AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Scenery Germany - Bremen

Product Information
Publisher: Aerosoft
Description:  Detailed scenery for Bremen region, including custom landclass, roads, rivers, lakes, all VFR landmarks, 3D buildings for Bremen, Bremerhaven, and Cuxhaven, with detailed enhancements for 8 airports.
Download Size:
47 MB
Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS 2004 only
Reviewed by: David Wilson-Okamura AVSIM Staff Reviewer - Aug 19, 2006

Introduction

When I began this review, I didn’t know much about the real Bremen, except that it’s in northern Germany near the coast. However, I was so impressed with the last product in Aerosoft’s Scenery Germany (SG) series, that when a new one came up I jumped at the chance. If you aren’t familiar with SG, I recommend that you stop now and read my review of SG4 then come back to this one. I didn’t get the SG concept right away, but when I grasped it -- a complete VFR landscape studded with small GA airports and glider fields -- I became very enthusiastic. SG Bremen uses the same elements as other SG products, but applies them to a smaller area. It also comes with a smaller price tag.

Installation and Documentation

As I explained in my review of SG4, Aerosoft has recently streamlined its procedure for download customers. If you don’t already have an Aerosoft account, you’ll need to create one. Make your purchase, and when the credit card is confirmed, you can download the file. There’s a registration key, but you no longer need a live internet connection in order to confirm the installation once you’ve made the initial purchase.

Installing the package is very straightforward. The installer doesn’t seem to change your existing configuration in any way, except to make additional entries in the scenery library. If you have other SG products, the installer will find them and make the necessary adjustments.

Documentation is in German and English, with about 20 pages in each language. It covers installation and troubleshooting, describes which airports have been enhanced and how, then suggests two quick sample flights. Unlike other SG products, there are no airport diagrams or visual operation charts. Some of this information is included in the documentation for each airport, but not the direction of the traffic pattern.

Test System

Dell Dimension 2350
P4 @ 2.2 GHz
1 gig RAM
Radeon 9100 w/ 128 Mb (PCI)
TrackIR 3
CH pedals, yoke
Saitek ST290 joystick
Active Camera
Active Sky 6
Flight Environment
Ground Environment Pro

Flying Time:
10 hours

One thing the documentation does have that advanced users will appreciate, is a detailed explanation of the file naming system to facilitate tweaking. For example, if for some reason you wanted to disable the shoreline, railroad, and street vectors, the documentation tells you how to identify the relevant files. I wish all scenery packages would do that.

There’s a schematic map of the coverage area, but no VFR chart. In a perfect world, the package would have included a scanned version of the real thing (ICAO 53/6). In the real world, licensing that would have boosted the price. (Unlike most FAA charts, the ICAO series is protected by copyright.) I used a chart published in North America, TPC E-2B, with good results. It doesn’t have motorway numbers, radio frequencies, or most of the glider fields, but it does indicate where to expect roads, railroad tracks, and various VFR landmarks, such as smokestacks and radio masts. $7US from Sporty’s.com and covers a very large area.

What You Get

Like other SG packages, Bremen improves the default scenery in a number of ways. First, there are more roads, and the roads trace a more realistic path (i.e., there are more curves). Second, the brown ribbon rivers that we see in most of the FS9 world are replaced with real blue water that winds through the scenery, reflecting the sunlight, widening in some places and narrowing in others. In SG4, I noticed that all the rivers and lakes have very wide “beaches.” There’s less of that here and the effect looks quite natural. I was able to navigate the whole scenery, either by tracing the Weser river out to the coast, or by following one of two motorways, A1 and A27. Individual railroad tracks are also mapped in detail, to the degree that you can see tracks from different regions converge and then run parallel to each other as they near a train station.

Railroad track detail

Landclass is custom-made as well. This has several effects. First, the boundaries of existing cities are more precisely defined. Second, the cities have more variety inside them: parkland is distinguished from residential housing and industrial developed. Third, little villages that got left out of the default scenery are restored. The cumulative effect of these changes is more variety, with minimal effect on framerate.

In addition, the whole coverage area is seeded with VFR landmarks, including radio towers, prominent buildings, factory smokestacks (with animated smoke), power lines, bridges, and wind turbines turning slowly everywhere. In all of my flying here, I have yet to find a landmark feature that is noted on my chart which does not also appear in the scenery. Conversely, there are many features in the scenery which were not significant enough to include on the chart. Again, these landmarks are useful in navigation. As you become more familiar with an area, they also become helpful for lining up in various legs of the traffic pattern.

Airports

Speaking of the traffic pattern, SG Bremen also provides enhancements to 14 airports. For six of these, the enhancements are minor: runways are aligned with roads or riverbanks, and taxiways get an added nuance or two. These changes are all evident from the air, and they contribute to the effect of detailed roads and naturally-curving rivers.

Another eight airports get the full beauty treatment: Rotenburg/Wümme (EDXQ), Verden/Scharnhorst (EDWV), Karlshöfen (EDWK), Ganderkesee (EDWQ), Bremerhaven am Luneort (EDWB), and three glider fields, Tarmsted/Westertimke, Hoya, and Nordenham Blexen.

Detailed GA airports

A few of these airports are towered, but in keeping with the VFR theme of the Scenery Germany series, they are not the region’s big commercial airports. Instead, the focus is on small airfields with GA traffic and flying clubs. None of the approaches are difficult, exactly, although spotting Tarmstedt is tough: it’s tucked away in a forest, and the unpaved runway blends in easily with its surroundings. It’s not until you get down to maybe a hundred feet that the runway markers come into view and confirm what you had suspected: that the colored patch of ground in front of you is a runway, and you are not quite lined up with it…. This is how it works in the real world: airports are part of a larger environment, and the smaller ones can get submerged in it.

Once you land, the details welcome you in: there are fellow pilots (maybe their families too) standing around, site-specific signage (in case you lost track of which town you were flying over), lots of static aircraft (including gliders, some of them boxed for transport, others resting with one wing on the grass), various building structures, night lighting (where the real airport has it), and fences. At least one of these fences, at Tarmstedt, leans somewhat. I don’t mean it’s wrong: it would have been easier to make a straight fence with uniform angles. Instead, the designers have made something that looks makeshift and broken-in, the kind of thing that some glider club members might put up over a weekend before going back to their real-world jobs.

Something I’ve complained about with previous SG titles is the absence of parking spaces at some of the enhanced airports. That problem has largely been fixed here: with the exception of one glider field, all of the enhanced airports have parking spaces.

City Scenery

Like many coastal regions, mine included, Bremen and the area around it are flat, flat, flat. That’s nature’s fault, not Aerosoft’s, but when you’re between cities there’s not much to look at. (Central Germany, which I covered in my SG4 review, is much hillier, so even in non-urban areas the visual interest is quite high, and the interaction between landforms and human-made objects is more varied.) Fortunately, the cities make up for this.

The most detailed cities by far are Bremen proper, which straddles the banks of the Weser river, and Bremerhaven on the coast, where the Weser empties into the North Sea. Both are port cities, with facilities for loading container ships, but since Bremen is inland, the weather can be quite different. Several times this summer I took off from Bremen in good weather, only to find fog at Bremerhaven and the airport there closed to VFR. Another sign that Bremerhaven is closer to the sea is seagulls, which hover over the Bremerhaven airport and the Blexen glider field across the river. The seagulls don’t move (I think), but even when they’re static (as I suspect), the relative motion of passing them makes the port seem more lively as well as more coastal.

Bremerhaven airport

I quickly became very fond of Bremerhaven, shuttling back and forth between the glider field and the main airport, exploring the harbor facilities, scrutinizing the cranes, buzzing cargo ships, and then on the ground again admiring the airports. The glider field at Blexen does not have a lot of objects, but its placement makes it a fun airport to fly in and out of. It’s close to the water, but shielded from high waves by an embankment. For help lining up with the runway, there’s a tall mast, and overhead the seagulls I mentioned earlier.

Photoreal ground textures

The city of Bremen, which gives the package is name, is more spread out than Bremerhaven, and because of this can seem less dramatic. This is deceptive. One feature does jump out right away, the use of photographic tiles for ground textures. This gives the waterfront area a distinctive look, very white, that isn’t found elsewhere in the sim. The next thing you notice when flying over Bremen, are the industrial plants with their smoking smokestacks, and perhaps the TV transmission tower. If you keep your eyes on the water, you’ll notice small boats at the dock, and a large container ship docked next to a big crane. Turning east to the city, bridges come into view and the buildings of downtown Bremen.

TV tower Dam rapids Freefall gravity research tower

I didn’t appreciate the architecture of this city properly until I switched to a helicopter and started exploring it from up close. This changed my conception of the whole package. Because Bremen is so spread out, even tall buildings can seem rather tame until you get close to them. When you do, the variety of architectural styles is quickly evident. Some buildings, including the Becks Beer headquarters, are identifiable from signage. Others I recognized from my research: the town hall, the cathedral, at least three statues, S.V. Werder’s soccer stadium, and an old-style windmill.

Park Hotel Old Town Bremen Bremen train station

Still other structures I photographed without initially knowing what they were: the Universum Science Center (which looks like one of the Dune worms peeking its head out of the ground), the Park Hotel (with animated fountain in front), and the famous Freefall Tower (400 feet), used to study microgravity. No doubt if I lived in Bremen, I would recognize even more.

Bremen at ground level

What is the city like at ground level? Since the road system is modeled, I decided to find out. Switching from my Robinson helicopter, I began touring Bremen from the front seat of a BMW 760LI (freeware from Mitsuya “Hama” Hamaguchi). This isn’t what a flight simulator scenery is designed for, but the detail didn’t disappoint. I was now able to locate the famous “Town Musicians” statue, and even the Old Town drug store. As a rule, building interiors are not modeled, but the cavernous interior of the train station is, right up to the ceiling lights.

With all of this detail, how was performance? Framerates dropped, but not so much that I was distracted by them.

Conclusion

What’s missing? Not much. AI boats moving up and down the river, would be a nice addition. So would airplanes in the traffic pattern, and working winches for the glider fields. All of these things are doable, and this would be a natural direction for SG to move in. But price is a consideration as well. SG Bremen is now the lowest-priced member of the SG family. (VFR Berlin 2006, which I reviewed in June, is 22 euros for the download version.)

Bremen is smaller than the others, and as a city, it’s less dramatic than Berlin. Still, it has all the features I’ve come to expect from an SG product. It doesn’t cost a lot, but it doesn’t feel cheap, either. That’s a nice balance.

 

What I Like About Bremen
  • 3D modeling, detailed down to ground level
  • All the landmarks you need for VFR navigation
  • Airports targeted for the GA flyer

 
What I Don't Like About Bremen
  • I can imagine a scenery package with more features, but not at this price.

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