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Article/Review: Ultimate City: London

“How about some tea with scones and jam? Well that sounds jolly, old fellow!” I dare say that everybody will have recognized this stereotype. It’s of course an upper class Englishman in a black suit with a nice hat and a walking stick. He uses that walking stick to calmly cross the river Thames, using the beautiful tower bridge to do so. Walking past the tower of London, he continues his calm walk. I am of course talking about London here, mentioning only two of the buildings London is famous for.

London is famous for something different also however, and since we’re all aviation enthusiasts, I’m sure people will know what I’m talking about. What else then London Heathrow of course! But, Heathrow is only one of the airports found in London. Scattered around and in the city, we find London City, London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick and Southend. All these airports, some photoscenery and city scenery, are going to be combined in this review to create the ultimate city. The Ultimate City: London!

General note: All scenery is tested in FSX only. I have not looked at any FS2004 version.

A general introduction to this almost-review

This article is not an ordinary review. Ultimate City: London is part of a series of articles I write in which I cover various cities. In these articles, I discuss and combine various addons to create the “Ultimate City”. While I do this, I review the products that I chose to use, but do note that because multiple products are discussed, this is not a detailed review like I tend to do of products here at Simflight or over at Avsim. The main intention of this series of articles, is to show how you can combine addons to make something really nice, that will hopefully make it that more enjoyable to fly into the cities that are discussed. I now present to you the fourth instalment in the series: Ultimate City: London.

Requirements

To make an Ultimate City, we need three “layers” of scenery:

–       Photo scenery;

–       Detailed buildings for the skyline;

–       Airport scenery.

These three are not available for each city of course, and thus I will not be able to look at each and every city. Sometimes, there are multiple packages that we can use to build our city, and in that case I will try to discuss all available packages, but I will always end up choosing one that I personally prefer. You, however, are of course free to choose whatever you wish based on the screenshots and descriptions I gave.

Ultimate City: London is an exceptionally large instalment in this series, because not only are there a lot of airports to cover; there are also a lot of addons. But, I think that’s all the more reason to cover London, as there still tend to be lots of questions on which of the addons is the best. In this article, I hope I will be able to answer such questions.

Default London

It’s probably not much of a surprise, but default FSX London is a bit sad compared to the real thing. The skyline of London is present, but many buildings are missing. And as for the aiports, except for Heathrow, the airports feature standard building as found in every other default airport. Besides that, they are often outdated, as the sim is from 2007 and in the past four years lots has been happening, especially at Heathrow.

First London itself. As you can see, a wide number of buildings are present, some even sport photoreal textures and look quite all right. The vast majority, however, is default and doesn’t look too great to be honest. The most basic landmarks, such as the Buig Ben and tower bridge are of course present, and look better than the average skyscraper.

Default downtown London

 

Of all the airports, Heathrow is probably most known because of it being so big and especially busy. Because of this, Heathrow looks better than average in default FSX. The buildings are more detailed and sport nicer texturing, but it still isn’t the holy grail of scenery design and it for sure can be improved on. The other airports, Gatwick, Luton, City and Stensted are even more basic, sporting the generic  FSX airport buildings.

Default Heathrow.

 

Default Gatwick.

 

Default London City airport.

Default Luton.

Default Stansted.

So, it’s evident that improvement over the FSX is easy to achieve. Time to install the addons and see what happens!

Note that for this area I do have FSGenesis mesh, Ground Environment X and Ultimate Terrain X installed. Some textures may be different due to the various GEX and REX installations I have, but otherwise everything is default in the above two screenshots.

Choosing photoscenery

There are and have been for some time now, two big England photoscenery products on the market:

–       Justflight’s VRF Real Scenery: http://www.justflight.com/product.asp?pid=855;

–       Horizon’s VFR Photographic Scenery X: http://www.playhorizon.co.uk/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=18&products_id=2.

From a first inspection, the first noticeable difference is coverage, which leads to differences in pricing. JustFlight’s offering is partitioned into four parts, of which volume 1 (SouthEast England) is what would interest us. Horizon’s offering partitions its product into three parts, of which Volume 1 and 2 (South and Mid England and Wales) would be of interest to us. As such, we get very different locations covered.

To conclude the cursory inspection, please see the table below:

Item JustFlight VFRRS Vol 1 Horizon VFRPSX Vol 1+2
Price (approximately at the time of writing) €20,- €40,- + €40,- = €80,-
Coverage South East England South + Mid England and Wales
Resolution 1.2m general coverage 2.4m general coverage, 1.2m extra coverage, 0.6m coverage in several cities.
Mesh resolution 9.6m 5.4m
Night scenery? Yes Yes (at 2.4m resolution)
3D objects for landmarks? No Yes

Note that JustFlight also offer “VFR Real Scenery London”, however I’m not including it in the review. For one, it is a subscenery of VFR Real Scenery SouthEast England and as such it will be reviewed anyway within the context of the latter product, but it’s coverage is not big enough to encompass all the airports of London, covering only the area within the M25.

An important point is the huge difference in price, but think about it well. Horizon’s VFR scenery gives you three times more photoscenery for the 80 Euros you’ll be spending! This make sJustFlight’s scenery still a lot cheaper if you were to factor in the other photoscenery in justFlight’s scenery, to make it match Horizon’s coverage, but we’ll soon see if the price difference makes a difference in photoscenery quality.

 

JustFlight’s VFR Real Scenery – South East England

I got a download version of JustFlight’s product, but there also a boxed version if you don’t fancy downloading such an enormous package of files. Download was comfortable and easy, however. You get a 20MB download manager that is specifically designed to download VFR Real Scenery Volume 1. All you have to do is press the button “Start Download” and it will begin downloading. Really simple and very convenient. You can Pause and resume whenever you want, too. After download, you click “Install”, and the installer will run. Because there’s a lot to install, this may take some time, but eventually you’ll find that everything is installed in the folder you specified, and it will have added the scenery to FSX’s library. It’s time to open the sim and see how it looks like. Here’s an overview shot:

Overview of covered area.

 

As you can see, there’s already something that I do not really like. That’s the patchwork of colours. It basically means that a whole host of imagery was combined into one, with the result that if you fly for 15 minutes, you will have passed over various sources of imagery that were takes at various conditions. As you can see, there are olive green patches, light green patches, dark green patches, even brownish and greyish patches. This is of course something we notice right now due to the overview shot, but what happens if we go down and fly over the scenery low and slow? What we will do is visit the airports that should be covered by the scenery. First up is London City EGLC.

London City

 

You might have noticed a change in the airport scenery after installing JustFlight’s scenery. That’s because there is a change. For some reason, it practically removes all of the default buildings that aren’t at least partially placed on airport surfaces. As such, all terminal buildings are now gone. But the problem will be even more visible in downtown London, as you will soon see.

Concentrating on the photoscenery itself though, I think we don’t have too much reason to complain. The resolution is nice, and although it doesn’t give us a really sharp image, it isn’t noticeable pixely either, which is a good thing. The colours around EGLC seem nice to me also, although a more vibrant green might have added an extra punch to the scenery.

We’ll continue in the direction of Heathrow EGLL now. On the way there, we will look at downtown London, seen below.

There are various comments to be made. First of all, that all default buildings have gone, including all the landmarks. This is a great pity, although we will add Aerosoft’s VFR London X in the end, which will take care of this problem. Secondly, the colours look okay. The slightly brownish look goes okay with downtown London, although I had hoped it wouldn’t be too pronounced. It doesn’t seem like a natural colour to me for a city, that being greyer, with more vibrant colours. The sport field you see for example in the upper middle shots looks a bit yellowish instead of normal green.

Also, it’s nice that the imagery isn’t too pixely. Sometimes you get photosceneries that on the basis of the supplied resolution still looks pixely. I have never quite understood why that is, but it has always troubled me a bit. Justflight’s product looks good though. As a final note, I want to talk about water masking. I have some photosceneries where this was either done badly or not at all. In JustFlight’s products, the water masking seems to have been done for most, if not all water bodies, and it was done with good precision. Marinas and harbours have correct water masking, as can be seen in all three screenshots.

Mesh problem close to EGLL.

 

JustFlight’s product comes with a 9.6m resolution mesh for the entirety of the covered area. This is great of course, but the above shot shows that it’s not always working out well. What they tried to do, was make the waterbody lower than the surrounding terrain. While for the shores it looks good, it doesn’t work well for the road that runs inbetween the two water bodies. I have seen similar problems elsewhere, and I also saw some strange, out of place “spikes” in other places. It seems that the mesh has some problems here and there that probably should have been corrected.

Colours in the vicinity of EGLL.

 

The colours we saw in downtown London are only one part of a patchwork of colours as we saw in the overview shot. The above shot shows that close to EGLL, we see a whole host of colours. If you look just up and to the left of the Trike Ultralight, you will see distinct, sharp borders between two different patches of colourings. I really wish that more effort was done to hide this sort of thing, as it looks a bit strange and messy.

Heathrow airport.

 

And there we are: Heathrow airport. Possibly one of the most well known airports in Europe and the rest of the world, we see that many of its buildings have remained after adding JustFlight’s scenery. This is fortunate, but to be expected: most of the buildings are on airport surfaces, and its buildings that aren’t placed on airport surfaces that disappear. Noticeable is also the different colour of the photoscenery, and the fact that the airport isn’t placed very well on top of the airport scenery. At London City this was better. As such, it seems to me that no great effort was taken to make it match with the photoscenery. The second short shows another of such colour borders, and notice the slightly lower placement of the water body to the left, thanks to the mesh included. This is apparently a location where it worked out better.

London Stansted

 

Leaving Heathrow behind, we move on to the next airport, which is to the north: London Stansted airport. One look at the screenshots will undoubtedly surprise you for a bit: everything is bright green suddenly. So this is a perfect example of why the colour patchwork can detract from an otherwise okay photoscenery. If every airport has a different look because of vastly different colours, the realism of the entire photoscenery becomes a bit questionable. The brownish colour of downtown London was okay, but the bright green at Stansted looks simply strange.

Flying around London Stansted

 

Flying around London Stansted shows us more bright green shots. If not for the colour, the photoscenery would be fine. The same not-so-pixely and fine imagery is used everywhere, so by all means the overall impression is okay. It’s just that the colour should have been adjusted to make it more realistic.

When we look top-down on our aircraft and the underlying scenery, you will notice a sort of “square” pattern. Nothing is really clearly defined; instead it is like a whole lot of squares attached together. It’s this pixelatedness that is often a bit disturbing in such sceneries, but by all means, it’s not that bad here. It’s a bit noticeable when looking down like this and flying at this height, but in more normal shots and views it really isn’t that noticeable. Finally, it is funny to mention is the sudden colour change to a more drab and dark green, as you can see in the middle shot.

Gatwick airport.

 

We move on to another London airport: Gatwick EGKK. Gatwick is probably the second largest airport by passenger number around London. Major aircraft, such as Boeing 747 aircraft, visit Gatwick all the time. As such, it’s good news that the colours at Gatwick are a lot more realistic around Gatwick than at Stansted. It’s browner than the bright green at Stansted, but I can imagine that one might find the different patches of colours in the distance disturbing.

Flying around Gatwick EGKK.

 

It’s mainly these varied patches of colours that the above shots demonstrate. Also note the slightly light patches, where it’s as if somebody put a white veil of sorts over the scenery. This is the result of clouds, however slight they appear on the scenery, they are [resent. This is a pity, but fortunately it’s not too pronounced. For the rest, the quality is uniform. You might have noticed that in these shots I fly a bit higher than around Stansted, and the result is that everything also looks a lot better. This is often the case with such sceneries: the higher the get, the better it looks, although an altitude of 2000 to 5000 is probably usually the best.

Luton airport.

 

The final airport is Luton airport, which is at the same side of London as Stansted, namely to the north. It’s a rather small airport, and it’s an important low-cost carrier airport. As such, we see lots of Easyjet and Ryanair aircraft parked at the gates. The colours at Luton are again different than at the other airports we visited. This time it’s a more drab brown, which really isn’t that realistic as one might want to see it. And when we look in the distance, we see that there’s suddenly a very bright green patch that stands in rather stark contract to the direct surroundings of Luton.

Overview of Luton surroundings.

 

If we take more of a distance to the airport and look back, we see all kinds of colours everywhere. Bright green, drab brown… The bad thing is that borders between these colours are easy to see, which detracts a lot from the realism that the photoscenery should offer.

Plateau effect at Luton.

 

Furthermore, it seems there is a really clear plateau effect at Luton. I don’t think this is per se because of the photoscenery and its mesh coverage, for it was also present at default Luton. However, due to the resolution of the JustFlight mesh coverage, the plateau effect is now much and much more visible.

Finally, the night scenery. I must say I was both pleasantly surprised as slightly disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised due to the colours and placement of the scenery’s lights. They look quite nice, but here we get to the disappointing part: they are also rather sparse. Even in downtown London, the night lighting doesn’t suggest a busy worldcity. See the shots below.

Night scenery.

 

Concluding, what to say about this scenery… There are some very good things about it, such as the resolution and image quality. At all times, it’s clear what you are looking at, and small details, such as cars, are easily distinguished from the surroundings imagery. The lack of completely ground-occluding clouds is also a big plus, but on the other hand, the patchwork of colours and mesh-related problems detract. Also the night scenery, while good in itself, features rather sparse lights.

In summary, the scenery is quite good for the rather low price you pay. However, I would have gladly paid a bit more and see that more effort was done to tune the colours of the various “colour patches” to get a more uniform, realistic coverage instead of the patchwork we see now.

Pros Cons
Easy download and install procedure. Patchwork of different colourings of scenery
Good resolution. Removes ALL default buildings that are not placed on airport surfaces.
Good water masking. Mesh has some problematic areas.
Relatively low price. Sometimes distinct edges between differently coloured edges.
Okay, if sparse, night lighting.
All airports covered with sufficient margins.

 

Horizon’s VFR Photographic Scenery – South and Mid England and Wales

I received Horizon’s product as two boxed products each including 4DVDs (one box for volume 1, one for volume 2). The installation routine was simple and offered me a lot of choice. They understand very well that people might have trouble fitting the entire scenery on their hard drive, and as such you get lots of options as to what to install and what not to install.

First of all, the scenery is split into three areas, numbered 1, 2 and 3, from west to east. The London region is thus Area 3. Because I didn’t have space for all three areas, I opted to install Area 3 only. This give me all the photoscenery I need for this review.

Within these areas, you have some more options still. The scenery has been broken up into several layers of quality. The base quality is 2.4m. You can use this, for example, in areas where you don’t visit often but still want something nice to look at. The higher quality is 1.2m. This will of course give much better resolution photoscenery for you to look at, but comes with a significant hard drive space requirement. Note that installing the 2.4m resolution photoscenery is required to install the 1.2m resolution photoscenery. Finally, there is a very high quality 0.6m resolution photoscenery in specific cities.

You can opt to install 3D objects for important landmarks, flights and additional night scenery. I installed all the available options, but left out areas 1 and 2 as it’s anyway a long way away from London. With that out of the way, let’s plunge into this scenery and see what’s there to see.

Overview of the photoscenery (area 3 only for both volumes).

 

The overview shot of Horizon’s photoscenery shows us a really uniformly covered area. Practically the same colour, and a seemingly realistic one too. That’s a good sign. Please note that I didn’t install area 1 and 2, as I stated before. If I had, then there would have been even more coverage to the left of the currently covered areas. So, the full coverage is a straight chunk all the way from the east to the west shore of England.

London City airport

 

The above shot shows London City airport with the Horizon photoscenery’s coverage. The good thing is the colour. These look very realistic. Trees are dark green, fields are light green and roads are grey. Also the resolution is pretty nice: 1.2m, with 0.6m resolution for some cities. As a result, you can see nice details such as cars on the roads. By all means, the photoscenery at EGLC looks really nice. We’ll move to Heathrow now like we did at JustFlight’s photoscenery, and look at Heathrow in the meantime.

Downtown London.

 

Horizon’s photoscenery doesn’t delete any of the default buildings it seems, which gives a pretty nice view of downtown London. Again though, we will install Aerosoft’s VFR London X and at that point all default buildings in downtown London will be replaced anyway. As for the quality of the photoscenery, here I find it a bit varying. Overall it looks very good. The colours are nice and rich and give everything a vibrant look. The resolution is also still good, but there is a niggly bit, which can be seen quite well to the left of the millennium dome. There are some blue hues here and there, and some colours that are out of the place. Look for example at the parking lot, also to the left of the millennium dome. There is cyan, light green, light blue and purple, amongst some less well-defined hues. Sadly, these slight discolorations can be seen in many locations in the scenery, although in some places they are more visible than in others.

The second shot, of the Thames, does look a lot better. Colours are vibrant, with really nice green hues for fields and trees. If you look closely at the roads however, you will again see discoloration. It’s interesting that you mostly see these discolorations over the roads, not over buildings, fields or trees. A final note is the water masking. Water seems to be flowing over boats and harbours, and as such it seems that the water masking maybe could have gotten some more attention when it concerns important places such as the Thames. That said, I should emphasize that overall the water masking is really good, covering many lakes, even if hey are small.

Nice parks in London

 

We continue our flight to Heathrow airport, and soon fly over Hyde park. While in general the surroundings of Hyde Park and most of Hyde Park looks really nice, some spots of Hyde park itself look a little strange and I’m not too sure what causes it. There are some white/green spots and some very dark trees, especially around the round pond you see at the west end of Hyde park. Overall though, another nice shot of Horizon’s scenery.

Next up is Buckingham palace (although strictly speaking Buckingham palace is closer to the Thames than Hyde park). This is truly one of my favourite shots of Horizon’s scenery. The beautiful colours – the green grass, the red roads, the green fields – everything combined into a truly spectacular view. Coupled with the resolution, I feel this gives a remarkable impression of the real thing.

Richmond park.

 

At Richmond park, there’s something strange going on. The park itself seems a bit like it was attacked with biohazardous substances, parching great chunks of the park. Not all of it, for the trees are green and some parts of the fields are also still green. But there are some parts that are white. One thing that I think could cause this, is clouds in front of the camera, which slightly occluded the park, creating a white haze over the fields. There’s also a green field next to a dark green triangle. There are lots of white dots, and while at first it’ll look strange, it’s actually pretty logical. For these white dots are gravestones at East Sheen Cemetery! The consequence is a view that might seem a little weird, but it’s a view that’s to be expected, and there’s nothing wrong with the photoscenery.

Heathrow airport.

 

The photoscenery around Heathrow looks rather good, but it seems a bit dark. The trees in the fields look very dark, almost black. There also seem to be some discolorations around the roads. However, these issues are mostly around the urban areas you see in the above shot. The fields look very nice, and so do the roads passing through them. Also the photoscenery under the airports look nice, with good colouring, giving it a convincing look.

So what’s the issue at the urban area? I think it’s because of the shadows of the buildings. There’s a park, or perhaps a soccer field in in the urban area to the south of Heathrow. You’ll see that the southeast side of this park/soccer field has a black rim. This is the shadow of the buildings. It’s to be expected, but the effect is very pronounced all over the urban area, creating very black spots in many locations. This detracts a bit from the overall experience, and it’s an explanation for why the fields do not show such black spots.

North of Heathrow airport.

 

North of Heathrow we find a big highway junction. The interesting thing is that there are three colours. To the left it’s a bit green, to the right and below its more yellow, and up it seems to be a realistic grey. However, the resolution is good enough to show the street markings, which looks really nice. There are lots of shrubs and trees here too, all with shadows. While in the urban areas this didn’t look too good, here it does, for it creates a sense of depth. For the rows of trees to the left of the junction it does a look a bit strange in my opinion, forming a solid black border. As such, these shadows are a bit of a hit-and-miss, although you can’t blame Horizon for it – it’s part of the photographs they used and I don’t expect them to try and edit out all the shadows.

Gatwick airport.

 

Flying a while to the south we reach Gatwick airport. The photoscenery around Gatwick is okay, but the shadows do make look everything rather dark. The parking spot at the end of the runway on the other hand, is a wild frenzy of colours. Similar colour frenzies can be found along the rest of the runway, and at one or more spots around the fields. I must say that this patch of the photoscenery as such has very good parts, with high resolution that enables to see details of trees, but on the other hand shows black shadow rims around trees.

Finally, down below is a shot at Luton. It’s close to the airport and the little town of Luton itself. The reason I took this specific shot, is because I loved the way the little pond looks. I found it very realistic. The colours look great and the combination with the blue, sparkling water, is great. A beautiful piece of work!

Pond in the vicinity of Luton airport

 

Night shots of the scenery around downtown London.

 

The night scenery of Horizon’s scenery is very widespread. There’s lots of it and many streets are covered. However, the resolution is lower than the scenery below it: 2.4m instead of 1.2m. This is a slight disappointment I find, and it is very noticeable after flying over the higher resolution photoscenery over day. The night lighting seems a bit blurry to me. Compare it to the day shots of downtown London and you’ll probably see the point. The fact that the night shots are a lower resolution than the day shots does detract of the overall experience. Although at a higher altitude, it does look very good, and because of the coverage, the lights are everywhere. The colours of the night lighting are pretty varied also, a mix of yellow and white.

In conclusion, Horizon’s VFR photoscenery seems to be a mix of good and bad things. The good is ever present in the form of good coloration. The colours are frequently realistic, and coupled to the resolution of the imagery, details often pop out. However, some discoloration on roads can spoil it all a bit, with purple, light green and cyan hues present here and there. Also the shadows can be a bit problematic when they form large black rims around green fields, which in itself look really nice. Finally, the night lighting is at a lower resolution than the daytime scenery. When you fly at higher altitude this makes for a spectacular vista, but at lower altitudes it looks less good. In the end though, this is a quality addon. The high resolution and realistic colours make for a very nice flight over London and the English country side.

Pros Cons
Lots of install options. Some discoloration on roads, streets and parking lots.
Good quality photoscenery, high resolution. Water masking not optimal, with water flowing over piers and boats.
Lots of general coverage. Night scenery at lower resolution than daytime scenery.
Good coloration of the scenery.
Night scenery very widespread.

 

Conclusion

The final question is which of the sceneries is going to make it into ultimate London. There are several things to think about, of which colour, coverage and resolution are probably the most important.

Colour

The JustFlight scenery is a patchwork of lots of colours, while Horizon’s scenery is uniform in its coloration. As such, Horizon has my preference in this category. Fly from Gatwick to Heathrow and over downtown London, to London City airport. The colours will be the same style all over, although some discoloration, and some strong shadows can spoil it a little bit, and it’s in this regard where JustFlight’s scenery is better. In the end, however, Horizon’s scenery gets my preference due to its uniform coloration.

Coverage

JustFlight and Horizon both cover all of the London airports. The difference, however, is in how many parts of the product you need to buy. JustFlight’s Southeast England scenery covers London and all the airports included. Horizon’s Volume 1, South England and South Wales, covers London, Heathrow, Gatwick and London City, but not Stansted and Luton. As such, Volume 2 would also have to be purchased to cover Luton and Stansted. This all coupled to price, then, see below.

Price

The price differs immensely between JustFlight and Horizon’s products. JustFlight costs approximately 20 Euros. For this price, everything we want is covered – downtown London and its five main airports. Horizon costs 80 Euros for both volumes, but for this price you do get a huge extra coverage, even if it seems redundant for our particular use. So in this regard, JustFlight provides full coverage for a lower price, and as such would have preference in this category.

Resolution

The sceneries both provide the same resolution, except that Horizon’s night scenery is at a lower resolution than JustFlight’s night scenery. This is a pity of course, but Horizon’s night scenery is more widespread than JustFlight’s night scenery.

Concluding

While JustFlight offers a better deal – more coverage for a lower price – Horizon has better colouring and offers the same resolution, with more widespread night scenery. As such, my preference goes to Horizon’s scenery, mostly on the basis of the realistic colouring. However, if you don’t have much money to spend and do not care too much about uniform colouring, you might want to go for JustFlight’s scenery, which gives full London coverage for a much lower price.

Horizon’s VFR Photographic Scenery will be included in Ultimate City: London.

 

Getting the skyline

Getting the skyline isn’t very difficult. We can do two things:

–       Use the default buildings;

–       Use Aerosoft’s VFR London X.

Of the two, I prefer the latter option. For this I will thus use Aerosoft’s VFR London X product. It comes as one big download or as a boxed copy. Installation is as per usual; the normal Aerosoft way. Start the installer, insert your registration info, and you’re good to go. It will add itself to the FSX scenery library, so you have to do virtually nothing to get it working.

There are some extra options you can include for installation however, which gives you some control of what you will see and what you will not see. For example, you can choose the resolution of the photoscenery: 2.4m, 1.2 or 60cm. I selected 60cm. Note that for 60cm to work, you must also install the other resolutions! Same for 1.2m: to use it, you must also install the 2.4m resolution. See below:

Choosing photoscenery resolution.

 

Secondly, you choose whether or not to install London City Airport. Yes, you heard that right: Aerosoft’s London City Airport is included with Aerosoft’s VFR London City. You can choose yourself whether you actually want to install it or not. I did install it. See below.

Choosing whether or not to install Aerosoft’s London City Airport.

 

Upon completion of the installation, you are presented with a message regarding the DirectX 10 preview mode of FSX. Apparently, VFR London X is compatible with it, but for this you have to run a separate utility that will swap some files with DirectX 10 compatible ones. I did not activate DirectX 10 preview mode, since I don’t use DirectX 10 Preview. See below:

The DirectX 10 preview tool.

 

It’s time to fire up the engine and take a flight over London. I use London City as my base, and fly from there over the financial district towards downtown London. From there to Hyde Park, south towards the Thames, then follow the Thames back to downtown London. Directly after takeoff, we already get a grand view of the London skyline:

Directly after takeoff at London City.

 

The amount of buildings is phenomenal, but as a result I can the FPS down to between 15 and 20 FPS where it was between 30 and 40 previously. I think it’s safe to say that London VFR X has a rather big FPS hit. Nonetheless, I turn the Trike Ultralight to give London City a quick look. I will not dwell on this right now however, since there’s a special chapter later on that discusses London City airport.

London City airport.

 

Before we go on, first let’s look at the exact coverage of the scenery. In the shot below, the area inside the rectangle is covered by the scenery. You can clearly make out London City airport on the west side of the city (to the right), and London heathrow on the east side of the city.

Coverage of VFR London X.

 

From London City airport, we go south for a bit, to check out the neighbourhoods there. I’m in awe of the extreme detail seen here. Literally every building has been placed here. I don’t dare say that every building is also faithful to its real-world counterpart, but I’m pretty sure it will be close, featuring at least the correct architecture and general features. Whatever it may be, it looks extremely good. See below.

South of London City airport.

 

Also notice the really nice photoscenery. It’s very detailed; the 60cm resolution certainly improves the look and feel of the city. It’s also nicely coloured, although it seems slightly more brown than the surrounding photoscenery, which surprises me a little bit: apparently VFR London X was a development on which Horizon Simulations, of which we use the photoscenery as a base of Ultimate London, also participated. Therefor it seems fair that the photoscenery would seamlessly blend in with the Horizon England photoscenery. As you can see on the below shot, this isn’t 100% the case.

VFR London X blend-in with Horizon’s VFR England Photoscenery.

 

We turn back towards downtown London and start on our flight back. We fly over London City again, but first lets give the Thames a quick look.

The river Thames is the big river flowing through London and is pretty much an icon in stories by authors such as Charles Dickens. In VFR London X it is well represented also, with nice water masking overall, although I do see  a problem with some piers and boats that have water effects flowing over them. I’d suggest to make sure that water masking for piers is done correctly, and that boats and such are removed as much as possible altogether. For the rest, I do like the shorelines , which blend well with the FSX water effects.

What I would also like to point out in the above shot, is again the concentrated placement of objects. It looks really good, with buildings all over the place, and all positioned correctly. Neighbourhoods truly look like neighbourhoods, not being completely flat. Which immediately of course introduces somewhat of a problem, which is the lack of autogen placement around VFR London X covered areas. As such, there is literally an island of buildings in an otherwise empty sea of flatness. This detracts a bit from the glory of the product for as far as we have already seen it.

Station north of London City Airport.

 

To the north of London City airport, there are more residential houses. There’s also a railway station. All look very nice, although I would like to point out the minor discrepancy in placement of the railway track. As you can see further down the tracks, where the railway bridge comes back to the ground again, the 3D model doesn’t match with the tracks on the photoscenery.

Now that we are talking about the railway bridge, I’m not that sure that the bridge should even go back to the ground again. It seems to me that the tracks should continue being elevated, as the photoscenery seems to suggest: there is a distinct shadow, and the tracks seem to go over a bridge further down the tracks,, for there is no evidewnce to suggest a normal railway crossing.

Ground detail.

 

The above shot is just to demonstrate the photoscenery’s resolution of 60cm. This resolution enables details to be seen clearly. This result in not only being able to distinguish cars on the roads very clearly, but also get an idea of positioning of windows and such, for these can now be seen somewhat easily. I really like the colouring of the photoscenery, as I said earlier, but this specific shot gives a very nice demonstration in my opinion. The colours simply seem correct. Grass is a bright green, sand is a sandy brown, and roads are an asphalt grey. Looks really nice!

The Millenium Dome.

 

Along the Thames we find one of the iconic buildings in London: The Millenium Dome. It looks really good in this scenery, set atop an equally nice layer of photoscenery. What I find an impressive feat in the above shot, is the attention to detail. Along the Thames, you see several tiny houses. They actually went through the trouble to model tiny sheds and other houses, and place them (somewhat) realistically in the scenery.

No bridge?

 

Some distance to the north of the millennium dome, we see what probably is a railway. It is sunken into the river. Did the bridge collapse, or what? Given the fact that so much effort was put in recreating sheds, I’m a bit disappointed that no bridge was placed here. Otherwise, the shot gives a nice impression of further nice detailing on housing, and the ever good photoscenery.

Financial district.

 

Flying to the west, we come to London’s financial district: a square piece of London filled to the top with tall office buildings, with some well-known names on them, such as Barclays Bank and HSBC. Default London also featured these buildings if you remember (otherwise you can scroll up and give them another look). Toi be honest though, it doesn’t seem to me that the difference is so big, and they might have reused these buildings for VFR London X, like buildings such as the default Empire State Building were reused in Aerosoft’s Manhattan X.

South of financial district.

 

We fly a bit to the south, where there are more residential neighbourhoods. The interesting thing here is that amidst all the 3D buildings, there a patch that is completely flat due to a complete lack of buildings. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s there. This bare patch is a bit conspicuous, given that the surroundings are fully modelled, but it’s not such a big issue given the overall detail of the product.

South of the financial district.

 

We cross the Thames to the south now, and look to the west. It’s still more and more buildings. I’m quite amazed by the effort put into this. If you look closely, you will see that some buildings that really seem to fit the place they were placed on. Either it doesn’t fully match the size of the building under it, or the colour of the roof doesn’t quite correspond. But, in all honesty, it’s impossible to expect unique buildings only in a huge addon such as this.

Flying west along the Thames.

 

We continue our flight westward, along the Thames. Not too much to see here to be honest, but I wanted to point out the sheer diversity of buildings that have been modelled. Especially along the Thames itself there’s lots to see!

The tower bridge

 

Indeed there’s lots to see, including several well known London monuments, one of which is the famous tower bridge. Right next to it we see the tower of London, London’s famous jailhouse. A bit more in the distance we see London’s iconic office buildings.

Lots of houses along the Thames

 

Downtown London can truly be called downtown London in this addon. The amount of houses is enormous, giving a really nice view of the city. It’s amazing also that so many buildings were so faithfully recreated, for if you look at the houses, you’ll notice variation. I do not dare and claim that each house is actually different, or resembles its real world counterpart exactly, but effort was done to at least make them somewhat different.

St. Paul’s cathedral.

 

Not far from the tower bridge, we see another well-known London monument, namely St. Paul’s Cathedral. Around we see the mass of houses, all placed rather accurately, and accompanied by a really nice photoscenery that truly gives you the impression of “being there”.

Westminster, with all the landmarks.

 

Not too far from St. Paul’s cathedral, we see several other landmarks. The Big ben o course, but also Westminster abbey and the ferris wheel that’s close to both these landmarks. The various houses in the vicinity of these landmarks all look truly good, and it seems these were taken especially good care of, what with the added detail in both modelling and texturing.

Trafalgar square.

 

This part of London, being downtown London, is of course packed with landmarks. Not too far from Westminster, we find Trafalgar square, with Nelson’s column at its centre, guarded by its four lions. The photoscenery makes it look very good, with convincing colouring.

Buckingham palace.

 

Our next stop is Buckingham palace, in the middle of a nice park. I would have been pleased if there would have been some 3D vehicle traffic here, but alas, there is none. It would have been nice if the developers had added those. However, as it is, the square and the palace look really nice. The 3D trees are especially a nice addition.

Hyde park.

 

Flying eastwards even further, we come to hyde park, London’s famous and probably biggest pakr in a truly urban area. Except for lots of trees, there really isn’t that much to see, though, except for the Royal Albert Hall, London’s beautifull concert hall where each you’re the proms are held.

Scenery end.

 

We have now reached the final frontier of VFR London X, characterized by a sudden lack of 3D houses. We will turn back and fly along the Thames a bit more. What’s ncie though, is that even though it is still some distance before reaching Heathrow, you can still make out VFR London very well from Heathrow. That said, it’s the same vice versa, although the above shot doesn’t show it.

Battersea powerplant.

 

Also a London landmark although a less well-known one, is Battersea. Battersea is an already rather old powerplant (and it featured in one “New Tricks” episode). Its positioning seems slightly off, and the same could be said for the vats on the right, but overall it looks fine.

Last but not least, it’s time to look at the scenery at night. Note that UTX Europe’s night scenery is off! See the shots below. Overall, I was rather pleased with what I saw, although I do think some buildings are way too bright for a nighttime situation, and the photoscenery is a bit blurry overall.

Night shots of VFR London X

 

Towards Westminster

 

The final above shot of VFR London X shows Westminster, the Thames and some of its famous landmarks. Look at the mass of houses, the really nice photograph scenery, and consider all you’ve seen. I think it’s a marvellous addon, but it comes with a price. Not just a monetary price, but also a “physical” one: a FPS hit. My FPS in this scenery are rather lower, and with UTX: Europe’s night lighting, the FPS can especially get quite a hit. For the purpose of this review, I did set many sliders to the right, which also constituted in quite a FPS hit. These are not my normal setting for flying, and especially with dense sceneries like this one, I will set them a lot lower.

Conclusing, this scenery is marvellous and certainly for London City approaches, this scenery is a must. I will gladly keep it in Ultimate London!

Pros Cons
Huge amount of custom buildings Substantial FPS hit
Good quality photoscenery Some minor errors with bridges
Buildings overall well-placed
Good integration with photosceneries

 

Adding the airports

As you know, London has six airports that serve it: London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, London City Airport and London’s Southend airport. We will be adding each of these airports onto our photoscenery covered, skyline covered London we currently already built.

Five airports is a lot. Add to this the fact that most airports were done by multiple developers. London Heathrow and London City Airport, were all done by both UK2000 and Aerosoft. London Stansted and London Gatwick were done by UK2000 only and London Luton by Eiresim only. In addition, UK2000’s VFR airfields cover all of London’s airports, including Southend, which isn’t covered by additional sceneries such as UK2000’s Extreme airports series.

What I will do is look at each and every airport product mentioned, and at the end of it decide what to do. One of the most important thing that I will consider are FPS hit, scenery detail, scenery completeness (how up-to-date the scenery is) and blending with Horizon’s photoscenery.

Before we start, one thing: the amount of sceneries looked at here is HUGE. As such, my report will seem like not more than a cursory inspection, but know that when I tested the sceneries, I did look at them in much more detail than what seems from my written report. Just because there are so many things to look at, I couldn’t devote more time to this part of the article than I would have liked to. Even as it is, this article is extremely long!

 

London Heathrow

London Heathrow is the biggest international airport in the UK, and one of the biggest in Europe, millions of passengers leave from, arrive at, pass through Heathrow each year, and its home to Britain’s flag carrier, British Airways. London Heathrow being the important airport it is, was done by both Aerosoft and UK2000. UK2000 has covered it in its VFR Airfield package, as well as in its Extreme series of airports. We will look at these products now.

 

Aerosoft’s Mega Airport London Heathrow

Overview shot

 

The above shot shows an overview of the entire airport scenery. Several things stand out. First of all, we’re missing some buildings. This shows the outdated nature of the scenery, but this was to be expected: the scenery was released in 2008, if I am not mistaken. Secondly, if you look to the right of terminal 5, you will see aircraft shadows of aircraft parked at the gate. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve seen it everywhere at Aerosoft’s Heathrow. Thirdly, the scenery seems to fit in perfectly with Horizon’s photoscenery. Finally, the scenery seems to look really nice. There seems to be lots of detail, texturing looks good; all in all a feast to the eye. Lets get a bit closer to see how this holds up.

Terminal 5.

 

Terminal 5 is the base of operations for British Airways, and is the most modern looking part of the airport. All in all, it was modelled really nicely, although it seems a bit empty. That’s not just because we see hardly any aircraft parked at terminal 5, but also because there isn’t much ground equipment scattered around the terminal. Let’s take a closer look.

A terminal 5 gate.

 

When we get somewhat closer, we see that there indeed isn’t much ground equipment, but this isn’t necessarily bad news: less equipment means higher FPS. The texturing is really nice though, and the modelling seems pretty detailed. Also take a look at the tarmac. This is the kind of tarmac textures I like to see: precise and high resolution. If you look very closely, you’ll even see very subtle cracks and such. Looks really good!

Terminal 3 and the control tower.

 

After looking at terminal 5, we go to the core of Heathrow airport. These are several terminals built around a pick up and drop-off point and the old control tower: an old structure made up entirely out of red bricks. On our way there, we first come across terminal 3, seen above. Its various concourses and huge amount of gates enables heavy international jets to park. The modelling is pretty nice, and it seems like there is a bit more ground equipment out here, which is always welcome. The control tower looks really good also, being such an iconic building. Overall, texturing and modelling is well done, and especially the gates and jetways themselves look very nice. Also the ground texturing for the tarmac looks really good around here.

Terminal 2.

 

We move on, and arrive at terminal 2. Terminal 2? Yes, it sure seems like it. A quick look at Google maps shows at however that terminal 2 has been demolished all together. Instead, we see a gaping hole filled with sand and construction workers. That said, the terminal 2 in Aerosoft’s Heathrow looks pretty nice. We can spot some ground equipment scattered around the tarmac, and the modelling seems be done nicely also. The texturing is a bit blurry however, especially on the roof. Keep in mind however that you will probably hardly ever see the roof’s texturing though, so don’t be too saddened because of those blurry roof textures.

Terminal 1.

 

Aerosoft’s terminal 1 is, sadly, also a representation of the past. Here also large pieces were broke up and are rebuilt. Still, Aerosoft’s version, outdated as it is, does look rather good. Gates look fine, and the modelling and texturing of the concourses themselves looks good. Overall, a good, if outdated, representation of Heathrow’s terminals. And I really have to mention those tarmac textures again. Simply lovely that!

Core of terminals 1 to 3.

 

At the heart of terminals 1 to 3, we find the old control tower, a drop-off and pick-up facility, and a whole lot of London double decker busses. I really like the latter thing. Truly gives you the idea that are in fact in London, and not just some random international airport. Of course, you won’t see anything of this because it is surrounded by terminals on all sides. Even though that may be the case, it sure does look extremely good. The texturing is pretty nice, the modelling of some things seems to be a bit simplistic. However, as I said, you will not see much of this anyway, so that’s not really an issue.

Terminal 4.

 

The last of the terminals is a big structure to the south of terminals 1 to 3: terminal 4. Built for handling big aircraft, it is indeed fiddled with Boeing 747 aircraft and even an A380. Like the other terminals, terminal 4’s modelling is really nice and so is its texturing. What is very pronounced here, which is something I think look very good, is the shadows cast by jetways and the terminal itself. Aside from a cosmetic thing, it also helps heighten FPS, because you now don’t have to enable building shadows in FSX. On the other hand, these shadows are only okay for one moment of the day only.

Maintenance areas.

 

To the east and south of terminals 1 to 3, we find the large Heathrow aircraft maintenance area, where British Airways and other airlines have large hangars and offices for their aeronautic operations. While the shot only shows an overview, I of course took a closer look, and can tell you that it all looks pretty good, although it’s also a bit of an out-dated version of the real thing. There should be a large apron with aircraft stands at its heart, but alas, it is not present here. Not in it full form anyway. For if you look closely, you will see an apron, but some buildings were demolished since the release of this scenery, which enabled an enlargement of the apron as seen here.

Runways.

 

Finally, before I show you some night shots, first a shot of the runway textures. I do not like these.  I have never been much of a proponent of using satellite imagery for direct coverage of runways and such. I much prefer hand-drawn textures, or at leas having a good “detail layer” over the satellite imagery. It doesn’t seem like it was done here, although they did add custom taxiway markings and such. But, the result is a bit of a blurry runway, which is in stark contrast to the tarmac textures of the rest of the airport.

Now will follow some night shots. While I overall like the look of this scenery, I can’t really give its night scenery a place in my overall opinion of the scenery. First of all, all windows have a green hue to it that I don’t think looks either very realistic or nice. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find adequate photographs of  Heathrow at night, so I don’t feel like I can give a purely objective opinion about this, although I will add that the shots I did find gave a very mixed idea of what Heathrow should look like at night. Some shots showed clearly a green hue to the windows, others made it seem like a light blue, or even white. Yellow also featured prominently on some features. As such, I don’t quite know what it should look like. So, I will just present you with some shots and let you make up your own mind.

Night shots.

 

Finally, performance. I can say without much much doubt that Aerosoft’s London Heathrow may hit your FPS pretty hard, but that is to be expected. With the Trike Ultralight I averaged between 10 and 18FPS at all times, except when looking in a non-airport directions, when it promptly went up to 25 – 30 FPS. Of course it isn’t helped by the photoscenery, London VFR X and the UTX lights you see on the night shots. As such, I’m curious how the other London Heathrow sceneries will hold up.

In general, I think Aerosoft’s rendition of London Heathrow is pretty good. Its main problem is that it’s so very out-dated by now. The texturing and modelling is overall very good, although I’m no fan of the runways. The taxiways and aprons look very good though. The night scenery is a bit of a mixed bag I think, but as I said, the main problem is that the scenery is very out-dated.

Pros Cons
Very good tarmac textures. Out-dated by now.
Detailed building modelling. Heavy on FPS.
Good-looking building textures.

 

UK2000 VFR Airfields Heathrow

Besides the “Extreme” series of products that UK2000 publishes, they also have the UK2000 VFR Airfields series. These complement Horizon’s VFR Photographic Scenery product line by revamping between 70 and 80 airports and airfields across the photograph scenery. As such, Photographic Scenery volume 1 will be complemented by VFR airfields volume 1, Photographic Scenery volume 2 will be complemented by VFR airfields volume 2, and the same thing for volume 3. This pack is without a doubt great value, for you get amazing airfield coverage for a rather low price. VFR Airfields also covers the bigger airports, and as such it also covers London Heathrow. We will look at how VFR Airfields fairs with London Heathrow in this sub chapter.

Overview

 

First an overview shot from roughly the same perspective as Aerosoft’s London Heathrow. Some things stand out. First of the relative simplicity of the scenery. But, do remember, this is because it’;s part of a pack that overs at least 70 airport, so simplicity is something we may expect! Something else that stands out is that it more up to date than Aerosoft’s Heathrow. Look for example at terminal 5. Terminal 5 presently has the large building and two sattelites. While only one satellite is present here, we do see that at the location of the second satellite we already see parking positions and tarmac. We can also note that the scenery lends very well with the Horizon photoscenery.

Terminal 5.

 

A cursory inspection of the main terminal 5 building shows that it’s not very detailed. It also has default FSX jetways. There is no , or hardly any ground equipment, and there’s also some jetways missing it seems? The tarmac itself looks pretty nice, but the edges are a bit blurry. Overall, it gets the job done.

Terminal 3.

 

At terminal 3 we find pretty much the same situation. Everything is present, but not in high detail. For example, we miss the walking bridge between terminal 3 and the control tower. Also the cables that give extra support to the control tower are missing. Everything does have the correct shape and correct location. I’m not a fan of the ground texturing, though. I find that it’s a  bit too blurry to be an adequate replacement for hand-drawn textures. This is of course again where the nature of VFR airfields comes up. With a pack that includes so many airports, its difficult to make them all very detailed, so that things like such photo undergrounds will receive less attention. It’s a pity, but it’s understandable. With that, the buildings appear a bit bland too. The detail as we saw it at Aerosoft’s Heathrow is not present, giving a good impression of what Heathrow looks like, but leaving out the sense of awe of operating in and out this scenery.

Terminal 2.

 

It seems that also in this scenery terminal 2 still exists. It’s not very detailed, but it gets the job done. Again there is hardly any ground equipment, and we see default jetways, but overall its okay.

Terminal 1.

 

And with terminal 2 it’s the same situation again. Whatever is present is present, but it’s not in high detail. Also note that this is also out-dated, for as you can see on Google maps, large parts of terminal 1 are actually closed off, without aircraft being able to park there. The texturing is rather nice and the modelling is okay, it’s just not very detailed.

Heathrow’s core.

 

At the centre of Heathrow we find the old control tower. The lack of detail is again obvious, but everything that ought to be there is there, including the old control tower, several parking garages and the pick-up and drop-off points of the terminals. I will also add that I really like the texturing of the control tower. Seems very precise, and nice, high resolution. The same can be said for the terminal buildings, by the way.

Terminal 4.

 

Like all the other terminals, terminal 4 lacks detail. What’s there is okay and resembles the real world closely, but the problem is what’s not there. This is mainly related to the gates and jetways, and not so much the terminal building itself. That said, the texturing is pretty nice.

Maintenance area.

 

The maintenance area is also out-dated, sadly. The apron you see at its centre was enlarged after the demolition of several buildings. For the rest, the same comments I had for other parts of the scenery apply to this also: what’s there looks quite nice, but it lacks detail.

Overall, this scenery is quite simplistic. There isn’t much to talk about or to show, because there isn’t that much present. As I said previously, this is because this Heathrow scenery is part of a larger package: VFR Airfields Volume 1. This package includes over 70 UK airfields ands airports across the Horizon Photograph Scenery Volume 1 coverage area. As such, this is extremely good value for your money, and what’s more, this Heathrow scenery is good for your FPS, having hardly any FPS hit at all for as far as I could see. In that sense, its lightness and simplicity is a selling point!

On its own, this Heathrow scenery isn’t that great. You have to see it in the context of the entire product, and in that sense, this heathrow scenery is great value for your money.

Pros Cons
Good for FPS. Out-dated.
Part of a package that covers 70 airports: really good value for your money! A bit simplistic.

 

UK2000 Heathrow Extreme

The final Heathrow scenery we will look at is UK2000’s Extreme version of Heathrow. This is a separate product than the VFR Airfields scenery. What we can expect is a detailed scenery like the Aerosoft Mega Airport Heathrow scenery. We shall soon see how it holds up.

Terminal 5

 

We first visit terminal 5 again. It’s clearly a huge step up from the VFR Airfields rendition, which was rather simplistic. What we see here is a truly full-featured Heathrow airport, with everything modelled according to its real-world specifications. You can however see that the model in VFR Airfields is a low detail version of the Extreme version.

Terminal 5 close-up.

 

We move our view a bit closer to give the terminal a closer look.  The detail of the jetways is really good, with all kinds of ground equipment, including boxes, pillars and various carts. Also the ground textures are very nice. Not only the underlying photoscenery looks good, also the top layer that includes the pavement and tarmac detail looks nice. It includes all kinds of damages and repairs and such.

Overview of terminals 1, 2 and 3.

 

We move over to the central part of Heathrow, the core of the airport. A cursory inspection shows one rather important thing, not seen as yet in the other sceneries: a up-to-date rendition. Terminal 3 is partially closed. The maintenance area sees two buildings destroyed and replaced with an apron. Terminal 2 looks to be closed also. We’ll move closer and give it a more thorough inspection.

Terminal 3 and closeup.

 

The first thing we see is terminal 1 and the control tower. It’s easy to see the huge amount of extra detail that came on top of the VFR Airfields rendition. Not only are the buildings themselves better looking, they include all kinds of small details that we haven’t sene previously, such as air vents. Texturing is top notch all the way. The control tower also features a higher level of detail due to the added cables that are spun from the control room down to the ground. The close-up shot gives a better idea of the texturing, which seems crisp and well-done, with really nice coloration.

Old terminal 2.

 

What was terminal 2 is now a place of silence. Cordoned off by a fence and devoid of jetways, an overhaul of what was terminal 2 is in progress, although Google Earth in fact suggests that all that we should see here is in fact a pit of sand and rubble. While more up-to-date than the other sceneries, it’s apparent that the scenery isn’t completely up-to-date.

Terminal 1

 

Terminal 1 is currently being overhauled. As such, it is nice to see that the UK2000 Extreme Heathrow rendition of the airport takes this into account by blocking a large part of it and replacing a large part of the tarmac with more accurate photoreal ground textures of the building site. Since the building site has probably changed twenty times since this particular Heathrow scenery was released, we cannot expect it to be accurate at this moment, and indeed it isn’t, for Google Maps tells us that the renovations have expanded past the point this scenery makes us believe. However, it’s still very nice to see that terminal 1 is at least being rebuilt in this scenery. Moreover, what’s actually there looks really good, with really nice texturing and very good modelling. I really like the ground textures especially.

Terminal 4

 

Finally, the last of the terminals is terminal 4, a relatively secluded part of the airport on the southern side. UK2000’s rendition of it looks really good. The detail of the terminal building is very good, and the texturing makes it look really great. The closeup shot gives a good idea of the kind of added detail you can expect. I must say the ground textures do really impress me. Everything looks authentic, which is something that even the best sceneries not always manage to do.

The old control tower and pick-up/drop-off point.

 

At the centre of terminals 1 through 3, we find the old control tower and the pick-up and drop-off point for the passengers. The modelling is good as always, and so is the texturing of the buildings, but the ground photoscenery seems a little blurry. What I do really like is the custom car traffic, though. How do I know it’s not FSX default? Because there are double decker busses driving around, which are not part of default FSX car traffic. A nice touch!

The maintenance area.

 

The maintenance area is at the eastern side of the airport, and contains various hangars. Without much searching, you can see a BMI, a Virgin Atlantic and a British Airways hangar. These all looks very good. The modelling is impressive and coupled to the texturing these structures look really good. Furthermore, it’s nice that the two big hangars at the centre of this area have been demolished and replaced with an apron extension.

Now follow some night shots. The colors seem somewhat realistic, although there is quite a bit of green. Remember I wasn’t quite sure about the green windows in the Aerosoft version of the airport? Apparently, the green windows are somewhat realistic, although perhaps a bit more variation would have been good. In the UK2000 scenery, this variation is however present, as seen below.

Night shots of UK2000 Heathrow Extreme.

 

Concluding, this is a top scenery, and with relatively good performance too! Modelling and texturing are very nice. Some signature English additions, such as moving double decker busses, are really welcome.  One of the highlights of the scenery are the ground textures, I find. Not so much the ground photoscenery, but the layer on top of it that. This is the layer that makes the concrete slabs, the zig-zag motif at terminal 4, the taxiway markings, the runway markings, and parking instructions at the gates. Coupled to the texturing and modelling, this makes for a very nice and mostly up-to-date rendition of Heathrow. As such, I have difficulty finding any problems in this scenery. There isn’t anything that I dislike about it.

Pros Cons
Good modelling None!
Very nice texturing
Good performance
Varied night lighting
Mostly up-to-date!

 

London Gatwick

London Gatwick is the second busiest airport of London, being home to many international flights, such as Virgin Atlantic’s regular hauls to the US. Despite the fact that it’s rather busy and has a rather large surface covered with terminals, it has only one runway. A second one was once built onto the runway’s parallel taxiway, but ever since the new runway was completed, once can still see the remains of the old “taxiway-runway”.  UK2000 has covered it in its VFR Airfield package, as well as in its Extreme series of airports.

 

UK2000 VFR Airfields Gatwick

Included in UK2000 VFR Airfields is of course more than Heathrow, looked at earlier in this article. It also includes London Gatwick airport. Since it is the same product, essentially (namely VFR Airfields Volume 1), we ought to expect the same kind of quality scenery. As we saw in heathrow, this is relatively accurate airport scenery, although lacking in detail. Remember also that VFR Airfields models over 70 airports, and as such it would be unfair to demand more of it. Now without further ado, let us look into this airport.

Overview

 

What strikes me immediately is the default style sprons, runways and taxiways. There is no photoreal underground, but to be honest, I don’t think that’s such a problem, as I didn’t like it too much in Heathrow. What I really value here, is that the default taxiways are done really well. N many sceneries, you can see bits and pieces of photoreal underground stick out of the default taxiways laid out over them, giving it a rather messy look. Here that is not the case, and as such it looks pretty good. Also note that the photoreal underground merges pretty much seamlessly with Horizon’s photoreal scenery. Let’s go a bit closer now, to give the airport buildings themselves a closer look.

Gatwick control tower.

 

On our way to the terminal building, we pass Gatwick’s control tower. The modelling here is really nice. The texturing is also rather nice, and combined with modelling it gives a really good representation of the real thing. The interesting thing is that it’s actually a rather simple model for as far as I can see, and still it manages to capture reality really well.

Gatwick’s north terminal.

 

Gatwick’s north terminal is characterized by the walkway from the main building to the satellite. It’s this bridge that is also rather well modelled in this otherwise a bit simplistic representation of Gatwick. I’m happy though that extra effort was done to capture the bridge. For the rest, everything that should be there, is there. The buildings are accurate, but they lack detail and default jetways surrounding the terminal. Still, it looks pretty nice.

Gatwick’s south terminal.

 

There are two terminals at Gatwick. The second one is the south terminal, characterised not by a bridge, but by its circular structure at the end of one of the terminals concourses. As a matter of fact, I still have fond memories of this part of the terminal, when I came in touch with the first UK2000 product I had ever seen. It was a very old version, made for FS98, but at the time there were already some pretty interesting technologies, like moving jetways and a working parking signalling system. The current representation is pretty good. It is accurate and the texturing is nice, but again, it lacks detail.

Hangars along the south edge of Gatwick.

 

Finally, there are some hangars placed at the southern edge of Gatwick. These look quite good, and I like the addition of various crates and containers. It’s also nice to see that a static Boeing 747 was placed here. It fills things up a bit.

Like with Heathrow, Gatwick is an accurate representation, but it lacks detail. Again, like with Heathrow, this is an airport you ought to view in the contect of the bigger picture: VFR Airfields, for in that context, it’s terrific value. In itself however, it will probably not be able to hold a candle for the Extreme Gatwick scenery, also made by UK2000, which we will look at next. Do note that the performance of VFR Airfields Gatwick is very good, precisely because of the lack of highly detailed buildings.

Pros Cons
Accurate representation. Very simplistic scenery.
Nice texturing. Low detail.
Well-made aprons/runways/taxiways.
Good performance.

 

UK2000 Gatwick Extreme

Gatwick Extreme can be looked upon as a detailed version of the Gatwick included in VFR Airfields volume 1, but truth be told, Gatwick Extreme seems to be so much more. Plus, there is an added nicety about Gatwick. It’s farther away from London than Heathrow, it’s smaller, yet it’s still rather busy. If you’re computer has difficulty with big airports, Gatwick might just be the busy type of London airport you (and your computer) were looking for. But does UK2000’s Gatwick cut it? We’ll see.

Overview of UK2000 Gatwick.

 

One look already reveals the much higher resolution of the photoscenery. It looks great and fits really well within the Horizon photoscenery. Furthermore, there’s lots of added detail. Alongside the runway are all kinds of industrial buildings, like warehouses. I did notice a hole in one such building though, but you can’t see it at all when operating from this airport. We’ll move closer and give it a better look.

Photoscenery and runway textures.

 

First thing we come across is the single runway at Gatwick airport. A close-up of it reveals its detailed nature. The grass looks especially good, very crisp, but what I like most is actually the runway and taxiway edges. These aren’t part of the grass textures, but actually seem to be part of the runway and taxiway textures, forming a transition to the grass. Also notice the tiny details on the taxiway and runway centrelines.

Cargo apron.

 

Gatwick of course has its own cargo apron. A nice and busy place, we see ground equipment all over. Coupled with some really fine ground texturing, it’s a pleasure to behold. The texturing of the buildings, together with their modelling, is also fine and fits perfectly with the great ground textures on which they stand.

ATC tower

 

Next up is the ATC tower. Overall, it is pretty much the same thing as the VFR Airfields version, but notice the beautiful detail on the tower’s roof: rotating radar equipment, and the antennae all make the tower looks just like the real thing.

Gatwick’s north terminal.

 

Gatwick has two terminals, termed north and south. The above screenshot shows the north terminal, which is also the newest terminal of the two. Its iconic walking bridge that connects the satellite from the main building is something every regular Gatwick visitor should be able to recognize immediately. UK2000 has done a pretty remarkable job modelling it all. From the ground equipment to the jetways and finally, the terminal itself, everything is textured very well and the modelling is as great as always. The bets part is how all the textures work together to create this typical atmosphere. This is what I have always found good about UK2000 airport: it all works together to create an awesome experience, and Gatwick’s north terminal is just another example of that. Now follow some closeup shots for your viewing pleasure.

North Terminal close-up shots.

 

Gatwick’s South terminal is an older building, which isn’t exactly a surprise after seeing it. Still, it has its own iconic bits and pieces, such as the rotunda, a structure that I still remember from the FS98 version I had of this airport a long time ago.

Gatwick’s south terminal.

 

Even though it’s an older building, the UK2000 version makes it look as good as always. The same pros that apply to the north terminal, apply to the south terminal, whose texturing, modelling and ground textures all come together to not only make a very nice rendition of the real thing, but also create an atmosphere that some other developers struggle to get. And the surprising thing is that the texture resolution doesn’t even have to be very high: it’s all about getting the right colors and make everything match each other. This is probably rather hard to do, but the result pays. See the below shots for a close-ups.

South terminal close-ups.

 

We will know move over to the landside of the terminals, where little trains ride and passengers park their cars. UK2000 has added several moving trains. One drives between the two terminals, the other moves along the north terminal’s landside. The texturing and modelling all are as good as on the planeside of the airport, so no surprises there. I’m a great fan of the trees also, which adds greenness and a piece of nature to an otherwise concrete and fully built area.

Inter-terminal trains.

 

North terminal entrance.

 

South terminal entrance.

 

A UK2000 airport won’t be a UK2000 airport if areas just outside of the perimeter fence wouldn’t have been included. In Gatwick, we find some warehouses, small office buildings and a church, which all add a lot to the overall impression one gets when landing at Gatwick. It’s a nice touch, like the trees.

Alongside the runway.

 

Finally, it’s time for Gatwick at night. I like flying around the UK at dusk, so a good night rendition of an airport is important to me. UK2000 has done a great job with the night rendition of Gatwick, as can be seen below. What I especially like is the illumination of the taxiway and runway lights on the ground. Instead of “just” a light effect, texturing was used to create an actual “shining” on the ground, which in my mind adds a lot to the atmosphere at the airport.

Night shots

 

It’s nice that all of this looks so good, but how’s performance? One can’t fly in and out of an airport if the performance is so low that the plane is seen moving once or twice a second. Fortunately, UK2000 Gatwick is surprisingly light on the frames. Even though it has this level of detail, the great texturing and very nice looking night lighting, your computer won’t have too much trouble with it. A great achievement!

Concluding, UK2000 Gatwick seems like a great airport. It looks great and performs well. In short, it gets everything right. Together with AES support, you will have moving jetways and a great time flying in and out of this airport.

Pros Cons
Great performance None
Good modelling
Good texturing
Lots of detail
Good atmosphere as a result of everything working together well.

 

London Stansted

London Stansted is the third-largest airport serving the London and the UK in its entirety. It is a hub for many low-cost airlines, such as Easyjet and especially Ryanair. UK2000 has covered it in its VFR Airfield package (volume 2), as well as in its Extreme series of airports.

 

UK2000 VFR Airfields Stansted

As always, UK2000’s VFR Airfields has a rendition for this airport also. By now we know what to expect: an okay version, though low on details, but a sure enhancement of the default version.

Overview of the airport.

 

The overview of the airport already shows the nice integration with Horizon’s photoscenery. It also shows the default taxiways and runway, and the reasonably detailed buildings. There also seems to be a problem just outside if the perimeter fence, on the highway:

Something strange going on with the roads?

 

I’m not even sure if this is a problem of the airport or the photoscenery, but something with the road has gone wrong. The roads seem to slowly fade out into the grass, even though cars are actually driving over it. If it weren’t on the approach path to the airport, I wouldn’t have found it too big a problem, but as it is, it should probably be corrected.

For such a “simplistic” scenery as this, I’m surprised at the remarkable detail of the control tower. Look closely and you’ll notice transparent windows. Also notice the clarity and detail of the textures and the detail on the tower’s roof.

ATC Tower.

 

The cargo apron, shown below, is right next to the ATC tower, and doesn’t seem to big. There are warehouses and packaging plants in the centre, where trucks can unload their goods. The trucks are, in fact, also modelled, which is a very nice enhancement to the scenery as a whole. The warehouses miss several parts when compared to the Extreme version of the airport (reviewed soon), but still look very nice.

cargo apron.

 

Not too far from the cargo apron, are the passenger terminals. These consist of one large entry hall that contains all the usual stuff, such as check-in, customs and shops. There are several walk bridges through which the passengers walk to the concourses that house all the gates. Sadly, the walk bridges are not modelled and the jetways are just the default jetways of FSX. The terminal area is, as such, rather underwhelming, but still a significant improvement over default Stansted.

Passenger terminal.

 

Finally, the performance at the airport is really good. There hardly seems to be any FPS hit, which is fortunate but to be expected. As such, it’s a solid package and given that VFR Airfields 2, in which it is included, contains roughly 80 more airports, it is a very solid deal, although you’d probably not want to buy it for Stansted alone. For that, the UK2000 Stansted Extreme, reviewed next, is a better option.

 

Pros Cons
Good performance. A problem with one of the roads?
Buildings look nice. Low detail
Texturing is good. Simplistic scenery
Accurate representation.

 

UK2000 Stansted Extreme

Stansted being the rather well known airport that it is, has its own UK2000 Extreme version. It builds on the better-than-default buildings of the VFR Airfields package and as such gives us a rendition of Stansted that you will want to operate in and out of. Note that UK2000 Stansted Extreme does come with its own jetways, but these will be moveable only by AES, not by GSX. For GSX users, you’ll wan to use the “remove jetways” option in the Stansted Extreme configuration utility. This will replace the custom jetways with FSX default jetways, which will be useable in conjunction with GSX’s animations. Also, UK2000 Stansted Extreme seems to be a relatively old scenery when compared to other UK2000 Extreme products, which explains some of the observations that will be made in this chapter.

Overview shot.

 

First of all, it all seems so remarkably similar to the VFR Airfields rendition. That’s bound to happen since it’s the same airport, but after a first glance, you become aware of the differences. The textures of the taxiways and runways are custom and the amount of detail is much greater. Also, buildings that we saw before, now have all kinds of extras to them that weren’t present in VFR Airfields Stansted. Let’s take a closer look.

Ground detail.

 

The ground detail at Stansted Extreme is the first thing that caught my eye. While the ground image might not be of the highest resolution that I have seen, it includes a separate detail layer that truly makes it look stunning. Plus, the bright green textures of the grass look great in conjunction with the nice grey tones of the runway and taxiways. Notice the detail on the runway, and especially the transition to the grass, at the sides, which looks very convincing.

Crago apron.

 

The cargo apron looks of course more or less like the VFR Airfields version, but includes so much more. Besides better texturing, the buildings themselves include new parts to them, mainly on the landside of the apron. Talking about the landside, the ground image is of higher resolution than the one of the VFR Airfields and its coloration is also better. Besides texture improvements, notice he detail along the planeside of the cargo apron: new light poles, fences and ground equipment can be seen, which all adds tremendously to the atmosphere at the airport.

Overview of the passenger terminal.

 

Directly adjacent to the cargo apron, is the passenger terminal with its various concourses. You can see now that the walking bridges are modelled in this version. Besides the fact that custom jetways are now added, there’s also more ground equipment, parking signs, lampposts and custom apron textures. I will say that compared to other UK2000 releases, there isn’t too much ground equipment. The airport does have one other thing that I don’t see often, and that’s an interior! Stansted Extreme is one of the few airports that has see-through glass for the concourses (not the main passenger terminal though).  So all in all, this rendition of the passenger terminal is very nice, and does a good job of representing the real thing. See below for some close-up shots.

Close-up shots of the passenger terminal.

 

Besides cargo and passenger areas, there are also some hangars that are worth checking out. These are all at the other end of the airport, and include, amongst others, a big Ryanair hangar. Ryanair is one of he biggest operators out of Stansted, so surprising it is surely not. The modelling and texture detail is remarkable, and I love the looks of the brick-and-mortar buildings in the shots. Some more ground equipment would have been nice, and I have noticed that objects tend to pop into as you get close. This is one of those legacy things when computers had trouble handling FSX. See below for shots of the hangars just discussed.

Hangars at Stansted airport.

 

Like with the other UK2000 airports in the Extreme range, the night lighting, especially of runway and taxiways, is pretty spectacular. Besides the light effect which every scenery has, UK2000 adds a textured “shining” also, which greatly increases the effect of the lights and makes them absolutely stunning to watch. Also the textures of the terminals and such are very well done and make for a beautiful place to be at night. See below.

Night shots.

 

Finally, performance. After having flown around Heathrow Extreme, Gatwick Extreme and London City Extreme, I am hardily surprised that the FPS at Stansted extreme is rather good. The added benefit of Stansted is relatively low-density urban location. This means that users of UTX’s night lighting, such as myself, will have an easier time than around place such as Heathrow or even Luton, which feature lots of UTX’s night lights. While pretty it hits the frames hard when used en masse. Stansted doesn’t have this drawback in location, and manages to keep good FPS, even in the light of its own amount of  detail.

Bottom line is that Stansted extreme is a remarkable scenery product. The colouring of the textures, especially of the ground (grass, runways, taxiways, aprons) is very convincing and look really good. The modelling of the buildings is very good and so is their texturing, but more ground equipment would have ben welcomed. Also note that Stansted Extreme is relatively old, meaning that it includes some of those “legacy” features that once upon a time, in FSX’s early days, were necessary to conserve FPS. Now they seem a bit redundant, for I’m sure that even if you take those features out, the performance would still be very good. Stansted Extreme is a solid airport, and with AES support, you also get your moving jetways.

Pros Cons
Great texturing Objects popping into view
Very good modelling
Good performance
Good ground photoscenery
Beautiful night lighting

 

London Luton

Luton is the fourth largest airport serving the London area. It is, like Stansted, a hub for low-cost airlines. Without any jetways of any kind, this is understandable. The airport has been covered by Eiresim, who dedicated a full scenery to it, and by UK2000, in their VFR airfields volume 2 package.

 

UK2000 VFR Airfields Luton

VFR Airfields Luton is, by all expectations, not the version of Luton that will end up in Ultimate London. That is the expectation, but the interesting thing is that it looks better than most airports in the VFR Airfields package. See the shot below.

Overview of VFR Airfields Luton.

 

The ground image looks surprisingly good. The coloration is very nice; the grass is a very nice, bright green. All buildings that should be included apparently are included, even though they are differently textured than the current London Luton buildings are painted. It’s almost a pity that some more ground equipment wasn’t included, because otherwise it looks pretty nice. We’ll give it a closer look now.

Terminal area at Luton.

 

Even if Luton doesn’t include much detail or custom textures for taxiways and runways, the buildings still look pretty good. The texturing is rather nice, and the modelling looks quite good too.

Hangars

 

Right across the terminal building, there are several hangars where more aircraft are parked. These look pretty nice, even if the texturing isn’t of the highest possible resolution. You’ll also note the static aircraft parked in front of the hangars. You can turn these off in the configuration utility.

Modern terminal.

 

The previous terminal is the older terminal building, but a completely new terminal has been built where glass and metal feature prominently. It’s a beautiful structure, by all means. The VFR Airfields rendition of it looks rather good, and even if it’s not too detailed, it still is a respectable copy of the real thing. One thing you might notice though on the ground image, is a wing. That’s a pity, but we can’t really expect that such errors will be actively avoided in a pack of 80 airports or so that sells for the low price for which it sells… As such, while I would have liked to see it avoided, I’m not too concerned by it.

Performance at VFR Airfields Luton is of course good, and we shouldn’t need to expect otherwise. By all means, it’s a nice rendition of a nice international airport, with a great ground image, nice modelling and good texturing. Even if it is a bit simplistic in areas, it still holds up pretty well.

Pros Cons
Very nice ground image. Some minor errors on the ground image.
Nice modelling.
Good texturing.
Good performance.

 

Eiresim Luton Ultimate

For a change we’re not looking at a UK2000 Extreme version of an airport. UK2000 didn’t make an Extreme version of the airport, but Eiresim did, in their series of “Ultimate” airports. Luton Ultimate is their last released airport, and as such can be expected to be “the best” in their product range. Once upon a time I reviewed Cork Ultimate, and was pretty happy with the result. If Luton gets to the same level or better, we are in for a treat.

Ground detail.

 

The ground image and textures of aprons, taxiways and runways is really good. The detail is great. The Runways and taxiways have a rather high level of detail. Also the grass and the rest of the ground image looks really nice and is at a very high resolution.

Ground detail.

 

The high resolution ground image is very nice, as seen above, but it also shows a slightly lesser point, which is the exclusion of some objects. I’m not sure what should have stood here, but it would have been nice if it were included, particularly because it’s relatively close to the runway. There are more of such things, but for the most part hangars and other buildings occlude it. In those cases it doesn’t matter much, but here I would have liked to see a structure.

Terminal area.

 

Moving on to the terminal area, we are greeted by a fest of extreme detail. All kinds of cars, ground equipment, light poles and really well textured buildings are everywhere. It truly looks very good. The apron textures seem slightly blurrish; a higher resolution would have been better, but overall it looks really nice. The taxiway markings, on the other hand, look really good.

Terminal area

 

Moving over to the modern part of the terminal, we get to see more of the really nice detail we already saw previously. I’m a great fan of the modelling and texturing of the ground equipment. The catering vans look especially good. Also notice the really nice ground markings. As for the building itself, the modelling is nice and the texturing is very god. The high resolution makes the windows pop out; it looks very convincing.

Hangars

 

Across the older terminal, we see the hangars we also saw at the VFR Airfields rendition, except that here the texturing is a much higher resolution and everything is more upt-o-date, such as the Monarch logo. By all means, really good looking hangars!

ATC tower and car park.

 

The car park in front of the ATC Tower is filled with cars, and as a result it looks extremely good. This is the kind of thing I love to see: an attention to detail of a level that actually makes you stop your plane to give the scenery a better look. The ATC tower itself looks really good too. The texturing and modelling are of an equally high level. Finally, notice the big, orange Easyjet hangar. It is clear that Eiresim’s Luton is more up to date and the VFR Airfields rendition. The only thing I kiss are mocing cars on the roads. These could have been a fine addition to an already fine scenery.

Finally, some night shots. By this time, it’s obvious how I like the taxiway and runway lights of UK2000, and as such this is something I of course would have liked to see here also. It simply adds that extra something. That doesn’t say that Eiresim’s Luton doesn’t cut it, for it sure does! The night lighting is very well done and looks extremely convincing. The terminals and especially the white hangars are beautifully textured at night. Besides, there is always something special about how all these smaller aircraft are all crammed together on this relatively small apron, all with their logo lights lit, forming a long line of lit vertical stabilizers. It’s a rare sort of sight, and one that Eiresim has recreated really well within the confines of FSX.

As a last note, the performance of Luton on its own is pretty good. No complaints there. You might need to reconsider the addition of UTX’s night lights however. Luton lies in a more urban area, and as a result, UTX had s lots of its 3D lights. As such, night flying into Luton can get problematic now and then.

Pros Cons
High resolution ground image. Would have liked some more 3D structures at specific places of the scenery
Really good modelling.
Great texturing.
Performance is pretty good.
Good night lighting.

 

London City Airport

London City airport has an interesting location, as opposed to the other airports. Namely, in the middle of the city, along the Thames, on a former Docklands site. It’s in fact very close to London’s financial district with its tall office buildings. Because of this location, it has some very stringent regulations as to when planes can operate in and out of the airport, and by what arrival route. Also, besides direct connections to many European cities, there is a service to New York JFK using British Airways’ A318 aircraft in a complete Business/First class seating plan.

There are two developers that looked at London City Airport. Aerosoft, who also includes a copy of their scenery with London VFR X, and UK2000, that include it in their VFR Airfields volume 1 package, and as a separate UK2000 Extreme series airport.

 

Aerosoft’s London City Airport

Aerosoft’s London City airport scenery as reviewed here is part of the London VFR X package, and as such incurs no additional cost; not an unimportant fact to mention! You can also purchase it separately however, but you’ll get the same airport.

Overview of the scenery.

 

There isn’t that much to see at all at this airport. It’s basically a runway with a terminal on one end, and some miscellaneous objects, such as a a model aircraft for training purposes and a few parked cars. There are some things that really do stand out though. First of all, how well the scenery fits into VFR London X, which of course shouldn’t be a surprise. Secondly, I really like the grass/ground textures alongside the runway. Also the runway and taxiway textures look really nice.

Closeup of the runway.

 

If we move a little closer, we can give the runway detail a look. The quality of the textures is pretty good, looking pretty crisp. The grass textures are noticeably blurry from this close, but when you’re out taxiing you won’t really notice it, and let’s be frank, we have seen worse than this. As a matter of fact, I rarely see ground textures that looks quite as crisp as this!

London City terminal.

 

London City terminal is a surprisingly big structure for such a small and cramped airport. Don’t forget that the airport is about as broad as five times its runway. As such it’s admirable that they managed to use their allocated space so well. Overall, what we see is a structure in the centre, and two long, slender arms extending along a man-built island. The modelling of it looks pretty solid, although the scenery can’t seem to escape from certain emptiness. It seems pretty empty, because of a general lack of ground equipment.

The control tower.

 

The control tower is tiny. Funny thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any glass in the windows, but the nice thing is that you can look through it and see what’s in there, and apparently there are no humans, just computers. The terminal buildings themselves look pretty nice, with reflections on the windows. I really like the car parked in front of the control tower, very nice texturing.

One end of the terminal.

 

We move to the western end of the airport, where we find not only the end of the apron, but also the airport’s fire trucks and a building that I’m not quite sure what it’s for. For the rest, we see walls that probably gought to divert the noise from the airport. The modelling here seems a little simplistic, but what I actually want to point out are the markings on the apron. I don’t really like them. The colours seem to strong, with this very bright, harsh yellow and thick black “frame”.

The airport’s training area.

 

The airport has its own little training area for the fire fighters, and I really like the look of it. It’s nicely filled with all the approach lights, and the addition of two very nicely modelled vehicles. The ground texturing looks as good as previously mentioned.

Finally, night shots. The night lighting at this airport looks really nice, I must say. It creates just the right atmosphere. The only thing which is a pitty, is the taxiway markings. These look like almost solid black in this night lighting.

Night shots

 

Overall, this airport looks really nice. The ground textures are really nice and the modelling is pretty solid also. There pretty much is only one thing that I don’t like about it, are the taxiway and runway markings. These are too solid. They are too “present” in the scenery, and therefor they look slightly fake. If they were more transparent, so that the underlying tarmac textures would show through a bit, it would already have looked a bit better.

Pros Cons
Fits perfectly into London VFR X Seems a bit empty.
Very nice ground/taxiway/runway textures. I’m no fan of the taxiway and runway markings
Solid modelling.

 

UK2000 VFR Airfields London City

We have seen previously in the other VFR Airfields airports what we can expect: low detail, but otherwise pretty accurate depictions of the airports. London City is, by itself, already a very small and rather minimalistic airport without much going on in terms of airport buildings. However, VFR Airfields makes it even less:

Overview shot.

 

Honestly, I was wondering in the beginning if I wasn’t simply looking at a default version of the airport, but this can’t be: look at the runway, and you’ll see typical English runway markings which can’t be of a default London City airport. However, there is no airport building whatsoever, which I did find a bit of a disappointment overall. As such, there isn’t much to see, although I will mention that it fits nicely in London VFR X. Although, the turn-around part at the end of the runway lies in water, without land apparently supporting it, which looks a little strange. On the other, hand, FPS impact is nil.

Pros Cons
Good FPS. Misses just about everything besides airport layout.
Correct airport layout.

 

UK2000 London City Extreme

The VFR Airfields version is, as we saw, rather empty and default looking. The Extreme version promises to be a lot better if the previous Extreme airports we saw are anything to go by. It will also be interesting to compare it to Aerosoft’s London City, which is an older version than the UK2000 London City Extreme version.

Overview of London City.

 

The above shot gives an overview of not only the airport, but also the rest that the scenery includes, for it’s not just the airport, it’s lots of the immediate surroundings too. We will stick with the airport for now, but the surroundings will be shown later too. JHust keep in mind that what you see here is the version that was made compatible with London VFR (reviewed earlier) by taking out some of the London VFR versions of buildings.

Ground detail.

 

One of the things that I find pretty amazing in UK2000’s London City, is the quality of the ground textures. These have always been rather good with the Extreme airports range, sporting high detail and good colouring, but London City is one of the better ones. Of course, London City is one of the newest UK2000 products, so that is to be expected. Even if it is expected, it’s still great to see it. Not only notice the extreme detail of the grass, but look closely at the taxiway and runway textures. It’s not “simple” concrete slabs you see, but these are detailed with various tones of grey on every slab. This makes for a very lifelike and varied representation of a concrete runway. On top of that notice the intricate markings on runway and taxiways. It all combines to make a beautiful ground texture.

London City terminal.

 

Up close to the terminal, we get to see more of the lovely apron textures and markings. We can also see the modelling and texturing of the buildings now, and it looks very positive. The modelling of the terminal includes some very intricate things, like the rims of the walls sticking out just above the actual roof. Note the really good texturing of the gates, like the doors. The ground equipment, all neatly positioned between gate exits, is quite numerous, well modelled and well textured; beautiful to behold! By all means, London City is a pretty empty-looking airport, but only because all ground equipment is positioned wherever a plane won’t hit it. Because everything is so cramped they don’t have much choice but put it along the walls. As a last remark, look at the train station. Notice the passengers. It’s this kind of detail that makes UK2000 airports so good, and it seems Gary Summons did it again here.

London City’s training area.

 

The training area includes more of the detail we saw earlier. Notice the detail of the fuel trucks, with their really nice texturing. The lead-in lights and fences look rather good. Also notice the pylons at the corners of the roads that lead to the fire training area. The fire training mock-up aircraft is very well textured. Finally, although a bit far away, the bridge behind the training area includes some stunning detail in the form of a bridge guard’s look-out tower and levers to keep traffic off the open bridge. Especially those levers are stunningly detailed.

Car park

 

Outside of the airport we find the car park, amongst other things. Notice the nice modelling of buildings and cars. Especially the Plexiglas walkway looks really nice, but a bit of a let-down are the piers, which aren’t well aligned with the photoscenery under it.

Church and other buildings.

 

Close to the training area, we find a church and some residential buildings, amongst more industrial buildings and offices. Overall, both modelling and texturing is fine, even if it’s less good than what we saw at the airport. Then again, I personally think that surrounding scenery needn’t be as good as the airport scenery because it will not be as close to the user. As such, small details are easily lost and are better kept out of the scenery to conserve FPS. In that train of thought, it’s easy to comprehend why a layer of much more detailed ground scenery start round about those elevated tracks you can spot over the road. By the way, there’s a moving train that runs over it!

To conclude, here are some night shots. Like the other UK2000 Extreme airports, the night lighting at London City is nothing short of stunning. We got the beautiful taxiway and runway lights, and the terminal’s night lighting is as good as with the other airports in the Extreme series. See below.

Night shots.

 

To conclude, UK2000 London City Extreme is once again remarkable airport scenery in the Extreme airport series. By including more than just the airport and combing good modelling with stunning ground textures, London City will be a treat for virtual pilots to fly into. And don’t forget London City’s unique location, which makes the approach not only fun, but also challenging. Winner scenery it is. The only problem might be the surrounding city,. Especially when combined with FPS intensive scenery as VFR London, your computer may cry a bit. Even on its own however, London City can be found to be more graphically intensive than other airports, such as Stansted (reviewed earlier)

Pros Cons
Stunning ground textures. Performance can get hit by surrounding scenery
Very good modelling.
Great building texturing.
Includes much more than the airport.

 

Southend

Southend is the smallest airport serving London, and as such is London’s sixth airport. Airport authority however wants to expand and enlarge the airport, so as to be able to serve more airlines and reintroduce international connections with European capitals such as Amsterdam and Barcelona, but also many Mediterranean destinations such as Mallorca and Faro. This airport is covered by only one addon, being UK2000’s VFR airfields volume 1.

 

UK2000 VFR airfields Southend

The last of VFR Airfields is London Southend. This is a special case of the VFR Airfields, because there is no other airport scenery that covers it. Please do keep reminding yourself of the fact that also Southend is part of VFR Airfields, and as such we cannot expect it to sport the level of detail of the Extreme series of airports, or Aerosoft’s London Heathrow.

Overview

 

Southend is really quite small. There are various hangars, and a rather small terminal building. It’s nice to see how well it blends in with Horizon’s photoscenery, and the amount of extras is also rather refreshing. We can see various static aircraft placed all over the scenery, which adds a certain atmosphere. We’ll now move a little closer.

Terminal area.

 

The terminal area doesn’t look like much. It’s basically several hangars, and a really small terminal building, seen in the second shot.  Despite its size, it’s a cute little thing though. The modelling seems a bit simplistic, but the texturing is actually really good. I like that there is some added detail, such as the parked cars behind the terminal building. It’s obvious that because this is a smaller airport, more time was spent on refining the airport than getting it to look somewhat like the real thing, such as would be the case with Heathrow, for example.

GA aircraft at Southend.

 

A short while away from the Southend terminal, there are some smaller buildings, probably owned by flying clubs and such. It’s ncie that these were added, and it’s ncie to see the texturing being so good too. The addition of the GA aircraft in front of these buildings is a nice thing also. It fills the airport up a bit, plus it matches really well with the building at which they stand.

Broken apart aircraft.

 

At the other end of the airport, we find two Boeing 747 aircraft, both of which were taken apart to some degree. Engines lying around, and a nose cone missing, it seems like Southend is partly maintenance or storage facility. A little bit in the distance there are some other hangars and warehouses, which we will look at now.

Warehouses and such.

 

This area looks pretty good, I must say. With buildings all over and it being nicely filled up with crates, aircraft, aircraft parts and some nondescript pieces of equipment, it looks sort of lively and busy, in a nice, messy way that I tend to miss in some of the bigger airport sceneries out there for FS. In that sense, I find it somewhat of a pity that there is no more detailed ground photo layer on which the airport has been built, but perhaps UK2000 will make a true Extreme version of Southend airport.

As for performance, the hit is pretty minimal, thanks to the use of simple but good-looking objects.

Overall, I’m rather pleased with how Southend looks. Even though some buildings look a bit simplistic, the texturing is always both crisp and high resolution, and the addition of various aircraft and ground equipment really help to make this airport look lively. And sicne it’s part of VFR Airfields, it’s great value for your money, with so many airports included in a single pack.

Pros Cons
Minimal FPS hit. Simplistic modelling.
Very nice texturing. Default runway/ground/arpon textures.
Nicely filled scenery with many objects all over.

 

Conclusions

It’s time to decide what airports to go for. I will briefly talk about each and every airport reviewed above, and will outline my conclusions and decisions on what to include.

 

London Heathrow

We have seen three London Heathrow sceneries. The Aerosoft Mega Airport Heathrow rendition, the UK2000 VFR Airfields Volume 1 rendition, and the UK2000 Extreme rendition. To summarize my findings, the Aerosoft rendition is very nice. It’s detailed and both modelling and texturing looks good. However, it is already very out-dated. Terminals that have been built are not in the scenery, and structures that were demolished are still present. The UK2000 VFR Airfields is overall about as out-dated as the Aerosoft rendition, plus it’s much less detailed. However, the UK2000 Heathrow Extreme rendition is up-date, detailed, and relatively good on FPS. As such, UK2000’s Heathrow Extreme will make it into Ultimate London.

 

London Gatwick

London Gatwick has two renditions in FS. One is UK2000 VFR Airfields, the other is UK2000 Gatwick Extreme. VFR Airfields is rather simplistic and, to be honest, seems to me like a dumbed down version of the Extreme Gatwick rendition. The latter looks like the former, but simply ahs much more detail, although of course the performance is, as such worse. It’s not that bad however, which is consequently one of UK2000’s selling points: FPS tend to be rather good at UK2000’s sceneries. As such it is not very hard to decide what airport to use for Ultimate London: UK2000’s Gatwick Extreme will be used for Ultimate London.

 

London Stansted

We have seen two versions of Stansted, the VFR Airfields rendition and the Extreme version, both by UK2000. It should be without a doubt that the UK2000 Extreme version ends up in Ultimate London. Its combination of a really good ground image, really good modelling and texturing and a nice level of detailed plus good performance, is a winner. VFR Airfields sure is nice when viewed in the context of the package in which it is supplied (which includes 80 or so more airports!), but since we are going for ultimate in this review, Stansted Extreme is the way to go. UK2000’s Stansted Extreme will be used for Ultimate London.

 

London Luton

London Luton is an interesting airport. The way it’s built is interesting and as such having a good Luton scenery for our Ultimate London is pretty much a must. We have seen UK2000’s VFR Airfields version of Luton, which looked rather nice, but ultimately wasn’t very detailed. Eiresim’s Luton was a flurry of details that returned good performance hand in hand with good modelling and texturing. As such, Eiresim’s London Ultimate will be used for Ultimate London.

 

London City Airport

The most iconic airport of all is probably London City. With its position close to London’s financial district, it is an interesting, unique and performance-heavy place to fly in and out of. UK2000’s VFR Airfields rendition was light on FPS, but mostly because it didn’t include much. Aerosoft’s London City scenery was a lot better. I found it a bit low on the details, even though the modelling and texturing of the buildings was quite good. Still, I wasn’t a fan of the ground texturing. The ground markings were too saturated, making for a rather bright yellow that doesn’t seem to really fit well within the rest of the scenery. Do keep in mind that Aerosoft’s version is rather old. Still, for an Ultimate London, it seems that UK2000’s rendition of London City will be the best. Being a very modern scenery, it includes really high-detail ground textures and very good modelling and texturing. The details in the scenery combine to make a very good and lifelike rendition of London City airport. UK2000’s London City Extreme will be used for Ultimate London.

 

Southend

Since there is only one Southend airport scenery available, namely the one included in UK2000 VFR Airfields Volume 1, there isn’t much to discuss. So, The UK2000 VFR Airfields Volume 1 Southend airport it is!

 

And out of the land arises a city…

With everything combined, we have made ourselves a really nice version of London. The best thing is, is that everything is compatible with each other. The Horizon photoscenery is perfectly compatible with all of the airport sceneries. The UK2000 sceneries are even especially made to work with Horizon’s photosceneries. But not only with that, also with VFR London, which adds London in all its glory, in a way not seen before. Finally, if you have UTX Europe, its night lighting will make any night flight into any of these London airports a treat.

 

Final notes

Now for some final things I ought to mention:

1)   This is an FSX only article! While you could make what I made here in FS2004, I did not look at the older FS2004 versions of the products discussed.

2)   All addons were tested in the contect of other addons. As such, airport sceneries were tested in the context of both VFR London and Horizon’s photosceneries. Also UTX Europe was kept ON during the tests.

To summarize, below are the addons used, where to purchase them, and their price (at the time of writing!). Please note: tracking down the Horizon products was difficult, and their own online store seems to have suffered a viral infection. We have provided links to another store, but we hope that Horizon’s own online store will be back up ASAP.

Addon used Place to get Price
JustFlight VFR Real Scenery Vol. 1 http://secure.simmarket.com/justflight-vfr-real-scenery-vol1-south-east-england.phtml €20,00
Horizon VFR Photographic Scenery X Vol. 1 http://www.flightsimstore.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=121&products_id=762OR<Horizon’s own store wasn’t accessible when we tried to find this link> €40,00
Horizon VFR Photographic Scenery X Vol. 2 http://www.flightsimstore.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=121&products_id=763ORhttp://www.playhorizon.co.uk/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=18 €40,00
Aerosoft VFR London X http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-vfr-london-x.phtml €32,95
Aerosoft London City airport http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-london-city-airport-x.phtml €12,95
Aerosoft Mega Airport Heathrow http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-mega-airport-london-heathrow-x.phtml €24,95
UK2000 Heathrow Extreme V2 http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-scenery-heathrow-xtreme-v2.phtml €18,64
UK2000 Gatwick Extreme V3 http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-scenery-gatwick-xtreme-v3.phtml €18,64
UK2000 Stansted Extreme http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-scenery-stansted-xtreme-egss.phtml €17,50
UK2000 London City Extreme http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-scenery-london-city-xtreme-eglc.phtml €22,10
Eiresim Luton Ultimate http://secure.simmarket.com/eiresim-luton-ultimate.phtml €18,68
UK20000 VFR Airfields Vol. 1 http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-vfr-airfields-volume1-(en_4701).phtml €36,74
UK2000 VFR Airfields Vol. 2 http://secure.simmarket.com/uk2000-vfr-airfields-volume2.phtml €36,74

 

Test machine details

27” Apple iMac:

i5 processor @ 2,8gHz

ATI HD Radeon 5750

12GB DDR3 RAM

Windows 7 SP1 64-bit

 

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