Review: Samsoft Macao X

I first read about the airport of Macau (this is the alternate spelling) in Airliners magazine in 1995. It was under construction then and I was impressed because the runways were built on a man-made island with taxiways on concrete blocks resembling a short bridge. Samsoft has reproduced this for both FS2004 and FSX. I’m going to tell you about the FSX version, their latest.

Airport Data

VMMC, Macau International, has only one runway and that’s enough for this city because it’s not large. The population is just over 500,000. The reason for the long runway at VMMC is that Macau is a tourist hot spot for those looking for Casino’s and it’s connection to mainland China is a less busy transfer point than Hong Kong. The airport was designed to handle 6,000,000 passengers per year and handled 4.2 million in 2009. The busiest year was 2007 when it handled 5.4 million passengers. Cargo is a large part of the business here although last year the cargo passing through the airport dropped by almost 50% from 2008.

Runway 16/34 is 11,024 x 148 ft and sits at an altitude of 20ft. There are two taxiways one at either end of the runway. You’ll need to plan for a high speed taxi in order to get off the long runway before the next aircraft lands. For departures you’ll need to follow the noise abatement procedures particularly when departing from runway 34. Runway 34 is ILS Cat II approved with a frequency of 109.70. For landing on Runway 16 you will have to use the VOR on the field which has a frequency of 116.40. SID’s are to be followed for runway 16 as they are strict.

Installation and Materials

Installation is typical and you will have to activate the scenery in your scenery database. You are provided a password to be used later with any updates that become available. Now we run into a slight problem… I went to their website and I was greeted with a red warning message that Samsoft’s site has been identified as a Reported Attack Page. Sometimes these sites are named in error but just the same I didn’t want to take a chance. I waited for a two weeks and tried again and saw that the warning was gone but the site was still down with the dreaded “Forbidden” messsage and error 404. So, I cannot test the most updated version of this scenery.

There is no manual included so I can’t review that. We’re not off to a good start.

The Claims

I’m going to take their ad and show you the quality of what they claim to have in their package. Here are the features they’ve listed on Simmarket:

  • Macau International Airport
  • Airport ground traffic
  • beautiful night effect
  • Macau city with +500 buildings and houses
  • famous landmarks
  • detailed fisherwharf
  • famous hotel such as MGM Grand,Venetians,Lisboa,Sands,Stars,Wynn,etc
  • hills and mountains
  • 3 bridges crossing the city and island
  • edited landclass and waterclass
  • FSX afcad file included

The airport terminals are pleasing to the eyes but not highly detailed. There’s allot of glass in the real building and Samsoft chose to put them in but not as clear glass rather as a non-transparent texture. The sign above the terminal is jagged (see picture below). The signs on the hangers look better than the one’s on the terminal. I like that they’ve included the parking guides to help you dock at the right location at the gate. The terminal itself is not a rectangle but a semi-circular shape and Samsoft has done a decent job of the curves. There are a few other buildings around the terminal that range from ok to good in appearance. Some have textures with the cargo bins painted on while others are nicely shaped and contoured. They’ve included the car ramp on the passenger side although it drives into the mountain behind. The Ferris Wheel looks nice. Around the airport there are various static ground vehicles and cargo bins. The Fire Dept. Building doesn’t look proportionally correct in size and there are no trucks. Again, just a texture with trucks painted on them… I think. It’s hard to tell.

The Airport Ground traffic is nothing special. Just a few trucks scattered about and the usual fuel and pushback tugs.

See below for the night views. The downtown casino area looks nice. In other places some areas are lit up while others are not. Nothing really striking grabs my attention but it’s better than the default scenery. I was disappointed that the Macau Tower was only lit up at the bottom. Some of the buildings could have used the usual strobe at the top.

They claim to have over 500 buildings in the city of Macau. Now, I’m not going to count all the buildings and see if they are telling the truth. I’ll just say that there are more buildings in this scenery than I’ve seen in any other scenery add-on. The detail of the buildings is pretty impressive, too. They’ve taken the time to sculpt the oddly shaped one’s. It almost seems like they’ve taken more time with the city design than the airport itself. There’s a couple of helipads around the bay area.

There are plenty of Landmarks to look at. The most noticeable being the Macau Tower. The Macau East Asian Games Dome is included in the bay near the airport and is visible from the terminal and taxiways. Others include the Sportfield and Pavillion at MUST, the Grand Lisboa Casino and Hotel and the entire casino and hotel district. These are all well done and worth a helicopter tour.

I have a hard time identifying the Fisherwarf even using GoogleEarth as a guide. There’s a section of the river where Samsoft has placed a couple of ocean tankers but I don’t see anything resembling a detailed Fisherwarf area. Hopefully, someone from Samsoft can comment on the review and point out where it is exactly.

The Venetian Hotel looks great as does the Crown Macau. All of the included hotels are done very well in this package.

The Hills and Mountains are done with landclass and mesh. In real life they are not exactly impressive and look the same in Samsoft’s version. They do make a nice backdrop while at the terminal and landing though.

Bridges… well they are there and the design looks accurate but there are no textures for the pillars and uprights. It’s just a dull grey colour as in the Macao Tower picture above.

The custom landclass is ok. In some areas it looks like it should have been left out because they have so many buildings that sit on top of other landclass buildings (see the Casino Area shot above). The construction areas are complete with the proper ground textures. I will say that the waterclass is pretty accurate. The bay surrounding Macau has a brownish tint to it due to the heavy boat traffic and sea currents in the area stirring up the silt. Samsoft has this affect included and a spot here and there with no silt in the bay. Looks realistic.

The included AFCAD is done well. They have included parking spots for aircraft in the hangers and cargo area, one each. Don’t be disappointed. Remember, this is a small international airport and gates and parking are at a premium here.

Here’s a few more pics I took of the approach and landings so you can get the feel of what it’s like to land on a runway built on an island.

… and finally my departure flight to the next airport review location.

Is it worth the price?

At 18.95 Euros (approx. $26.68 Can/USA) for the FSX version I consider this airport a pretty good deal. While it’s lacking in airport detail, the work that went into making the city was considerable. You can get much more detailed airports than Samsoft’s Macao X, but they don’t have the city detail that Samsoft included. Personally, I find the approach into Macao more pleasurable because of the scenery you see on approach, but airport detail is also important. The framerate impact was acceptable. I have my framerate locked at 25 fps and I didn’t lose any fps while viewing this scenery. Note that there is a FS2004 version you can purchase separately. If they included both versions for this price I would consider this a great deal but seeing as you have to buy both separately, I’ll say it’s a pretty good deal.

Filesize: 14.5 mb for FSX

FS Version: FSX tested, FS 2004 available separately

Developer: Samsoft (site down as of writing)

Purchase from: Simmarket for 18.95 Euros or around $26.68 Canada/USA

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