Commercial FSX Scenery Review
VFR Generation X (Version 3): England & Wales 1-3
|Publisher/Developer:||Playsims / Horizon Simulation Ltd|
|Description:||VFR Photographic Scenery Collection England and Wales|
|Software Source/Size:||DVD Box/12 DVD’s|
|Reviewed by:||Aaron Graham|
|Published:||May 19th, 2012|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400
- 8 GB RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce 330GT
- 1TB HDD
|Software:||- Windows 7 x64
- Flight Simulator X
I’m from the UK and have been looking for decent photo scenery for my country for some time. I’ve tried some other developers work and it is mediocre to say the least, but this review is not for me to slag off other developers but to review the product I have been given.
I don’t think we need much of an introduction as to where the UK is, so I’ll get right onto the business of the product. This is Horizon’s third version of photo scenery for the UK. This new edition includes a sprinkling of 3D objects and landmarks along with an increased resolution. I will divide this review into three parts to represent each volume of this software package.
Installation is a smooth but timely function. Each volume comes on 4 separate discs and the installation of each volume requires changing the discs. It took some 55 minutes to install just one volume – overall installation time of a volume depends on your PC specifications – and there were still two more volumes to install.
Time aside, the installation is very smooth and it gives you options as to what you want to install. I recommend you leave these at the default settings unless you really know what you are doing. I also achieved the best results with the default options. After installation is completed, a defrag is recommended, as having some 15-20GB of data in different sectors will leave you with a less than streamlined installation of Flight Simulator X.
You’ll have to remember to organize the FSX scenery library so the photo scenery is at the bottom and add-on airports at the top.
It’s time to get our good old Cessna 185 out of the hangar and learn how to fly it properly while exploring the scenery. After months of NGX flying it was a shock to be squeezed into this little flying machine. I start off at London City Airport and I’ll make a scenic flight out to Oxford. Please bear in mind that I have Aerosoft VFR London X installed and as such the area around the main city of London will not represent that of VFR Generation X.
I was stunned! I went up to 2500ft and I was able to see rolling hills covered in green instead of the default flat FSX repeated textures. The flight took around 40 minutes as I did detour to do some more sightseeing. The 5m mesh looks nothing short of stunning and the photographic images can’t be compared to anything. That’s how good they are.
My only disappointment is there is no 3D autogen, which on approach does look weird, but you can purchase add-ons to correct this. I was very pleased with my first impressions and this feeling vibrates throughout the entire product.
The prop experience
I’m one to fly heavy iron, burn rubber on tarmac runways and roar past skyscrapers, so it came a bit of a shock to me to be surrounded by rolling green fields! This is the preferred way to explore the scenery. I started off at my local airfield and checked that the wings weren’t about to fall off the Cessna 185 and I trundled out to the runway. I advanced the RPM and began rotation.
I climbed to 2000ft and trimmed the aircraft and looked to my right. I was amazed at what I saw. I could see a patchwork of fields, all with slightly different colours as per real life. Along with roads, which are accurate, and some small rivers flowing through the fields, this was the Great British Countryside at its best. The icing on the cake was accurate 5m mesh. I could actually see hills and valleys curve smoothly up and down. This was flight simulation heaven.
I was distracted by the beautiful landscape as my aircraft began descending and when I looked back I was at 1300ft. The textures were crisp and sharp with no visible blurring. The textures remained sharp all the way down to 500ft in the 0.6cm areas and in the 1.2m areas they were sharp to about 800ft. To get the maximum effect of this product I advise loading FSX, selecting real world weather and go to your local airfield. You will probably find it will be a dreary morning with thick cloud cover, perfect for some VFR sightseeing below 3000ft.
The product does not come with seasonal textures, but I didn’t get the feeling of needing to fly in the summer with the sun high in the sky or in winter with a morning frost. They seemed to fit any season. However, in the past few years the UK has got blanketed in snow, so it would have been nice to see a texture with snow. But that would have probably doubled the file size. The only error I noticed was a couple of the runways didn’t line up with the FSX runways but that was no big issue and it wasn’t very noticeable.
One thing that may cause people to be upset is that airports have no 3D objects which means you have to purchase the UK2000 VFR Airfields which adds custom autogen to every airport in the UK along with accurate AFDs and it also fixes the runway line-up problem. This scenery also comes with a sprinkling of 3D landmarks of places of interest such as cathedrals or famous buildings. I do feel this detracts from the whole point of VFR as you have to be flying low to experience the detail the developers put into the models.
But if it’s a stepping stone to including a lot more autogen in a future version, bring it on! The product claims to have hand edited night textures and I believe every word of it as they simply look suburb! If there was an award for the best VFR night lighting this product would win it, hands down. I wasn’t expecting the night lighting to be good after seeing other photo sceneries which promised this feature, but I was proven wrong. You can see the lights on roads, the light pollution from towns and cities, but when you venture into the countryside it is pitch black apart from the occasional point of light from a house.
I feel the correct use of lighting makes the scenery almost come alive at night. I actually enjoyed going for a flight in the evening and climbing out into the beautiful dusk and returning at night. It made the experience more realistic rather than having the default FSX night lighting which puts lights here, there and everywhere. The only drawback is when you are just about to land you can see the lighting almost turn to a flat boring image with no life due to the lack of autogen.
I would like to add that if you want to add more realism to your experience I recommend the purchase of UK2000 VFR Airfields and the Earth Simulations Treescapes, which will add 3D trees to the scenery. Even without these products this scenery is a must have for all prop flyers, now onto some heavy metal…………..
The jet-set experience
I am right at home sitting in the cockpit of my NGX, but I was curious to see how this scenery add-on would make my heavy metal flights more immersive. I started at Bristol airport with the UK2000 Bristol Xtreme scenery. The scenery and the photo scenery blended perfectly so I had no complaints about compatibility. I taxied to the runway and roared into the air and I went to the wing view where I saw flat land and then a valley, just like real life! I was amazed how much immersion this scenery and mesh brought me at high speed.
The experience is just as good as that in a prop. I soon reached 33,000ft and the effect wasn’t as noticeable but the mesh was when I came to the coast. I saw the cliffs drop into the sea, which compared to the flat default scenery, was a huge difference. The mesh was a vast improvement over default and even in a jet at a high altitude you can see the rolls of fields! The scenery was most noticeable on approach and when all was set up for an autoland, I just watched fields and rolling hills pass by as I coasted down to the runway.
I must admit I enjoyed the experience more in a jet aircraft as it made my approaches and departures a lot more realistic and it added the last piece of the puzzle when it came to a realistic experience in FSX. Although this is all a personal preference, the preferred choice of sightseeing would be a small Cessna or something similar. This scenery has something for everyone.
Included with this software a small sprinkling of 3D objects and landmarks. These vary from bridges to cathedrals and places of importance. I was astounded at the detail in the models and I can say that they are among the most detailed I have ever seen for FSX. They are textured beautifully with a photo real look combined with a crisp and sharp image. There are around twenty different models included in total.
I must admit that these can detract from the VFR experience slightly as you have to be at an altitude of around 300ft to see the detail that has been put into them and at the highest altitude, the photoscenery will not look the sharpest. If they add more in the next version I can see it being a great addition. But at present they can detract from the experience.
I had a few issues with this scenery though, but none of them are major. When I was in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, I noticed an orange circle which was on the top of some fields. I assumed this was a source fault as I don’t think a group of fields have a translucent orange circle over the top of them. I also encountered another issue when at night time I would be enjoying the stunning night lighting when all of a sudden it would disappear for a few minutes then reappear.
This is despite flying over the city of York. I think this problem may have to do with my hardware but I am not certain. I also noticed that on some areas there were cloud shadows, which is understandable but some clouds seem to be cut in half at the edge and then reappear with a small gap between it as if they merged the images together. A personal request from me would be to have some major cities down with autogen. It looks very weird flying over Bristol with nothing! London can be made 3D with Aerosoft VFR London X though.
These issues are just me nit-picking and they didn’t detract from the experience and were not noticeable.
When using this scenery I noticed an increase in performance, mainly due to FSX not needing to display autogen. I enjoyed a very smooth flight with all my aircraft. With FSX default I was getting around 45FPS in the Baron 58, but with this photoscenery I was easily getting around 53-55FPS. You may be concerned about getting OOMs when you are loading all this scenery but I didn’t have any while reviewing this review. I would like to note that your FSX load time will be increased significantly for the first ten flights as FSX is loading all that extra mesh.
My load times were as long as 11 minutes! I recommend you enable the cached scenery option in FSX as this reduced loading time significantly and after several flights my load times had returned to almost where they were before installing the scenery.
You may want to have a lot of HDD space as installing 120GB of photoscenery is a lot! I would suggest to the developers that they could do what another photoscenery company does. They send you a HDD with the scenery already on it. You run a small .exe which adds the scenery to the FSX library, and it only takes a few minutes.
I have enjoyed my experience with this product and I would recommend it to anyone who flies in the UK. I fly in and out of the UK to Europe and it added a great sense of realism when I was flying over the UK.
I consider this a must buy for anyone who wants a great VFR experience. The few issues mentioned are nothing major and I would consider it an excellent investment! It is overall great value for money and gives an unrivalled experience!
For more information about the great photo real scenery, visit the dedicated PlayHorizon web page.
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.