This is the second of two scenery products on Papua New Guinea from Pacific Island Simulation. The first package, Raw Grit: PNG Bush Pilot was reviewed by David Wilson-Okamura. Extreme Bush Trekker, which adds 15 new destinations, comes with all the trimmings for the aspiring adventure pilot: exotic beaches, remote areas, high altitude short fields, one way takeoff and landings, dirt and grass strips, and a few helicopter pads and float plane docks.
Thanks to its location on the Pacific “ring of fire”, Papua New Guinea has a huge mountain range (highest peak ~14,800) primarily covered by tropical vegetation, and the region also has the obligatory tropical island beaches and lagoons. This makes for varied flying conditions in a single package. Another plus are the short distances which allow you to go from island hopping to high altitude thrill rides all within a few minutes.
As mentioned, fifteen locations are included in Extreme Bush Trekker. I’ve included the set in the table below, noting that the companion “Raw Grit” product also has about as many, covering more locations in the same geographical region.
Currently the package is available from SimFlight or SimMarket as a 110MB download which expands to roughly twice that on disk once installed. Installation is without trouble and prompts for a license key which is obtained during the e-commerce process.
No issues were encountered, although the scenery installed under a SimMarket folder under the main FSX installation. I find it curious that the folder is named after the distributor and not the developer. Entry of the license key was simple and 10 minutes after running the setup program, I was ready.
The product comes with a 22 page PDF document covering FSX performance settings for the optimal setup, a suggested route map (which I more or less followed in this article) and airport or strip information for each of the points of interest in the product. Each airport or strip has NAVAID information and a few are equipped for IFR.
I confess that the need for the nav beacons is purely to find the approximate area of where you’re supposed to go. I found the use of radio navigation rather superfluous except to allow your GPS to bail you out in case you get lost. This is “seat of the pants” all the way. All locations are near each other, and part of the fun so to speak, is to visually find where you’re supposed to go. The documentation does not include detailed maps.
documentation also sets the mood for the product. Here’s
a sample of the NOTAMs describing some of the strips:
In other words, exactly the place you need to be to practice touch and go’s, at least once.
Visuals and general thoughts
The photo tour is in the next section, prefaced by these general comments on what the product looks and feels like.
The locations in the scenery make for a variety of exotic destinations from coastline and island strips to rugged mountain slopes – in fact quite similar to Lukla in Nepal, except with more opportunities for unwanted collisions. Fortunately, in addition to the mostly unpaved strips, we also get platforms for helicopters (which I did not test here) and if the locale happens to be near water, you’ll also find a place or two to dock your amphibian.
I didn’t have a high altitude amphibian to try out, so while Lake Gwam has a dock and even shows a small float-plane in the water, I wasn’t quite sure how it got there. I found just about every strip in Extreme Bush Trekker too short, bordered by hefty obstacles and generally not for the faint of heart if your thing is the 16,000 ft runway at Denver Colorado’s KDEN. Use of a STOL/high altitude capable aircraft is almost mandatory. Hence the “extreme” in the title I suppose.
The 76m resolution terrain mesh adds detail and realism to the area for a part of the world suffering from the proverbial low detail in the default FSX. The immediate impact I noticed was that very few problems with terrain occur, such as raised or sunken lakes. A few creeks and rivers defied physics in some places by an odd offset from where I would expect them. The airports themselves mostly blended in with the surrounding terrain, so much so that finding them can be quite a challenge by itself.
The product recreates huts, small houses, smoking chimneys, aircraft undergoing repair, palm trees and other tropical plants dotted around the landscape near each landing strip. The bamboo bridges definitely give some of those places a genuine “Indiana Jones” flair, and you will see some tents in some places as well. There’s also a curious “guy” in a suit in some of these places – a bit odd. There are a few persons represented as well, some with waving arms.
What I found as a truly remarkable feature for an FSX scenery is that, for once, we have a product that actually clears trees and other immediate auto-gen items from the end of the runways. Not only is it realistic, but it also has a nice effect, as you get to literally fly between rows of trees in some of the places on approach which is quite dramatic. Then again, many strips are just perched on the top of a cliff, so trees blocking the runway are the least of your worries.
I also found the level of detail a bit inconsistent from place to place. Some airports are very detailed, especially those near the sea (exception, Lake Gwam). Most of the remote villages look like a bunch of buildings and objects hastily arranged together around a cookie cutter grass strip – certainly not showing a consistent level of attention. Perhaps it is just that some places are truly that different, but my impression was that the level of detail is markedly different between say Dinga and Long Island.
Another point to make is that the cruise between two places (if there is time for cruising) is also rich with visuals, as some of the shots in our photo tour will hopefully show.
Some ground textures looked a bit out of place, perhaps an artifact related to my particular setup and remnants of my REX and GEX add-ons. This product is certainly not immune to FSX texture rendering moments that has you finding a desert patch (or a golf course) in the middle of the lush tropical forest, but generally, Pacific Island Simulations makes a remarkable effort to blend things together.
Ground textures for all locales could be provided to avoid the odd look as some of the dirt or grass strips look a bit out of place compared to say, the quality of the bamboo huts and bridges. The product appears to use a number of base FSX textures and it would have been nice to have had a few more terrain tiles in it for additional authenticity.
Air and road traffic was very sparse compared to other scenery I have at the same settings. The documentation indicates road traffic was slowed to 60km/h – this may be true. I hardly saw any road traffic. The reason being, there are very few roads (hence the need to fly there I suppose). AI traffic is equally sparse. The documentation provides one explanation: “there is no room for parking spots in some of these strips, so there is no place for AI to spawn from.”
From my experience, sloped runways and AI traffic don’t mix well in FSX and that is primarily a technical limitation of the simulator. In fact, sloped runways cause several collision detection model problems with the simmer’s own aircraft. This said, I did see AI traffic from the larger airports with flat runways, and I saw none at the remote strips.
Extreme Bush Trekker Photo Tour
As always when I write about scenery, I prefer to have the screenshots speak for themselves. In this case, I tried to re-create the pilot experience, so here it goes. Again, each image can be clicked to bring the full resolution version.
While this is an odd section for an article on a scenery product, Extreme Bush Trekker makes good use of sound to add to the ambiance. The scenery contains several “nature” sounds from birds to gurgles in the rapids to whales hissing. Most of those are hard to hear when your engines are on, so the feature is best enjoyed when parked somewhere.
Most of the locales represented are rich in trees and vegetation. There are relatively few buildings with very complex detail and no animations really to speak of, except for the animals represented and the smoke in the chimneys present at nearly all fields. Consequently, performance was quite good.
I don’t think this scenery should perform poorly on today’s average system, noting that this is a perception and not a scientific measurement as I didn’t find the need to count FPS. Everything was visually fluid, especially compared to KSEA.
Pacific Island Simulations takes us to a wondrous area of the world that combines high mountain ranges and lush tropical islands, and one that definitely fits the adventure motif. This product comes with numerous visual rewards. Nearly all the approaches involved here are very difficult, especially if the weather does not cooperate. It is out of the question to have night operations as most fields are not lit at night except for a handful of paved runways in the major areas.
I was particularly impressed with the rendering of the five coastline fields, and Lake Gwam. Starting at dawn makes for stunning visuals. The trip from Madang to Long Island by itself is well worth the effort either in a prop or seaplane; the slower, the better. Some of the other mountain fields did have a bit of ‘blah’ to them, a feel of “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. This is only mitigated by the challenge of the various approaches themselves, linked to the terrain around the fields. Cruise time is mostly a visual feast and all destinations are fairly close to one another, making for quick and exciting trips.
I found that a highly responsive and tough airplane made my life much simpler (primarily correcting my gross errors), and yes, I crashed so many times visiting these places that it’s not worth mentioning. There’s a reason the documentation says this is best experienced with crash detection turned off, just be ready for a lot of bouncing on these sloped runways.
If you find it fun to land on narrow postage stamps in an exotic
setting, this product is for you. Extreme Bush Trekker delivers
high difficulty that is sure to challenge your flight skills, providing
good value in a very reasonably priced package.
What I Like About Extreme Bush Trekker
What I Don't Like About Extreme Bush Trekker
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