AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

U.S. Cities X: Chicago

Product Information

Publishers:  Aerosoft

Description: Regional Scenery Package.

Download Size:
285 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Bert Pieke AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - July 20, 2010

Introduction

If you are a long time flight simmer, you may well have started your virtual flying career at a little airport situated just off Chicago on a peninsula in Lake Michigan, Meigs Field. Unfortunately, this airport was shut down in 2003, and FSX does not even feature it anymore, instead selecting Microsoft’s home town, Seattle as the default starting point.

For the ultimate nostalgia flight, however, you can install Aerosoft’s recently released Chicago X scenery package for FSX, which not only features the entire city of Chicago in stunning detail, but also - you guessed it - Meigs Field.

Coverage area

Aerosoft has released a number of scenery packages in the past, including the revolutionary “Manhattan” for FS2004 which showed us for the first time, that you can have a completely modeled city with excellent detail, without bringing your PC to its knees.

According to the documentation, U.S. Cities X is a series of city sceneries that should be positioned between the high end city scenery like Manhattan X and the default scenery. It is intended to give “new destinations to the user who likes to explore the world”. Fully aimed at daytime VFR flights, it does not include seasons and night textures (this would make the product too large for comfort as well).

Installation & Documentation:

The scenery can be found at the Aerosoft page as a download of almost 300 MB. On your hard drive, it will take up about three times that, after installation. A well written manual accompanies the scenery explaining the features included, the coverage area, as well as the FSX settings to get the most out of the scenery and minimize possible performance impacts.

It should be said that for all its size and detail, the scenery is quite reasonably priced at less than a twelve pack of beer where I live.

Flying around Chicago X:

It was a lot of fun to start up a Cessna 172 and taxi to runway 36 for takeoff, like so many times before, and head north for a landing at KORD, Chicago O’Hare airport.

Taking off from Meigs Field

The first reaction when looking out the window at the city passing by is: “Wow”. After seeing Chicago from so many previous FS releases, this is like nothing ever seen before. Almost photo-real, the sheer number of buildings is overwhelming, and the fact that the frame rates are hardly affected is amazing.

Chicago takes on a whole new personality, and instead of the handful cartoonish custom buildings that come with FSX, the city is all there; the tall skyscrapers in the center and the lower buildings, tapering off into the suburbs, connected by the freeways that surround the city. Great for VFR exploration!
Flying around a bit more starts to reveal the limitations of the package however. When you get to the scenery edges, the boundaries are noticeable and it does not take all that long to fly from one end to the other. Having said that, flying within the coverage area is indeed spectacular and the downtown core in particular is very believable. Also, flying in and out of Meigs Field is a real treat!

I’ve attached some screenshots to simply show off the scenery, and believe me, there are many more angles the pictures could have been taken from.

Flying around Chicago

A few niggling details should be mentioned. The static aircraft parked at Meigs look like they came from a children’s playground, and the aerial view of parked cars next to the field is sufficiently low in resolution that it looks disappointing as you overfly it for the landing approach.

This is a common problem for photo-real scenery – it typically looks really good only from a certain altitude. It actually re-confirms the quality of the FSX default autogen design which looks pretty good from close up, as well as from a distance.

Static aircraft Parking lot on approach

Performance:

As mentioned above, the performance impact is not really noticeable, at least until you fly to KORD, Chicago O’Hare airport. It has been updated with a new runway and additional photo real surrounding scenery. On my system, with a 512 MB video card, landing at KORD would cause sudden drops in performance, and in some cases, noticeable stuttering. Dialing back the Autogen density made a difference, so some experimentation is in order for a best compromise.

Overall though, the performance is acceptable for VFR flight and the amount of visual detail presented here is a feast for the eyes.

John Hancock building Midway Airport Classic Chicago

Summary:

Test System

Q6600 @ 3.2 GHz
4 GB DDR 800 Ram
Nvidia 9600GT 512MB Video Card
22" LCD monitor 1680x1050 resolution
CH Products USB Yoke
WindowsXP Professional
FSX Acceleration

If you liked Aerosoft Manhattan, you are sure to like U.S. Cities X Chicago. It does a great job of making the city of Chicago come alive in front of your eyes, and being able to fly in and out of Meigs Field is a nice bonus.

Performance is acceptable, certainly for VFR flying. As with most photo real scenery, there are some low altitude and scenery boundary issues, but for that you get some breathtaking views when flying around the downtown core.

 

What I Like About Chicago X

  • Stunning depiction of downtown Chicago
  • Meigs Field is back and looking better than ever
  • Acceptable performance
  • Reasonable price

 

What I Don't Like About Chicago X

  • Very basic static aircraft at Meigs Field
  • Low resolution of photo real textures near airports

 

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US Cities X: Chicago

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