of their weights in KGS. No issue for most, but something I would have expected to be achieved by now. Modelling on the outside of the aircraft has also been vastly improved too. There is no longer any debates over the size of the engines, the angle of the flaps or any other complain initially had with the Airbus series. This is their most impressive work yet, and even all of the texture work has been upgraded to a more high resolution giving simmers even more opportunity to take shameless amounts of screenshots of their new baby ‘bus. Another added feature is the addition of external nav, beacon and strobe lighting reflecting off of the ground. Again, this was the direct input of the community and Aerosoft have listened. If anything has impressed me with the A319/318 collection, is the upgrades Aerosoft have put into the software. I remember when they first announced that Airbus Xtended X, when they announced it to be a medium-range aircraft. Similar to that of QualityWings – a great looking model but only limited functionality. Enough to allow the simple Simmer to enjoy the day-to-day procedures of the Airbus. Whilst this is most certainly the case, the added functionality is very much welcomed as even basic MCDU functionality such as range arcs has now been included (missing before). It’s all these included extras that make the upgrade price such good value for money. Speaking of the MCDU, a lot of new functions have now been made available. Things such as HOLD and OFFSET are now included and provide an excellent tool when planning for bad weather. Also, now when you change the route in the ‘preview’ mode, the nav display will now highlight your new adjusted route in yellow – just like the real thing. Small, but invaluable improvements such as these make the A319/318 feel like a more complete package than ever before. Just as before, only the left MCDU is functional, but the right side allows for users to configure their Airbus – but more on that shortly. One of my new favourite features is the fact you can now load fuel, and payload directly in the Airbus via the right MCDU. If I hated anything from the previous airbus collections, it was the external fuel loaders. I hate them. They are a pain to work with and complete spoil any and all immersion. Thankfully, Aerosoft realised this and have given you the option to either instantly add fuel or payload, or in real-time, complete with appropriate ECAM memos. I finally can plan my flights before, operate a 4 sector day and never leave the Flight Deck. Failing that, external fuel loader-lovers can also plan and load fuel just as before. As I mentioned above, you can now use the MCDU to plan for any approaching weather. Of course, this would be pointless in the world of Simulation without some way of knowing where the weather was on your course! For those living under a rock, PMDG lead the way earlier this year by releasing a service pack for their 777 series which allowed users of Active Sky Next to use a fully working Weather Radar within the Nav display of their aircraft. Well I am happy to say that Aerosoft’s Weather Radar (which can be used with ANY Weather Engine, or even default FSX weather) works incredibly well, with very little impact on performance. From a time where developers were adamant that a WX Radar was impossible to having two products in one year with finally claiming accurate information, Simmers have truly been spoilt. Having a Weather Radar is a fantastic piece of equipment. Within the sim, you will be able to adjust the gain and tilt of the radar to pick up returns up to a very large area in front of the aircraft. As a result, you can detect clouds with precipitation within them, which includes storms and other activity. It can really make a difference to how you fly, adding both an extra challenge and thrill to a typical flight. What really impresses me about Aerosoft’s Weather Radar is the fact that any weather engine is compatible. Finally non-users of Active Sky Next can experience a true to life weather radar, complete with ground returns. It’s easy to use, immersive and impressive – everything I would want from a WX Radar. In addition to the WX Radar, a new feature has been added to the Nav display, which takes Aerosoft series far beyond their initial medium-spec’d outset. With a click of a button, you will now be able to see a completely accurate terrain database appear, to allow you to avoid conflict with nearby terrain. The level of detail in both the weather radar and the new terrain database is easily on PMDG level in terms of complexity and quality – and this is a $30 add-on! Everything else with the product feels incredibly fine-tuned. The IAE engines are now accurate and have the correct displays. The FBW settings of the aircraft have been fine-tuned, and even the taxi model has been adjusted to consider the poor friction of the FSX/P3D world. Finally, single-engine idle taxis are now possible (with a light load of course). Even the aircraft’s sound-set has been updated. Everything from start-up sounds to the impact of landing has been adjusted for a more realistic and immersive quality. Further to just improving their aircraft and systems, Aerosoft have spent a considerable amount of time on improving their co-pilot functions. Apart from fixing some issues from before, new commands and flows have been added. Again, Aerosoft realise how important it is to be immersed into your product. Although I’m not a fan myself, I can assure it works splendidly. It’s certainly a great feature to be built into the aircraft and one I hope other developers push in the future. Aerosoft are consistently fine-tuning fuel and flight dynamics. During the course of this review, they have released several updates / hotfixes which fix general issues. The on-going development work from the team is something Aerosoft have defined their business on and continues to be the best in the industry. As you can see, I am more than impressed with Aerosoft’s brand new A319/318 update. It adds so much more than just a model and slightly different flight dynamics from their A320/321 series. The improved performance, the added functionality and impressive Weather/Terrain displays easily justify the expense of upgrading. Whether you use the A319 for short/medium haul, or take the 318 for a spin across the Atlantic, you’re going to have an incredible experience. I have poured countless hours already into the Sim and you will do too. If their continued support and range of updates is anything like we’ve seen from Aerosoft before, the A319/318 will be an ever-growing project. 5/5 | Publisher: Aerosoft | Developer: Aerosoft | Price: 39.95EUR | 16.16EUR PURCHASE AEROSOFT'S AIRBUS A318/319 HERE! The sheer number of improvements, optimisations and additions to Aerosoft’s Airbus family is staggering. Everything from improved texturing to improved systems warrants not only the upgrade price, but even a full priced product. The weather radar is excellent and the new sound effects immerse me completely in the product. With more features to come, it will remain in my hanger for a long time to come. + Impressive new range of features and at a bargain upgrade/full price. + Performance friendly, even with new features inc. Weather / Terrain radar. - Still no inclusion of LBS for our American friends. - Refresh rates and texture quality of displays should be higher.
  6. When SimWings / Aerosoft announced that they were hard at work at creating a brand new Heathrow, it was met with a massive “well what is the point” from the community. Not only was UK Airport Developer Gary from UK2000 scenery hard at work at creating a brand new version of Heathrow, but it was very close from being released. However, the community suddenly perked some interest when the first screenshots were shown. Suddenly, things were heating up, and with anticipated release dates for both sceneries within spitting distance of one another, it gave consumers a massive headache – which would be the better of the two. Just as people were getting their heads around it, SimWings delayed theirs and Gary released his. At the time, it was obvious: if you wanted the most up-to-date and frame friendly Heathrow on the market, Gary’s was the way to go. However, the choice is now much more difficult as we have two excellent products on the market (let alone the numerous versions of the exciting airport from before!) As a result of this direct competition and the angst amongst you all to find out which product you should spend your money, I have divided this review into several sections allowing you to read what you want to read which will help you decide. The sections will be as follows: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE CONCLUSION All sections will cover and answer the questions that most have about SimWing’s Heathrow and how it stacks to the competition. My specs are at the bottom of the page and all my settings are pretty standard. All screenshots were taken in ‘normal’ conditions for me, so no bullshot to mislead you. I RECOMMEND READING THE WHOLE REVIEW FOR A GOOD OVERALL REVIEW ON THE PRODUCT. Let’s start: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE So you have UK2000’s Heathrow V3 - a fantastic product in its own right. It’s detailed, accurate and the most up-to-date Heathrow on the market. Not only that, but Gary is a solo developer that relies on repeat business and has always gone from strength to strength. I really enjoyed Gary’s edition of Heathrow. It was surprisingly easy on the frame rates and the VAS usage was controllable. But how does it compare to Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended? As you can see from the screenshots, Aerosoft’s Heathrow looks stunning. It is immediately noticeable as to how different it looks compared to UK2000’s Heathrow. Everything from texture work and objects are completely different. In my opinion, the texture work from SimWing’s out does Gary’s work and then some. The texturing is much more detailed and colour accurate. Something I didn’t like so much with UK2000’s Heathrow was the ‘yellow-ish’ tint that seemed to cover the airport. Taxiways and runways all looked a bit off-colour. However, SimWings have done an excellent job at creating a much more realistic and believable colour pallet. The grass verges, the runways and taxiiways all look incredible and are streaming with detail. There’s clear definition between every single object and light within the airport. I love the way that there’s clear contrast between terminal buildings and the more generic buildings of the airport. As a result, you feel like you’re actually taxing through Heathrow’s huge apron, passing distinctive and recognisable buildings. As you explore, you will notice even the finer details that make this the most up-to-date Heathrow currently on the market. For example, the Virgin Atlantic hanger is now equipped with its current logo, something already outdated in UK2000’s Heathrow. Sure it’s a small thing, but if you’re after accuracy in building placement and design, Aerosoft’s Heathrow is for you. Further to the defined texture work and new buildings, the night lighting compared to UK2000’s Heathrow is vastly better. Every single taxiway is lit up now, and the apron really comes to life with yellow tints spread throughout the airport. Compare that to the dimly lit and lacking night lighting of UK2000’s version, you will see an immediate difference. Quite simple, Aerosoft / SimWings have NAILED the night lighting and approaching the airport during dawn/dusk is simply stunning. When you install UK2000’s Heathrow, you’re given many options to help increase performance. The screenshots you see in this section have my settings on the low-amount setting offered by UK2000. Why? Simply because I wasn’t achieving an acceptable frame rate. As soon as I turn it up to High or even EXTREME then my frames sunk drastically into the low-teens. Unlike UK2000’s version, Heathrow Xtended has no options (besides the ability to turn off AES Lite around the airport) for increased performance. However, I achieve similar frame rates as I do with the current LOW setting of Gary’s Heathrow. So I am able to achieve what essentially what EXTREME would like, but with solid and acceptable frames. This alone is reason to buy it over UK2000’s Heathrow. So should you buy Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow despite owning UK2000’s? YES --- THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE So you’re fed up of default Heathrow and are unsure which Heathrow to buy. Sure, that’s fair enough with so many different Heathrow add-ons out there to buy. SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended is not the cheapest option out there. UK2000’s undercuts Aerosoft’s by just a bit, but in this money saving culture we live in, is it justifiable to spend extra for an increase in quality? If you’ve read the section above, you will know that I had a lot of praise to say about the increase in quality between the two products. There are a lot more objects, a lot more detail in the textures and the airport is much more up-to-date in terms of structure changes and signage. If this is important to you, then I recommend you spend the extra money on Aerosoft’s Heathrow Xtended. It’s easy to think that newer is always better, because for some people it may not be the case. If you wish to use things such as the airbridges (which Heathrow has a lot of), then you need to be prepared to buy AES from Aerosoft as well to enable them (also bearing in mind it’s not out yet). Yet, with UK2000’s, airbridges work by default and stick to your aircraft wonderfully. Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, the texture work of Aerosoft’s Heathrow have been designed with ORBX’s FTX Global in mind. I’m lucky enough to be in possession of both products and have it merge in wonderfully with Global and FTX England. However, UK2000’s doesn’t merge as nicely, it does however, merge nicer with default FSX. So again, if you wish to have all the perks and benefits of SimWing’s Heathrow, then you’re going to need to spend extra money. Suddenly spending a few extra pounds/euros/dollars has resulted in your spending more and more. Of course, if you own ORBX FTX Global / England and are prepared to use a few AES credits, then you’ll have no problems. That’s not to say however, that you MUST buy all the extras for the scenery, as it still looks wonderful without it and functions as intended. So should you buy SimWing’s Heathrow over the competition? YES – as it offers the best value for money in terms of performance and high quality visuals. -- THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE Every time a new Heathrow is released, one of the most requested features if a high frame rate and a much more managed VAS usage. In the day and age of extensive add-ons, high resolution textures this is a reoccurring problem for developers and consumers alike. We all crave the most realistic experience possible, but with that, we must take some sacrifices and the same has to be said here, with SimWing’s Heathrow. Much attention was given to the amount of VAS and how the scenery performs on people’s systems. There isn’t much to ‘review’ on VAS usage other than I can tell you that it only uses roughly 500mb of memory. This is nothing compared to the number of parking stands and sheer amount of detail the airport covers. Not only that, but being near London also makes it prone to an increase in VAS usage. 500mb is a completely acceptable amount, and I’ve not experienced a single OOM with the scenery as a result (I am using DX10). As always, disable any unused scenery (it takes like 2 minutes) and be conscious of the number of AI you’re using, the resolution of your textures and other OOM-causing scenarios. It’s all about compromise. In terms of performance, this is single handily the most FPS friendly Heathrow for Flight Simulation (aside default…) Ground texturing and modelling is top class, however there have been some shortcomings, which I imagine is an attempt to reduce the impact on performance. For example, taxiway signs (and there are a lot of them), aren’t quite the same high quality you’re used to seeing. Also, despite the large amount of coverage, there is a distinct lack of draw distance on the satellite imagery used. Another compromise that you’ll have to deal with is the slow-loading textures of most of the buildings. Despite loading correctly and accurately, when you start to pan your view around, you will notice that buildings are textured jet-black, until eventually they load up again. If you pan around again, wait a few minutes and look back, you’ll have to go through the same process. I imagine this is totally intentional from the developers to help keep performance as high as possible. After all, if you’re in the Flight Deck, you can’t see what’s behind you so why have it niggling away in the memory. A clever developer trick, but may affect the immersion for some. So is Performance and VAS usage a cause of concern? No! -- CONCLUSION As you can see, even when splitting down the review, the conclusion is always the same. Without a doubt, this is the BEST version of Heathrow currently on the market. Everything from the accurately placed buildings, the updated models for the new terminals and structures and the impressive texturing and performance for the airport. Heathrow is an exciting airport and will always be relevant in aviation. With so much to see and do, it’ll make for a perfect hub for so many people. Aerosoft have done an excellent job at creating a well-balanced and fantastic looking scenery. It’s fairly priced and blends in well with other popular add-ons. Despite some issues with texture loading and a lack of snowy textures during winter, there’s very little stopping me from saying this is a near perfect example of how a large scale airport should be done. 5/5 | Developer: SimWings | Publisher: Aerosoft | Price: 27.95EUR PURCHASE AEROSOFT'S MEGA AIRPORT HEATHROW XTENDED AIRPORT HERE Heathrow is and always will be a tough airport to develop for Flight Simulator. Its location and size presents headaches for pilots and developers alike, but luckily, SimWings have created a well balanced and well performing scenery package. Whether you’re new to payware for Heathrow or upgrading from alterative products, this is the defining Heathrow for Flight Simulation currently available. + Very frame and VAS friendly package. + Wonderful modelling compares to the real thing. - Occasionally slow-Loading textures when panning views. - Pricier than alternative Heathrow packages.
  7. When I began reviewing Flight Simulation products, one of my first airports I was lucky enough to fly with was JetStream Designs’ Marseille Provence Airport. If you go back to that review, you’ll see just where this fantastic developer started. Although detailed, it lacked that polish and ‘wow’ factor that so many developers had been achieving for a while now. Shortly after the release of Marseille, JetStream Designs announced that they would be covering Little Rock National Airport over in the States. To my surprise, the quality between before and after was as clear as night and day. With that in mind, has further development research mean that Metz-Nancy-Lorraine (shortened to just Metz-Nancy Airport from now on) is JetStream’s best work yet? A little research into Metz-Nancy suggests that this isn’t your typical large regional airport. Instead, this middle-ground airport replaced two previous airports in the Lorraine Region of France. As a result, in 1991, Nancy-Essay and Met-z-Frescaty airports closed its doors. Many cargo carriers then used the airport as a hub due to its great location and easy access. However, in 2006, DHL stopped using Metz-Nancy airport and it was feared the airport would be of little use. Luckily, thanks to a runway expansion, larger aircraft could now visit the airport. As a result, many airlines operate seasonal flights to and from, providing a nice array of destinations for the 300,000 yearly passengers to fly to. Despite being a great location, for Flight Simmers who enjoy operating realistic routes to and from airports, this really is a shortfall for the scenery. The lack of high-profile airliners and range of routes will find limited use for the airport. Albeit some typical European destination, there’s very little to cater to. Unless, of course, you enjoy flying Freight routes, then the large cargo areas in the airport will be of great use to you. It all depends on your flying style as to whether you use Metz-Nancy frequently. As the sun raises over the hills of Lorraine, JetStream proves itself already with some excellent night lighting. This is by far their best representation of night-lighting yet. Everything has a nice glow of orange from the nearby light fixtures, but provides enough shadow to blend in nicely with the dark skies. The ground near the terminals are lit up extremely nicely and again, provides a wonderful glow. Lamps, taxiway signs and runway lights are, again, textured extremely nicely. It makes waking up early to enjoy the beautifully done texture work worthwhile. After the first wave of departures leave and the internal flights begin to arrive, daylight has already hit Metz-Nancy airport. The detail on the new runway extension far exceeds anything JetStream Designs have managed to achieve before. The texturing is clean, clear and crisp. The yellow and grainy tint from their previous work is now gone and it finally feels like a ‘real’ runway. I can almost envisage that this is what the runway looks like in real-life – and I can assure you that this isn’t easily done. The surrounding texturing and satellite imagery is also very detailed and the highest quality yet from JetStream. The greenery, dirt and nearby fields are all visible during the approach and matches the atmosphere of the airport perfectly. From my screenshots, you can see an obvious difference between the airport’s satellite ground textures and ORBX’s FTX Europe OpenLC. Now whilst I don’t expect every developer to create ground textures matching the colour tone of every product out there, I would expect some blending to be accounted for, at least for default FSX. A quick try and saw that there was a stark difference in texture colour. Maybe we can see an improvement on this part next time from JetStream. Something that did impress me greatly was the attention given on the landside sections of the airport. Although secondary to the airport, the detail given to nearby buildings and the car park is greater than most payware developers currently. Maybe the smaller sized and simplicity of the airport allows for performance, but it’s great to see a smaller developer take on the task and raise the bar. As usual, the modelling work from JetStream is detailed and performance friendly. Everything from small little houses to the large main terminal buildings have been faithfully recreated here. The detail is also improving on each release. You see each window, door and air vent has been carefully created to the highest standard. Improving on their techniques, Metz-Nancy is incredibly easy on the frame rate both day and night – so regardless of your flying style and your machine, Metz-Nancy will work and look great. Without a doubt, Metz-Nancy Airport is JetStream Designs’ best work yet. The level of detail, the fantastic performance and the accessibility of the airport definitely demands the attention of any Simmer who is serious about their French sceneries. The improvements the team have made over the last year has been nothing short of amazing and I encourage anyone to check out Metz-Nancy. A few short comings with blended texturing certainly won’t stop me from doing a few circuits around this fantastic airport. UPDATE 04SEP2014: After speaking to the developer and also referring back to the manual, had noticed that my settings for some of the screenshots weren't high enough to display some of the ramp activity and a few of the buildings. After fine-tuning my settings, I can confirm, with a high scenery complexity, you will have some wonderfully rendered static aircraft populating the otherwise barren airport. You'll also have a few more well designed buildings, which provides a more realistic, and life-like representation of the airport. Of course, because JetStream have done such a great job, this comes at no performance hit whatsoever. 4/5 | Developer: JetStream Designs | Publisher: SimMarket | Price: 14.95EUR PURCHASE METZ-NANCY-LORRAINE AIRPORT HERE Developer JetStream Designs have really stepped up their design with Metz-Nancy-Lorraine Airport. Everything from the excellent night lighting to the new and improved ground texture work ensure that JetStream are a developer to keep a close eye on. Regardless of their next project, I’m sure I’ll be there. + Fantastic performance with such a detailed airport. + Texturing and modelling work is excellent. - Limited number of airlines / routes for ‘realistic’ simmers. - Ground textures don’t blend into FSX well.
  8. By the time I finally get around to enjoying every last drop of their previous scenery, Taxi2Gate drop a bombshell and release their next airport. Other developers must look at this fabulous team with green eyes, as their turn-around on development time is simply unlike any other developer on the market. Having just 3 months since their last release in the Caribbean, and only 5 months after their last ‘large scale’ airport, they’re back with the much anticipated release of Hamad International Airport (OTHH). Taking over from the previous Doah International Airport in Qatar, the newly built airport can now handle 3 times that of the previous airport’s volume, allowing up to 50 million people to pass through the Airport’s oasis-themed terminal buildings. The sheer size and volume of the airport allows for a large number of airlines from all over the world to fly into Qatar. Building commenced in 2005, a series of delays caused the opening of the airport to be pushed back continuously. Eventually, it opened its doors on 30th April 2014, with all carriers relocated on May 27th 2014. Fast forward, and Taxi2Gate have given us the chance to explore the wonderful and modern new airport for ourselves. As I previously mentioned, the airport was designed around an Oasis theme. Taxi2Gate have really gone above their previous work by really tapping into that theme. Immediately, you will notice the wonderful texture work around the runways. The sand dunes, the palm trees swaying in the breeze and the freshness of the buildings really give the impression of a brand new airport. The taxiways and the runways are clear of any tyre marks and there’s a clear distinction between each pavement slab and concrete block. It’s surprisingly refreshing to see such a clean, almost tarnish-free architecture, as so many airports lately have been battered and bruised. Taxi2Gate have done a wonderful job at presenting the airport in such a way. I found, however, that perhaps the texturing isn’t as sharp as usual. Some gate assignments and the imagery on nearby carts and vehicles lack that sharpness we’re used to seeing from a Taxi2Gate product. Definitely only minor, but does take away from the otherwise excellent job. As usual, each gate, jet-bridge and terminal building have been created in a realistic manner. Cables drop from the jet-bridges as you would expect and each step, window and door have been faithfully recreated. Details inside the terminal buildings are becoming the norm for the team, and yet again, we see just enough to make us feel like we’re staring into the buildings whilst awaiting our passengers. Usually cargo hangers and secondary objects are less detailed than the main airport, but in this case, everything has been given the same care and attention – and it really stands out. The metal grills of the cargo hangers all reflect surrounding light to give a truly defined building. Without a doubt, this is Taxi2Gates most visually pleasing work yet. I talk a lot about how immersive small things can make an airport, and Hamad is no different here. Moving vehicles swam the airport, giving a real sense of life at the airport. As you taxi yourself down the runway, a fuel and baggage truck could be travelling parallel to you, already ensuring you have situational awareness of what is going on. After you take off, you’ll have excellent views of Doah itself. The large sky scrapers are surprisingly detailed and the placement is accurate to that of the real life buildings. Everything from restaurants, office buildings and hotels are all present. Of course, you get these excellent views during the approach as well, meaning regardless of phase of flight around the airport, you’ll have something to immerse you into the product. Taxi2Gate should certainly share the secret to their ability to create highly detailed international airports, with a sprawling and detailed city, yet allow users to have a consistently excellent frame rate. It proves that with the right people, using the right technology and skills, that anything can be possible. Something that I found lacking with Taxi2Gate sceneries is the lack of a configuration system for users with weaker machines. Although the level of performance is excellent, to have the option to switch off certain features or increase it for those with more powerful machines is something I believe should start to become standard for sceneries in Flight Simulation. Another cause of annoyance for some could be the fact that OTHH is actually a brand new airport for Flight Sim. As such, Taxi2Gate have had to add it to the database. Because of this, AI traffic won’t recognise the scenery existing and will fly to the old Doah airport instead. Although this can be changed through documentation, at the time, there was no official statement from Taxi2Gate on how to fix this. However, I was assured that this will be included in a further update. Not so much the fault of theirs, but I believe better communication before would’ve been appreciated by the community. As the sun comes down over the city and the light sparkles over the sea, lights begin to flicker on. Suddenly, before you realise everything around you is dark, the city is lit up and the airport turns into something special. As usual, Taxi2Gate have done a remarkable job at creating subtle, yet an aptly lit airport that serves both purposes of being realistic and also functional within the Flight Simulation environment. Touches such as baked in shadows and glows off of signage really bring this airport to life in the evening. Yet again, I find myself taxiing carelessly around Hamad to explore every light-filled area. It’s simply beautiful. It should come of very little surprise that Taxi2Gate have really become a staple in the Flight Sim universe. Consistently offering fantastic, high-end quality scenery at a rapid rate. Hamad International Airport is no different. The stunning visuals and the excellent performance is a testament to the almost-perfected development process the guys go through. Accurate placement, quality textures and an interesting airport make Hamad International one of the most exciting places to fly into in Flight Simulation. 5/5 | Publisher: SimMarket | Developer: Taxi2Gate | Price: 29.74EUR Without a doubt, this is Taxi2Gate’s best scenery to date. The fantastic work into making sure the product is easy on performance yet look incredible is to be commended. The texturing and modelling is of the highest standard and the airport itself is a dream to fly into. Everyone from cargo carriers to private jets visit, giving everyone a reason to visit this exciting new airport. + Great modelling and texture work + Sublime performance means anyone can us it. - Some small sections of texturing is sub-par compared to the rest - Lack of configuration tool for those who like options. PURCHASE TAXI2GATE'S HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT HERE My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – Taxi2Gate Hamad International Airport (OTHH) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320, PMDG 777lr/f and 300er Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe.
  9. As I type this, I am currently flying the Boeing 777-300ER from London Heathrow Airport to Boston Logan International Airport. Departing 4 hours and 38 minutes ago from gate 532, I currently have 18.6 tonnes of fuel left and cruising just over the YAY VOR. I have approximately 2 hours left until touchdown. At which point, I'll shut down the taxi to stand, shut down the engines and begin the 'shutdown' checklist. Despite having completed the flight, I will already be planning the return journey and be prepared to endure the 6 hour flight time home. But why do I put myself through such long hours for a 'virtual simulation'? Quite simple really: because it's PMDG. Any true Flight Sim enthusiast will know who and what PMDG are. Precision Manuals Development Group are the team behind the revolutionary products such as the 737NGX, the 747X and the often forgotten, but always loved, MD-11. As anyone who follow the group will know, the development cycles of their products are often long, teasing and hyped until most Simmers pass out from holding their breath or by breaking their F5 key. Every update the team bring us, every screenshot on their Facebook page and every like, downvote and comment from a member of their team is followed. It's almost like a simulation on its own. In September 2013, PMDG finally released their long awaited and much wanted Triple Seven. Two variants were released: The Long Range edition and also the Freighter edition. Initially, this update a few people, mostly because the 777-200LR wasn't exactly Boeing's best selling version of the aircraft. With only around 50 or so currently flying in the world today, a lot of people (including me) had to simulate simulating a flight with an 'alien' aircraft. Despite from the same family, the LR/F handle and look vastly different to their bigger brothers. Alongside this, a lot of people claimed to have issues with the Fly-By-Wire system within the simulation, as well as a host of other smaller issues such as wind forecast errors and erroneous caution warnings. Small things, but enough to warrant addressing. Further to waiting for the -300er expansion and also a host of bug-fixes and refinements, PMDG announced that BRAND NEW and INCREDIBLE features would be included, FREE of charge. Of course, we soon learned that we would have a simulated Weather Radar and also a brand new UpLink service within the FMC. After years of companies, including PMDG, stating that a weather radar would be impossible, we finally get one that actually works. Of course, this comes with a little help from Active Sky Next. Nearly a year later, PMDG have released both the expansion and also the Service Pack (currently on SP1b, which fixed a few pause errors and a few missed items). Before I begin to review, please allow me to state I won't be reviewing the T7 as though it's a brand new product. I will be reviewing the addition of the -300er and the new features / fixes of the Service Pack. For me specifically, one of the most immediate new features of the update was the increase in performance. Some may say it is the same as before, I can assure you, after some testing, that the update brings a certain amount of "smoothness" to the product. Before panning the Virtual Cockpit would feel clunky and stutter, yet now, it feels just how SP1C of the NGX feels to me. Silky smooth throughout. Not only that, PMDG have also addresses the issue of incorrect fonts within the VC and fixed small things such as the fact the runway doesn't appear above the ETA on the ND. It's small things like this that have further increased the realism and the immersion. Something PMDG spent a lot of time focusing on was the Fly-By-Wire. As mentioned before, the team was given complaints that it just didn't "feel" right and that trim wasn't as important as it truly is in the aircraft. Numerous times, PMDG mentioned to us that they were so busy trying to get the "feel" right, and after spending a few weeks with it, you can actually tell what differences they've made – just from hand flying the beast. Although I won't explain what is happening (more so that I can't!), it may take some time for the 'pros' to understand how to fly the plane again. Before it was good, now it is great! I'm not technically minded enough to be able to explain how the FBW system works, but I can assure you that the experts and real-life pilots all agree that this now feels right. The refinement here alone goes to show just how far the team at PMDG are willing to go for the consumer to be able to enjoy the simulation to its fullest. Nothing like it has been seen before and I doubt we will for a long time. Another focus point for the team was how well the aircraft handles itself during turbulence. Such a huge aircraft with such a large span, cruising at such high speeds could mean trouble for the FSX / Weather engine. However, PMDG have done it again and developed a model that almost counteracts FSX turbulence and replaces it with their own system. Again, it's one of those things you just notice and just 'feels' more accurate. With the new weather engine, it's obvious that more and more people will purposely try and fly through heavy turbulence in an attempt to experience a thrill. PMDG have done yet another outstanding job on designing and implementing yet another revolutionary piece of kit into their already revolutionary aircraft. [Reviewer's note: This is the point now where my descent has really started and I'm currently at 7800ft with around 40 track miles left to run. I was so heavily submerged into the immersion of checking fuel, inputting my fixes for my alternates and just glaring out of the virtual window, I kept getting side-tracked from writing this review.] So as previously mentioned, the all-new Weather Radar is an inclusion that surprised many. After years of requests for PMDG to include this with their products, the long wait has finally paid off. You do need to use HiFi's Active Sky Next to be able to use the weather radar. Once you have loaded up the sim and have injected the weather, you'll immediately notice the ND light up. Despite confusion prior, a weather radar only picks up returns if there is precipitation in the air. Before where you would fly blindly into bad weather, you're now able to fully see exactly what is approaching you and allows you to tactically avoid it. As you're cruising along at FL360, you notice some lightning out of your window to your left. As you switch the range of the ND up, you then notice some red returns on your display. Switch the view up another notch and you see that red return is now on your route line and also 20 miles to your left. As such, you can actually plan how you handle the situation. In real life, pilots would contact ATC and avoid it by either vectoring or changing its flight plan. Now with the radar able to tell you this information, you can do just that. It completely changes how you fly at cruise and adds some of the exciting flying experiences I have had in flight sim. For example, I spent nearly 30 minutes holding over an airport just to allow the bad weather to pass. As you circled around, the ND would update reflecting on your moving weather. Despite holding for so long, I ended up diverting as it seemed to get worse. Before the radar, I would've approached and attempted to land anyway. Even during the cruise, I would often be vectoring or offsetting myself away from the weather. Suddenly, those long periods of nothingness just became exciting again. As you dodge, dip and climb out of bad weather, you can adjust the weather radar to show more or less returns, depending on the angle you tilt your radar and also the amount of 'gain' you apply. You are in complete control of the radar and thanks to the combination of PMDG and HiFi, you will have a true-to-life experience. There's so much to talk about, that I could probably write a review on the radar alone. Another fantastic new feature that came FREE with the Service Pack was the inclusion of a simulated FMC Company Data Link service. For those of you unsure what this does in the real-world, it essentially pulls in information sent by the airline to the aircraft to make everything more automated and save the pilots manually inputting the information in. For example, things such as route, expected ZFW and cost index are all sent to the aircraft via a Data Link connection. Now before you ask, PMDG are not sending you all this information, instead it is pulled from various sources local on your PC or within the Simulator itself. Just as before, you can type in a COROUTE code and expect to see the outcome exactly as specified. So if you typed in for example EGLLKBOS01 you would pull in the route from that file name. The Data Link works similarly, but now acts a little more automated. Say for example, you typed in EGLL in the destination box and KBOS in the arrival, and hit "ROUTE REQUEST", it will now pull in your route file automatically. Technically, it's the same thing, but the immersion factor has been increased because of it. The same applies to things such as wind aloft and descent wind data. Now pulled from Active Sky Next and your local .wx files (from pre-SP1), you will now be able to update your on-route wind data, on the fly. It means you can keep your ETA more up-to-date and also have a more accurate TOD calculated. There's a range of other quirks using the Data Link feature, but I believe it's quite exciting to experience it for yourself. Of course, one of the more anticipated releases from the Service Pack was also the fact the -300ER would be released on the same day. True to their word, PMDG released the largest in the Triple Seven family together with the new service pack. Now I've never been one to be so excited for what is essentially an add-on for an add-on, but I can claim without a doubt that the -300ER is easily my favourite aircraft within the Flight Sim universe. The extra length, the increased weight and the engines just seem to fit hand in hand. Whereas the 200LR felt very light and fluffy, the 300ER just feels like the engines were designed around it. It doesn't feel too heavy and seeing speeds as high as 180 for your V2 speeds is quite exciting. Taxiing the beast is also more challenging than before due to the extra length. However, a handy gear-cam will assist you here. Although not something I will use often due to the rapid decrease in performance, it's a testament to PMDG for their continued efforts to please everyone in the hobby. I've been asked many times if I feel the 300ER is worth the £20/$30 upgrade. I would quite honestly say the Service Pack alone is worth the extra entry fee. The inclusion of so many new features and a whole host of bug fixes (including new features in the PMDG Ops Centre, which I haven't even covered) justify the cost easily. Throw in a whole new aircraft, with completely different characteristics of its baby brother and you've got yourself an incredibly complete package. Without a doubt PMDG are at the top of their game with the release of the Triple Seven. The continued updates, the attention to detail and the sheer amount of detail the aircraft would last you years and years. I have already had countless hours exploring every nook and cranny of the beautifully rendered flight deck and hope to have countless more. As I head back over the Atlantic to Heathrow, I'm already planning where I will be taking her next. 5/5 | Publisher: PMDG | Developer: PMDG | Price: Base: $89.99 / -300ER: $29.99 / SP1: Included Without a doubt, the PMDG 777-300ER is my new favourite aircraft in Flight Simulation. The ease of use, the diversity in range and routes, the fantastically designed Virtual Cockpit and the incredible depth to the systems keep me coming back for more and more. This is a revolutionary product, that keeps becoming more and more intuitive thanks to new innovations such as Data Link and the Weather Engine. Regardless of cost, the -300er is different enough to warrant an immediate purchase. + Quite simply, the most detailed aircraft currently on the market. + Free service pack update includes working Weather Engine and more! - High price tag for some. - Steep leaving curve for new-comers. My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – Taxi2Gate's Hammad Intl. Airport (OTHH) Aircraft – PMDG 777-300ER Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe.
  10. I must admit, Lisbon has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. Both in the Flight Sim world and also in real life. The history of the city, the environment and the country have always been both exciting and thrilling for me. Completely unsure why, but the excitement I had when Aerosoft announced they would be revisiting Lisbon to bring it up-to-date and to current Flight Sim standards, was incredible. I would follow the previews religiously, always seeking the latest updates and trying to poach for a release date. Finally the day came and I downloaded without hesitation. The capital of Portugal is famous for its vibrant city and busy nightlife. It’s also a popular holiday destination, as well as a place where an increasing number of people travel to for business. As such, it has been hailed as one of the best equipped airports in Western Europe and has won many awards for it. In 2013, over 16 million people walked through the several terminal buildings of Lisbon. Airlines from all over the world fly to and from Lisbon, including TAP Portugal, Air France and Ryanair. Its diverse range of airlines makes it a gateway to many destinations. Installation was easy, and once installed, I immediately read through the nicely detailed manual. As expected, everything I needed to know was covered within the 20 or so pages. I set up my Flight Sim to the specified settings and adjusted my settings using the configuration tools included. Despite not being nearly as ‘configurable’ as other Aerosoft airports, there are enough options to satisfy the needs of the many and not of the few. One such option was to adjust the resolution of the textures. You have the choice of either 1024 or 2048. For the purposes of performance, I tested with both and was unable to spot significant differences. However, in today’s modern FSX world, I sacrificed pixels for performance and kept the lower resolution running. Filled with excitement, I loaded up the Airbus and decided to do a short hop from Faro to Lisbon. After take off, I prepared the approach and the landing. Everything was shaping up nicely: the weather was perfect, the nav data matched the charts and I had full Vatsim ATC coverage. Despite some issues on my end setting up the ILS (Whoops), everything was smooth and looked incredible. However, this is where the problems for me started. Turning onto final approach, I noticed my system began to struggle under the load. Was it the newly installed (at the time) FTX OpenLC package? Was it the fact I was online? Did I encounter a bug with the Airbus? Soon after, it was apparent that the newly installed V2 of Lisbon was causing me strange and sever micro-stutters. Enough so that I had to close FSX and start again. Not one to think Aerosoft released a product with these kinds of issues, I was taken back. Did the same flight….same thing again. Turning down all of the settings I could, I soon discovered that having the Mesh and Autogen setting turned up past 19m and Sparse, I suffered really, really bad spikes in my frame rates. This explains why this review has taken so long to come out. I explained my problems to Aerosoft and assured me nothing like this was seen in testing. As such, I performed a clean install of FSX, deleted all cached and temp files and ran a registry cleaning tool. I even dismantled my PC, ensured all my parts were good, and reinstalled all necessary drivers. Despite all my best efforts, I still had the same issues. I tested the product with every possible configuration I could think of. Ultimately, I figured that the scenery was causing these issues, as even the default airport with high mesh and autogen was causing me no issues. My suspicions were confirmed for me by a few LiveStreamers on Twitch. They had the exact same problem as me with similar spec’d computers. Since then, I’ve been waiting for Aerosoft to patch Lisbon, but sadly, nothing appears to be in the works. So why have I focused the first half on these micro-stutter problems? Well, quite simply, because everything else about the airport is nigh-on perfect. The initial impressions on the texture work left me in amazement. This is truly on-par with the best of the best in terms of detail. I could almost feel the aircraft shaking as it taxied over each bump, stone and piece of dirt. The weathered effect on the older sections of the airport are mesmerising and the cleanliness on the newer parts just demonstrates the attention to detail the developer has put into the project. As you approach the terminal and hanger buildings, you’ll again recognise the quality of the project. Everything from air vents to screws has been complete to ensure maximum realism. I was completely blown away by the detail – and you will be too. Despite my high praise for the texture work and modelling, Flight Simulation scenery has certainly come on leaps and bounds in recent times. Things such as volumetric grass, 3D passenger terminal interiors and even 3D people have been implemented in large international airports. Sadly, none of these features appear with Lisbon. Disappointing? Sure. Does it affect the overall quality of the product? Not at all. There was a lot of complaints during development that the lack of surrounding city would put them off from purchasing the airport. However, I can assure you, that despite this, the satellite imagery has been put to excellent use and provides an immersive approach, regardless of runway in use. You’ll recognise the red-roofed buildings, the swimming pools and surrounding tennis courts you should be so familiar with. I did, however, note some issues with it. Some of the mentioned tennis courts are hills and the terrain clearly wasn’t designed around the imagery. In such a competitive market, I believe being nitpicky is what is expected of me as a reviewer. Although I will miss some of the hand-placed buildings from V1, the extra detail in the airport itself is far more important to me. I’m in a tough situation. Aerosoft have done, as expected, an outstanding job on recreating an older product. It’s been updated to reflect the current Lisbon Airport as we know it and it simply looks stunning. However, those awful micro-stutters really hurt the overall enjoyment of the product. The frame rate is incredibly good for such a detailed airport, but something within the code seems to keep loading really badly. If you’re able to look past some small issues, Lisbon is an essential part of your collection. It is a fantastic location and hosts a great number of different airlines, giving you many reasons to re-visit this wonderful airport. 3/5 | Publisher: Aerosoft | Developer: Aerosoft | Price: 24.95EUR Yet another excellent airport from Aerosoft. Its fantastic texturing, modelling and building placement are all top quality and of a high standard. Despite all of the wonderful features of the airport, the micro-stutters drop the quality of the overall product. Maybe in the future we will see an update, and I still believe Mega Airport Lisbon V2 is worthy of a purchase. + Wonderful texture work - crystal clear, yet just enough weathering. + The night textures are some of the best I have ever seen. - Micro-stutters with Autogen and high mesh settings - Some odd placement of satellite imagery. My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – Aerosoft Mega Airport Lisbon V2 (LPPT) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320 Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe.
  11. Aerosoft are certainly no stranger to the airport of Norway. Often created because of their fantastic, magical and scenic approaches, it’s no surprise Aerosoft have taken on Bergen. As the second busiest airport in Norway, after Oslo, of course, Bergen sees a range of airline traffic. Everything from Cargo operations and domestic flights to long haul international flights. The diversity available for simmers around the world is one of the many compelling reasons to visit this airport. Bergen Airport, situated in Hordaland in Norway, shares its home with several airlines including Norwegian, SAS and Bergen Air Transport. With nearly 3000m worth of runway available, aircraft of all sizes can visit the airport, with some of the largest being an A340-300. Even with heavy aircraft and the fullest of loads, the length of runway will ensure a safe landing. In 2013, the airport saw over 6m passengers, flying to 50 destinations across the Globe. For a small regional, Norwegian airport, it sees a lot of activity – enticing even the most casual of Simmers. One of my favourite features of Bergen X is the inclusion of a configuration tool. Although this should be a standard feature, the number of options to help with performance is amongst the most detailed I have ever seen. Everything from the texture resolution, to the quality of the trees is editable. Even minute details such as runway marking colours can be configured to your desire. (white = current and realistic or yellow = previous colour and often associated with Norwegian airports). Instances such as these separate the developers from other airport designers out there. In flight simulation there isn’t a “one-size fits all” and options such as these allow everyone to enjoy the scenery. Once you’re all configured and you step into the Sim, the first thing you’ll immediately notice is the dominant blue terminal building. Despite its basic properties and dull-looking colours, it’s going to stick with you and become instantly recognisable. This is certainly helped by its fantastic modelling work, and excellent texturing. Even on the lower resolution, the entire building is detailed right down to the last screw. Taking a closer look, you’ll actually notice that the inside of the terminal buildings are also fully rendered too. The glass windows add an extra dimension whilst prepping your flight deck ready for departure. Something else that adds to the realism of the airport is the 3D passengers moving around the airport. With very little frame rate lost from enabling it, I’m surprised more developers aren’t doing it too. It helps to make everything feel like a ‘complete’ package. Unsurprisingly, they’re not the most realistic looking models, nor the most detailed, but in relation to what their purpose is here, it suits the airport perfectly. The airport itself has been wonderfully recreated. Capturing that typical “Norwegian” feel as you approach the shore-lined airport. The approach lights, the runway details and the taxiway signs are all sharp and correct – just as you would expect from Aerosoft. The quality is as impeccable as Oslo V2 – which is saying something. Without a doubt, the developer has nailed the worn-effect of these weather-beaten runways, the dirty grass verges between the taxiways and the weathered effects on the terminal buildings. Each structure is eye-candy and you’ll have to be careful to not verge close to them during taxiing just to get a better view of the detail put into them. One common issue I keep having with scenery currently, is the lack of detail for the ‘landside’ areas. I appreciate in flight simulation, we mostly stick to what we see ‘airside’ – after all, this is where we fly. However, the texture resolution and level of detail lacks quite desperately. Perhaps in an attempt to save on performance, or reduce development time, maybe? Either way, for all of the great looking features of Bergen, it does fall short. The satellite imagery of the car park with blocky 3D cars just hinder what would have been a perfect airport for your collection. During the course of the review, I came across the dreaded micro-stutter. Now, believe me when I say that I have tried everything to rid my micro-stutters before commencing this review. I know it’s a highly detailed airport near a lot of auto-generated trees and foliage. However despite my best efforts of turning the sliders down, turning off the intensive settings in the configuration menu and also switching off auto-gen, I still managed to have micro-stutters occur. To make sure it wasn’t my system, I tried a variety of airports in various locations and none of them caused me much issue. Let me iterate that the micro-stutters were few and far between – nothing to really ruin your experience. Frustrating? Yes. Unflying and unenjoyable? Most certainly not. [N.B. You can see my specs down at the bottom] Bergen was everything I had come to expect from the creative minds at Aerosoft. It is detailed, highly accurate and, for the most part, performance friendly. It’s user-friendly configurator really ensures that everyone can enjoy the scenery to the best of their hardware. A beautiful airport, in a beautiful destination certainly puts it at the top of my radar. Bergen X is certainly value for money and an airport I find myself visiting over and over again. 4/5 | Publisher: Aerosoft | Developer: Aerosoft | Price: 17.95EUR Aerosoft have yet to let me down with their airport sceneries. Bergen X is certainly no exception and proves that Aerosoft really know what they’re doing. Norway was a region that has been neglected up until now and suddenly we’re spoilt for choice! Despite some issues which hampen the experience slightly, Bergen X is a solid purchase with a lot of options to keep systems across the board happy. + Great rendition of a beautiful and scenic airport. + Huge amount of customisation for any system. - Some issues with micro-stutters that appear related to the airport. - Impressive detail stops once you look 'landside' of the airport. Purchase Aerosoft's Bergen X here. My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – Aerosoft's Bergen X (ENBR) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320, PMDG 737NGX Utilities - REX4 Textures, FS Global Real Weather, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe
  12. When ORBX first announced that they would be covering the entire globe with their FTX Global series, it seemed way too good to be true. Fast forward and they have successfully managed to release two ‘Global’ products. Those obviously being both FTX Global and FTX Vector. Both releases were met with universal praise and went on to being some of ORBX’s most successful product launches. Of course, these products were never meant to be the “ends all” for their true “Global” remake. This is where OpenLC (LC = Land Class) comes into play. Now I want to make things very clear before I proceed: EUROPE OPENLC covers just that: Europe. This is not a global product unlike the previously mentioned products. The idea behind this is to allow users to choose the regions they’re most interested in. This saves development time for ORBX, reduces the overall cost of the product for the user and also helps to keep your Flight Sim hard drive to be kept clean and to a minimum. It also allows ORBX to really polish and refine each region to be as accurate and true-to-life as possible. Another point to note is the term “OpenLC”. LC, or Land Class essentially tells the simulator what kind of ‘ground’ to display within the sim. So for example, if the data says “rock” then the sim will display the “rock” texture, which was included with the FTX Global base pack. It also tells the sim where towns and villages are, meaning most remote places in Europe are now visible. Obviously this is me simplifying the technology and dedication the team at ORBX have put into the product, but hopefully it gives you a better understanding of what the product is, and not what you hope it will do. I can assure you, that whilst the new Land Class data is excellent, it’s only as good as what the system can read. This is no alternative to replacing your full FTX regions, but it vastly increases the realism in what you see depicted in the sim. That’s right, I said ‘vastly’. It truly is the difference between night and day, or Winter and Summer, or black and white. Just look at the screenshots. It’s clear that ORBX have invested a lot of time, dedication and resources into achieving as much accuracy as possible with the product. With over 10 million sq km handcrafted Land Class, it’s easy to see why the product’s timeline slipped a few times. Once you see what has been achieved, it’s hard to be mad at them! It’s breath-taking, beautiful and breaths a whole lease of life into the Sim. I will never fly without OpenLC again. One of the biggest concerns I’m sure many of you have is the total cost of the product. Obviously you will need to have FTX Global for OpenLC to work and it’s advisable to get FTX Vector to truly make this a recreation of Europe. The costs add-up quickly. That’s three products just for one purpose. From a business prospective, I completely understand, but from a consumer’s point of view – I also understand it’s not the cheapest hobby to shell out. However, I honestly believe that ORBX’s ‘Global’ vision is value for money. Let’s put things into prospective. GLOBAL = 69.96EUR – MUST have for OpenLC. VECTOR = 48.96EUR – Highly Recommend (but not needed) for OpenLC. OPENLC = 27.26EUR – Europe, each region will be priced individually. TOTAL = 146.18EUR Not cheap at all. However, if you purchased Global last year when it was, that’s nearly half of that cost already gone. If you don’t need Vector, then you’re only looking at spending 27.26EUR – pretty low cost for the coverage you’re receiving. Some of the bigger airports in the FSX world cost more than that, for substantially less “Sim Space”. Obviously, if you’re yet to own any of the products, then you’re looking at a bigger investment…. Key word here, “Investment”. It’s an investment as ORBX have promised to provide free updates to their Global range. If you buy version 1.2 of Global, and they release 1.5 next year, you will get that update free. The same with all other products from their Global Range. It’s that customer focused attitude and honesty that set ORBX products above the rest. With improvements for vector and land class data becoming more and more available, ORBX will continuously push that out to their customers through service packs. I can see that for as long as I use FSX/Prepar3d, I will have the Global Range on my PC. Certainly a small price to pay for the upgrade in quality from stock scenery. It’s difficult to review such a package as FTX Global Europe Open LC due to the sheer quantity of what is different than before. Instead, I have created a wide range of BEFORE and AFTER screenshots demonstrating the improvements you see from installing OpenLC and exactly what the product does. PLEASE NOTE, THE SCREENSHOTS ARE ANNOTATED. BEFORE = FSX + FTX GLOBAL + FTX VECTOR AFTER = FSX + FTX GLOBAL + FTX VECTOR + EUROPE OPENLC The screenshots were never intended to show vanilla FSX compared to openLC, just what improvement the additional cost involved between Global and openLC would bring. As you can see, the difference is defined and clear. You may ask “but some areas have less city land class in”, in which case, is probably right. Not every town and city is as huge as what the current FSX land class represents. ORBX have spent a lot of time ensuring that the data is accurate and believable. I am totally and completely convinced that ORBX have really outdone themselves with the release of FTXG openLC. There is nothing in the market that compares in the modern market. It is a costly venture, but one that will be supported and used for many, many years to come. Unlike a standalone airport, Europe will remain one of my most visited areas on the Globe. The combination of ORBX’s Global Product line works flawlessly and provides such a rich and immersive environment, it’s hard to not get excited about their future openLC packs and what else they have in store! 5/5 | Publisher: Flight Sim Store | Developer: ORBX | Price: 27.26EUR Despite being an add-on for an add-on, FTX Global Europe OpenLC delivers on the promise ORBX set out years ago. It’s delivered a breath-taking and stunning overview of Europe’s diverse landclass. Full towns and villages now appear, with more attention to detail to mountainous areas and forestation. A absolute must-buy for European routes and a great insight for future openLC from ORBX. + 10million sq KM covered in just one package. + Breaths new life into Europe making it much more realistic. - Although an 'investment', can appear costly to newcomers. - Some areas appear more "refined" than others. Purchase ORBX's FTX Global Europe OpenLC Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe, Aerosoft's Mega Airport Lisbon (LPPT) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320, A2A's Piper Cherokee Utilities - REX4 Textures, FS Global Real Weather, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector
  13. Asia is by far the most growing economy for Aviation. It is constantly turning out huge international airports. Carriers are buying bigger and better aircraft constantly and there’s a growing number of operators. In the world of Flight Simulation, it’s relatively shocking that Asia has only just began seeing airports and scenery packages created for it. Of course, getting the required information for the developers is tough, but that hasn’t stopped ImagineSim from taking advantage of the gap in the market. By creating Shanghai Pudong International Airport, ImagineSim have allowed simmers to begin, end or even stop-over in one of China’s most important airports. Being the most populated City in all of China, Shanghai serves as a vital hub for the country. By operating hundreds of routes across the Globe, there is likely to be several routes of your airliner of choice to allow you to visit Shanghai. With 60 million passengers currently passing through one of the two terminals at Shanghai, it’s certainly a busy airport. Four runways, a vast array of freight operations and intertwining taxiways make for a challenging and varied airport. If you’re familiar with ImagineSim’s previous work, you’ll already have some expectations. Having used their previous sceneries before, I can promise you that Shanghai Pudong International Airport is their best package yet. As you load up the sim, you’ll immediately notice the attention to detail in the runways and nearby taxiways. Without looking at any other aspect of the airport, you already have a ‘feeling’ that this is an add-on of quality. A quick pan of the camera and I am pleasantly shocked by the frame-friendly airport. Despite its size, it holds a nice steady frame rate. However, as soon as I began adding traffic and weather, things began to take a hit. As always with FSX, things need to be in moderation for you to immerse yourself fully. One of the most striking features of the airport is the beautifully designed terminal buildings. Despite being a logistic nightmare for passengers, it’s lengthy, glass-sheltered construction is beautifully rendered in FSX. Passengers and utilities are rendered and textured inside the glass terminals to really make you feel you’re prepping your CDU with hundreds of anxious passengers hounding at your to hurry up. Once you’re done, you can begin boarding. Sadly, by default, the JetBridges don’t work, but AES has you covered. A little disappointing, but not a make-or-break situation. I spent a lot of time taxiing through the sprawling airport. There’s certainly a wide variety of taxiways for you to choose from when arriving or departing. All of them are detailed and correct as per the real-life airport. Included with the package is charts of the airport, but sadly, none of the terminal procedures – although easy to find on the Internet. One of the more sophisticated features of the airport is the use of a Guidance System. Although most scenery packages include them these days, ImagineSim have gone the extra mile. Accurately creating the same guidance system used at Shanghai. Instructions in the manual are very simple to follow and showcases just how detailed the team have made the airport. Different signals represent varying speeds you should be pulling into stand, whilst the typical traffic light system informs the pilots the position of the aircraft to the ideal parking position. As I’ve mentioned earlier, China has been relatively untouched by developers in the Flight Sim community. Fortunately, ImagineSim have provided some excellent high-resolution photoscenery surrounding the perimeter of the airport. As you approach the airport, the ground below you will look incredibly realistic. Using FTX Global, I found it blended in very nicely, despite not being a feature of the airport. It certainly shows the quality ImagineSim were aiming for with Shanghai. Whilst I am impressed with the quality of the day textures, I am less-so with the night textures. Despite some great use of 3D lighting on the runway / taxiways, I find that not enough of the same love and care have been used in creating wonderful night lighting on the buildings themselves. From the screenshots, you can see that the buildings look very bright. I am fully aware of the limitations of the FSX engine, yet other developers have overcome this by creating a slightly darker texture pallet for buildings to compensate. Perhaps, as well, we have been spoilt lately from other developers, but the ground lighting near the aprons again don’t seem to be of high quality. It’s a massive shame, as had ImagineSim managed to get this right, I would find it very hard to find any flaws with the scenery. ImagineSim have really come out their shell with Shanghai. Taking on an airport that so many people have on their wish list, and one that would appear to be hard to get accurate data on, would probably have left people worrying about the final quality of the product. However, I can say without doubt that this is one of the best Asian scenery releases in recent times. From a very fair performance compensation to high quality textures in and around the airport, ImagineSim have proven to be a worthy contender in the Airport Add-On competition. I can only hope the team take on more ‘must-have’ airports in the future! 4/5 | Publisher: SimMarket | Developer: ImagineSim | Price: 24.99EUR Incredible work from the team at ImagineSim. Shanghai is a must have airport if you intend on flying to China. As an easy access airport to the world and Asia, it’s wonderful to see this much detail, but still provide some decent performance. Just be aware it’s still not the highest detailed airport compared to other developers, ImagineSim are certainly getting close. + Easy to use and quick to install. Also very quick to inject the weather. + Great local weather effects based on surrounding terrain and weather. - Night textures on buildings are too ‘bright’. - Would be nice to see native JetBridge support. Purchase ImagineSim’s Shanghai Pudong Intl Airport (ZSPD) Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery – ImagineSim’s Shanghai Pudong Intl Airport (ZSPD) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320, PMDG 777-200LR/F/300ERX Utilities - REX4 Textures, FS Global Real Weather, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  14. Weather engines for the world of Flight Simulation have always been of great debate. X engine looks really snazzy, whilst Y engine has all of these neat features. Z engine uses real-world data to create my weather patterns. The debate goes on and on. The big contenders at the time were Active Sky and REX. Even OPUS was a major contender, but all of them had flaws or something that some users just did not like. Then, out of the blue, Pilots, typically known for their Mesh packages, released a brand new Weather Engine, claiming to be the best available. Whether it still holds true following various updates from other developers, we will now find out. The installation process is very straight forward and it gives you a range of language options to choose from, catering to a range of users from all over the world. The clean UI is consistent throughout the installation process. One thing I was pleased to see was the inclusion of an update list. Using this, you will be able to easily identify the changes made to the latest version of the software. Handy to ensure you have the latest and greatest version. At this point, you’re then presented with the main User Interface. A clear, clean and easy to use system with logic applied throughout. Unlike some weather engines, everything looks great and is systematic. You want to inject the selected weather, just hit the button to do so. Want to find options, just find the options tab and select your sim. It’s easy and intuitive to use. It sounds petty that I am commented so highly on the UI, but it’s surprising how you miss such intuition when switching to other add-ons. Once you have selected whether you want to download either current weather or historical weather, it will take just a matter of seconds to download the data. Once it has, you can search any airport for its current conditions. If you don’t know where you want to fly from, you can also filter the different kinds of weather you want to find. For example, if you want to try some CAT3 approaches, you can search very specifically for those conditions. It will then give you a list of airports meeting your weather requirements. Simply load up the sim, import the weather and BAM, there’s the weather conditions to go flying in. It’s all very intuitive and each to use. Once in the sim, you can see clearly the effect Pilot’s FS Global Real Weather is having on the environment. Clouds form giant overcast conditions above you and you can almost feel the breeze of the winds around you. Often one of the biggest complaints is the way in which the clouds form above you, in that they form in a pattern-like way. I’m pleased to say Pilots have managed to avoid this and have created an elegant solution. You can see cloud formations above and for miles away. No longer will you see the same FEW or SCT surrounding you, even if the nearest airports are experiencing something completely different. You can see from my screenshots, that each cloud formation is unique, different and carries a real sense of realism. For those interested, I’m using REX4 clouds. One of my favourite features for the weather engine is the ability for the developers to create, what they call “Local Weather Effects”. This fantastic feature allows you to experience forces, winds and tremors experienced by real pilots as they approach airports known for their unique weather. For example, as you approach Funchal, Maderia, the surrounding terrain and high cliffs cause the wind to get extremely turbulent on final approach. The FSGRW Weather Engine and the “Local Effects” simulate this exact behaviour based on the current weather at the airport. It’s not random and is incredibly realistic. There are loads of “Local Effects” programmed into the software, with more released with each new build. There’s a full list available on their website. It’s certainly my favourite feature and one that can make that challenging approach even more challenging. Further options include the ability to reset the AI traffic, to not cause any inconsistencies whilst on the ground, and also the ability to change the ‘look’ of the clouds from big, fluffy and picturesque, although less realistic, to a more realistic and flat look. This ability really gives the user the freedom to create scenarios they want. Another nifty feature is the ability to tell the engine what aircraft you’re flying, and at what altitude, and it will give you a fairly accurate en-route weather report. It will give you information such as head/tail wind, as well as a rough flight time, based on the aircraft’s performance. It’s all these extra features that set FS Global Real Weather apart from the rest. Incredibly, another Weather Engine add-on manages to impress me. Further improving the user interface and adding some incredibly unique features, Pilots have created an immersive and realistic weather engine. It’s fast, easy to use and allows for some smooth weather changes. It’s clear that Pilot’s mean business and with their frequent updates and compatibility with several simulators in one package, it’s clear that FS Global Real Weather is a serious contended in the crowded market. Final Summary text version: 4/5 | Publisher: Pilot's | Developer: Pilot's | Price: 39.99EUR Packed to the brim with features, FS Global Real Weather is a fantastic contender with the likes of Active Sky and Rex. Although it may be just a “weather engine”, it’s Local Weather keeps the software fresh and inviting. The easy to use set-up and speed the weather gets injected certainly gives Pilot’s the edge they need against the competition. + Easy to use and quick to install. Also very quick to inject the weather. + Great local weather effects based on surrounding terrain and weather. - Some problems when flying payware aircraft against strong crosswinds. - Not as visually appealing as other weather engines. Purchase Pilot's FS Global Real Weather Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - UK2000 Scenery's Bristol Airport (EGGD), UK2000 Scenery's Heathrow V3 (EGLL), Flight Beam Washington Dulles (KIAD) Aircraft - A2A's Piper Cherokee, PMDG 777-200LR/F Utilities - REX4 Textures, FS Global Real Weather, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  15. REVIEWERS NOTES: Some of the screenshots represent a lack of FTX Scotland Scenery. You will notice that some terrain issues primarily near to the cliff edges look out of place. I can confirm that Sumbrugh works without FTX Scotland, but you will receive the most out of the scenery if you have it installed. Please always read the relevant information before making a purchase. Before Orbx or 29Palms had announced they would be bringing Sumbrugh airport to Flight Simulation, it had always held dear in my heart. Knowing closely people who flew there on a regular basis had always made me intrigued by the difficult approach, and short, bumpy runway. I had watched countless videos displaying detailed approaches and take-offs from the airport, and even had the chance to spend a day up there to watch aircraft come in and out. It was thrilling. Seeing the larger dash 8 aircraft land on such a tight runway was almost as exciting as seeing a 747 land at St. Maarten. You can then imagine my excitement when one of my favourite developers posted a teaser video showcasing they would be heading to the Shetland Isles and recreating this magnificent airport. I will be taking on this review from a much different style. I will be walking you through “a day in the life of…” showcasing the many different aspects of the scenery package from day to night. Date: June 1st 2014. Time: 1600z (1700 local) Location: Sumbrugh Airport (EGPB) Mission: To fly around the island, preform several touch-and-gos and then a full stop landing before heading home. The mission log: 1602z: The day starts out just like any other. The sun is shining, the birds are out, and there’s a lovely temperature of 14c in the air. Perfect conditions for flying, with a light southerly breeze of around 4-6kts. As I approach my beautiful Piper Cherokee, I can see my reflection from the edge of the wing tips. I straighten out my hair and begin my pre-flight checks. Everything with the aircraft is in order. As I approach the door on the right, I find myself tripping over some of the stones resting on the floor. I then climb in, cozy myself up and start the engines. It’s at this point, that I realise just how well maintained the airport apron is. The taxi-way signs are all there, the markings on the ground are clear and easy to use and reflect exactly how I remember when I last visited Sumbrugh. 1609z: With the engines primed and ready, I release the breaks and begin rolling towards RWY27. As the aircraft bounced around, up and down the hilly taxi-way, I notice the airfield is extremely busy today. Must be all those holiday makers escaping during the school half term. There’s plenty of aircraft to see today; Dash 8, Cessna aircraft and more. What made the airport even busier was the contestant stream of vehicles. I saw firetrucks, op support vans and fuel trucks. None of these distractions caused me to deviate through the airport’s well laid out taxi-ways. The signage was clear and precise. I was particularly impressed with how maintained the surrounding grass was kept. Plenty of it everywhere, really creating a sense of forestation. I soon managed to find myself at the holding point where ATC had instructed me to hold short. 1612z: “Line up and wait,” I was told over my headset. I switched on the strobe and landing lights. Apprehensively, I closed the window to the side of me and lined up. At this point, a few butterflies fluttered through my stomach. I could see just how sloped this runway was. Although no traffic was able to land here, this immersion factor was far greater and created a much more nerve-racking and exciting take-off. The runway ahead sloped up, down, left and right. “Cleared to take-off,” as I then take a deep breath and pushed forward on the throttle. “80knts” I thought to myself, as I glanced down the short runway to see how much I had left. Now that I got myself airborne, it was time to breath a sign of relief. The bumpiness of the ground below me was a thing of the past and with a knock of two here and there from the light breeze, I was ready to explore this beautiful Shetland Island. 1614z: Even straight after take-off I was left speechless. The airport was now a distant memory, but the same quality persisted all over. The huge cliffs created a slightly surreal shadowy effect, but suited the style of this island, whilst the nearby fields were brimming with colour and radiance. I could clearly define the coastlines and found I could watch the tide break into the giant rocks below all day long. Although I had planned on doing some circuit training, I found it more thrilling to explore as much of the island as I could. I passed over villages, small towns, various roads, beaches and lakes. There was a huge variety of things to ‘wow’ me as I soared over it all. Nothing looked blurry or out of place, and I found the whole experience to be smooth and fluid (no stutters). The locals have cleared invested in a lot of time perfecting their unique style. 1657z: After being sucked in with how beautiful Sumbrugh looks, I decided to start flying some touch-and-gos. I managed to snap a few shots of the several approaches I made, and as you can see, they’re all pretty entertaining. Some over land and one over water makes each visit different. I was lucky that ATC let me chose which runway I could land on. Approaching runway 33 was by far my favourite. You will need to fly the initial approach from the West to avoid the tall cliffs that sit just south of the runway. I can imagine that during low visibility or high winds, it would be an incredible challenging approach. Couple that with the small village and hills below you, I would have to be even more cautious, regardless of whether I was flying IFR or VFR into the airport. 1835z: With several touch-and-gos completed, I send my little baby back to the hanger for some much needed rest (and a change in spark plugs…whoops). It was a very tidy looking warehouse, but looked great nonetheless. Before my flight hope, I decided to take one final look around the airport and its vicinity. Everything looked great. I was surprised at how well the airport looks considering it doesn’t hold strong for the best weather award. As I passed busy workers cleaning and sweeping, I headed for the huge carpark, just outside the perimeter fence. Again, a lot of work has clearly been put into the airport to make sure it’s ready for passengers. The road layouts and signs were clearly marked. I certainly didn’t get lost finding my way back. 1918z: As dusk took over the skies, I managed to hitch a ride with one of the ground ops personnel who was kind enough to take me over to one of the coasts found inside the airport area. It was a wonderful sight to see the runways and aprons lit up so nicely, with the sun just peeking through the clouds. As we drove down the runway, I couldn’t help but feel slightly blinded by the amount of bright lights. I imagine that during the evening, the airport is just as beautiful and just as rich in character. It was just a matter of time before my flight home was due to land, and just as this thought crossed my mind, the beautiful looking Dash 8 -400 came hurtling down the runway. 1950z: With the night sky ahead of me, it was finally time to board the flight home. It had been an incredible experience. Everything from the dirt tracks in the tarmac, the hilly runway and the greatly detailed surrounding area made flying around Sumbrugh one of the most exciting small airports I’ve seen. Being able to explore so many possibilities will ensure Sumbrugh remains an airport I can revisit time and time again. As I close this log entry, I can honestly say that without a doubt I will be returning. This time, I plan on tackling some IFR flying in rough conditions, but in the meantime, I will be recommending to all my friends to give it a shot at Sumbrugh. Final Summary text version: 5/5 | Publisher: ORBX | Developer: 29Palms | Price: $30.68 29Palms have done it again. Yet another remarkable and highly detailed airport. With its excellent flexibility thanks to the detailed control panel, users can enjoy all the aspects of this excellent release. The great use of the sloped runway and taxiways make for a challenging and realistic approach, and the superb ground details represent another achievement for the developers. Regardless of flying style, Sumbrugh has something for everyone. + Fantastic texture and modelling work, with detailed airport and area. + Exciting approach and challenging runways - Some terrain issues with taxiing on the sloped runways. - Ocean mismatch too obvious from scenery to FSX colouring. Purchase Orbx's Sumbrugh Airport (EGPB) Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - Orbx's Sumbrugh Airport (EGPB) Aircraft - A2A's Piper Cherokee, Majestic Dash 8 - 400 Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  16. FlightBeam has always been perceived as the bar to strive for when creating quality add-on scenery for Flight Simulator. No other developer has been able to produce consistently polished, fantastic looking and silky performing scenery like it. After the release of Washington Dulles (KIAD), expectations of FlightBeam were high for the announcement of Denver International Airport (KDEN). Were we worried? I should hope not as FlightBeam have raised that already high bar even higher with their latest release. Before I dig deep into the review, I just want to point out something a lot of developers avoid: the availability of a demo. Just as with all previous FlightBeam products, there is a free full demo available for anyone to try out the scenery. Although there’s an imposed time limit, it’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone to test it on their system before opening their wallet to FlightBeam. You can test performance, see if it’s an airport of worthy quality and also just fly around, having some fun with. Although it doesn’t directly affect the quality of Denver itself, it’s just another way in which FlightBeam stand above the rest and is excellent customer service. Always a plus to me. Denver International Airport (KDEN) has always been on the top of many simmers ‘Most Wanted’ lists for quite some time. The sprawling runways, Central American location and great architecture make Denver a very attractive airport for airliners from all over the world. Its high elevation and often warm temperatures also provides an exciting challenge for real-life pilots, especially if you’re taking a heavy aircraft. Because of the high temps and elevation, Denver also boats the longest runway in the United States, measuring roughly 16,000 feet in length, and although only the 15th busiest airport in the world, Denver sees over 52 million passengers a year. Another important piece of trivia is the fact that Denver covers the most service area of any airport in the US… So how does that translate into the performance-delicate world of Flight Sim? Unbelievably, performance is of very little concern. Something I want to focus heavily on in this review, as it is clear that if produced, and developed correctly, a massive airport, with hundreds of air-bridges, tens of taxiways, several runways and a range of buildings and terminals can run extremely well in the Flight Sim world. It is nothing less than impressive that a developer with very little resource can produce an add-on with as much detail and style, yet still be open to the mass market because of its easy-going performance. How Mir from FlightBeam has done it is something other developers can only hope to achieve in the future. As for the airport itself, as you would expect, the detail is breath-taking. I had initial concerns that the detail would be taken down a little to keep performance stable, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I would even bet to say that FlightBeam have added more detail than that found in Dulles. Volumetric grass is a plenty, the terminal buildings have a great range of detail within them and the markings on the runways and taxiways are all so realistic. As you taxi around the airport, various puddles of water and/or oil spread on the concrete. It isn’t just one or two instances of this either as you can find it throughout the airport – all relevant and all realistic. Another finer detail is the attention given to the insides of the terminal buildings. All transparent and full modelled, you can see right in and through – really immersing you into your new virtual role. Each seat, stand, plant and flight information table is easily identified and legible. Again, bare in mind that all these details are present and your performance will remain almost untouched. One of the greater innovations not seen in many add-on sceneries with Denver is the inclusion of custom elevation terrain. As I said earlier, Denver is quite high above sea level. As such, the surrounding terrain is quite uneven and full of dips and hills. All of them have been faithfully recreated flawlessly within the sim thanks to FlightBeam. As you taxi through the vast airport, you’ll notice hills drop to the side of you, the terrain ahead of you raising above and numerous hills blocking your view ahead. It is simply the most realistic rendering of airport terrain I have ever seen within the Flight Sim world. The airport just gets better and better the more you explore and appreciate the work that has gone into it. The modelling work is exquisite. The Telfon-Coated Fiberglass roof of the airport is depicted beautifully, and the famous Jeppesen Building has been created with the highest attention to detail. Texture work has also gone up a notch since Washington with even more environmental effects and wear and tear adding to the immersion. The airport just feels alive. Moving traffic travels through the airport’s inner and outer roads, fantastically modelled static models occupy the freighter gates (all of which have been beautifully modelled) and thousands pieces of 3D grass and foliage flood the airport. It’s certainly interesting flying in at night – the high terrain and lack of lights from cities nearby will lull you into a false sense of height. Once you see the approach lights from the airport, the same quality texture work and attention to detail will hit you. It’s certainly one of the prettiest airports I’ve flown into at night. The blue glow from the Jeppesen building, the hundreds of hand-placed taxi and runway lights and the custom designed 3D apron lighting will make landing during the hours of darkness an absolute joy. Something that I discovered late in the review and screenshot process was the availability of downloading a separate texture pack for those using FTX Global (like I am). Before I knew this, I was already impressed with the level of detail, but a bit disappointed at the lack of merging with nearby land texturing. However, this really does put into perspective the level of commitment from FlightBeam. Upon installing you’ll immediately notice how perfectly it blends in with FTX Global. Want to revert back to the default textures, then go ahead. I have been blown away time and time again by Denver International Airport by FlightBeam. Everything from the custom elevation terrain and the environmental effects to the flawless modelling work and stellar performance make KDEN a must buy regardless of what region you’re from. The vast array of flights operating in and out of the airport, the somewhat difficult take off and approach mean you’ll forever be finding new things to brag about. Final Summary text version: 5/5 | Publisher: FlightBeam | Developer: FlightBeam | Price: £22.15 Despite the size and scale of the airport, FlightBeam have managed to create an immersive, impressive and performance friendly airport. Combining new techniques, utlising beautiful texture work and excellent attention to detail in the modelling, Denver surpasses all of FlightBeam’s previous airport add-ons. This is potentially the Airport Add-On of the year and a worthy airport of anyone’s collection. + Custom elevation terrain innovates and introduces new challenges. + Performance takes very little hit and sets a new Sim standard. - No tool provided to change texture sets. - Not enough static models included. Purchase FlightBeam's Denver International Airport (KDEN) Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - FlightBeam's Denver International (KDEN) Airport Aircraft - Aerosoft's Airbus A32X / PMDG's 777LR/F X Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  17. When Taxi2Gate announced that they would be releasing Pointe-A-Pitre, located on the Caribbean island of Grande-Terre in Guadeloupe, everyone was a little shocked it would be released so soon. Announced on a gloomy Monday morning, the package went live on Wednesday evening. Immediately everyone rushed to download it to see if it matched the quality of their recent release, Istanbul. So far, I am equally, if not more impressed. TFFR is in a fantastic location, and an interesting airport. Situated in the Caribbean, Taxi2Gate return back to where some of their earliest work originated. Seeing nearly 2.5 million passengers a year, it makes it the second busiest airport in the Lesser Antilles, which is just behind Barbados’ Grantly Adams International Airport. The airport is capable of housing the A380 and with frequent Air France flights taking place, it’s a great chance to try a somewhat challenging approach for the big bird. As you circle around the airport’s northerly runway, high terrain blocks you from a straight in approach. Instead, you need to fly through various waypoints to avoid the danger, circling from left to right – during the right (or wrong) weather conditions, this could be a case of cloud-dodging from approach to landing (or even result in a go-around). As you do swoon in for the final approach, you’ll either come in from over the sea, or glide past huge amounts of forestation underneath you. Even as you roll down the runway, your wings will almost be brushing the surrounding vegetation. It’s obvious that this is a Taxi2Gate scenery package – they have a very distinct art direction. It’s certainly not a negative, as they manage to blend just enough artistic flare and realism to provide clear, crisp and clean visuals which balance perfectly in the world of Flight Sim. I am a big fan of their art direction. The clarity between apron, taxiway, runway and landscaping is so well executed that it makes it a joy to just taxi around aimlessly looking for the next surprise they have in store for you. It’s so colourful, yet very realistic. Something that also really impresses me, is the ways in which these guys manage to breathe new leases of life into their scenery. In this instance, it’s the wild life and shrubbery that really immerse you into their airport. Birds are flying around the airport constantly, just as they would in a real Caribbean airport, palm trees, bushes and foliage sprawl from all around the airport and through the cracks in the runway and taxiways. It’s so refreshing to see a developer not only focus on the realism of an airport, but also the atmosphere. Not only does the airport have frequent visitors from big airliners, it also serves as a hub to one of the Caribbean’s biggest island hopper and air mail airlines. Frequently using the diverse Twin Otter, it gives Simmers the chance to do small trips around the island flying at low altitude. Whilst Taxi2Gate didn’t recreate the whole island, it’s still a wonderful opportunity to try a challenging and somewhat different approach and landing for the little aeroplane. Backtracking a little and heading back to the quality of modelling and texture work, the team have put in, the terminal buildings and surrounding housing looks as impressive as ever. Air-bridges move with the CTRL+J key and connect nicely to your aircraft of choice. As you check the load sheets and program the autopilot, you’ll notice that the inside of the terminal buildings are also nicely modelled. It’s a great perk that helps immerse you even further into TFFR. As dawn approaches, and the low Caribbean sun presides over the airport, the night lighting really takes pride of place in Taxi2Gate’s latest work. The terminal buildings light up elegantly and the runway and approach lights, flash, strobe and flicker just like the real thing. Taxiway signs are lit up beautifully and the aprons are fully lit, just as you would expect in real life. It is astonishing to see how well the teams at Taxi2Gate work. The quality certainly hasn’t suffered and the surprise release have really set Taxi2Gate apart from the rest. TFFR sits amongst one of my favourite airports to fly into – with its diverse range of airlines, challenging approaches and high terrain. I would even go as far to see it’s an airport I prefer over Saint Marteen. An exceptional job from an exceptional developer, makes it an absolute must buy and one you’ll find new and interesting ways to fly into each time. Purchase Taxi2Gate's Pointe-A-Pitre Airport My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - Taxi2Gate's Pointe-A-Pitre Airport Aircraft - Aerosoft's Twin Otter / PMDG's 777LR/F X Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  18. When I reviewed JetStream’s latest release, Marseille (LFML), I distinctly remember mentioning how talented the developer was, and also how they would soon become the next “Taxi2Gate.” With their release of Clinton National Airport (Little Rock / KLIT from here on out), I can firmly stand by that statement. Through 2009, more than 2.1 million passengers entered Little Rock’s airport, making it Arkansas’s largest commercial airport. By no means the largest airport in the United States, it’s fantastic city scape, lush green approaches and numerous rivers and lakes surrounding the airport, make it a very scenic approach. Served by only a handful of commercial airlines and several general aviation and privately run airlines, it makes for a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the busy international airports. Furthermore, by focusing on a smaller, mid-range airport in the middle of the States, it enables JetStream to really hone in on the finer details of the airport, and also give those with slightly weaker machines a chance to explore an incredibly detailed airport with their favourite US Airline. As I approach the airport from the south, fog, dense cloud and rain clot up my view of the approach lights. Just as I change to weather to better suit my ability to really take everything in for the review, my eyes suddenly caught glimpse of the PAPI lights… then I saw the runway threshold lights and before I knew it, through the all of the low visibility, a fantastically lit-up and dirty runway laid before my eyes. I continued with the approach, with clouds lifting behind me and more and more of the wonderful airport lighting fell before me. It was a sight truly to be seen – it is a major improvement over their lighting work on Marseille. My heart was as captured on this airport as much as my aircraft captured the ILS. Once I taxied myself back to stand, I cleared the weather to see just how impressive the airport looked behind all of the cloud. I was stunned. The detail spread for miles and miles, and the terminals were transparent and full of life. This was really high-end stuff. I quickly set up to fly again, but taking off in the opposite direction as I wanted to admire the beauty of the nearby satellite imagery and hand-placed custom buildings. As I taxied over numerous taxi routes, I noticed the quality of each taxi-sign and marking. The cracks in the pavement meant I could feel the bumps as my forward wheels took a beating – this is by no means a new airport. Dirt and grass stains contaminate the runways and taxiways and the 3D grass really add depth and immersion to the atmosphere of the airport. One of my favourite features of the airport, which has been represented well in the Flight Sim world is the dual taxi-way bridges. The roads underneath have some impressive views of various aircraft going back and forth over them, and all of it has been recreated wonderfully. My only gripe is the change in texture colour from the original taxiway to the bridge. However, for a new developer, it’s quite an achievement. Continuing to the runway, you’ll see various hangers and office buildings throughout the airport. All complete with fully rendered static aircraft, which also look fitting for the regional airport. As you hurtle down the runway, the wear and tear from it is clearly visible from the flight deck windows. Cracks, dirt and tire marks are all present, and as you approach VR and V2, you’ll of wished for a rejected take-off to be able to see the details of the runway for the full length. Once the gear was up, I spent time doing some touch and goes to get a sense a full-visibility approach. Coming in from the North this time, I flew right over the Arkansas River, which was glistening in the sun. You could see the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was a stunning sight to see the approach lights so far out into the river and gives you a real sense of achievement when you reach the touchdown zone. As you do come in over the river, you’ll have a fantastic view of the city to your right. Although not rendered by the scenery, given the right settings, it can still look just as believable as the real thing. Not many airport add-ons can immerse me with default settings as JetStream’s Little Rock has. If you read my previous review of Marseille, you will have read that I was very complimentary of JetStream's use of night lighting. Suffice to say, it was another fantastic improvement seen here in Little Rock. The runway lights are bright enough to look realistic without being blinding. The approach and taxi-way lights have all been redesigned from the ground up and look stunning. With third-party aircraft lighting up the rest of the taxi-way, I've never been so impressed with the night-lighting of an airport. The terminal buildings look fantastic, streaming with light and shadow, as well as the parking aprons. Whilst overall the airport looks and feels impressive, there is certainly room for improvement. Inconsistency with texture work and modelling usage certainly deters me slightly. One area of the airport will look great, whilst the next looks blurry in comparison. I also found performance to be of an issue in some respects. Whilst I appreciate the number of buildings and nearby forestation can cause the autogen to be demanding, I feel that other developers still have that creative edge to create mesmerizing airports without seeing too much of an impact – the developers have also decided not to include an easy way to switch off 3D grass or other special effects. Furthermore, jet ways aren't functional and the airport feels a little empty without any moving vehicles or other environmental effects. As you can tell, I am highly impressed with the work and dedication from JetStream. The new ground texture and modelling system used and the techniques learned from their previous efforts have put their name on the map. Even if you’re unsure Little Rock would be a frequently visited airport, I can assure you that once you fly there once, you’ll be back again and again. My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - JetStream's Little Rock National Park (KLIT) Aircraft - PMDG 737-700 NGX Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  19. It’s been a very long time since I’ve flown anything smaller than the 737 for IFR flying, so stepping into the tiny flight deck of the Phenom 100 was a little bit of a shock. Suddenly everything feels cramped and close together, but surprisingly fresh and modern. I knew from the minute I switch on the engines of this bullet of a plane, that I would need to rethink how to fly. As soon as you step into the flight-deck, you will notice just how detailed and high resolution all of the textures are. Every switch and knob is well placed and well modelled, and the large LCD screens are crisp enough to see all of the details clearly. It’s certainly a step up of what other developers have done in recent years and certainly outdoes anything Carenado have done to date. As you explore every nook and cranny of this aircraft, you’ll realise just how much detail has gone into creating an immersive experience. Dust flickers off of the panels and various scratch marks can be seen embedded into the flight controls. Most aircraft these days are compared to the quality seen from the likes of PMDG, and in terms of sheer detail, clarity and modelling, the Carenado Phenom 100 definitely sits up there amongst the best. Further to the ‘office’ there’s also a fully modelled 3D cabin completely open and ready to explore. The seats, tray tables and window blinds are all designed beautifully and don’t look out of place at all. A great example of this is the fact the wings, and engines are all there just as if you looked out of the actual aircraft window. It’s an immersive experience. Emergency and safety signs are in incredibly high resolution, and again, dust / wear and tear can be seen from the texturing and modelling work. It certainly makes a change to be able to sit back and relax during the cruise from the comfort of your virtual leather seat. Apart from the window blinds, nothing else within the cabin is interactive, which although isn’t a deal-breaker, it would just add some extra value to the product. Moving away from the inside, the exterior of the aircraft just looks stunning. It’s obvious that Carenado have put a great deal of work into ensuring that every aspect of this beautiful aircraft looks like its real-life counter-part. The engine’s metallic cone reflects its surroundings, the 3D interior and silky smooth control service animations really bring this aircraft into life. The screenshots really don’t do this aircraft justice from a visual standpoint, as you don’t have the chance to pan around and zoom all the way in to see just how much detail has been added. After you’ve done admiring the beauty of the Phenom, it’s time to start doing some flying. And this is where things go just a bit wrong. Upon first glance, it would seem that Carenado’s Phenom 100 would be a case of set some flaps, set thrust to max and start inputting some simple autopilot commands. However, this isn’t quite the case, as it’s a little more complex. Whilst this may seem like a strange criticism, it’s the lack of tutorial or carefully written documentation that gives this aircraft such a large learning curve. Carenado have written a “Normal Procedures” document, but it’s in the form of a check list, without any screenshots, which for first time flyers is very daunting. Even I had troubles getting from the ground to cruising altitude. As you do start to learn the habbits and controls of this airframe, Carendo have done a great job at giving extra support to combat the awkward nature of the aircraft’s flight-deck design. Most buttons, dials and knobs are “doubled-up”, meaning from a virtual standpoint, they’re difficult to press and use. Luckily, Carenado have developed a system whereby, when you highlight a particular type of input, it will highlight green to show you exactly which dial you’re about to use. Not realistic, but very, very helpful and quite an innovative and unobtrusive way of providing a solution. In terms of system depth, it’s a mixed bag to say the least, and in my opinion, it appears to be more ‘eye-candy’ than actually simulated. The three LCD screens in the flight-deck have multiple functions. First and foremost, they act the same as traditional airliners. They contain the Navigation Display and the Primary Flight Display, but due to the lack of space within the flight deck, all secondary systems are now viewable directly on these screens. As such, these are called the Multi-Function Displays )MFD). It’s all very modern and takes a little getting used to. For example, the baro setting is adjusted through the screens, as well as setting the comms frequency and squawk codes. All flight plans, check-lists, system checking and so on all take place through the MFD. However, controlling it is very complicated and requires some guess work. Some buttons function as expected, whilst others seem to act against what logic would dictate. The manual doesn’t make things any easier by using a complex list of actions for each stage of the process. As I’ve already said, the majority of this is primarily eye-candy features that don’t surmount to anything other than a ‘fun’ interaction for the virtual pilot. For example, the checklist is certainly not as complex or as complete as other aircraft on the market. It’s simply a list of items to be followed and you need to check them off once you’ve met the criteria. Furthermore, system settings, pressurisation and so forth are again not simulated but there for a visual effect. Whilst this may come across as negative, for a $40 product, there seems to be a lot of detail. Flying the Phenom 100 is another high challenge curve. It’s very delicate in every movement you do, which seem a little off. Although I’m no pilot and have never flown in the type before, it feels too much like flying a light aircraft (which I have done). Furthermore, taxing requires an n1 power of nearly 70%! It feels really sluggish during taxi, but during the take-off roll, it skids and slides like it’s on ice. Despite a service maximum level of 41,000ft, I always find it struggles to even climb nicely to 36,000, even on very light loads, which makes me wonder if the flight dynamics have under powered this aircraft considerably. Although all-in-all, it’s a very stable aircraft, there are quite a few noticeable bugs that prevent the Phenom from reaching its full potential. Auto-throttle issues, rudder problems and problems with the MFDs when selecting flight plan information. One of my biggest gripes with the aircraft though is the unstable performance. For no reason at all, the aircraft sends my frame rates down the tube causing horrible and random spiking. Although this may seem like a configuration or computer problem, I can assure you it’s not – multiple users have had similar experiences. It’s also quite hard on performance. Despite many other developers able to create diverse and deeply-integrated systems through the FSX model, Carenado haven’t yet managed to achieve the same level of fluidity. The Phenom 100 certainly lacks a lot of polish and care other developers have given their aircraft, which is why it falls short of becoming a must have aircraft for me. It’s an interesting aircraft to pilot, but the performance issues, lack of real system depth and unrealistic flight dynamics make the Phenom a hard sell. However, the beautiful exterior and interior modelling means it’s a great aircraft for those that love those eye-candy shots. Purchase the Carenado E50P Phenom 100 HD Series Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - ORBX Gustavus Airport (PAGS) Aircraft - Carenado E50P Phenom 100 HD Series Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  20. London Heathrow Airport. One of the busiest, largest and most diverse airports on the planet. Being one of the most central hubs in Europe, it’s sprawling and ever expanding terminus is forever changing the face of the airport. Now on his third irritation of London Heathrow, Gary from UK2000 Scenery not only updates the package to reflect its real life counterpart, he also brings the modelling and texturing into the current era of Flight Simulation. Heathrow has always had a special place in my heart. I often drive by, marvelling at the sight of hundreds of departures and arrivals on its two long runways. Operating at nearly full capacity, you can always expect to see a departure or arrival into the airport every couple of minutes – regardless of time of day. It’s a sight to be seen and it’s a wonder how pilots, ground agents and air traffic control can keep up with the hustle and bustle of the airport. It’s a concrete jungle. Taxiways twist and turn everywhere, the aprons are far and wide and there are terminal buildings, aircraft hangers and office blocks as far as the eye can see. It certainly takes a skilled navigator to work their way around the maze that is Heathrow airport. With flights spreading all corners of the globe, a Simmer can take off from Heathrow with a huge range of airlines and end up anywhere in the world. It is this diversity and range that has inspired many to give developing Heathrow a shot. Hot off the heels of an announcement from Aerosoft that they would be reproducing Heathrow, UK2000 Scenery announced that they would be updating their Heathrow airport up to V3. Version 3 of their other airports have been a vast improvement of their older counterparts. Version 3 saw Gary use new rendering techniques, different and effective ways of texturing and also improving his modelling work. It’s little wonder that after the success of other ‘version 3’ projects such as Gatwick and Bristol, that we would be excited for this new version. Despite Aerosoft showing their hand first, Gary managed to outpace them and release his new baby first. Gary’s work is always distinguishable from that of any other developer in the Flight Sim world. The clear textures, the detailed models and efficient rendering all make a return in Heathrow V3. As with all UK Scenery airports, you’ll immediately notice the effort that has gone into creating a realistic portrayal of the airport. Buildings are accurately placed and all the aircraft stands and hangers have been faithfully reproduced. Each taxiway, runway and aircraft apron have been included to give you the most realistic representation of Heathrow yet. The sheer scale and size of the airport can mean aircraft taxis of up to 20 minutes. Although it may sound like every simmers nightmare, the beauty and diversity of the airport ensure it feels like a want as opposed to a need. Seeing the custom air-side traffic populate the airport and various weather radars do their magic, whilst taxing between buildings is something you’ll only ever experience at Heathrow. Approaching from the East gives you wonderful views of London and the specific SID and STAR procedures mean each arrival and departure will always be difference. Just be aware of what time you chose to land into Heathrow as during peak times, you may find yourself in the hold for up to 45 minutes (and I’ve done it in real life!) Satellite imagery is used effectively in combination with custom created ground textures and hand-placed auto-gen. I did notice, however, that the occasional default auto-gen snuck into places within the airport where it’s not supposed to be. It’s certainly not enough to off-put me from the scenery. Things such as the approach lights, the PAPI lights and pylons surrounding the airport are all rendered in wonderful 3D and really add to the immersion of the airport. I’ve flown into Heathrow with some of the most beautiful dusk approaches I have ever had. Despite Gary’s best attempt to make sure the airport is as frame-friendly as possible, Heathrow is and always will be a tough dragon to slain in the world of Flight Simulation. Not only is it located in the heart of London itself, but it has an incredibly high number of buildings within the airport vicinity. Add this to the number of taxiways, airport markings, airport equipment and the sheer volume of air-bridges, and Heathrow has become very polygon hungry. Even with my moderately powerful set-up and enhanced configuration, FSX struggles to maintain that sweet 30fps I can manage at most other locations within the sim. I tried to add some AI traffic to enhance my experience further, but this just bought the sim down to its knees. Whilst I can’t blame Gary for this short-coming, I can compare the difference between his previous version and version 3. Design techniques have certainly come a long way since his first attempt at Heathrow airport. The texturing and level of detail is greatly improved over version 2. There appears to be better satellite ground imagery and a massive improvement on how the buildings look. Whilst I am most certainly in favour of these advances, the performance bears not better or worse. Whilst some may argue that improved visuals and not a change in performance is something to praise, if you look at newer version of other airports, it begs the question if Gary’s techniques are becoming a little dated. Look at Mega Airport Oslo. Version 2 was much more detailed and sophisticated and yet performed exceptionally better than its previous incarnation. It goes to prove that it can be done. Continuing with comparisons to other developers who have improved their original designs - and I may be in the minority here - but I feel Gary’s artistic flare is beginning to pale in comparison to the competition. Whilst his work is clear, concise and looks good in the sim, the pallet of colouring is dull and unrealistic to the real world. The aircraft stands look yellow, buildings share similar shades of grey and the grass and taxiways seem to merge into one. It’s difficult to say as we all know Gary is a very talented guy, but standards from other single devs is ever increasing and it’s beginning to look like Gary is in a little bit of a lull. Even with all this in mind, nothing quite compares to his use of night lighting. Each terminal building has excellent custom lighting attached, taxiways light up organically and the aprons have just enough lighting to be both anaesthetically pleasing, but also true to life. It’s something most other developers trouble finding the balance with, but as per usual, Gary has hit the sweet spot. However, despite my somewhat harsh criticisms, Gary has done an exceptional job. He’s managed to design and develop a wonderful, energetic and firm representation of a busy UK airport, all whilst achieving a sharper and cleaner presentation over his past work on the airport. London Heathrow was and never will be easy to recreate, however, overall Gary has done a wonderful job. If you’re upgrading from his previous version, the cost to upgrade is so minimal for the extra treats you’ll be given. If, though, you’re on the fence, I would advise to put yourself in the holding pattern until Aerosoft releases theirs as it could just improve at Gary’s shortcomings. PURCHASE UK2000 SCENERY LONDON HEATHROW (EGLL) V3 HERE My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - UK2000 Scenery London Heathrow Airport (EGLL) V3 Aircraft - PMDG 777-200LR/F Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  21. The last few reviews I’ve provided for you have been for larger and more commercially viable airports. This time however, I take a look at ORBX’s recent release of Gustavus Airport. It’s certainly a lot different compared to the likes of Dublin or Istanbul, but have ORBX delivered on creating a small airport that can capture the attention of Flight Simmers? Situated in the farthest corner of South-Eastern Alaska, the airport is fairly unknown and unused. Seeing as just four airlines serve the airport (Alaska Airlines only serves as a seasonal airline), it was never going to have to be a busy airport. With only two runways – the largest measuring at just over 6,700ft in length – Gustavus Airport will never be hailed as the must-go to airport in Flight Sim. However, the level of detail ORBX have managed to squeeze into the package is outstanding. First impressions would immediately tell you that this is easily worthy of the ORBX tag. The realism provided in each texture is still to be beaten by any other developer. Every single marking, every grass blade and every grain of sand is visible. It’s clear that Russ White has a very good eye for visualisation within the world of Flight Simulator. The colouring fits in beautifully with the in-sim world, each being vivid, distinct and clear. A personal touch I love seeing in ORBX products is the considerable effort they go through to include as much detail surrounding the airport as possible. This certainly holds true with Gustavus Airport. Coastlines border the airport, hand-placed auto-gen sprawls for miles around the airport and forestation creates cinematic approaches. It’s this level of commitment to ensure a truly new Flight Sim world that sets ORBX apart from the rest. Being an ORBX airport, it includes a lot of neat little extras. ORBX’s famous ‘Flow Tech’ has been used incredibly here. Throughout the airport are various characters all doing their own individual action. As you taxi around the airport, there will be plenty of these characters walking around the car park with their luggage, others will be doing work for the airport such as sweeping, window cleaning and so forth. Without a doubt this is my favourite feature of the airport. It brings it all to life in a way I’ve never seen an airport come to life before. It works well, looks great and adds that extra bit of realism to the sim. All of this is provided with fantastic performance. Although it’s a small airport, in a remote part of the world, it has allowed the developers to take this to their advantage and create a remarkable looking airport without taking a performance hit. With the airport brimming with aircraft, plenty of cloud coverage and the resolution set to high, I was still achieving an acceptable frame rate of around 30-35fps. Again, this shows the class and skill the team at ORBX have when creating Flight Sim add-ons. Even if you’re using a low-end machine, a great little feature allows you to turn off certain CPU heavy features. Whilst I commented on how having a small airport can benefit the product, at the same time, it also burdens the value of the airport, too. It’s a real catch 22. The airport, on a technical level, is fantastic. It looks great, performs well and has nice little features to make it an entertaining product. However, the value is something I believe is slacking. Although no fault of ORBX, it’s a very niche airport. As I’ve already said, only a few select carriers visit Gustavus Airport, meaning the level of motivation to visit the airport is very low. There’s nothing special about the airport itself either. It doesn’t fall on any “top 10” lists for a challenging or beautiful approach, nor has it got any real historical value. It’s a shame as the airport looks stunning. Another gripe I have with the airport is its reliance on ORBX’s FTX: NA Blue Southern Alaska release. During the installation process, and during purchase, you are reminded that it must be installed prior to use. Whilst I can confirm that the airport can be used without it installed, it certainly takes away some of the coverage and beauty you would expect. The nearby mountains and terrain look unpleasant and some of the terrain mesh mismatches a little. Again, this takes away a lot of the value of the product as to get the most out of it, you’ll now need to install another product. Sadly, due to the airport’s size, lighting at night is almost none existent. During the hours of dusk and dawn, surrounded by the wondrous looking valleys, lakes and shrubbery, it looks wonderful. In the dead of night, it’s almost unusable. Taxiways are poorly lit, and the buildings emit almost no light. Understandably, this is an airport that probably has very little lighting, but regardless, it feels like it was an afterthought on the developer’s behalf. Despite these qualms, it’s hard to take away what value you do get with the product. You get fantastic seasonal texture work, great and detailed buildings, volumetric grass, the people flow and some wonderfully hand-placed auto-gen. I am truly conflicted on my recommendation as to whether it’s worth your time and money to invest in the product. On one hand, it’s beautiful to fly into and explore, but on the other, it just doesn’t provide the same level of exploration or challenge you could get from a larger, more commercial airport. It’s clear that the target audience wasn’t the casual simmer, but for those you enjoy flying in and out of smaller airfields with quick and easy access to some wonderful VFR flying. It’s a technically brilliant airport and truly some of the best work ORBX have delivered, but generally speaking, I find it hard to recommend unless you’re very much into small airfields. PURCHASE ORBX Gustavus Airport (PAGS) HERE My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - ORBX PAGS Gustavus Airport, ORBX FTX: Blue Southern Alaska Aircraft - PMDG 737-700NGX, Piper Cherokee 180F FSX by Carenado Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  22. Although being released on Saint Patrick’s day may have been sheer luck or done on purpose, many Flight Sim fans rejoiced at the fact Aerosoft’s long overdue Mega Airport Dublin was finally available to purchase. Whilst many of you jumped the bandwagon and downloaded and installed immediately, some of you have yet to plump down the cash. If you’re unsure, grab a Guiness, chill out and gouge over this mega review for this Mega Airport. The history of Dublin’s airport is pretty exciting. Opening in 1941, it is currently Ireland’s largest airport. 19.1 million people travelled through their doors in 2012, which was helped primarily from Irish carries Air Lingus and Ryanair. What makes the history of the airport so rich is the consistent conflict of these two giant airlines. Both have had contestant struggles in becoming the dominating force of the airport. Through sneaky tactics, creating strong advertising campaigns and taking matters into their own hands, Ryanair have tried and tried again to drive Air Lingus out of the airport. Although still bitter rivals, they both have a solid market share in Dublin – albeit using separate terminal buildings. Dublin is also home to one of two US boarder preclearance services. This has meant a lot of US traffic flies to and from the airport. Couple this with carriers from Asia and Europe frequently visiting the airport, Dublin is certainly a popular and diverse airport for real life and sim pilots alike. With AI traffic on, or even flying online, Dublin airport is full of life with aircraft from all over the Globe. Dublin has been sought after by Simmers for years. Aerosoft announced a little while ago one of its internal development teams would be crafting this international airport. Their forums were full of keen simmers eager to get their hands on their home airport. Due to troubles getting Satellite imagery, the project took a lot longer than most had hoped. However, the team have managed to create an airport that hits all the right notes. Let’s delve deeper. Before you even install the scenery, you have the option to install one of two texture packs. One that is hi-resolution (2048px) and one that is of a lower (NOT LOW) resolution (1024px). Although I have the graphical power to harness the hi-res textures, after sufficient testing, I found the lower resolution textures to not only provide much better performance, but also look equally as good. For the screenshots below, they are taken with a variety of resolutions and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. This goes to show how creative art work and direction can take precedence over pure power. If you’re feeling brave, you can adjust to the higher resolution textures anytime you wish. However, it does involve copying and pasting files, as opposed to a small little installer. It’s functional, but does take away some of the professionalism and ease you would expect from Aerosoft. Once you have loaded the airport, you’ll instantly recognise that this is certainly a far cry from any other rendition of Dublin the world of Flight Sim has seen before. Grass is highly detailed. The runway has skid marks, gravel and cracks to show it’s age. The taxiway signs are accurate and clear. This is Mega Airport Dublin. Nothing feels out of place. The colour depth is what you would expect from a high quality add-on. The grass is nice and green and the ground markings are worn and faded just as you would expect from a busy international airport. Volumetric grass follows you as you taxi from runway to stand and you’ll be forever amazing yourself at the smaller details the team have put into the airport. As you find yourself just exploring the airport, you’ll notice at just how amazing the modelling work is. This is the most impressive model I have seen in a Flight Simulator airport. The old and new terminal buildings are brimming with detail. Every grill and air vent is detailed; the support beams are all there; and windows are placed as per their real-life counter parts. It’s evident the time spent waiting for satellite imagery was well spent creating these mesmerising buildings. Of course, the team didn’t stop at just a few terminal buildings. Air bridges, office blocks, hotels, fire stations and more are all rendered fantastically. Not a polygon was spared in ensuring that Dublin looks as realistic as possible. I spent hours needlessly driving around the perimeter, exploring every nook and cranny to see everything these guys had created. The level of detail in each is unbelievable. One of my favorite moments with using Dublin was approaching on runway 28 during a clear day to see the new terminal building out to my left. It was full of Air Lingus aircraft waiting to depart. I watched a couple of videos of the same approach on Youtube shortly after and was shocked to see just how true to life it’s represented here. Whilst the review, up to now, has been more than positive, there are a few areas of concern. Whilst taxiways, runways and ground markings have been textured wonderfully, it’s sad to see that not as much attention to detail has been put into the majority of the airport buildings. Whilst they’re all superbly modelled, looking at them it like looking into a time machine taking me back to texturing we were seeing in 2010. It’s not bad per se, but after seeing the staggering detail from developers such as Taxi2Gate and FlightBeam (considerably smaller teams than Aerosoft’s internal teams, I would imagine), it’s disappointing that the same couldn’t be reproduced here. This may have been to save on performance and VAS usage, but it begs the question why other developers can manage to do it with huge success. It’s also a shame that Mega Airport Dublin isn’t quite as feature packed as more recent releases from the same brand. Mega Airport Oslo 2.o came with a great NOTAM feature, lots of seasonal textures and also the ability to see through the terminal building. Whilst I appreciate some features are unique to specific projects, seasonal textures are deemed as a must by Flight Sim enthusiasts in 2014. It’s also a shame that some great features were missed out this time. It’s obviously of some interest in terms of how Mega Airport Dublin performs. It clearly depends on the specs of your system and what you’re going to throw at Flight Sim, but overall, the experience is good. It’s heavier in frames than smaller regional airports, but for the size, complexity and the detail, it’s considerably surprising. However, again, I can’t help but compare it to that of other developer’s work. There are some huge airports, all incredibly high in detail, yet their performance is never an issue. Perhaps this is the amount of satellite data used, or the number of rendered buildings, but either way, it still doesn’t fit in with other releases we’ve had this year. Don’t let these negative points throw you off. They’re a few, small, nit-picked issues. It doesn’t compare to all the positive and well thought-out design ideas the team have come up with. If anything, it’s the little touches that really sets Dublin apart from the rest. Cars, trucks and buses all drive around the airport and vicinity. All avoiding each other intelligently, and even indicating (visually) in the direction they will be turning into. Static objects near the runways, fire station and car parks, again, really make the airport come alive. You can spend hours just exploring to see everything Dublin has to offer. Of course, no airport would be complete without an impressive set of night textures. And does Dublin deliver. The apron, runways, terminal buildings and even the surrounding areas are all impressively lit up. Under the right conditions within the sim, it looks almost real. Just look at some of the screenshots in this review. Some of the most impressive night-lighting work I’ve seen. Fans have waited an age for Dublin to come along. It certainly was a reason to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day! It’s hard not to recommend Dublin, especially with all the attention to detail put into the airport. However, the approach and airport doesn’t create much of a challenge to those that have no reason to want to visit Dublin. It’s a solid release and a great addition to the Mega Airport brand – albeit with a few missing touches. So raise a glass, and let’s toast to another successful release from Aerosoft. Happy landings (unless you’re still tipsy from yesterday!) PURCHASE THE PRODUCT AT AEROSOFT My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - Aerosoft Mega Airport Dublin (EIDW) Aircraft - PMDG 737-800NGX Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global
  23. UALboy

    GEX and UTX

    Does anyone have gex and or utx who can give me their two cents on them? Do they actually improve fsx or do they create rougher and busier texture transitions? How is the autogen affected? I would love to see some screenshots of the chicago area. Thanks! Wishing you clear skies and smooth rides
  24. Product Description from the Developers Page: The Airbus A320 family is one of the most successful families of aircraft ever designed. Being the first mass produced aircraft that combined fly-by-wire avionics and lightweight composite materials it revolutionized air travel by bringing down the cost of flights. They also made Airbus one of the biggest aircraft manufacturers in the world. The Airbus X Extended builds on the successful Airbus X product released in 2010 by Aerosoft. This new version includes far more complex and realistic navigation tools and a rewritten fly by wire implementation. Every stage of the flight can now be realistically simulated in FSX and Prepar3D. It's the logical step for people who want to explore more complex systems. Features: General: Simulation of the Airbus A320 and A321 focused on the day to day operation of the aircraft from the left seat. Five models: A320 IAE engines, A320 CFM engines, A321 IAE engines, A321 CFM engines, A320 NEO demonstrator (A320 CFM with sharklets). Late model cockpit (with LCD and updated ADIRS). Note we do default to the A321 CFM cockpit for all models (that is is also flown with N1 displays btw). Twenty-one liveries, extensive paint kit. Over 100 additional liveries available on release. Sublime modeling/texturing based on the latest technologies. Very easy on frame-rates. Landing lights, taxi lights, taxiway turn-off lights created with the best technology which actually lights objects up. Dozens of non-standard animations, all with sound effects (sun screens, windows, tables, tiller, jump seat, standby compass, drooping flight surfaces etc). Included web server that allows you to access (and use) the MCDU via any web browser; ideal for tablet computers. Extensive options to show ground objects (cones, ground power etc) and to actually provide ground power. All main doors and cargo hatches can be opened. Many systems programmed in XML to allows users to change code. Extensive manuals, with highly detailed step-by-step section in (at least) 12 languages. Prepared for Airport Enhancement Services. Fully compatible with GSX. SDK will be available, LINDA connectivity available. Add-in system that allows the aircraft to be extended with 3rd party applications (all using the right MCDU). Add-in View system: adds many pre-defined views for easy use, emulates 2D panel views. Add-in Sound system: adds hundreds of background sounds to enhance the immersion. Add-in Checklist system: semi-automated audio checklists. Checklist has two options, callouts only, or callouts with semi-automation (think virtual co-pilot). We opened part of the support sections already so the FAQ section could assist in answering some of the frequently asked questions: http://forum.aerosoft.com/index.php?/forum/518-faq/ Fully tested under Windows 8. Systems: Fully custom Fly-by-Wire systems with flight envelope protection, stall protection, pitch and roll limiter, g-load limiter, over speed protection, Alpha Floor protection, auto trim. Very nice to manually fly. Fully custom autopilot systems, with full Cat III auto land, V/S, Managed CLB/DES, OP CLB/DES, heading and NAV modes. VNAV and LNAV included. FPA/TRK included. Fully custom thrust computer systems (FADEC), throttle with detents, flex take-off. Full featured MCDU (can be controlled via web browser, for example on tablet computers), also, information can be inserted using a the keyboard! Flight plans supports SIDs, STARs, transitions, approaches, go-arounds, holds, Managed climbs and descent, constraints, and direct-to route editing. VOR tracking implemented, DME arcs supported. Comes with NavDataPro (LIDO) navigation database (better coverage then Navigraph) but backwards compatible with Navigraph. Includes current AIRAC Data at the time of release and this can be updated by the user at any moment. Complete Runway Awareness and Advisory System included. 12 ECAM pages included, showing relevant aircraft information. Full featured Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) with 25 hour storage capacity and external display program (data can be exchanged with FS Flight Keeper, and a visual display of your flight can be exported to view in Google Earth). Full features ADIR`s system. Full feature TCAS system (including audio warnings) for AI Traffic, IVAO, VATSIM. Full custom electrical bus system, with realistic battery run down and voltages. Navigation display with curved lines, de-cluttering, stopwatch, selected navaid, runway information, range change, mode change, stopwatch etc. Full custom fuel flow, avoiding standard FSX limitations. Full custom autobrakes with constant deceleration instead of constant brake pressure. Full featured loading and refueling module (interfaced with FSX) with advanced and simple mode. Print option (not virtual, real printing) for performance sheet with V1, VR, V2, Runway Data, Packs, Flaps, Acceleration Height, Flex, Wind, OAT, QNH. RAAS Functionality: Approaching Runway (on ground) Approaching Runway (in air) On Runway Runway End Taxiway Take-off Insufficient Runway Length Extended Holding on Runway Approaching Short Runway (in air) Taxiway Landing Flaps Setting (Take-off and Landing) Landing Distance Remaining Distance Remaining (Rejected Take-off) Excessive Approach Speed Excessive Approach Angle Unstable Approach Altimeter settings (above and below Transition) Additional features: Various background sounds from cabin crew, flight crew and ATC (optional) View panel bar to easily switch between various 2D (11) and 3D views (16) Contains in total 16 Checklists from COCKPIT PREPARATION to PARKING Checklists mainly start automatic based on the flight situation p. e. the BEFORE TAKE CL automatically starts when plane reaches the runway holding point, DESCENT PREPARATION CL 9 NM from TOD etc. Orally spoken checklist items by the PF and confirmed by the PnF Option included that the PnF also performs certain settings (gear up, flaps settings etc.) which are part of the checklists Infobar displaying the next manually to be taken action Integration of AES functionality (optional) e.g. different pushback procedures if AES is installed Speed limiter p. e. if the speed below 10.000 feet exceeds 250 knots the PnF gives a warning and automatically (optional) extends spoilers until the speed is below 250 knots. Option to pause FSX 10 NM before TOD or at next waypoint Saving of all made settings for the next flight (except CHECKLIST and PnF functionality) Ground services (toggle of external objects, chocks, pylons, ground power unit) Doors control (controls all doors and hatches) Flight Data Recorder controls Installer: Very simple installer as seen below. Be sure to have your Serial Key and your Email Address ready. Comments: Aerosoft always makes great products. But when the Airbus X Extended came out I was shocked! The amount of details is amazing and with a couple of small tweaks performence is great! When flying in the VC I don't go lower then 22FPS. Most of the time I will stay right at 30FPS. One of my favorite part of the AXE is the Checklist with the Copilot! This features allow you to really get up and flying very easily. The Copilot will complete the whole checklist for you. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the show Exterior Virtual Cockpit Some of my favorite screenshots I have taken while flying Pros: Great textures AES Compatible Amazing Modeling FMC Full Checklist List from start to finish MANY different Liveries Shaklet Model included Cons: No VNAV (VNAV is coming soon ) No A318 or A319 Score - 5/5 Summary - Since I got this bird, I cannot stop flying it! I haven't flown a different Aircraft for months!! I would recommend the AEX to anyone! So what are you waiting for?? Version Used for Review - Aerosoft - Airbus X Extended (1.04) Developers Page - http://www.aerosoft.com Buy Page - http://www.aerosoft.com/cgi-local/us/iboshop.cgi?showd,,12065 Price - US$ 42.75 without VAT Compatibility: FSX/Prepar3D Filesize - 802MB / Download
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