Commercial FSX Scenery Review
France VFR “Haute Normandie VFR”
|Publisher:||France VFR “Haute Normandie VFR 3D Automation|
|Description:||High Quality Scenery of the French Region Haute Normandy with 3D Automation|
|Software Source/Size:||DVD Box|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||May 7th, 2012|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- iMac 27″ 3.4Ghz Mid 2011
- Intel i7 3.4Ghz / 3.8Ghz during Boost Mode
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- 256Gb Intel SSD and 2Tb 7200RPM HDD
- Saitek Pro Flight System
|Software:||- Windows 7 x64 Ultimate (BootCamp) / Mac OS X 10.7.3
- Flight Simulator X Acceleration
- X-Plane 9
|Overall Time:||- Ground Testing 10 hours
- Flight Testing 21 hours
Viva La “Haute Normandie”
France VFR’s Haute Normandie isn’t new. Or is it? It was already available for FSX and FS2004, but this recently released, not updated, but brand new, Haute Normandie comes with 3D Automation and new high-resolution photo real ground textures.
All together, it brings your VFR flight experience to a completely new level. Let’s first figure out what France VFR has to say about this. According to France VFR, “France VFR is proud to announce the release of our first new generation VFR photo real scenery for FSX, based on the incredible 3D Automation technology!
This technology allows us to display millions of trees and buildings in addition of hundred thousands of 3D objects and VFR landmarks. This scenery models the Haute Normandy French region with high-resolution ground texture (1m/pixel) tiles, ultra high resolution terrain mesh (4.75 true meters), and all the buildings, trees, 3D objects and VFR landmarks. The VFR pilot can now, for the first time with FSX, fly over a fully immersive landscape, including all the details he’s used to see from the cockpit!
Our 3D Automation technology is optimized to display 5 to 8 times more objects then every other VFR scenery already developed for FSX, with an incredibly realistic rendering and frame rate! It’s possible with all the optimizations included, depending on the capacity of the FSX graphic engine.
The visibility distance has been increased to match real life, without frame rate loss, and that’s very important for long distance city appearance.” Ok, that’s what France VFR has to say about their new product. It’s up to me to find out if this VFR flight experience is indeed different than previous “similar” products. First, lets find out more about Haute Normandie or Upper Normandy.
Haute Normandie or Upper Normandy
Formerly a French province, Normandy (in French Normandie), with its old capital at Rouen, is now divided into two regions bordering the English Channel: Upper Normandy and Lower Normandy. Upper Normandy (in French Haute-Normandie) is one of the 27 regions of France. It was created in 1984 from two departments: Seine-Maritime and Eure, when Normandy was divided into Lower Normandy and Upper Normandy.
This division continues to provoke controversy, and some continue to call for reuniting the two regions. However, the name Upper Normandy existed prior to 1956 and referred by tradition to territories currently included within the administrative region: the Pays de Caux, the Pays de Bray (not that of Picardy), the Roumois, the Campagne of Le Neubourg, the Plaine de Saint André and the Norman Vexin.
Today, most of the Pays d’Auge, as well as a small portion of the Pays d’Ouche, are located in Lower Normandy. Rouen is the regional capital, and is historically important with many fine churches and buildings, including the tallest cathedral tower in France. The region’s largest city, in terms of metropolitan population, is Le Havre. Its economy is centered on agriculture, industry, petrochemicals and tourism. Much of this province is reminiscent of a great landscape painting, with cattle grazing sleepily in verdant fields.
But the rustic wood-framed houses are contrasted alongside the nearby modern buildings. Not far from the Seine, a mere hour drive from Paris, is Giverny, where Monet painted his water lilies. Normandy is the land of Calvados brandy and apple cider (bon bere). It is well known for its rich butter, cream and other dairy products. Supple Camembert, which is made from cow’s milk, has been sold in a wooden box since 1880, is well known.
(Source Wikipedia and French-At-A-Touch).
Installation and Documentation
The only thing you need for a successful installation is “some time”. France VFR “Haute Normandie 3D Automation” source files are approximately 5GB. Wow ….. 5GB for only Upper Normandy! That’s half of the province of Normandy! This means, when 5GB is needed for this province, it must be impressive, but we’ll explore that a little later.
Furthermore, you need a key or serial number and that’s it. The actual installation process is offered in French or English. In this case, I chose English, although it doesn’t really matter. The installer will find what is needed and before you know it, part 1 is installed. That said, you have to select part 2 of the installer. This will guide you through the same “previous” steps with one exception. There’s no need to enter the serial number again.
Once this part 2 installer is finished, you need to do it once more by activating part 3 of the installer. Again, there’s no need to enter the serial number. All three installers don’t take much of your time. I think that overall elapsed time is no more then 10 to 15 minutes.
Before doing anything else, it’s a good idea to have a look at the French or English Acrobat document. The manual offers some background information and other stuff, but I’m interested in the “Settings” and “Scenery Coverage“ sections. The “Settings” section deals with suggested FSX settings, but keep in mind, this is just a sample configuration and could be different, depending on your PC specifications. Unfortunately, there’s no table showing you the relation between settings versus PC specs groups.
A table like this is, for example, implemented by Orbx FTX products and is very handy. Anyway, it’s just a suggestion for future France VFR scenery and/or airport products! While looking into the FSX folder, I see a folder France VFR\Haute Normandie VFR. This is the same folder that offers you the previous discussed manuals, but also a lot of airport related charts. Think of en route, approach/departure, apron and airfield overview.
If this is not enough for you or you want to have the updated charts, the manual offers you a link to the chart’s location.
It’s time for our France VFR “VFR encounter”.
VFR Le Havre \ Rouen Encounter
I decided to position my Beechcraft Baron somewhere near the city of Le Havre. From there, whatever the coordinates are, I flew towards the coast and then along the coast in a southerly direction to Le Havre. From there, I head to the capital Rouen. It looks easy to follow this flight plan, and it is.
After tweaking a little bit on my Bootcamp iMac, I had, no, I think, the perfect match to have a look at the scenery with hardly any blurries. No spikes or whatever are visible. All those small tweaks, I can tell you, makes my first encounter with the Normandy scenery a pleasure. But then, what was so special?
It’s easy to describe, and so easy to see and feel while flying around. First of all, it starts with the France VFR 3D developed Automation.
This brings reality to life and with that you really get the feeling you’re flying above the real Normandy landscape. It’s sharp, even at 1000 feet. It’s full of “typical French villages”, the trees or forests, roads, factories, windmills, water towers and so many other landmarks. You’ll see it soon on one of the many screenshots. How strange this may sound – even hills with trees, houses, roads etc. on it, and are felt with 3D depth. When the hills end and are followed by a valley, it feels and looks as real as live. You really get the impression that there’s a kind of altitude difference.
I know this sounds strange , but this is so difficult to describe and even screen shots don’t help me out. Even a movie won’t solve this, but believe me, you’ll see and feel what I mean when you own this France VFR product. I’d like to add some additional words about the French villages I’ve seen so far. When you haven’t been in France, it’s difficult to judge, but I’ve been to France many times as well as in this region. Although the house textures you see, aren’t as they are in real life, they look as close as possible, and when positioned all together as a village, with trees in between, and don’t forget the church, it gives a nice idea of a typical French village.
Also typical for this area are the many water towers. You can’t miss them and where needed, I’ll show you where to find them on one of the screen shots. The same feeling also appears along the coastline while flying in a southern direction to Le Havre. The scenery looks gorgeous, as I said before, at 1000 feet, and also at 2000 or 3000 feet. Don’t go any higher. Don’t do that! At these altitudes you can enjoy every Nm. as you fly along the landscape. And ahead of me, there’s Le Havre. I’m flying along the steep coast south to Le Havre and what surprises me are the sandy beaches. No, you won’t find white beaches here, but instead, a mixture of grey sand and mud. Not really fun to swim here in the Channel, but for my VFR flight it looks great and, again, sharp.
Also worth bringing to your attention is the perfect blending of the photo real sandy beach with the FSX water textures or in this case, with the help of REX. The city of Le Havre, the harbor and industrial area are situated along the river Seine. There’s a reason I’m mentioning this. That’s because it’s the lowest part of Le Havre and just east of Le Havre it’s full of hills. And the hills are full of forests, small villages with typical French churches. By the way, a nice fly over of Le Havre brings you across the Cathedral.
Ok, back to the hills. This gave me the same “up and down” feeling of hills and valleys as described before. And of course, this feeling of “simulated 3D depth” becomes more visible/stronger when flying at low altitudes. Watch out ….. not too low, else you hit the electrical cables of the French Electricity Company. Although the France VFR Haute-Normandie doesn’t stop here and instead, continues further to the south, we move into a Western direction.
This means, by keeping highway E5, E402 under us, we fly in the direction of Rouen. With ground texture resolutions like these, it isn’t difficult to find and to follow a highway. Even smaller local D routes are easy to follow. Actually, there’s not really a need to navigate with the help of an official aviation chart. You could, if you want, use Michelin Auto route charts. Whichever you prefer, both will guide you through France VFR’s Haute Normandie scenery. While approaching the airport of Le Havre, it seems that France VFR created some airport buildings as well as the control tower.
That’s not all.
The highway that runs along the airport offers even road signs. I can’t see what written on it since I’m at an altitude of approximately 800 feet, but for sure, when you’re close by or driving here, you can read the road sign.
While flying over the city at 800 feet, I’m surprised about the FPS. It stays at 30.0, locked by FPS Limiter, and doesn’t drop downwards. I am surprised since the city is full with many buildings and structures that normally would reduce your FPS, but in this case, it doesn’t!
From downtown Le Havre, flying in a straight line, we cross the harbor and industrial area, which brings us near the river Seine. The harbor is full of container ships, factories, oil tanks, the ferries to England and other items I’ve forgotten. In front of us I can see the suspension bridge with highway A29 (E44).
The northern area looks like a swamp and it could be that I’m wrong, but the ground textures are well blended with the river Seine. It also nice to see the different water color compared to the Channel. It looks like, no, it fits all together like a jigsaw.
By the way. What about frame rates?
I’m aware that tweaking helps, defragmentation helps, as do in-game FSX settings. But that’s only a part of the actual frame rates.
You can read my iMac specifications at the beginning of this review and with the tweaks I did, FSX Limiter set at 30 FPS, it wasn’t a problem to maintain 30 FPS. This was in combination with REX and Carenado’s C90B King Air, yes, I swapped the aircraft!
It stayed at 30 FPS while flying between 750 and 4000 feet. Not bad and was correct with what France VFR wrote. Back to the river Seine, heading for Rouen. With the A29 suspension bridge behind us, we’re heading for Port Jerome, an industrial area with good ground texture quality too and even this area comes with many 3D buildings and lots of autogen.
We could follow the Seine, but instead I decide to cross-over the “Naturel Des Boucles Brotonne”, which is a national park that lies on each side of the river. While flying at or around 1500 feet, it’s very easy to follow highway A13 on the south side of the Seine,. This highway will guide us, if necessary, to Rouen. Before I know it, I’ve reached Rouen. Rouen lies on both sides of the Seine and apart from the many trees and other landmarks, the city itself is well made.
It’s full of buildings, flats, churches, a cathedral etc. All these autogen objects, together with the high resolution ground textures, gives France VFR Haute Normandy its unique appeal.
For those who live here, a must have! For those who explore this for the first time, it’s worth buying this software package. We only hope that France VFR will make more HD 3D Automation France sceneries.
VFR St-Valery-en-Caux / Baie de Somme Encounter
Let’s explore another part of Haute Normandy. This time it’s a VFR flight at an altitude between 750-1500 feet along the coast in a northerly direction. We start a little north of the city Veulette-s-Mer, near an industrial complex.
So, with the landscape ground texture tiles, all the autogen objects, trees, forests and whatever else pops up, we fly north along the cities of St-Valery-en-Caux, Dieppe, Le Treport and finally Baie de Somme. Intentionally, I write finally, because this is also the end of France VFR add-on scenery.
As you can see on the screen shots below, the blending with the Channel and coast line beaches is well done as is the integration of other objects.
All together, and the same as for my previous VFR encounter, it’s fun to fly around in this France VFR Haute Normandy 3D Automation High-Res scenery.
I could make many other VFR flights above Haute Normandy, but they will all lead to the same previous conclusion. A gorgeous France VFR landscape. This French region is basically flat and here and there you’ll find a small hill, but that doesn’t bother me.
With all the different landscape sizes, colors, textures and all the autogen objects, it’s a pleasure to fly over. Due to the high-resolution ground texture tiles – 0.85 to 1.0 meter/pixel – in combination with a terrain mesh of LOD13 (4.75 meters/pixel) and the 3D Automation, this scenery add-on id worth every Eurocent. The English/French manual is sufficient although different PC configurations (CPU and Graphics Adapter) versus FSX settings would be welcome to set the sliders accordingly.
The supplied IFR/VFR charts are great, and when this is not enough, the provided links guides you to the French authority where other and/or updated charts can be retrieved. However, there’s also something that needs, in my opinion, to be solved or added.
I’m talking about the manual activation in the Scenery Library. The installer I had didn’t add anything in the Scenery Library. In other words, I had to insert this scenery manually and knowing the Windows 7 x64 problems versus FSX Scenery Library, it wasn’t an easy job.
Thank goodness we have the Internet and with a Google Search, the answer or procedure to add a new scenery into the Scenery Library, was quickly found. What else is there to tell? Keep in mind that this France VFR Haute Normandy offers only Summer textures.
Not unusual with photo-real sceneries, but worth it to bring this to your attention again. With a sales price at France VFR of 39,90 Euro ($53.00 U.S. Dollars as this is being written), knowing the small area that it covers, it’s still worth it to add this to your scenery collection. More information about the France VFR Haute Normandy can be found via this link.
Angelique van Campen
This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website.
While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.