AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

MegaSceneryX – Las Vegas

Product Information

Publisher: MegaSceneryX

Description: MegaSceneryX Las Vegas (tested with FSX SP2 installed).

Download Size:
approx 1.5 GB

Format:
Download or DVD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Staff Reviewer - February 11, 2008

Introduction

When doing a search on the Internet about Las Vegas, you’re overwhelmed by websites, all telling their own story, but mainly about the Strip. If I wanted to, I could put lots of information here about Las Vegas or the gambling city, but I don’t want to do that. Just do a Google search and you will see it for yourself. I put my effort this time in what the MegaSceneryX website is telling us about this product.

Let’s have a look what MegaSceneryX is writing about there newest product, Las Vegas; "Here’s your chance to fly Las Vegas in an incredible level of detail – the MegaScenery way – with MegaSceneryX Las Vegas. Established in pure desert over 100 years ago, Las Vegas and the Las Vegas valley, is and continues to be one of the most frequently visited and one of the fastest growing cities in the USA. MegaSceneryX Las Vegas gives you over 2,100 square miles of the Las Vegas valley recreated in ultra-high resolution detail. It includes the entire metropolitan area and surrounding rocky desert hills and mountains."

MegaSceneryX Las Vegas Facts:
2100 square miles of Las Vegas and surrounding area (approx 45 x 45 miles)
• Created from 1 foot per pixel aerial photos and displayed at 1.19 meters per pixel
• Includes 10 meter high resolution terrain mesh
• Provides as realistic a scenery display of the area as is possible by today’s standards
• Includes MegaScenery NightScene technology for an equally realistic night, dusk and dawn flying experience
• Includes all airports in the area
• Includes custom autogen scenery

Area covered by MegaSceneryX Las Vegas

Ok, nice and great looking pictures but ….. what about the strip itself? According to the website, this strip is not created or modified by MegaSceneryX developers. No, in fact the Las Vegas strip 3D buildings included in the screenshots and this review are default 3D objects already part of Flight Simulator X. MegaSceneryX does not add custom 3D buildings but instead adds photo scenery around the buildings. Ok, that’s more or less true but when you compare a particular part of the strip's buildings like the Hilton complex, you will, when MegaSceneryX is activated, see some additional parts of the Hilton hotel added to it. Never mind, the strip looks great and especially when MegaX is activated.

So what is left then? As usual, a great, impressive looking ultra realistic scenery of the surrounding area and of course all the highways, local roads, parks – as far as possible in this desert area – mountains, mountains and more mountains and some lakes. With all of that and my previous MegaX experience, I’m really curious how this one fairs, although with an area of 45 x 45 miles, that’s not huge but we will see.

Just to remind you …how was life before MegaSceneryX?

I know, normally you'd expect some information about the installation process, followed by the documentation part and when you’re a quick reader, some screenshot impression. Sorry boys and girls, not this time! This time I’ll show you first some screenshots of how FSX looks without this product and then some pictures with it. Surprised? I was. But on the other hand, I know even in the US, that Microsoft has a different idea of how real this country should look like. Even with the sandy environment and lots of mountains, there’s a huge difference between the Microsoft default version and that of MegaSceneryX. Again, they have created a great product although it covers a small or limited area.

KLAS runway 25L at 3000 feet Just south of KLAS; the Interstate 215 is missing completely The Hoover dam but where is Lake Mead and the Colorado River? Overview of North Las Vegas and not really what is should be.
Default FSX Las Vegas with surrounding area. I took my camera and made some nice pictures of impressive locations. It doesn’t really look that bad at certain locations and even the strip looks great, but when you compare the pictures with the MegaSceneryX version, it’s shocking! What do you think of the Hoover dam, holding the Colorado River and where’s Lake Mead? According to Microsoft (screenshot above) this doesn’t exist at all. Ok, the Hoover dam is there but there’s no water. I thought I missed something, but the screenshots are taken at exact the same location. Strange!
Let’s say for the moment, these MegaSceneryX Las Vegas pictures are taken at the same locations and then you and I can conclude only one thing; it is and stays a highly photorealistic product of awesome quality, where Microsoft sometimes forgets roads, grass, trees, buildings etc.

Installation and Documentation

Installation

As usual with MegaSceneryX products, the installation process is simple, straightforward and without any problems. Even the necessary modifications in FSX are made for you. When the installation process is finished, it asks you to start Flight Simulator X, but there’s more.
Let’s have a closer look what else is installed on your PC.

During the first part of the installation is suggests you install Las Vegas into a certain proposed directory. You’re free to change this to any other location or even to another drive. It’s all up to you. The final adjustments, including the use of this add-on scenery, is done by the installer itself.

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

Most of the screenshots speak for themselves, although a few need some extra attention, since there’s no booklet or downloadable manual.
Picture II comes standard with a folder location. You’re free to enter a different location as well as a different drive, even a network location is allowed.
Pictures III, IV and V informs you what must be done to activate this add-on photographic scenery, as well as making the necessary adjustments. Let the system do this, since there’s no manual description available!

Additionally you will find under the Start button, a folder -> MegaSceneryX -> LasVegas. It looks impressive but the Las Vegas shortcut only contains an uninstaller and a Scenery Library Update. Is this all? There’s no shortcut on the desktop and after checking into the created folder on my drive, there’s nothing here as well. So it seems that this package, either downloaded or on DVD, does not have any manual or other nice stuff. OK, I can live with that, so let’s go quickly to the documentation section.

Documentation

As with other PC Aviator MegaSceneryX packages, it comes with lots of charts, airport diagrams and much more. However, this time there’s nothing at all, so no documentation. Although I’ve chosen the DVD version, there’s really no difference between the download or DVD version. This means, either versiony offers you the same thing, only the Las Vegas software. Is there a reason for this?

According to Roberto Ferraro there is; in the first place, the price is kept at a competitive rate - $14.95 – while on the other hand the covered area around Las Vegas is very limited – 45 x 45 miles – and since the majority of this area is only desert, there’s not that much to see on a chart. Personally I do miss a VFR or sectional chart but on the other hand, these are easy to buy or to download free from the Internet. There are probably much more available, but this one offers you free printable charts.

So that's it! Nothing else, no Las Vegas charts to download via the PC Aviator or MegaSceneryX websites. Is it a shame? Yes it is, but as I wrote before, free charts – Sectional - or VFR Terminal Area charts are available on the Internet? Ok, what about a MegaSceneryX booklet?

Again, the answer is nothing. Is it a problem manually making the correct settings and/or other FSX adjustments? No, since there’s a special installer that makes the necessary modifications, like updating and adjusting the scenery library, installing effect files and checking for FSX service packs. So it seems it’s SP2 or the FSX Acceleration pack compatible. What the installer really changes in FSX is not shown, but it is doing it. When you uninstall Las Vegas MegasceneryX, as I have done with previous MegaSceneryX products, all returns to normal so we don’t need to worry about that.

A detailed look

Even though the covered area is limited, there’s still enough to see. Specifically when you live in this area or have been there on a holiday. So the question for me was, where to start? Since the product title starts with Las Vegas, I thought it’s a good idea to start with downtown Las Vegas even though the buildings along the strip are not a part of this add-on photorealistic scenery. So here we go, first some overview pictures of the strip since the rest of LV and North Las Vegas is not packed with impressive and famous 3D buildings. By the way, it seems not all that special but believe me, without this add-on installed, it looks horrible and unrealistic. By that I mean that the surrounding area of downtown Las Vegas is not what it should be. The first 4 pictures here are – as long as the sun shines – a real representation of the gambling city.

The pictures in the middle show you the famous buildings along the strip. Remember, these do not belong to MegaSceneryX so those are already available even without the add-on scenery installed except for a few modifications, but it’s fun to see them and they are pretty realistic.

The last set of pictures deal with the impressive Hoover dam and the Colorado River or at least what is left of it. The dam itself is again a default part of FSX, so this is not new or spectacular but the surrounding area with mountains and road etc, belong to the add-on scenery and that makes it very, very realistic.

Downtown Las Vegas or is it the Strip? You may call it what you want, but the official name is the Las Vegas Strip (it’s really a street name). This overview of the strip with the 3D buildings is, by the way, not a part of MegaSceneryX, only the landscape is from them and landscape can be seen, for example, by the mountains in the background and of course the detailed look of the roads, green parks, modified sand etc.

MGM Lion King, hotel with of course the Casino

Eiffel tower with Lake Como fountains from the Bellagio Hotel

Seattle’s needle … no …
Las Vegas Stratosphere Hotel

Not spectacular but huge, the Excalibur hotel

Although these buildings on the strip have nothing to do with the MegaSceneryX product, it still belongs to the total overview of this small part of Nevada. The closer you come to the ground, the less interesting this add-on scenery looks. Keep in mind that photorealistic sceneries become interesting at an altitude of around 1000-2000 feet AGL. Below this, the modified ground textures look very blurry. By the way, this is not a problem with MegaSceneryX, but a FSX limitation.

South of the Hoover dam

Lake Mead

North of the Hoover dam

Close-up of the Hoover dam

You can’t see it in these pictures, but here we have reached the border of the MegaSceneryX Las Vegas scenery. Here we have a great view on both sides of the Hoover dam, Lake Mead, and where the Colorado River flows in. Past the Hoover Dam, in a downstream position, the Colorado river continues its way towards the Gulf of Mexico.

No more pictures in this sub-chapter? No, because let’s say, the rest of this area is sand, dust, sand, sand, another mountain, more mountains, some roads and highways etc. Is it not intresting? Well, yes and no. Those places are also impressive to see, therefore I’ll take you later on two short VFR trips at 4000 to 7000 feet up to Bolder City, Lake Mead, Nellis AFB, North Las Vegas, Mt Charleston, along the several national parks and then back to McCarran International Airport (KLAS).

Integrated airports

Before we continue with our VFR cross-country trips, first the available airports which are integrated in the product. Within the covered area we can find 5 airports; KLAS (McCarran International), KLSV (Nellis AFB), KVGT (North Las Vegas), KHND (Henderson Executive) and 61B (Boulder City).

As Ipreviously mentioned in other MegaSceneryX reviews, don’t except too much of those airports. Don’t think you will get a highly detailed KLAS or Nellis Air Force Base. Creating a detailed airport is totally different and costs a lot of time and money to make them, so that’s something we leave up to Aerosoft, FlyTampa, Cloud9 and many others. MegaSceneryX products don’t do anything like recreating an airport of re-structuring a downtown city. They are specialized in making photorealistic sceneries, but I may assume you’re already aware of that. Still I would like to offer you a few screenshots of the five airports.

KLAS
McCarran International
KHND
Henderson Executive
KLSV
Nellis AFB
61B
Boulder City
KVGT
Northern Las Vegas

Can you see based on the individual picture where the airport is? No, I can’t either, so click on the thumbnail at your convenience. As I wrote before, the airports are not really spectacular for the simple reason that the makers of MegaSceneryX offer photorealistic sceneries to replace the default scenery. See this as a new blanket over the default FSX one and then you’ve got this result. I could add some close-up KLAS pictures, but those are very similar to the default ones, so nothing special here.

Generally speaking we can say the following about this:
- The 5 airports belong to the default FSX scenery and therefore this is not new;
- In general, no large buildings are introduced. However, some small buildings are repositioned or removed completely;
- At some airports, additional taxiways are created or modified to fit into the total overview;
- Where needed, prohibited touchdown markings are created at the beginning of the runway; and
- Platforms or aprons are removed or created to fit the reality.

Ok, that’s it more or less. Because of those tiny changes, the total overview of every airport is therefore much more realistic than the default ones. It’s now time to step into our Cessna 172 and fly along some highways and local roads with the help of a road map or an official sectional chart.

A short daylight VFR trip to Lake Mead via …. via …. via.

Test System

Dell Precision Workstation 650
Dual Intel P4-Xeon 3.06Ghz
4Gb RAM DDR 533Mhz
nVidia 7800GS+ 512Mb AGP
RAID-0 HDD’s - SCSI 340Gb
Windows XP Professional SP2
Flight Simulator 9.1
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
Saitek ProFlight Yoke System
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flight Test Time:
28.0 hours

Making a nice cross-country trip in this part of Nevada is difficult, since most of the area isn’t covered with roads or at least something we can follow from the air at 4000 feet. With this in mind, I’ve decided to take you on a short trip from the Las Vegas strip in a southern direction, via McCarran International Airport, along Interstate 215 (I-215).

Since I-215 moves from left to right, we can spot the Henderson Executive Airport (KHND) but leave it behind us. When we’re coming close to Henderson, we will follow the 215/515 junction of highway 515 (or US 93 and US 95), and fly further in an eastern direction to Boulder City. Since the weather is pretty good, we can spot Boulder City airport (61B) but do not need to make a coffee stop. We keep on going along US 93 to the Hoover Dam. Just before the Dam, we turn towards Lake Mead.

Unfortunately, here we face the border of MegaSceneryX and the default FSX scenery. According to Microsoft it looks like Lake Mead doesn’t exist at all. Ok, we turn towards Las Vegas Bay, where we try – that’s not easy – to find the local roads 167 and 147. By the way, we’ve reached Lake Mead National Recreation Area, although we don’t see anything of it while passing over it at roughly 4000 feet. We’re lucky this time, road 147 is in view so let’s follow it. There, where the US 147 turns left, we fly over the mountains and head straight to Nellis Air Force Base (KLSV).

Leaving Nellis AFB behind us, we try to pick up road 604 and the I-15 in a south-western direction. While trying to do so, we can spot far away from us “Northern Las Vegas airport” or KVGT. Although the area is fully urbanized, it’s not spectacular to look ay. Houses, houses, probably a mall somewhere and that’s it. We leave all of this behind us, and before we know, we fly from Northern Las Vegas into the Las Vegas area. This is around at the point where the I-15 crosses the I-515. Since we have full ATC corporation, we fly a little lower to spot the strip a little better and then, too late. It’s time to go down to stop over.

Ok, that was a short description of this VFR trip. Now it’s time to see how it really looks and then of course, how real is this photorealistic scenery? You may judge for yourself, but my experience after flying this particular route, is that it's awesome. Let’s go!

Courtesy of TravelNevada.Com

YELLOW dot ->

DARK BLUE dot ->

MAGENTA dot ->

YELLOW dot: Flying at 4000 feet along the Las Vegas strip in a south direction we find on our right hand the Interstate 15 and straight ahead the Luxor hotel/casino with behind it the golden Mandalay Bay hotel and of course, with casino.
DARK BLUE dot: We follow Interstate 215, passing McCarran International Airport, and here we have a look at Henderson downtown and through the corridor (rail road pass), far away, a blimp from Boulder City Airport.
MAGENTA dot: We just passed the Railroad Pass by following the US 93. A little behind us airport 61B (Boulder City airport).

Courtesy of TravelNevada.Com

LIGHT BLUE dot ->

RED dot ->

ORANGE dot ->

LIGHT BLUE dot: Great view of Boulder City
RED dot: Between the mountains we have a glimpse of the Hoover dam. More of these can be found above. We continue our flight and turn into the direction of Lake Mead.
ORANGE dot: Luckily you don’t see it, but half of the lake is done by Microsoft’s own scenery, where it seems there’s no lake at all!. While we fly over the lake, we turn into the direction of Las Vegas Bay. This looks very realistic, we continue and try to find the US 147.

Courtesy of TravelNevada.Com

GREEN dot ->

PINK dot ->

BLUE dot ->

LIGHT GREEN dot: We found it; US 147 back to North Las Vegas, so here we go. Through the mountains but first sand, sand and too much dust.
PINK dot: Since we’re flying high enough, we decide to cross the Sunrise Mountain Natural Area, where we look straight into the eyes of Nellis AFB.
LIGHT BLUE dot: After Nellis AFB has passed, we fly more or less over Interstate 15 (or US 93) while looking into a western direction to North Las Vegas – it looks all the same to me – including North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT).

After this last LIGHT BLUE dot picture, the camera batteries are empty, so no more nice screenshots, but our flight plan was simple and straightforward, via the Las Vegas strip back to KLAS.

A twilight flight to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and ….

Since MegaSceneryX advertises splendid night lighting scenery, we need to check this as well, so please join me again on a twilight trip to the western mountains and afterwards an impressive light show along the Las Vegas strip. I’ve decided to takeoff from North Las Vegas (KVGT) in twilight conditions or else we don’t see that much from the western mountains.

Courtesy of Skyvector.Com

RED dot ->

PINK dot ->

LIGHT BLUE dot ->

RED dot: After liftoff from LVGT (North Las Vegas Airport), we turn in a western direction; heading for Mt. Charleston where we can see the “western beltway” road, which runs like a ring around greater Las Vegas.
PINK dot: Although it’s twilight, Mt. Charleston looks great and that for a 10014 feet height mountain.
LIGHT BLUE dot: While flying in a SSW direction, we slowly reach the end of this mountain complex.

Courtesy of Skyvector.Com

BLUE dot ->

ORANGE dot ->

MAGENTA dot ->

BLUE dot: Looking straight ahead in a southern direction to Goodsprings, but it seems to me there’s nobody living here.
ORANGE dot: From the same flying position, a quick look towards the Las Vegas strip.
MAGENTA dot: At around “Cottonwood pass”, we turn on an eastern direction where we meet the I-15 and the US 146. Unfortunately it’s already too dark to see KHND (Henderson Airport).

Courtesy of Skyvector.Com

BLACK dot ->

LIGHT BLUE dot ->

WHITE dot ->

BLACK dot: We are now flying more or less parallel to the I-15 towards the Las Vegas Strip and while flying, we quickly look at Henderson City, where the I-215 is clearly visible.
LIGHT BLUE dot: Las Vegas, here we come …. A nice twilight view of the Strip.
WHITE dot: With special permission, we fly at 3000 feet over the Mandalay Bay and Luxor and this brings me to the end.

I sincerely hope that with these two VFR trips, you’ve got a good idea of what MegaSceneryX can do for you. I could fly for hours, making hundreds of pictures but these and the ones on the MegaSceneryX website should tell you enough. Although the covered area is small, the quality is suburb.

Where does MegaSceneryX end?

Is it as spectacular as usual? We will see, but believe me, it is spectacular and even in a desert like Nevada, it looks like Microsoft is not able to make a good looking realistic version. But with the help of MegaSceneryX, it’s awesome until you reach that border. The surrounding area consists mainly of sand, sand, sand, some roads, mountains, mountains and some lakes. With Lake Mead, the difference is huge. Lakes and rivers, which stretch to the border, look very unrealistic. Sorry Microsoft, but the standard or default water color is very unrealistic.
Ok, let’s go back to the famous shocking borders. First see for yourself …….

East direction (090) at around 12 minutes flying from KLAS at 7000' West direction (270), flying from KLAS at an altitude of 9000' North direction (000), flying from KLAS at an altitude of 9000' South direction (180), flying from KLAS at an altitude of 9000'

As you can see from the screenshots above, it’s dramatic to see how the default FSX scenery looks, but at the same time flying from KLAS to either corner in a Cessna 172 is done in a very short time. Apart from climbing to altitude, it doesn’t take too much time and this is probably a disappointed item. Does this main that this MegaX product is useless? No, of course not! You’ve seen many MegaX pictures which are related to this add-on scenery except for the strip 3D buildings, and still it's fun flying in this limited area.

It seems that Microsoft has a different idea about the average sand color of Nevada since it’s too brown/red while in reality with MegaX Las Vegas scenery it's totally different. The color of Microsoft's mountains are not the same, and the ground colors are wrong, as well there are missing highways, minor local roads, rivers, green areas etc. Local roads and parks are missing, that’s something we know but even the sand color is wrong, that’s something I don’t understand. Even without hardly any trees and only a desert, this add-on offers us a very scenery with lots of potential to fly VFR in this area.

Summary / Closing Remarks

This time I offer you a “direct to the point” summary. My overall impression is that it is awesome and then there’s the question and answer, yes it’s absolutely worth your money. The only thing you have to keep in mind is the fact that it doesn't cover a large area but a relatively small area of Nevada.

Ok, the name says “Las Vegas” and nothing more, so in other words; you shouldn't expect anything else. Since I reviewed previous MegaSceneryX packages – Dallas/Fort Worth and Southern California - I’m slightly disappointed in the size of the covered area. This has nothing to do with the quality, since it’s great and I think I’ve given a good example of that in my sub-chapter “Just to remind you …how was life before MegaSceneryX?” The disappointment goes to the limited size (45 x 45 miles), but that’s a personal feeling. I didn’t add any IFR flights in this review, since with normal climb speeds and IAS, you’re quickly outside this photorealistic scenery.

Then there’s always the question; is there a competitor? No, there isn’t any payware vendor who offers this FSX quality - 1.19 meters per pixel – however; Blue Sky Scenery offers several freeware packages with medium to high quality meters per pixel. Recently Blue Sky Scenery released Las Vegas, Nevada photo realistic scenery for FS2004 and FSX, but this is made at a medium resolution, 4.7 m/pixel.

Gottfried Razek however makes a note; a high resolution freeware package will be soon available - probably at 1.2 m/pixel - and equals the MegaSceneryX Las Vegas package. Additionally worth mentioning is the covered area of the Blue Sky Scenery is 3.250 square miles, which is much bigger than this reviewed package.

Last but not least, this time there is no comparison with Google Earth. I’ve done this several times and every time you could see that the photorealistic scenery was based on more or less the same quality. I know that’s logical, but sometimes you want to check to see if the photorealistic scenery is really as real as they promise. With MegaSceneryX products I knowthey are. They offer a very high realistic quality, so this time, no Google Earth pictures.

 

What I Like About Las Vegas X

  • Absolutely worth to buy. By the way, this is my opinion of every MegaSceneryX product!
  • Suburb photorealistic scenery.
  • Excellent for VFR flights.
  • Frame rate friendly or better yet, there’s no FPS impact.
  • The DVD package contains day and special night scenery.

 

What I Don't Like About Las Vegas X

  • The covered area is very limited. When flying at 6000 feet, you can see the borders where MegaSceneryX ends and the default FSX starts.
  • No manual at all, so no background information or other things available.

 

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