AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

MegaSceneryX

Southern California

Product Information
Publisher: MegaScenery

Description: Southern California scenery add-on.

Download Size:
N/A

Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Staff Reviewer - December 16, 2007

Introduction

Where shall I start? Earlier this year I reviewed MegaSceneryX for Dallas/Fort Worth and that was an impressive experience. I took you on a successfully planned VFR cross-country flight through the area. Successfully because the scenery was so real, that flying along the route with the help of official sectional maps was possible. Every road, river, village, water basin, landmark or what ever, was there.

Now it’s time to check out Southern California. Lucky for me, I’m a little familiar with this area. I’m not living here but I’ve been here several times for business and holidays, so I know a little about the Los Angeles/San Diego counties. Let’s have a look at how the MegaSceneryX website tries to attracted our attention and finally, to purchase the product. One last thing; I also hope they come out with one for the Northern California region, ranging from Los Angeles to San Francisco, since this is also a great and beautiful area.

The MegaScenery Team raises the realism ante again with the first "LARGE AREA" MegaScenery release - MegaSceneryX: Southern California For Microsoft Flight Simulator X. At 18,000 square miles (135 nm x 135 nm) this new title for Flight Simulator X displays scenery at 1.19 meters per pixel - 16 times the resolution of Flight Simulator 2004.

MegaSceneryX for FSX is now hyper-real and FINALLY gives you the scenery world you've dreamed of flying on your PC.... that is, a scenery world that is pretty much as real as real life itself! Flying VFR over Southern California with MegaSceneryX now takes on a whole new level of realism and clarity. Check out these screenshots and then read on.

You don't just get day scenery.... you get 2 scenery products in one in this incredibly value-packed scenery title. No other scenery product has ever given you so much value for your money.

1. Photorealistic DAY Scenery - Actual aerial photographs (1 foot per pixel source) ported into Flight Simulator X for a scenery world that looks just like the Southern California area from a pilot's vantage point. You are flying over ACTUAL Southern California.

2. Spine Tingling NIGHT Scenery - MegaScenery's UNIQUE proprietary NightScene™ Night Scenery mapping technology recreates the entire scenery area again at night. No... it's not just random lights - MegaScenery knows where every light emitting source in the area covered is right down to the street level. No other product gives you such a realistic night flying experience. The only way to describe the effect is "spine-tingling". When you're flying over Los Angeles, San Diego or more remote regions for that matter - it looks just like it would at night in real life as streets, subdivisions and even interstates light up.

The above is just to give you an impression of what Southern California photorealistic scenery covers. Sometimes before starting a review, you really don’t know the outcome, but for this review I know it already, awesome! Enough words, so let's start.

Installation and Documentation

Installation

The same as with the previous MegaSceneryX Dallas/Fort Worth DVD package, it comes in a double sized DVD box, however after opening it, it houses not 2 but 4 DVD’s. More info about this later. The installation process is simple and straightforward but this time we need to install all four DVD’s. This huge amount is because it offers not only daylight scenery, but also a special set for the night textures. Due to this, there’s no longer place for the older FS2004 version. PC Aviator offers FS2004 users a special discount to buy the FSX MegaSceneryX, but at this time there's no free upgrade to FSX.

So, installation is simple and doesn’t need any additional screenshots to help you with the modification process afterwards. Even these modifications are done automatically, but the user is informed before the installer does it. Be aware of the following; the total needed disc space is 16Gb, so watch out that you install it somewhere where you’ve got enough space. The intended directory is just a guide. You can install it anywhere you want. Special attention goes to the small booklet, and specifically to pages 14 and 15. Here you will find some background info on the changes made by the installer.

All these changes are made to make the scenery as best as possible and to reduce the blurry effect. A special note is written that when flying below 1000 feet, the landscape could look blurry. According to the manufacturer this is the nature of photo-scenery even at 1000 feet, but you still get the idea you’re flying in real South California.

One last item related to the covered area. It’s clearly mentioned and written that it covers only Southern California, so don’t expect anything more! Generally we can say that it covers an area from Los Angeles, down the coast line to San Diego and then some distance inland. The covered area can be seen in the screenshot. The dark grey area represents the MegaSceneryX Southern California.

Documentation

Known from PC Aviators MegaSceneryX packages, it comes with lots of charts, airport diagrams and much more. A brief description tells us the following: the previous mentioned 176 pages booklet with some installation and tips and tricks, but mainly having hundreds of charts, ranging from all kinds of small, medium and large airport diagrams with ILS, VOR and RNAV (GPS) approaches, and of course there are also visual approaches.
Then the next item, a real modified PC Aviator VFR Terminal Area Chart from Los Angeles with the VFR Terminal Area Chart from San Diego located on the opposite side. Need I say about this? No. There's no need for that, it's
just great!

Last but not least; DVD disc 4 offers a folder called “Charts Supplements”. Looking into this reveals Acrobat files with some we’ve already seen as paperwork in the DVD box but additionally to these, some new ones like Sectional Charts from Los Angeles and San Diego and a file called “MegaSceneryX Southern California Chart Supplement - Disc Edition.pdf”. This e-book consists out of 88 pages and covers all necessary SID’s (Standard Instrument Departure) and STAR’s (Standard Terminal Arrival Route).

So finally, you’ve got all kinds of information needed to fly around in this area. Personally, when looking back at my previous MegaSceneryX review, the scenery is mainly interesting for VFR flights, although you can use it for IFR flight where arrivals/departures show something for it. The speed of big airplanes only reduces the time to enjoy this scenery. PC Aviator offers within this MegaSceneryX software an incredible amount of free e-books, which I’ve never seen before with other scenery manufactures. My compliments to the MegaSceneryX team!

A detailed look

This time I won't be completing a VFR cross-country flight like I did during my MegaSceneryX Dallas/Fort Worth review. The covered area contains no more then two large and famous cities between mountains, mountains and more mountains with some rocks and small deserts. Of course, planning a cross-country flight using roads, landmarks and other things was possible but on the other hand, there are so many landmarks to show you just by flying from here to there.

Due to the 4 DVD’s, I think it’s a good idea to cover daytime and some sunset flight pictures. With this choice, it will bring MegaSceneryX Southern California, with all its beauty, alive. As you can see below, flying around in this area is huge. Although it depends a little in which direction you want to fly, still what you see is beautiful. The only problem I had was the loading time of the scenery ground textures. Sometimes it happened that parts were still blurry and then suddenly, it was clear. All the adjustments where made according to the booklet or automatically, so I didn’t make the wrong adjustments. On the other hand, the problem could be my PC.

In the worse case, when it took too long, I paused the PC for a minute while the system had time to load all the textures. I know, this is not how it should be, but it worked for me.

Somewhere at the end of this review, you can see for yourself the extreme difference between no MegaScenery installed and one with it, but let’s stay with this part. The screenshots below cover more or less the LA area. Mountains, lakes and rivers. I did cover a little bit of the other areas, but I hardly flew in the San Diego area. This is purely a choice since it doesn’t make any difference where you fly. The whole area is great, but Los Angeles is, for obvious reasons, world famous so that’s more or less the reason for staying in this area.

Let’s look to these screenshots which are taken at an average altitude of 2000-3000 feet. It was probably better when flying at 6000 feet, but then certain details are completely lost, so I chose this height.

KLGB International Airport Malibu Beach Long Beach – Grissom Island Queen Mary with Spruce Goose with the Long Beach harbor
HOLLYWOOD Sign, at the hills between Burbank and Hollywood Downtown Los Angeles Flying towards Burbank, where you will find the famous Warner Bros and Universal Studios Marina Pacifica 01
Huntington Beach and Pier, flying in a southern direction California Angels Stadium, located in Anaheim The first Walt Disney park for young and old...Disneyland Anaheim LA overview, looking from the mountains into a western direction
Sunset view of Los Angeles Left hand looking to Glendale Griffith Observatory Sleeping Beverly Hills
You could fly for hours in this region since there’s so much to see. It doesn’t matter where you go; east, north, south or west. In every direction you will find something unique or a world famous landmark. This collection is just a small example of what to expect.

IFR impression

Although this scenery is mainly for VFR flights, you can still enjoy its beauty during an IFR approach or departure. In this IFR impression, I used the standard FSX Boeing 737.

With this combination, I simulated two flights; one inbound and one outbound flight. The outbound departs from Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) heading in a north east direction while the inbound flight is heading for San Diego International Airport (KSAN), arriving from a western direction and landing on runway 09. You can see it later for yourself, but I’m impressed about lots of things.

First the offered airports, KLAX and KSAN. They give me a good impression of what kind of busy airport these are with some details. Remember, MegaSceneryX is a photorealistic scenery enhancer and not a complete package with many airports with qualities like the ones from Aerosoft, FlyTampa or Cloud9 etc. With this in mind, the offered large international airports do look acceptable. If you’re not satisfied with the offered airports, you’re always free to add other airport sceneries.

Secondly, during an IFR flight our IAS (Indicated Air Speed) is high and increases during the departure but still, when you’re lucky to have a seat next to a window, the outside view is very realistic and you almost believe your inside a real airplane, flying away.

Ok, let’s go and see my impression during the KLAX departure and the KSAN approach. For some reason I kept the departure/arrival simple, which means I’m not using a SID/STAR. The main idea of these screenshots is to give you a good idea of the photorealistic scenery from MegaSceneryX and not the respective SID/STAR's.

Outbound day flight KLAX (Los Angeles International)

We taxi from the hangar area via taxiways E12 –> E, to the holding point for runway 6R. There’s nothing to see from this scenery during the taxi, since the effect is not visible. The airport looks acceptable but I have already explained why we cannot expect anything more. Airport sceneries from Fly Tampa, Aerosoft, Cloud9, BluePrint and many others, for example, are pure and only specialized in the airport itself. While MegaSceneryX is mainly specialized for the surrounding area. Therefore we cannot expect a KLAX of the same quality as Cloud9.

When we’re cleared for take off, we push the throttles forward and before we know, we’re already in the air. We maintain a runway heading and at 3000 feet we turn into a northeastern direction, heading for VORTAC Pomona (POM 110.40). When passing VORTAC POM, we tune for VORTAC Palmdale (PMD 114.50).

Since I’m sitting next of a window, I can focus on the ground textures and see that the higher we go the more realistic and beautiful this area becomes. This is mainly due to all the added ground textures and I’m impressed. Slowly the clouds reduce my ground view but that makes it even more realistic. Before I know it, we reach the MegaSceneryX / default Microsoft border and it's over. The landscape changes more or less to a desert with some green in between and it seems to me that the default MSFS ground textures are repeated constantly. While we are climbing to FL260, there’s no need to look outside since coffee and a snack is being served. Enjoy these screenshots I made during this outbound northeastern flight.

Before you say it, it’s not a promotion for the Boeing 737NG but for the amazing MegaSceneryX. I can’t help it guys, but since I’ve seen it without the MegaSceneryX textures, it’s really great. Everything comes alive, also in the air. If you don’t believe me, compare it with Google Earth and you will see for yourself. There is hardly any difference between Google Earth and MegaSceneryX.

Inbound evening flight KSAN (San Diego International)

Due to some flight operation problems, the crew decided to make a left hand turn towards the coast line and from there down to San Diego International Airport. When we pass the island of Santa Catalina and Long Beach, it’s time to descent to 10.000 feet. We follow more or less the coastline at a certain distance from the main land. This gives us still a nice view of how the scenery looks and believe me, that’s very real.

Since we’re not flying with the help of the onboard FMS, we manually tuned the VOR/DME station San Diego (SAN 122.40). At around 30NM out of SAN, it's time to descent to 6000 feet, making a right hand turn towards the ocean. Once we've reached 6000 feet, we turn to a heading of 120. At the same time, we descent to our final altitude of 2000 feet to capture the ILS for runway 09. With the AP still connected and APPROACH selected, the aircraft takes care for a LOC/GS, so a full ILS landing while we have some time to look at the scenery before it’s too late.

Although we didn’t enter the airport via the mountains, entering the mainland via the ocean gives also a very good idea about the quality of this MegaSceneryX software. Again, please enjoy the screenshots on this last part of the inbound flight to KSAN runway 09.

Again that 737NG, but more important, the beautiful scenery pictures including the approach at San Diego. One thing you have to keep in mind, which is also written in the booklet, don’t expect sharp ground textures when flying below 1000 feet.


Where ends MegaSceneryX?

Unfortunately, it’s always shocking to see where this great scenery ends in relation to Microsoft's FSX world. At every place it’s not that hard to see how this beautiful realistic scenery ends into the basic non-realistic one from Microsoft. We have to accept this and when flying VFR, it’s really disappointing. Ok, that means we need to plan our VFR flight in a way that you never reach or at least see, the border. Thinking about this, it would be great if there was a MegaSceneryX which covered the whole United States. But that’s probably too expensive and will come on too many DVD's, even when these are double sided DVD's.

In relation to an IFR flight, you will see that Microsoft unrealistic border, but when flying at higher altitudes through the Microsoft haze which reduces the outside ground view or when there are clouds or overcast conditions, this reduces the border view to nothing. In other words, when the weather conditions during an IFR approach or departure are far from favorite, it offers a very realistic scenery.

The best way to get an impression of where the MegaSceneryX Southern California reaches the Microsoft border, I offer you some screenshots. Pictures says 100 times more the text, so here you are.

I II III IV
I expected to see more shocking differences but they are there at the border between MegaScenery and default Microsoft FSX. Probably it’s because this region doesn’t have forests or something else other than sand, sand and mountains. Still, with some pictures the differences are very clear especially in screenshot II. Pictures I and II are of the Pacific coastline just north of Los Angeles while screenshots III and IV are east of San Diego. Screenshot III is a nice one since the borderline runs from the middle of the picture straight up. Also screenshot IV shows the middle a lake and where it ends, this is where the default FSX ground textures start. All the same and not realistic at all.

Just to remind you …how’s life without MegaSceneryX?

Once you’ve decided to order MegaSceneryX Southern California online via the Web, you need to wait a few days or even a week. When you receive it, you'll start installing it immediately. After this, you jump into your favorite airplane and then …. awesome, great, wow, impressive etc.

What you'll probably forget is how the Los Angeles and San Diego areas were before you installed it. As a reviewer I installed it, looked around, but then needed to uninstall it to remind me of those things.

The screenshots below show how it was before in the wonderful default FSX scenery! It’s shocking that even this piece of the US was so badly covered by Microsoft. When you’ve seen this, you'll know the reason to order MegaScenery X, so take a close look to those differences again and convince yourself.

I-a II-a III-a IV-a
I-b II-b III-b IV-b
A logical follow-up of “Where ends MegaSceneryX?” is what you miss without it. I flew more or less the same route, although it wasn’t that easy. At some locations you couldn’t recognize anything, while at other places it looked more or less the same, except the accuracy of the textures of course. Even close to the airport of KLGB (screenshots I-a/II-a and I-b/II-b), it looks already different but what do you think of the screenshots III-a/IV-a in relation to III-b/IV-b? Those are taken east of Los Angeles within the mountain area.

Summary / Closing Remarks

This time I offer you a “direct to the point” summery. My overall impression is awesome and then there’s the question that everybody wants to hear, and yes, it’s absolutely worth your money.

Test System

Dell Precision 650
Dual Intel Xeon 3.06Ghz
4Gb RAM DDR 533Mhz
nVidia 7800GS+ 512Mb AGP
RAID-0 HDD’s - SCSI 340Gb
Windows XP Professional SP2
FSX with SP1
CH USB Pedals
CH USB Flightsim Yoke

Flying Time:
18.5 hours

The only thing you have to keep in mind is the fact that it covers a large, and at the same time, a small area of the United States.

Large related to VFR flights since it partly depends in which direction you want to fly. Flying from Los Angeles to San Diego takes some time with a Cessna 172 and it's a small area in relation to the whole United States. Let’s hope Northern California will be available soon.

This is a short summery because the screenshots should speak for themselves and especially the last part “how’s life without MegaSceneryX”. When you don’t have it, you miss a lot of this really awesome product.

Above all, it’s very frame rate friendly although FSX itself is not so frame rate friendly. This product just replaces textures files and not much more. If needed, you can always move some sliders to a lower position and see the result for yourself. The booklet can tell you what the original position was after you installed it.

Finally, for $39.95 you get an excellent product, extremely highly detailed scenery, lots of charts, VFR Terminal charts and Sectional Charts. Especially for the latter, the offered material is really “flying FSX at the highest possible level with the help of original charts”.

 

What I Like About MegaSceneryX - Southern California

  • Absolutely worth to buy, like every MegaSceneryX product
  • Suburb photorealistic scenery.
  • Excellent for VFR flights.
  • Nice add-on for IFR inbound/outbound flights.
  • Frame rate friendly or better to say is that there’s no FPS impact or not visible.
  • Offered DVD package contains daylight- and special nightlight scenery.

 

What I Don't Like About MegaSceneryX - Southern California

  • Unfortunately no FS2004 MegaScenery USA2005 South California Version 2, like it is with Dallas/Fort Worth

 

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