Vancouver, Canada’s gateway to the Pacific Northwest, also the future host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, has recently been voted (for the second time in a row) as the top city in the Americas. In a surreal beauty of Pacific coastlines, inlets with the magnificent Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, the combined talents of John Patch and Holger Sandmann present for MSFS 2004 Vancouver Plus.
For each of us flight sim enthusiasts, whatever part of the globe you may call home, there is that one area or city you spend extra attention to calling your own. For myself, over the years of flight simming, Vancouver has been that such place. Being a Canadian myself and having lived and worked in Aviation in the Vancouver area for a time, my anticipation and expectations for a Vancouver scenery addition have been very high. Through the years, this Vancouver area has been a center for my attention, often spending far too much time downloading gifted designers sceneries and their interpretations for Vancouver and its surrounding area. Yes, this quest for detail and realism has often caused much grief with my system.
For those of you who may be familiar with the works of John Patch’s Victoria Harbour/Ogden Pond or Holger Sandmann’s Misty Fjords you will not be disappointed. So, for you high flyers, lets park the heavy’s for a later release - Part 2 Vancouver International Airport - and bring out your favorite general aircraft. This is also a great home for the Float Planes and the Helicopters to fly the challenges that await in Vancouver Plus Part 1.
Installation and Documentation
Typically, you would see in these reviews, installation comments as being “A Breeze” or maybe a few notes like“just follow the setup instructions”. If you are installing the "Vancouver +" setup exe. and install wizard over the MSFS default with no other area scenery additions, this would be the case.
This was not the case for me and more often now higher quality scenery designers are aware of such known issues and conflicts, and like "Vancouver +", have addressed it in their documents. I did a thorough read of the 61 page manual prior to install and behold, all of my previous downloads for this Vancouver area were listed with instructions of compatibility. With much hesitation, I felt obligated to start with a clean slate. So following the detailed instructions of the manual, it was time to clean house.
Step by step, and really it wasn’t much of an effort, but the payoff in the end was a smooth running, highly detailed product that I couldn’t be more pleased with. Later, I visited the "Vancouver +" support forum for any other known issues that others may have had. My point being, the "Vancouver +" designers have made great efforts to prepare and support this product to enable us enthusiasts the best flight sim experience possible. So DO read the manual. I’ll bet you’ll go back over it too and read the story of Chuck’s sore tooth.
I should add that for my own installation, I needed to add the three Vancouver Scenery, Vancouver Landscape and Vancouver Landclass files to the MSFS Scenery Library. I would have thought the auto installer would handle this however, for reasons unknown, I required this further step. It wasn’t all that devastating because I needed to properly place these files in the Scenery Library as outlined in the manual.
I know, lets get to the flying. But I do want to talk about performance first. Vancouver + is detailed in a 38 M terrain mesh throughout the 30,000 sq km area. The City of Vancouver, as well as the Squamish-Whistler area, are further detailed to 19 M, and the included photo scenery detailed to 5 M. Runways and taxiways are adjusted to 20cm air-photo detail data. This is a very active and highly detailed scenery. Numerous AI traffic including general aircraft, seaplanes and helicopters (as well as detailed Cruise Ships and various size vessels) travel throughout the area bringing the Vancouver + scenery to life.
With my demanding expectations for a detailed Vancouver and surrounding area, I questioned if my system was about to bite off more than it could chew. Here’s a thought. I find it very annoying having to turn off included features or adjust the MSFS sliders to the left to get a product to work. It's like experiencing less than half the product and I’m left feeling as if I’m missing out of the full potential of the experience. Knowing the peak detail and performance limits (my preference to detail) of my system, I loaded the Vancouver + configurator with all its selections. Normally, I would start off low and progressively work my way to the max detail. But this time it was all or nothing.
But let's be realistic. For such realism, this is not the scenery to be flying 747’s at tree top level or fighter jets under the radar at mach speeds. Let's make realistic choices of aircraft, fly realisticly and this will be a realistic experience. Throughout my review, I did not go back to the configurator to decrease my settings and I kept to various aircraft with speeds below 200 knots. I was able to capture all the detail with little performance issues. Only when I added more AI traffic and further increased the real time weather did I begin to experience frame rate issues. This was more than acceptable for my tastes.
A recommended processor of 1.8Ghz and at a minimum GeForce or Radeon 9600 graphics card is suggested.
Well, much like the story of Chuck and his sore tooth, my flights started out with a purpose. My journey was a search of all the surrounding airfields for a suitable location to build my hangar. With over 19 listed fields, 7 seaplane bases, 13 heliports as well as 11 unlisted strips, I had several choices of real estate to cover in the Vancouver + area.
Starting out at the featured Pit Meadows (CYPK), with 3 runways and a nearby floatplane base, CYPK would seem to be the choice. Fully detailed with numerous buildings, even several available hangars to park in, CYPK doesn’t miss much for detail. Perhaps only lacking in the appearance of a Cougar (Mountain Lion).
A quick view from the tower of the departing AI traffic and a quick review of my flightplan, it was time to set off to the east. With the coastal weather ever changing in the Vancouver area, all looked good for a quick stop over to Hope. Located just off of the edge of the western slopes of the Rockies, this grass strip, tightly entwined in mountains, rivers and highways, can be quite a challenge if the weather is just not so. With a successful landing, I had the time to size up yet more detail of this airfield and also another available hangar. Of the dozens of customized airfields featured in the Vancouver + scenery, you will find some fields more detailed than others but it was the journey of my flights to investigate these airfields that was quite remarkable.
Following the Fraser Canyon through Hells Gate, featured are highly detailed highways and railways with clearly defined bridges and tunnels. Such detail included throughout the Vancouver + scenery, that I would expect to see the true taste of the beautiful British Columbia scenery. Winding my way through the sharp valleys to Lytton then to Pemberton, I was reminded again of Chuck’s flight in his DeHavilland Beaver on floats. With 7 seaplane bases throughout Vancouver +, my next leg to Whistler seaplane base was an ideal opportunity for my floatplane flight.
Rounding the corner to the widening valley of Whistler, with my first view of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort, my eyes drew closer to my monitor and my jaw fell steadily to the floor as I approached closer. Seeing that ski hill in such detail (I have actually skied there) was enough to make me end my flight right there and go on a search for a helicopter to fly and have a closer look.
Finding the Hover Control Bell 412, this was a pretty dramatic step for a fixed wing type. I spent many enjoyable hours with the Vancouver + scenery, learning helicopter flight in the Whistler resort area. Honing my skills on the upper Chalets, flying medivac flights to Vancouver General. Later discovering the challenges of the 13 Helipads included, my helicopter skills had definitely improved, yet I have much to work on.
Also included in the Vancouver + covered area, are detailed landclass textures, several more detailed ski areas, glaciers and ice fields. Ocean wave effects, spray effects at the Cleveland Dam, and a noticeable water class bring realism to the coloring of oceans, inlets rivers and lakes.
Over to the city of Vancouver, my flights included moments of what could be seen in a postcard. Dusk, dawn, day and night flights, I was able to capture something new in detail with each flight. Breathtaking city skylines, including a full-featured city with countless custom Gmax photo-realistic hand placed buildings. 5m airphoto scenery and custom road surfaces are detailed along with custom Gmax bridges in the included area. The only unrealistic comment I could suggest, is the available parking at BC Place and no major traffic jams on the Port Mann bridge. I was actually tempted to search for a vehicle to travel the roads but this is Flight Sim at its finest.
Custom AI traffic abound in the Vancouver + scenery. The DHC-2 Beaver on floats can be found at the several seaplane bases or enroute to their daylight destinations. As well as low level GA aircraft, there are AI Bell B206L helicopters making theire round trips. Several detailed boats parked in the marina’s are to be found along with AI marine vessels of various sizes traveling in the Harbour, Inlets, Arms and Lakes. In striking detail, the Princess Cruise Line’s Island Princess and Dawn Princess, and Holland America Line’s Veendam and Volendam. Luxury liners can be found making their way from Canada Place, Nanaimo, Victoria, Blaine(WA) and the Strait of Georgia.
For those of you who have the FSCargo Addon, Vancouver + also includes ready made FSCargo aerial files for missions in the Vancouver + area.
Though I did make a few stops into CYVR, Vancouver International airport, it is not featured in detail with the Vancouver + Scenery Part 1. Later to be released Part2 Vancouver International Airport (CYVR) will be a definite addition to the Part 1. However as we wait, I did download P Nigel Grants CYVR42/CYVR42V+ files available at AVSIM. Also in the AVSIM library search, other compatible airport files can be found to further highlight the Vancouver + scenery.
Wrapping It Up
Well does the Vancouver + Part1 addition measure up to what I consider to be my own high expectations? You bet your boots it does. Not boasting my Canadian pride, but for you Canadian simmers out there who haven’t already purchased Vancouver +, this is a must have. For all of you enthusiasts, whether just starting out or deeply into this hobby, for a real taste of Canadian scenery, this is the one.
There are hours of enjoyment. Flying the challenges of the mountain terrain with some real weather, whether you’re taking out your floatplane, general aircraft or Helicopter, Vancouver + far exceeded my expectations for a scenery addition and the Vancouver area will remain my flight sim hub. As for my search for a site for my hangar, well like Chuck, the story continues and continues.
|What I Like About Vancouver +|
|What I Don't Like About Vancouver +|
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