AVSIM Commercial Utility Review

FS Elemental Natural Pack

Product Information

Publishers:  FS Elemental

Description: “…a one touch texture environment enhancement
solution for Microsoft's FS2004!…” .

Download Size:
14.57 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9
Reviewed by: Robert Mariani AVSIM Staff Reviewer - June 18, 2009

Introduction

FS2004 has been out on the store shelves approximately five years now. Moreover, FSX is over two years old. Most add-ons today are compatible with both sims, or there are two versions out there for you to choose.

It is quite rare to find a new product that is made for FS2004 only. Today I will look at one of those rare pieces, an exclusive new add-on for FS2004. There is no mention of the producers intent to create something along the same lines for the FSX.

Let me slow down. The FS Elemental Natural Pack reviewed here is - according to the publisher’s website - “a one touch texture environment enhancement solution for FS2004.” The publishers further claim, “FS Elemental is an extraordinary and complete environment enhancement dedicated to Flight Simulator 9.” Even more, they say, “with simply one click, you can now revive your current Microsoft flight simulator environment! No GUI hassles or installation problems. Experience heavenly skyscapes, waterscapes, cloudscapes, airport environments and effects.”

Does it live up to its claims? Read on to find out.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Pentium Dual Core at 3 GHz
9600GT PCI-E video 512MB
2GB memory dual channel
TH2GO and Track IR

Flying Time:
5 hours

Download from the link provided by the publisher, pay your fee and insert the serial and other purchase info, and you are good to go. The whole installation, after the program downloaded, took only a few clicks. The documentation consist of err,…nothing. There is no pdf, readme txt, or any type of file anywhere. I checked the installation and all of its sub folders and found ..nothing. Oh well, who reads the manual these days anyways….(I hate to admit it, but I do - sometimes.)

Starting out

FS Elemental is very easy to use. There are only three buttons. If you were to push the wrong button first, FS Elemental would make a backup of your original textures before it runs or installs anything.

After the backup is complete, you are free to install the new textures. In case you do not like what you see, you also have a big red button that helps you restore the originals back into FS9. Therefore, start up is a breeze and software really delivers on its promise that only one click is necessary.

How does it work and how does it look.

To my knowledge, there are currently at least two freeware texture packs available that enhance the look of FS9. Actually, they have both been available for a while. The authors did a wonderful job with current textures and made it available on Avsim and other sites for everyone to enjoy for free. If you have not used these yet and your FS9 textures folder is in its “stock” condition you are an excellent candidate for FS Elemental. Unfortunately, if you have tried any of the freely available texture packs, your first impression after installing the FS Elemental might be similar to mine. My first reaction to the FS Elemental texture pack was that of a “oh, that’s it?” kind. Not very encouraging at all.

Why was I so underwhelmed at first? I thought about it for a while and browsed back to the FS Elemental web site. I found my answer in the screenshots provided there. FS Elemental has a modern site with lots of sharp pictures and most of them look simply fantastic. What fascinated me the most are those vertical lights shown in the shots, and the sharpness of textures .

The beauty of marketing was not even crossing my mind, as I admired the ground shots at their site while at the same time not realizing that they have probably had other add-ons installed. In addition, I was so fascinated by the sparkling lights in the cities that I missed the part which said their product only provides textures; skies, land, water and airports. Then, it dawned on me, that my FS9 already looks similar thanks to many freeware files, without the vertical lights.

Hmm… was it FS Elemental’s fault that I was a bit under whelmed? No, absolutely not. If my FS9 was a clean install with no add-ons and no additional effects and textures, I would have gawked at my screen with awe, and I would admire it endlessly. Which begs the aforementioned question: Is FS Elemental really going to renew the FS9 as claimed?

The answer to that question lies within each user’s eye, and depends on their level of involvement in the add-on market - be it payware or freeware. In other words, if you have many add-ons and lots of enhancements affecting your scenery and textures, you may not notice much difference, but you will definitely notice some changes.

On the other hand, if you kept your textures and effects completely “stock”, and this is one of the first add-ons in that department for you, you will be pleasantly surprised since it really delivers on the one-click-and-the-look-of-FS9-changes promise.

There are various aspects of this work that change the colors of the skies, the clouds, and textures at the airport. The water changes are there as well, and so are some changes to effects (lightning, and night runways) and visibility. Also, the moon textures and sun azimuth change. However, I could not vouch for the accuracy claimed by the developer since I really don’t know much about the correct sun’s azimuth. Suffice it to say it does look different. While the sun may appear before the FS Elemental install, it will not be there in the same place after the installation.

FS Elemental is not revolutionary by any means, but evolutionary nonetheless in relation to your stock FS9. The best way to describe it would be in terms of art. What may be a masterpiece to some, may look like an ordinary, yet pretty, painting to others. By looking at the screenshots below, I will let you make up your own mind.

The authors also suggest that FS Elemental works best with an external weather generator such as Active Sky or Weather Maker Pro. Since I have none of those products installed, I could not provide a valid opinion on the combination of both.

Clouds before and after are shown in the first two pictures from left to right. Third picture in top row shows the sunset and clouds before, and the first in bottom row is the same location and time of day, but after the FS Elemental install. Second and third pictures on the bottom row show sunset before and after.

Top: Runway texture before and after is shown in the first two pics on the top. Third pic is taxiways after FS Elemental install.
Bottom: All three pictures were taken after the install and the authors claim the grass has new bump mapping. That was hard to see on my set-up. Also shown are the colors of the sky, clouds and water in Alaska.

 

First two pictures show TNCM airport after FS Elemental install and the last one is the “new” moon.

 

Some of the new lightning effects as well as the runway lights at KSEA at night

Performance


There were no performance issues on my computer and considering the nature of this product, there should not be any issues with computers that have a relatively modern processor and enough memory to run FS9 smoothly. Since there is no manual to suggest which graphic settings would affect the quality of the picture the most, I have simply left all my graphic settings the way they were before FS Elemental was installed.

Before and after effects on the airplane.

Closing Remarks

I like how FS Elemental changed the look of FS9 even though it seemed underwhelming at first. Still, it was something new and something that refreshed my favorite sim. It did not “renew it” as claimed, but that may be more due to the fact that I had some of the best (in my opinion ) freeware textures and enhancements already installed. In a way, I was used to FS9 looking great for some time.
If you are not interested in trying out various freeware products, and playing with texture folders isn’t your cup of tea, this product may be more to your liking. That’s because it really does make the stock FS9 look new. And to answer my previously posted question…yes, this software does what it says it will do, but be aware that only applies to your stock FS9 and results will vary significantly, especially if you have other add-ons installed.

 

What I Like About FS Elemental Natural Pack

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Easy to understand interface
  • No manual copying or compiling required

 

What I Don't Like About FS Elemental Natural Pack

  • No manual

 

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the product producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment as experienced by the reviewer. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any presumed connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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