AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Megascenery X Phoenix

Product Information
Publisher: PC Aviator
Description:  Hi-res aerial photo scenery

Download Size:
NA

Format:
2 x DVD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Gene Davis AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - August 1, 2007

It has been how many months since FSX was released? Well, I kind of lost count! Shortly after FSX was released, we were given the photo scenery patch which allowed us to take our favorite FS9 photo scenery and use it in FSX. I have to tell you that I was initially impressed with the photo scenery being ported from FS9 to FSX as it provided a much more stable environment for such scenery.

So, I was left wanting more and more scenery designed specifically for FSX! I think the very first add-on that I bought for FSX was that of Georender's Yellowstone National Park series and needless to say, I was very impressed! After that came Megascenery X Hawaii and several other titles starting showing up on the market along with Megascenery X Phoenix. I was ready to give Phoenix a shot when I first laid my eyes on it!

What You Get!

What you get with Phoenix is not only 7000 square miles of scenery of the Phoenix area and its surrounding rural areas packed onto two DVD’s, but you also get 96 approach charts, SIDS, STARS and airport diagrams for the entire coverage area of this scenery package as well as a full color VFR chart and a full color terminal chart for quick and easy reference.

Not only do you get scenery coverage for FSX, but you also get a second set of scenery that you can use with FS9, though the resolution is not as good as FSX’s scenery, the FS9 scenery makes this package available to everyone and offers a similar product to FS9 users.

Test System

Computer 1:
Intel Core Duo E6600
2GB Dual Channel Ram
ATI X1600 PRO 512
CH Flight Yoke & Peddles
Saitek X52 Flight Controllers
Track IR 4
Patchberri Flight Panel

Computer 2:
P4 3.0 800 FSB W/HT
2GB Of Corsair Ram
ATI X1600 PRO 512
Saitek Cyborg 3d Joystick

Flying Time:
15 hours

Installation and Documentation

Installation is simple and straight forward, all you have to do is insert the disc and go! Be warned though the installation process will take some time as there is an enormous amount of data being placed on your hard drive, somewhere around 5 gigabytes of photo scenery goodness so the overall installation process does take a good deal of patience, but the end result in FSX is great!

Once the installation process is complete the installer will ask you to change some of your FSX settings. My recommendations for this is to simply tell the installer "no" as some of the changes will alter your existing settings and if you are like me, then you have spent a great deal of time tweaking FSX to get the best out of it and allowing the installer to make the changes will undo some of that. Just give the scenery a shot and see how it runs with your existing settings and if you need to go back and make those changes through the installer, you can go back and do it again through the scenery configuration program installed on your hard drive.

The installation documentation is worth the read as it tells you how to get the most out of FSX and get much better performance. Not only that, it explains the scenery coverage in greater detail and outlines some key areas for your flight viewing enjoyment.

What This Scenery Does For FSX!

Megascenery X Phoenix offers up a high resolution representation of Phoenix Arizona and its surrounding rural areas at a whopping 1.19 meters per pixel reformatted from 1 foot per pixel photo scenery derived from actual aerial photography. Not only are the day textures enhanced, but the nighttime textures have been given the same attention to detail.

The night time textures are displayed at 1.19 meters per pixel same as the day time giving you ultra realistic and crystal clear textures, which in the past, the evening textures generally tend to be a little on the lacking side, but this cannot be said for Phoenix X.

That being said, what we get is a city that is remarkably realistic looking from the virtual skies of FSX and gives us an almost close to reality representation of the city of Phoenix and that of its surrounding rural areas giving the virtual flyer a rather incredible VFR flying environment.

One cannot really go into detail about how good the photo scenery looks in FSX; it really does have to be seen to be appreciated! I was in no way disappointed by this title and if this is the future of Photo Scenery titles, then I can’t wait for the next one!

Playing Tourist

The one thing that amazed me the most out of the Phoenix scenery is that if you look for a particular address on something like Google World, you can literally plan a flight using the new Megascenery package. This was something I was never able to do with the older titles as the textures were generally not clear enough to make out specific locations.

One of the flights that I did was to try and find a retirement park that some of my relatives reside at during the winter months. The park itself is just south of Falcon Field, so I was able to take the roads and landmarks off of Google World, create a mental picture of where it was located in relation to the airport, and follow the roads straight to the park via FSX. The end result is an ultra realistic VFR experience as one can make out specific roads, intersections, landmarks and buildings.

As you fly around the region you will notice that all of the surrounding airports and airfields have been given some kind of special attention and are remarkable realistic looking when compared to actual photo’s of the real deal. I mean after all, you are essentially looking at a photo of the real thing! I was ultimately impressed with the overall look of Phoenix Sky Harbor, the buildings have all been placed correctly and the surrounding textures are pretty amazing looking.

Phoenix and the surrounding areas offer a diverse array of scenery to fly over. This being the 5th largest city in the United States offers up not only an impressive cityscape but also offers farmland, smaller towns and some rather impressive mountainous areas to tour. If you choose a low and slow plane you really can get a lot out of the overall 7000 square miles of scenery. So hop into your Citabria and get in the air!

For me the mountainous areas were my favorite as I was able to do some low altitude chopper flying in and around them. The overall look and feel of those textures is some of the most realistic I have seen to date with this type of scenery package and with textures so detailed, it makes flying choppers at low altitude all the more fun.

One of the most impressive things about the Phoenix scenery and that of FSX, is the fact that I can take a plane like the RAZBAM Banshee and fly it at full throttle and not experience any blurry textures. Now I know after the SP1 patch was released some had reported blurry texture problems; but I have not experienced that yet and I am very happy with the end result.

I found that I don’t care for the existing scenery boundaries, as the default FSX textures don’t blend well at all with the photo scenery. This is understandable to a certain extent, but FSX shows mostly desert textures out on the edges of the Phoenix coverage area and it looks really ugly and unrealistic when making the transition between the two. I think that when a program like Ground Environment becomes available for FSX this should change quite a bit and make those transitions look a little more realistic.

Performance

All I can say here is wow! The Phoenix scenery looks and performs well within FSX; in fact, I have experienced some of the best frame rates with this scenery package and FSX. How is this possible? Well I think it all falls on how well FSX was designed and from what I have seen, photo scenery really does seem to be the choice of the day when I go to prepare my flights in FSX.

With the Phoenix scenery I can turn up my autogen and scenery sliders as well as turn on the moving vehicle traffic and experience some of the best looking Flight Simulator flying I have seen to date in that sim and it really has to be seen to be appreciated.

Load times! That has always been an issue with scenery titles of this type and I do remember waiting close to 10 minutes for my Pacific Northwest scenery to load in FS9. But with FSX and Megascenery Phoenix, you will be pleased to learn that the developers of Phoenix have gone out of their way to eliminate the long wait times. What used to take anywhere from 10-15 minutes now only takes a matter of minutes to get in the air. This alone, at least for me, made this title worth the price of admission!

MEGASCENERY Phoenix in FS9

Also included in this package is scenery designed for FS9 of this region. This scenery is displayed at a lower resolution than that of the FSX scenery package but nonetheless looks good in FS9. I really like that MEGASCENERY chose to include the FS9 scenery as it adds to the belief that FS9 is going to be with us for a long time and it is not going to go quietly into the night.

The only problem I have with the FS9 scenery is that it is plagued with the same problems other titles of this type have in FS9, the blurries! As long as you fly low and slow you will experience the scenery the way it is meant to look. But the minute you switch to something fast, it tends to over task the scenery engine in FS9 and create a world of soup.

You can find the FS9 version of this scenery on disc 2 and you do need to navigate to the correct folder on your DVD as there is no auto launcher for it.

In The End

I have come to one realization and that is I find FSX is my home for any and all of my photo scenery add-ons as it has produced an excellent engine for such titles. Gone are the long loading times and with the new level of resolution, these products are basically a no brainer when it comes to wanting a true VFR environment.

I have got to tell you that after FSX was released, I was starting to fall into a certain desperation as I was starting to see my favorite hobby going by the way side. I just couldn’t see investing any more money into add-ons after watching my new Dual Core computer run FSX. Well, I decided to bite my tongue and wait it out for the SP1 Patch and I was ultimately glad I did!

With the SP1 patch and titles like this I am quickly making the permanent change from FS9 to FSX and as days go by, I now spend more time with FSX than I do with FS9.

 

What I Like About Phoenix X

  • Clear and crisp scenery textures
  • Load times
  • The overall look and quality of the Phoenix X title!

 

What I Don't Like About Phoenix X

  • The transition between the default scenery(too much desert!) and the Phoenix scenery
  • Not much else!

 

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Phoenix X

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