FSX

Orbx FTX Melbourne V2 Review

Review Orbx FTX Melbourne V2

Overview:

The Orbx FTX YMML Melbourne V2 airport scenery for FSX is a complete remake of Orbx’s popular first version of Melbourne for FSX, which was the first ever payware airport release by Orbx. Released late 2010, version 2 comes with all new techniques, innovations and features FTX developed since they released version 1. Anybody who knows the Orbx Airports knows they look good. But in this review, we’ll take a closer look into Melbourne V2 for FSX.

The  Melbourne was founded in 1835, and was declared a city in 1847. It’s the capital of the State of Victoria, and nowadays the greater Melbourne area is home to 4 million people. The Melbourne area is served by 4 airports, of which Melbourne Airport (YMML, MEL, also known as Tullamarine Airport or Tulla for short) is the largest and the only one that currently has international traffic. The second largest, Avalon Airport, is also available from Orbx.
Melbourne Airport features 2 runways (09/27 @ 7500 ft and 16/34 @ 12000 ft) and serves as a hub for Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jetstar Airways and Tiger Airways. In 2010 Melbourne Airport saw 27.7 million passengers on a total of 195,900 aircraft movements, making it the second busiest airport of Australia, after Sydney.

General scenery:

First of all, Orbx FTX YMML v2 is an airport scenery, but as usual with Orbx airports, Melbourne V2 doesn’t end at the airport boundary. Instead, the high detail scenery also covers the surrounding townships, and when you also have the surrounding Orbx regions installed, Orbx FTX AU Blue  in this case, it also blends in nicely into the surrounding scenery instead of suddenly ending.

To start with, let’s take a look at the modeling. As usual from Orbx, the entire airport is covered in detail, from very realistic looking airport buildings, to 3D taxiway lights, light posts, static airport vehicles and loads and loads of other miscellaneous items. It’s all 3D, it’s all very detailed, and it all looks awesome. There are even 3D people hanging around on the aprons, and it aren’t those 2D figurines who look only good from one side, no, it are real 3D people hanging around there, looking realistic from whichever side you happen to look at them. And they’re not just placed there, they stand in groups, are working around luggage carts, some are sitting down. This adds so much to the immersion, it almost feels real. I sometimes felt the older Orbx airports were a little empty. Melbourne V2 certainly isn’t. Of course, good modeling is worth nothing if the textures let it down, but not to fear. The textures are certainly up to par with the modeling and the detail. The airport itself is covered in amazing high detail ground textures, with a resolution no less than 7cm/pixel. Remember you have to set your FSX settings to allow this detail, or you’ll see a reduced resolution. The airport surroundings are covered in a still very high detail 60cm/pixel. The building both on and around the airport are also very realistically textured, with lots of details. You can actually read many of the signs and logos on the buildings.
The 2 runways of YMML are ground-poly based, what means they’re very detailed and very visible, although they will be blurry if you have your settings wrong. What I don’t like, is that the taxiways and aprons are ground texture based. So they’re actually part of the ground textures, instead of the ‘classic’ way of being a layer on top of the ground textures. I suppose this is done to reduce the size of the airport on your HDD (which is big already) and to improve frame rates, but it also means that if you’re running FSX at the limit of your pc, and are experiencing blurry ground textures for this or any other reason, that you will lose all detail on the aprons. Worse still, you might not even see the aprons and taxiways. Especially taxiing becomes very difficult if you have no reference as where to taxi. As I, like many other people, don’t have a hyper PC, this is a big downside for me, a problem that I’ve never seen before on any airport scenery. The only solution: make sure your system can handle the amount and size of the textures.

The airport also lacks moving airport vehicles, but the amount of details and static vehicles is so high, this is something I’m not missing. I prefer good looking static models to bad looking moving ones. Now the perfect solution would be good looking moving models that don’t impact frame rates, but we don’t live in a perfect world, so I’m more than happy with the amount of static details here.

If we move away from the airport, the story stays basically the same: great modeling, lots of details, and realistic and detailed textures. You get industrial areas, car parks full of cars, roads and crossroads… The amount of detail and features is just overwhelming.

Of course, all this detail leads to one question: how about performance? Well, it is a large airport, and it has lots and lots of details, so please don’t expect anything like a stock FSX airport in terms of performance. But Orbx is also aware of this, and has added a detailed section about recommended settings in the readme for YMML v2. When you take these recommendations into account, you get a very good looking airport, with, relative for its size and details of course, not too bad frame rates. Of course, this depends on the section of the airport you look at, the aircraft you’re using and more, but I’ve seen less detailed airport pose a heavier FPS hit. Now don’t get me wrong here, it is a heavy airport to run though.

Special features:

Besides all the detail, there still are some special features to be found in YMML V2. I already mentioned the static human figures, lots of static ground vehicles etc. But what I really like a lot about this airport, is that if features full crosswind runway operations. So, if you didn’t disable the option in the control panel, FSX AI traffic will always use both runways, both for takeoff and landing. It’s really nice to see, because it’s way more realistic than the normal FSX situation where only 1, or 1 set of parallel runways is used, no matter how many you got available. Now, with this feature, you’ll see aircraft landing and taking off in both on the north-south runway and on the east-west runway.

Extra’s:

First thing to mention here is probably why you should have FTX AU Blue installed as well, when you’re using YMML V2. Well, first of all, because it makes the whole area look good. Second, because the photoreal ground textures from YMML V2 line up perfectly with the AU Blue scenery, and third because it adds to the area covered in the Melbourne V2 scenery pack. For example, it makes cars (road traffic) actually follow the roads you see, it adds night lighting, it adds light posts along roads and it adds Australian style houses instead of the FSX generic autogen houses.
A nice feature included in YMML V2, like in any other Orbx airport, is the airport control panel. With it, you can turn on or off features of the airport. This is one of the secrets behind the relatively smooth frame rates. Certainly in Melbourne, it bases heavily on layers of detail. For example, there are 3 levels of ground service equipment, 4 levels of cars and 3 levels of landside factories. If you have a relatively weak pc, or need high frame rates, you can turn it all off, or enable only level 1. With higher systems, you can enable level 2 or 3, and if your system is up to it, you can turn it all on. Other features you can turn on or off range from airport perimeter fences over farms and houses to the 3D people on the aprons and the terminals. So with this Control Panel, you can make the scenery as complex or as sparse as you like, or what fits you and your system best.
Another nice tool is the FTX Aero tool, that also comes with every Orbx airport. This lets you set the detail of your ground bump map, your taxiway textures and lets you choose between 3 styles of taxiway markings. This doesn’t apply to YMML, but it does give you some choice when it comes to default or other airports. FTX Aero also lets you set your ‘Texture_max_load’ setting quickly, which is needed if you want to use textures larger than 1024×1024 pixels.

Conclusion:

First conclusion: don’t bother buying this if a stock FSX airport is already taxing your system. Besides that, there’s not much you can do wrong with this scenery package. It’s very detailed, highly accurate, and you can use the control panel to turn options on or off. And of course, it just looks great! When using any Orbx airport, I just regret not every airport in the world is available in this level of detail and quality. It’s not different with YMML V2. As said before, the only problem I have with this scenery (despite low frame rates if I’m taxing my system too much again) is the blurry ground textures that make taxiing impossible at times. I’ll be a very happy man if I find a good solution for that problem

Like:

  • Incredibly detailed with lots of features
  • Very good looking
  • I love the crosswind runway operations
  • Turn on or off features to your liking

Don’t like:

  • Blurry ground textures can spoil all the fun if you system’s not up to it

Rating: 5 out of 5

Added note:

I’ve had an interesting talk with John Venema, Orbx’s CEO. He brought it to my attention that YMML V2 is build with eye on the future. So, as time progresses, you’ll probably get a stronger pc and be able to turn your settings higher, and turn more features on. This is indeed also stated in the manual, which is available for free download before you buy.
But the most interesting thing he said is the following, and I quote:

“Orbx is also releasing a small patch for YMML soon, which actually animates all the ground staff – they walk around, load baggage onto aircraft (complete with moving conveyor belts) and stand talking to each other. The next step beyond this is for those same airside ground staff to drive vehicles around and actually open van doors and sit down in the driver’s seat and drive off. This is the main reason Orbx have not made moving ground vehicles or provided AES support at this stage, because they have a vision for much more believable ground staff and vehicles, which is being implemented in stages (as free upgrades to all their airports). To see this new level of animation in action, Orbx released a v1.5 patch for YSCH which shows airside staff loading a B737.”

Another added note: The screenshots in this review are from the Orbx website, since I’m currently using a backup pc, which can hardly run FSX, let alone show YMML V2 as it should be shown. The review itself though, is based on my experience with it, also on this slow backup pc, not on the screenshots.

Useful links:

Product page

Simmarket page

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