AVSIM FSX Scenery Review

FS Global Ultimate “Europe & Africa”

Product Information

Publishers: PILOT'S

Description: High quality mesh scenery for Europe and Africa.

Download Size:

Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
SX SP1/SP2 or Acceleration Pack
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - June 12, 2011

Introduction

Following AVSIM’s previous FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas” review, this review covers PILOT’S next Ultimate product, namely, FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe & Africa”.

I may assume that the review title speaks for itself: this software covers the entire European continent including the Azores and Iceland as well as Africa. As I did during the previous FSGlobal Ultimate (FSGU) product review, I’ll start right away after this Introduction with the necessary background information about “mesh scenery” products in general.

That’s followed by comparison screenshots within Europe and Africa. Those screenshots are randomly chosen in and around these continents, but more important; it shows you how specific mountains should look in reference to the real mountain. To achieve this, I used Wikipedia images to show you the simulated version versus the real mountain. In fact, I’ll show you how the default FSX mesh scenery looks versus the FSGU screenshot versus the real photo.

Let’s see what FSGU Europe & Africa can do for you!

PILOT’s Background

A small, but interesting section that deals with some background information that finally results in the “crème a la crème” of mesh sceneries. In AVSIM’s previous review “FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas”, you could read a lot about mesh sceneries in general.

In that review, in consultation with developer Stefan Schäfer from PILOT’S, we informed you about the LOD issue and although LOD was and still is an important issue, items like source material are important too. But what did we said about the used techniques?

Stefan said during my FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas” review, “but there is one basic thing to understand: it is not the LOD number, which makes the quality of the scenery. I can render a 76m source (which is LOD 9) to a LOD 14 scenery (which it 2m res) with the effect to just produce masses of data and still have a 76m "looks" of the scenery though it nominally is 2m. It is the quality of the source data and the data processing which makes the day.”

Stefan continues, “So I am not really happy that most out there compare LOD numbers, especially when this is done with FSX default. One might jump to the conclusion that the differences are marginal, which in fact is not the case. Microsoft has drawn LOD 9 (76m) in various regions for consistency or other reasons. But data sources have resolutions of 250 m and even more whereas FS Global's have 76m at worst!

This time, PILOT’S offers in-depth information about their recently released FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe and Africa” (short FSGUEA), so let’s have a look what Stefan has to say.

Technologies for FSGlobal Ultimate Europe/Africa

Fractional Elevation Values and Optimum Base Level

Others call it "32-bit" processing, which is explained as follows: altitudes in FSX are rendered 16 bit, since there are no 32 bit values. But, the number format is flexible how these 16 bit are used and defined by the developer.

He can define how many bits are used before the decimal point and how many after it. Whole numbers (integer) can be values between -32768 and +32767. Such a large range is not necessary for the surface of the earth.

If you use one bit after the decimal point values can be between -16384 and +16383.5 with a resolution of 0.5m. If you use 3 "Fractional Bits", resolution already is 1/8m respectively 12.5cm. Altitude ranges from -4096 to +4095.875m.

You just need a small value while using negative values, but on the positive side, it could be some meters more already in the European Alps. A BGL for example in the European Alps could cover an altitude rage of 170 meters to 4550 meters. One could optimize it by moving the zero-point and giving the BGL a new BASE LEVEL. This could be an altitude of 2048m, which actually is a nice round value. Within the BGL, the 170m are valued as -1878m and the 4550m as 2502m. Thus we get along with 13 Bits by far and can use the remaining 3 for values after the decimal point.

I hope you’re still with me …..so what did we do? A new compiler analyses the data and sets the maximal possible Fractional Bits (max. 7) in relation to optimal Base level. This ensures that we ALWAYS work with the maximal vertical resolution. Then the data is put together from the various sources, modified for the Base Level and handed over as a 32bit value to the SDK compiler. The worst vertical resolution in this product is just 1/8m.

Oversampling with Smart LOD Selection

As we go for higher BGL-internally resolutions, we can draw source data much sharper. If you compare LOD 11 over LOD 13 and you will see many more subtleties in the terrain. The nearer you come, the more you see.

Probably the most important item to bring forward; it is not the resolution in meters, which is responsible for the quality of a mesh scenery, but only the quality of the source data, actually the measurement procedure. You can see it very clearly when you compare meshes of FSDreamscapes (resolution 4,75m) against FSGlobal 2010 (resolution 19m). Though, FSDreamscapes has a nominal higher resolution, ridges and peaks are drawn much softer and rounder. The many points of the mesh are used to show round terrain where actually steep rugged rock exists. Prominent peaks of the European Alps are drawn deformed (Matterhorn) or simply are missing (Dufourspitze). Although we showed you these screenshots in our review, it’s convenient to show you once more.


FS Global Ultimate Europe
(LOD 11 Source 19m)


FS Dreamscapes Switzerland
(LOD 13, Source 5m)


Real picture of
„Dufourspitze“ in Switzerland


FS Global Ultimate Europe
(LOD11 Source 19m)


FS Dreamscapes Switzerland
(LOD13, Source 5m)


Real picture of
the “Matterhorn” in Switzerland

Our new compiler analyses the terrain in terms of abrasiveness and richness of detail. It looks for the greatest gradients, our new compiler analyses the landscape regarding of its detail wealth and contrast, the largest inclinations are looked for, calculates arithmetic averages means and standard deviations, then builds a histogram. If the terrain has sharp structures, we use a high resolution (LOD 11 instead of LOD9), which is a considerable oversampling. We also have flat and even areas, where as a countermove we reduce to LOD8. To draw the Greenland Ice Sheet in LOD 9 would be pure waste of resources. LOD6 would be sufficient.

Conclusion:
- What used to be LOD11 in FSGlobal 2010 now is LOD13 or LOD12
- What used to be LOD9 in FSGlobal 2010 now is LOD8, LOD9, LOD10 or LOD11.

Intelligent Compression

All mesh data in BGLs are compressed as a matter of principle. Otherwise the amount of data would be exorbitant. In FSGlobal Ultimate the amount of data increases by a factor of 15 against FSGlobal 2010. On the other hand, this shows that our outstanding source data has a clear potential of oversampling. To be able to release FSGlobal Ultimate, we let our compiler evaluate terrain quality and in areas of no significant terrain structures we allowed lousy compression, which resulted in an efficient reduction of data size. All distinctive structures (mainly, but not only mountainous regions) have been compressed without loss, not to lose any sharpness. Guaranteed!

FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe/Africa” is for FSX only and comes on 5 double-layer DVDs in the box. DVD 6 contains AFM (Aerodrome Flattening Meshes) and can be used for FSX AND FS2004. Let’s offer you some additional Aerodrome Flattening Meshes information including some examples. The best way to do this is, in consultation with Stefan from PILOT’S, is adding his AFM website information right here.

You have bought FS Global (any version) and admire the realistic looks your landscape has gotten recently? Good! But then you found, that at some airports scenery looks like that:”

“Now, why is that? For those who have not read "Inside FS Global" (which we deliver with FS Global) follows a short explanation. There are several possible reasons.

The most common reason is, airports simply are not flat. Microsoft however has defined: in Flight Simulator every airport has to be flat. So, of course every runway will have a problem with a high resolution terrain on its ends. Next in line, Microsoft has used low resolution terrain scenery as default terrain in Flight Simulator in many areas and has amended the airports to fit the wrong terrain. Enter a correct terrain such as FS Global and this error leaps to the eye. Another common reason is, some airfields simply are misplaced, because they are misplaced in the database Microsoft has used for placing them. Move them to the correct position and they perfectly fit into the terrain. Whatever reason this error has, it does not look nice. And the problems increase, the higher the resolution of the surrounding mesh gets.”

So, what can be done? Well, we could petition Microsoft to correct that. This of course would correct only incorrect airport altitudes, but not the wrong concept of flat only airports. Runways there will still have a wall or slope at their ends.

We could manually check and amend all airports within Flight Simulator (24000+). Of course this can’t be done in a reasonable timeframe.
So we here at PILOT'S took a generic approach and generated a flatten mesh for nearly EVERY airfield included in Flight Simulator. Actually not only that, we created it for FSX AND FS2004, a total of about 48.000 airfields. After installation of AFM, the picture above will look like this:

A much more pleasant look for the eye! Of course not every airport will need an AFM. It is up to you to decide, for which you want to use it. Just use the provided tool to install or uninstall them. A proper scenery layer will be created automatically. You can even import and export AFM group files to share your selection with others or move it to another Flight Simulator.”

Test System

Computer Specs
Intel Core Extreme i7-965  3.2Ghz
6GB Tri-Channel DDR3 1600Mhz
EVGA GTX-285 For the Winner
Triple WD VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Single WD 1TB HDD
Windows 7 Ultimate X64
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Saitek Pro Flight System
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flight Test Time:
55 hours

Pre- and normal Installation, Settings and Documentation

Pre-installation

Pre-Installation is just as important as the installation itself. The pre-installation description helps you out with information you need to do before you actually start with the Ultimate “Europe & Africa” installation. You first need, if applicable, to disable current FSGlobal entries in the Scenery Library. The manual tells you that “You DO NOT need to de-install any previous FS Global version. If you own and have installed, FS Global 2010, please disable (do not remove!) the following scenery layers (if they exist!) in your scenery library within FS. Please refer to you FS Manual on how to access scenery library, if you are not familiar with this procedure.
- FS Global 20xx – Europe
- FS Global 20xx - Africa

Please note: Not all scenery layers do exist in all versions of FS Global. Just disable those present. Do NOT disable or remove ANY OTHER scenery layer or files.”

Another manual FSX setting to deal with for this FSGlobal product is the “Mesh Resolution”. The only thing you need to do is to set mesh resolution to 1m in your Scenery Display settings. This setting and, of course others as well, depend on your PC specifications. That’s all! You can find more details in the supplied Acrobat manual, which can be found on DVD1.

Actual Installation

When all the preconditions are fulfilled, you chose either for English, German, Italian, Spanish or French. Because the software is only applicable for FSX, there’s no possibility to choose for either FSX or FS2004. Once all this information is gathered it took me, or rather my PC, roughly 30 minutes to install all 5 DVD’s. At the end, as mentioned before, manual FSX adjustments are needed and you’re ready to go, oops, to fly. Remember, for a complete install of FSGlobal Ultimate Europe & Africa, you need around 40GB of hard disk space!


Contents of the Acrobat manual


Auto detection of FSX directory


Feel free where to install the FSGUX Europe, Africa and Local Mesh folders

I would again, as I did in the previous FSGlobal review, bring forward the Frame Rate impact. The answer to this is very simple. There’s no FPS impact at all! The only thing this software or files are doing is to enhance mountains and valleys to much higher standards of realism. That said, it doesn’t enhance the way the landscape looks. The ground texture tile structure doesn’t change, so forests, urban and industrial areas, farmlands and all that’s available within the default FSX, stays as it is.

Documentation

The DVD box comes with a small flyer with some English/German information. Although it doesn’t offer much information, it refers to the README FILE and PDF manuals. You can find the manuals in the root of DVD 1. The Acrobat manual offers some nice background information of this FSGlobal Ultimate product.

When you’re familiar with previous FSGlobal software or even with the FSGU “The Americas’, then most of the information should be known. Honestly, there’s not much more info you need for this product. I’ll try to help you out to understand what this FSGU Europe and Africa is doing. I’m not doing that with only text, but mainly with screenshots.

Said before, on DVD 1 you’ll find the language related manuals, but within FSX there’s also a new folder, namely “pilot’s software”. In this folder you’ll find a lot of stuff, which is, by the way, linked to the Start menu - All Programs PILOT’S Software folder with a subfolder FS Global Ultimate. Anyway, the English manual can be found in this directory too.

The Acrobat document comes with a lot of useful information and in particular the FSX.cfg tip is worth checking and implementing. Most of us are aware where to find FSX.cfg and if not, the manual helps you to make the necessary modifications. Also modifying FSX Scenery settings are well explained.

Some final words where and how to add the LOD_RADIUS=8.5 entry in your FSX.cfg file. According to the Acrobat manual:

  • Find the file fsx.cfg.
    It is saved by the operating system at the place it usually saves user files.
    In WINDOWS 7 for instance this is “C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\FSX\fsx.CFG”. Other operating systems may (will!) save it in different places. Please use the internet or the WINDOWS search engine to find out the place for your operating system, if you are not able to find it yourself.
  • Open the file using a text editor and find the area [Terrain].
  • Now locate the line „LOD_RADIUS=“ and set the value to 8.5.
    Note the point for a comma! Save that file. To work on it later you may wish to save a link on your desktop.
  • Start FS and move to mountainous areas.
  • You will note the difference. If the performance of your PC can’t cope with it, you may wish to reduce the value step by step to find a good compromise between performance and looks.”

But what actually is this LOD_RADIUS=8.5 entry doing? For that I need the help of Stefan from PILOT’S. According to Stefan “The fsx.cfg setting LOD_RADIUS – default setting equals 4.5 - affects how many tiles out from the current position terrain and landclass are drawn. Increasing it to 8.5 means in the distance, lower resolution LODs are loaded during flight. With this setting active, FSX loads the highest resolution LOD in greater distance, which makes the looks of terrain much more dramatic and realistic.

With this last sentence I want to conclude this section. It’s now time to see the real FSGU “Europe & Africa” in action!

Africa

Is it really necessary to start with an introduction? No way, however the following Africa, and also applicable for Europe, screenshots are not always made at known locations or are not known by most people. Therefore I decided to add some background information of every location I’ve visited.

Some are known while others are at spots I’ve never heard of. This introduction is followed by, of course, my FSX experience. Together with a FSX MAP overview, I’ll show you a screenshot of the default FSX spot, an FSGlobal 2010 impression and logically, the FSGlobal Ultimate look. Where needed, I’ll add some additional information about possible differences between the previous FSGlobal 2010 and the new Ultimate software. Sometimes these differences are easily visible, while at other spots it’s hardly to see. The thumbnails are in this case, not always a helpful medium. Therefore, when needed, it’s mandatory you click to view the large image.

Have fun with my African adventure!

Mount Kenya (Kenya)

Introduction

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The highest peaks of the mountains are Batian (5.199 m (17.057 ft)), Nelion (5.188 m (17.021 ft)) and Point Lenana (4.985 m (16.355 ft)).

Mount Kenya is located in central Kenya, just south of the equator, around 150 kilometers (93 mi) north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya. Mount Kenya is a stratovolcano created approximately 3 million years after the opening of the East African rift. Before glaciation, it was 7.000 m tall (23.000 feet). It was covered by an ice cap for thousands of years. This has resulted in eroded slopes and numerous valleys radiating from the center. There are currently 11 small glaciers. The forested slopes are an important source of water for much of Kenya (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mount Kenya

The very first comparison screenshots, Mount Kenya. As you will see for yourself, at every location in Africa and Europe, Microsoft’s default FSX presentation isn’t what we are looking for. I added those default FSX screenshots here for only one reason; you need to go for a professional add-on mesh scenery product. There are many out there, but every time, PILOT’S FSGlobal turns out to be one of the best.

When you thought – and even I did – FSGlobal 2010 couldn’t be improved upon, you’re wrong. In my previous FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas” review I showed you already the impact of FSGlobal in general, but also the improved FSGlobal Ultimate series. Anyway, this first example deals with Mount Kenya.

Comparing the default overview and the close-up screenshots with FSGlobal, that’s no game, so no further discussion needed. On the other hand, even though the differences are difficult to see on these FSGlobal thumbnails, it turns out that the Ultimate version is again better than it’s predecessor. And when I write “better” it means the peaks, slopes and others are closer to the reality. That’s easily said, but is it true?

I don’t have real images to show you and although Wikipedia could help me, you’ll never find a same angle real picture. Based on previous FSGlobal experience, I can assure you that even these small improvements of Mount Kenya Ultimate, is one step closer to the real Mount Kenya than it was already with the FSGlobal 2010. So, you can see, either the source material is of a higher LOD, but still the processing technique are just or even more important to make it as real as it gets!

Just click the thumbnails and see with your own eyes the incredible differences between the FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate screenshots. You can only come to one conclusion: FSGlobal Ultimate is again of a higher quality and thus Mount Kenya looks even better!

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Ras Dashen (Ethiopia)

Introduction

Ras Dashen is the highest mountain in Ethiopia. Part of Semien Mountains National Park, it reaches an elevation of 4.550 m (14.928 ft). The more common form, "Ras Dashen" is a corruption of its Amharic name, "Ras Dejen", used by the system of the Ethiopian Mapping Authority (EMA) which means "the general who fights in front of the Emperor". According to Erik Nilsson, Ras Dashen is the eastern peak of the rim of "an enormous volcano, the northern half of which is cut down about thousand meters by numerous ravines, draining into the Takkazzi River." Its western counterpart is Mount Biuat (4.510 m), separated by the valley of the Meshaha river (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Ras Dashen

This time not a mountain, but a massif. Whatever, the importance is the output and in particular for this review, the impact of FSGlobal Ultimate Africa & Europe. It wasn’t a difficult object and looking at the default FSX screenshots, oops, that looks like nothing. Instead of a mountain rim, it seems to me more like hills. Is it important to know how the default FSX Ras Dashen looks? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, since that gives you a good idea what mesh sceneries in general can and can’t do for you. And no, because I’m reviewing PILOT’S latest FSGlobal Ultimate product and for those who own FSGlobal 2010, it’s also a challenge to convince them about possible difference between the previous version and new product.

In that respect, Ras Dashen was an easy example. When you compare the two FSGlobal products with each other you’ll see the difference right away. You can see this, when you look closely at the thumbnails. And although FSGlobal 2010 isn’t doing bad at all, it turns out that there’s still a lot to improve and PILOT’S has proven that with the Ultimate Series.

Go ahead, click the FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate thumbnails and see it with your own eyes. For me, FSGlobal Ultimate turns out to be a Ras Dashen winner as well!

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Mount Stanley (Congo/Uganda)

Introduction

Mount Stanley is a mountain located in the Ruwenzori Range. With an elevation of 5.109 m (16.763 ft), it is the highest mountain of both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, and the third highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro (5.895 m) and Mount Kenya (5.199 m). The peak and several other surrounding peaks are high enough to support glaciers. Mount Stanley is named for the journalist and explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley. It is part of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mt. Stanley consists of two twin summits and several lower peaks (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mount Stanley

What was more or less applicable for Ras Dashen, is the same for Mount Stanley. Forget the default FSX screenshots and let’s go straight to compare the FSGlobal 2010 with the Ultimate screenshots. The default FSX screenshots are only important for those who had no idea what FSGlobal could and can do for you and hopefully, after you’ve seen all these differences, you’re convinced about their impact on FSX mesh scenery.

Ok, back to the FSGlobal screenshots. I started this section with “more or less the same issue as with Ras Dashen”. Said that and looking to the two FSGlobal screenshots, you hardly believe this. It very difficult to see any differences between the FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate screenshot, but hold on, click the thumbnails. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see what I mean. Ok, not shocking, but clearly visible. Imagine, with a high quality photo-real on top of it, wow that would be great!

Sorry, that’s not applicable right now. Right now you’ll notice differences in the rim, but mainly along the slopes. Small changes that make it closer to the real Mount Stanley.

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

Introduction

Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is an inactive stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5.895 metres or 19.341 ft above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak). Mt. Kilimanjaro is the fourth highest of the Seven Summits. Kilimanjaro is/was a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone.

Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360.000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago. Although it is dormant, Kilimanjaro has fumaroles that emit gas in the crater on the main summit of Kibo. Scientists concluded in 2003 that molten magma is just 400 m (1.310 ft) below the summit crater. Several collapses and landslides have occurred on Kibo in the past, one creating the area known as the Western Breach (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro that will be a tough one. As expected, the default FSX Microsoft screenshot is far from real, but looking to the overview FSGlobal screenshots, it’s very difficult to find any peak differences. Looking closely at the mountain slopes, it seems there’s a slight difference.

The Kilimanjaro peak and the one on the right hand side look the same from this distance. That said, the close-up look of Kilimanjaro shows a different white cap. Not that you suddenly see a totally different shape, but the white FSGlobal Ultimate slopes offer many details. In “mesh scenery” language, a more realistic presentation of the real Kilimanjaro. Just check it yourself and you’ll see that even though we’re dealing with small differences between the previous and new FSGlobal products, they are there.

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Table Mountain (South Africa)

Introduction

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hike to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park.

The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometers (2 miles) from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheater of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbor.

The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear's Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrically survey. It is 1.086 m (3.563 ft) above sea level, about 19 m (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau.

The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain's slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called "table cloth" of cloud (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Table Mountain

My last African challenge; the famous Table Mountain near Johannesburg. I may say a well-known worldwide spot and therefore, I’m surprised about the default FSX impression. No Table Mountain at all! Strange, but at the same time an unimportant issue. As we have seen so far, the default FSX African mesh scenery is far from realistic, so let’s go quickly to the FSGlobal screenshots.
I can tell you that this is an easy one to compare the previous FSGlobal with the new Ultimate version. When you look closely at the thumbnails, you can see them, but it’s much better to click for a larger view and then in particular the close-up view. No words are needed to see the differences.

The table itself stays more or less the same for both FSGlobal products, but the slope and the table ends are more realistic. As said many times, don’t expect huge mountain and/or slope differences. FSGlobal 2010 was already a high quality product, however FSGlobal Ultimate goes one step further with the result being an even better representation of the real mountain, slope of massif.

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

This concludes my Africa FSGlobal Ultimate impression. As you can see, although we’re dealing with small differences between the previous FSGlobal 2010 and the new Ultimate software, PILOT’S developers did it again. Source material is of a higher LOD, or a better/new processing technique is used, the end result is a realistic mountain or slope look compared to the real mountain.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find good real pictures, but instead, most of the African FSGlobal Ultimate screenshots speak for themselves. Let’s move on to my European FSGlobal impression.

Europe

First of all, all European screenshots were made with Flight1 Ground Environment Enhanced Europe installed, while the Gibraltar shots have additionally, Flight1 Ultimate Terrain X Europe. For the rest, what you see is of the same kind as the Africa pictures.

Europe is so diverse, it’s hardly possible to show you all of it. The few screenshots down below and the screenshots from the “PILOT’S background” should give you a good idea what FSGlobal Ultimate Europe & Africa can do for you. Even though the thumbnails are small, most of the comparison screenshots between FSGlobal 2010 and FSGlobal Ultimate still offer you small differences.

What was the same as with Africa, Europe isn’t really well developed by Microsoft and the Microsoft LOD material in combination with their processing techniques, lead to terrible default FSX mesh scenery. Comparing these default FSX screenshots with any FSGlobal software, is useless. You see it right away!

To get the best shot and thus to compare both FSGlobal products, you need of course to click the thumbnail. By doing this, it makes sense why FSGlobal Ultimate is the right choice, even above FSGlobal 2010. Although I must be honest, it sometimes takes some time to find the differences. At first thought, I decided to mark the mountains peeks or slopes on the thumbnails with circles and/or squares thus to identify the difference. Because of the small thumbnail size, I finally decided not to do this.

When you open the FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate screenshot right after each other, you’ll see the differences right away. Don’t expect big differences between the two FSGlobal products. That’s because FSGlobal 2010 Europe was already of a high quality mesh scenery and making it even better or I should say more accurate, against a real mountain picture isn’t an easy job. One last word about the two FSGlobal products and probably logic for some flight simmers, but not for all of you, these sometimes tiny differences between both FSGlobal software is only visible when you fly VFR along the mountains otherwise it would be difficult to find the differences.

It’s now time to check the following set of screenshots taken at Gibraltar (Peninsula in south Spain, belonging to England), Corsica (French Island), Mont Blanc (at the border of France/Italy), Mount Aneto (situated in the Pyrenees and at the border of Spain/France) and Mount Etna (Italian island Sicily).

These screenshots represent not only the difference between FSX default and FSGlobal products, but it allows you as well to compare FSGlobal products. I’m aware it’s only a very small collection of European mountains, but adding hundreds of screenshots here, is too much and not useful. It’s the idea behind the way FSGlobal products are made and the constant improving “processing technique” that makes every new FSGlobal product better then its predecessor.

Gibraltar (England)

Introduction

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of 6.843 square kilometers, it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region. At its foot is the densely populated city area, home to almost 30.000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities.

The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations as Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians resoundingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in referenda held in 1967 and 2002.

Under its 2006 constitution, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defense and foreign relations, remain the responsibility of the UK Government (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Gibraltar

I had to activate Flight1’s UTX Europe software. If I didn’t do this, Gibraltar was and is not a peninsula. And its borders, far away from it, look weird. I mentioned it before, but repeat it again; all the European default ground textures tiles are replaced by GEX Enhanced Europe. For mesh scenery products like FSGlobal, that doesn’t make any difference. The only difference there is, is the look or ground textures tiles on a mountain, slope, peaks or whatever you see. Although the GEX Enhanced Europe ground textures tiles give Europe a great refreshing look, it’s not the same and as accurate as a photo real scenery. Important is the way mountains look and then I mean, their shape.

Is it close to real or far from real? Far from real is the default European FSX mesh scenery, closer to real is FSGlobal 2010 and one step higher is PILOT’S FSGlobal Ultimate Europe & Africa. On purpose, I made and not only applicable for Gibraltar, an overview screenshot and one or two close-up shots.

Depending on where the overview is made, you can see differences between these overviews, but sometimes you can’t. The moment you compare the close-up shots together, differences are easier to find. When I write “differences” I mean a different mountain rim, peak, slope, etc. Depending on the time of the day, sunrise or sunset screenshots gives a softer and warmer light environment and this sometimes leads to better recognition.

Concerning Gibraltar, there’s no default FSX Gibraltar, so for this screenshot there’s no need to check this against FSGlobal. Perhaps not visible on the Gibraltar overview, but there are some differences and it becomes even better when you zoom-in at the highest peak. Even the middle row FSGlobal thumbnail screenshots prove this.

 

FSX MAP view

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

South East Corsica (France)

Introduction

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia. Corsica is one of the 27 régions of France, although strictly speaking Corsica is designated as a "territorial collectivity" by law. As a territorial collectivity, it enjoys greater powers than other French régions, but for the most part its status is quite similar.

Corsica is referred to as a "région" in common speech, and is almost always listed among the other régions of France. Although the island is separated from the continental mainland by the Ligurian Sea and is closer to Italy than to the French mainland, politically Corsica is part of Metropolitan France. It was once briefly an independent Corsican Republic, until being incorporated into France in 1769. Its culture has both French and Italian elements (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Corsica

Somewhere along the east coast of Corsica, looking in a western direction, I made these screenshots. It’s not important if it reflects certain known mountain peaks. What’s more important is the way Microsoft thinks it looks and the way FSGlobal does.

Forget the Microsoft default FSX, that’s horrible and doesn’t reflect the mountain massif at all. This is in particular the case for the 2nd row default FSX screenshot. I don’t know what this “stand-alone mountain” is doing there. Believe it or not, the FSGlobal screenshots of the 2nd row are made on exactly the same latitude/longitude position and this is the way it should look.

Although the size of the thumbnails is small, looking closely at the two FSGlobal screenshots on the 2nd row, you are able to see some differences. When I say differences, I mean, the RH FSGlobal Ultimate screenshots reflect an even more accurate representation of the real mountain. Sorry boys and girls, this time I haven’t added any real images of this massif. The importance is to see the differences between the previous and new FSGlobal products. Feel free to click the FSGlobal thumbnails and compare them by yourself and convince yourself!

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Mont Blanc Massif (Italy/France)

Introduction

Monte Bianco or Mont Blanc (respectively meaning "White Mountain") is the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and the European Union. It rises 4.810.45m (15.782ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. It is also sometimes known as "La Dame Blanche" (French for "The White Lady").

The mountain lies between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France and the location of the summit is on the watershed line between the valleys of Ferret and Veny in Italy and the Arve Valley in France. The two most famous towns near Mont Blanc are Courmayeur in Aosta Valley, Italy, and Chamonix in Haute-Savoie, France—the site of the first Winter Olympics. A cable car ascends and crosses the mountain from Courmayeur to Chamonix. Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, the 11.6 km (7¼ mi) Mont Blanc Tunnel runs beneath the mountain between these two countries and is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes. The Mont Blanc massif is popular for mountaineering, hiking, skiing and snowboarding (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mont Blanc Massif

I’m not 100% sure of Mont Blanc itself or that it’s close to it. The overview of the Mont Blanc massif should be the massif and the famous peak. Suppose this is not the case, but still it’s useful comparison material. Default FSX screenshot on the 1st row left, seems not bad, but the moment you compare that with the FSGlobal screenshots, you’ll know why I wrote “not bad”.
The problem starts with the 2nd row. And again, believe it or not, the left hand screenshot 2nd row is exactly the same latitude/longitude location as the FSGlobal ones in the same row. It looks like the FSGlobal thumbnail differences can’t be found. It’s indeed difficult to find the differences, even when you have the large image in front of you. But there are differences, although small.

On the 3rd row, when you’ve clicked the thumbnails, you’ll see some differences in the white slope. Ok, we talk about minor differences however; minor means an improvement against the real Mount Blanc massif. I would say, take the challenge and find them!

I left these Mont Blanc massif screenshots on purpose in this review. It gives a good idea that sometimes the differences with FSGlobal 2010 are not as impressive as you had hoped for. Disappointed? Not at all! It proves to me and you that the FSGlobal 2010 mountain was already of a high quality, while the PILOT’S developers try to improve their product constantly. And even though the impact of the FSGlobal Ultimate Mont Blanc is small, it shows you what’s possible. Go ahead, and compare the screenshots and convince yourself.

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Mount Aneto (Spain/Pyrenees)

Introduction

Aneto is the highest mountain in the Pyrenees and in Aragon, and Spain's third highest mountain- reaching a height of 3.404 m (11.168 ft). It lies in the Spanish province of Huesca, the northernmost of all three Aragonese provinces. It forms the southernmost part of the Maladeta massif. It was also known as Pic de Néthou in French, though this is little-used as the mountain lies entirely within Spain.

Aneto holds the largest glacier in Spain, covering 79.6 ha in 2005; it is shrinking rapidly due to warming summer temperatures and decreasing winter precipitation over the twentieth century- it covered 106.7 hectares in 1981, and over 200 hectares in the 19th century. The mountain's ascent is usually made from the Refuge of the Renclusa (2.140 m). From there, the itinerary traverses the longest part of the glacier that extends to the north of the peak. The summit is defended by a short rocky passage called the Bridge of Mohammed. It is a narrow ridge of large, stable blocks, with an exposed drop on either side.

At the summit it’s an impressive cross and a contrasting view, with the snow-covered Maladeta massif north and the Alto Aragon region to the south (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mount Aneto

For those who live near the Pyrenees, or visit this massif during a holiday, I can tell you based on my own experience, it’s a wonderful area. I’m not 100% sure if the ground texture tiles represent the real look, but as said before, that doesn’t influence the way FSGlobal adds the correct mesh scenery.

Looking for yourself, the default FSX screenshots are “of no reality”, so let’s forget these. On the other hand, it’s seems again a difficult job to compare FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate screenshot with each other. Said that, go for the large views and see for yourself that it isn’t difficult to find the differences. I can write and write, but the best way is to see it by doing it. Even the small changes between the FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate are worth the new product.

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

 

Mount Etna (Sicily / Italy)

Introduction

Mount Etna also known as Muncibeddu in Sicilian and Mongibello in Italian is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 3.329 m (10.922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21 m (69 ft) lower now than it was in 1981.

It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1.190 km² (460 sq mi) with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide in Tenerife surpasses it in the whole of the European-North-African region.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south (courtesy Wikipedia).

Flight Simulator X Mount Etna

My last comparison deals with the famous Etna. Oops, it seems the default FSX Etna is not what it supposed to be, either the overview or the close-up. Both represent a heavily eroded peak and it seems it’s not even a stratovolcano. Luckily we have FSGlobal who helps us, as far as possible, with a real stratovolcano.

This time, the comparison between the previous and new FSGlobal, is hard. When you compare the overview FSGlobal shots with each other, the difference is only 1% and that reflects the snow covered mountain peak. It’s so difficult, but there’s a chance you’ll see it. Not convinced? Then you go for the 2nd row and compare those. Since it’s a close-up of the peak, you’ll see it.

What lesson have we learned from this Etna? Depending on where you are in Europe, the difference between FSGlobal 2010 and Ultimate is not always that much, but not much could mean still an improvement. By itself that’s already a wonderful job that due to new processing techniques, PILOT’S is able to improve their previous product. Not bad at all, I would say!

 

MAP overview/close-up

Default FSX

FSGlobal 2010

FSGlobal Ultimate

This brings me to the end of this new FSGlobal Ultimate Europe & Africa. No, summary and closing remarks are on its way. I did mention it several times, too many screenshots showing you the difference is not a good option. What’s more important is showing you some easy and difficult comparisons.

The easy examples give you a part of the default FSX screenshots, a comparison between the previous and new FSGlobal product like Corsica, Gibraltar, Mount Kenya, Ras Dashen, Mount Stanley and the Table Mountain. When I write difficult examples, we’re dealing with the remaining once like Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc massif, Mount Aneto and Mount Etna. You can still see the difference and thus the improvement of the Ultimate package, but you need for this to compare the large screenshots with each other.

Overall impression of the previous two sections ……. PILOT’S did it again!

Summary / Closing Remarks

Did PILOT’S, makers of FSGlobal products, do it again? Applicable for this product as well, the difference on paper between FSGlobal 2010 and FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe & Africa” is big, but the best way to judge is to see it with your own eyes. As mentioned in my previous review, FSGlobal 2010 covers the whole FSX/FS2004 world on six DVD’s, while PILOT’S 2nd Ultimate product comes only with Europe and Africa, on five DVD’s with an installation space of 40GB. And, this reviewed product is only for two continents! In other words, there must be a big difference between FSGlobal 2010 and the Ultimate series.

And here too, there’s always the price/quality check. FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe & Africa” cost you at the PILOT’S shop €49.99 or roughly US$64.00. When you don’t own FSGlobal 2010, don’t look any further, at least, that’s what I think. Then, FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe & Africa” it’s a good investment.

For those who lost the Ultimate product series. Currently from the three Ultimate packages, two – The Americas and Europe & Africa - are released. The third and final Ultimate package – Asia and Oceania - is planned for latter 2011. Anyway, all cost the same, so 49.99.

But let’s assume you own already FSGlobal 2010, what then? For me as a reviewer there’s no doubt to switch to the Ultimate series. I don’t have to buy it, instead I have to write about it. On the other hand, I’ve got a good idea about FSGlobal 2010 and the FSGlobal Ultimate differences and based on what I’ve seen, I would swap to the Ultimate series.

The advantage for you is, you can decide which part of the world you normally fly and based on this, you decide to go for either “The Americas”, “Europe & Africa”, “Asia & Oceanic” or a combination of them all.

I started in my previous FSGlobal Ultimate review proving that not only the LOD figure is important, but the combination of source material and thus LOD including the processing technique. Because PILOT’S developers are constantly seeking newer and better techniques, a constant improving product is the result and this leads to a more realistic output, thus what you see with your eyes.

Knowing that this review offers, again, many screenshots compared to what you’re used to from me. You can either show static “comparison” images or decide to go for movies. The only problem using movies is, unless you cut & paste, it only covers FSGlobal Ultimate or FSGlobal 2010 or even worse, default FSX. Cut & Paste won’t solve this problem.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that this review helps you understanding what this mesh scenery software can do for you, and based on that, you’re able to make the right decision!

 

What I Like About FS Global Ultimate Europe & Africa

  • Easy to go installer. Be aware of the total installation time and hard disk space (approximately 40GB)!
  • FSX Library Scenery is automatically updated and configured.
  • Supplied manuals (different languages) offer you all the information you need to know about mesh scenery products.
  • Depending where you are flying – Europe or Africa - FSGlobal Ultimate Europe & Africa impact is always available, however, it’s ranging from slight to huge differences and, flat is flat so don’t expect any change here.
  • Again, due to newer and better processing techniques, a more realistic look and higher realism is the result.
  • The same what I wrote in my FSGU “The Americas”, a must have product, although I’m aware it cost some money!

 

What I Don't Like About FS Global Ultimate Europe & Africa

  • Honestly, nothing! It’s just doing its work in the background.

 

Printing

If you wish to print this review or read it offline at your leisure,  right click on the link below, and select "save as"

FS Global Ultimate Europe & Africa

(adobe acrobat required)

Comments?

Standard Disclaimer
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.

Tell A Friend About this Review!

© 2011 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved