AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

FTX NA GOLD USA Central Rockies

Product Information

Publishers: ORBX/FTX

Description: North American regional scenery.

Download Size:
786 MB

Format:
Download/DVD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Rick Desjardins AVSIM Staff Reviewer - January 10, 2012

Introduction

In this, my second Orbx scenery review, I will be looking at their latest North American area scenery release; FTX NA GOLD USA Central Rockies. Gold refers to the region just as colours were used in the Australian regional releases.

It is one massive scenery add-on, it covers approximately 180,000 sq mi or 466,000 sq km and spans 5 states; Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This release builds upon other regions previously released and fits seamlessly expanding the overall coverage area with more to come in the future.

Coverage area
How CRM fits in with other Orbx scenery areas

The download for the Central Rocky Mountains scenery is massive at over 4Gbs. So patience is a virtue when downloading this one.

Installation

Installation is straightforward with the first step being validation. This can be done online or manually. I chose the online method; to complete this step you will need your purchase info. Once this has been successfully completed the installer will take over and the scenery installed.

This is a huge add-on so be prepared to wait while this happens. The final screen will prompt you to run FTX Central to complete the process.  Once done the installation takes up approximately 5.5 Gbs of hard drive space.

Test System

Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 GHz
6 GB RAM
ASUS 480GTX w/1.5 GB video
Win 7 Ultimate 64
FSX w/acceleration
Ultimate traffic 2
REX Overdrive
GEXn
UTX
AES 2.14

Flying Time:
15 hours

Documentation

The package comes with a product manual and a kmz file that can be used in conjunction with Google Earth to provide an overlay of the coverage area highlighting the multitude of interesting locations, landmarks and airfields.

The manual is informative, detailed and polished. Having a look at the index, it quickly became apparent that they packed a lot into these 27 pages. The information spans such topics as describing the diverse geography of the region, installing the software, a thorough explanation of FTX Central, recommended system settings, seasonal variations and lighting, custom Orbx weather themes and where and how to get support if you have problems.

The manual is well worth the time it takes to read as it has lots of pertinent information and is interesting to read. Not reading it could result in you not fully enjoying all this package has to offer.

The topic of compatibility is one of those questions you will likely ask yourself early on when thinking of making the purchase. They answer that question with regards to Ultimate Terrain X (UTX), Ground Environment X (GEX), Real Environment X (REX) and third party mesh products. The end results are that there are no conflicts between this product and any of the ones I just mentioned.

This is great news for anyone who may have had hesitations because of that being a possibility. I run all of these add-ons and have not seen any problems or experienced any negative side effects whatsoever. They also provide a link to their forum specific thread on compatibility.
  
Scenery

The fantastic quality of the visuals has everything to do with the mesh, landclass, graphic textures and autogen that are used throughout. All of these elements work together to create the very picturesque and realistic world you find yourself immersed in. Their ability to recreate all of the diverse natural landscapes so well is an amazing feat. For those who don’t know, here is a quick explanation of what these elements do and how they work together.

Peaks and valleys with hi resolution mesh

The mesh provides the information for the variations in elevation. With higher resolution meshes you can see more subtle differences in the landscapes and with rough terrain, such as mountains, it will show more defined peaks and valleys. CRM uses custom 10m mesh which is very accurate.

Landclass is used to determine what type of graphic image is placed in any given location. Is the area urban, is it covered in trees, is it rocky or is it agricultural? These are all questions that need to be answered so that the right type of graphic image can be precisely placed in the right location. Again, accuracy was what they were after and to achieve that they made use of all custom landclass.

On top of the landclass are the graphic images and autogen.  They visually recreate what you would expect to see in real life and as with every other element, accuracy is the key. In the CRM scenery the images I mentioned before are hi resolution so they remain clear and detailed even when viewed at ground level, the colouring is also very well done.

There is quite a diversity in the types of ground textures they must use and these are based on the landclass. From rugged mountain ranges with deep river gorges to urban cityscapes and everything you can think of in between, they have all been given the same care in having them look as real as possible.

Autogen is the final piece that goes into the process and these are all the 3D objects found in the scenery. Shrubbery, trees, large airfield hangars, streets lights, cars, people and anything else that is an object. These take the flightsim world from being flat graphic images to a world we can all relate to that is vibrant and alive. It’s not only the fact that they have all of these in the scenery but that they are placed precisely so that they fit with the images the best way possible.

The region has some interesting ones you will want to try and find such as a number of dams and wind farms.

Dam on the Snake River
Wind farm in Montana

I’m sure all of this was a monumental task but it paid off as the results are amazing.

Regional variations

In the first part of the manual they include some interesting information about the geography and varied landscapes that you can look forward to seeing within the scenery boundaries. With the area referred to as the Central Rockies you might expect that it is all mountains but that certainly isn’t the case.

There is a great deal of diversity in the landscapes and as I explored the area I came to appreciate this fact more and more.  It is not only the natural landscapes that offer variety you also have urban and rural variations as well. Two of my favourites were the snow-capped mountain regions and the agricultural areas where they use center pivot irrigation.

Agricultural lands in Washington
Beauty of Wyoming
Bend Oregon
Center pivot irrigation
Dam on Columbia River
Desolate landscape in Washington
Isolated community
Largest metropolitan area in CRM Boise Idaho
Majestic mountains in Montana
Montana scenery
Mountains in Washington

I was recently on a return flight to Las Vegas from Toronto and was fortunate enough to have a window seat and clear weather. This meant lots of beautiful spectacular scenery from my vantage point at 34,000 ft. As part of my review I decided to recreate this type of flight, so cruising over this scenery at that same flight level I was amazed at how realistic it all looked.

It proved to me that even if you are a sim pilot flying jet airliners at higher altitudes, you can enjoy what the scenery offers just as much as the Cessna pilot flying at 5,000 ft. It is a testament to the quality of the scenery that it could look so convincingly realistic at any flight level.

Columbia River Washington
Flat lands in Wyoming
High above Montana
High above Wyoming
Montana scenery
Mountains in Wyoming

Seasonal changes

Depending on the time of year you choose to fly, you may find yourself looking at lush green fields or brightly coloured trees or the stark cold whites of winter. All of the seasons are depicted in wonderful detail and different areas have their own specific characteristics that are all worth the time it takes to explore and experience.

Jerome Idaho - Fall
Jerome Idaho - Spring
Jerome Idaho - Summer
Jerome Idaho - Winter

The most stunning seasonal change of course is winter when the ground is covered in snow and the greens and browns are replaced by whites and grays.  You really get a sense of how rugged and isolated these areas can be.

To raise the bar on realism just that much higher, rivers and lakes appear frozen and ice covered. This is something that often gets neglected during the winter season in many scenery add-ons. I am glad to see that they didn’t make that omission in this scenery package.

9S7 airstrip
Airport east of Bend Oregon
Frozen lakes in Oregon
Frozen river in winter
Winter in Montana
Winter landscapes

Airfields

The number of airfields is staggering, they state 450+ and they are enhanced; this means that they’ve been given make overs and include better looking buildings than what you find in FSX and accurately placed runways and taxiways. There is definitely no shortage of airfields and they range in size from the simplest grass strip in the middle of nowhere to multi-runway airports such as KBOI at Boise Idaho.

If you want to see what is included and where they are located you will need to use the supplied kmz file in conjunction with Google Earth. There is something for every type of pilot from the airline jockey to the motorized hand glider pilot.

Another example of an enhanced airport, this one at Red Lodge Montana
Example of the most basic airstrip - U48 Atomic City Idaho
Some hard surface textures look like FSX default textures
KBOI Boise Idaho airport
KJER Jerome Idaho
One of the 450+ enhanced airports

Of all the airfields visited, I thought that Mile Hi Airstrip I97D at Mile Hi Idaho was the most challenging. Perched on a sloping hill top surrounded by steep drop offs, it’s no picnic trying to land or take off.

Mile Hi airfield
Mile Hi perched on a hill top

For all the effort they put into their airports, which is a tremendous improvement over the default scenery, I wish they could have used more custom hard surface textures. In too many instances they had that FSX default appearance.

Performance

I was pleased by the performance of this scenery add-on. I never found it to be a problem and had a nice fluid experience throughout all areas.

Summary

How can one not be impressed by this scenery? The sheer undertaking of accurately recreating such a large and interesting area and to have done it so well is quite a feat. If you’re any kind of scenery junkie and crave the best, you won’t want to miss this one. It is worth the price of admission.

 

What I Like About FTX NA Gold

  • Extremely detailed.
  • Great scenery from any vantage point.
  • Diverse and interesting landscapes to keep your interest.

 

What I Don't Like About FTX NA Gold

  • Would have liked to see more in the way of custom hard surface textures for the airports.

 

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FTX NA GOLD USA Central Rockies

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