AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

Ultimate Terrain X - Europe

Product Information

Publishers: Flight 1

Description: Commercial-quality scenery data that accurately places roads, coastlines, rivers and much more in their real world locations and shapes.

Download Size:
NA

Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Robert Mariani AVSIM Staff Reviewer - December 25, 2010

Introduction 

Europe is the second smallest continent by area, and third most populous after Asia and Africa.  Approximately 50 countries can be found on the continent and little less than one-half of them are featured in enhanced detail in Ultimate Terrain X.  Those countries are:  Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The developer is Scenery Solutions and they also make Ultimate Terrain scenery for USA, Canada, and Alaska.

If you have noticed some discrepancy between the titles and actual geographical terms you are not alone.  For example, when I last checked Alaska was in the USA and Europe is actually much more than 23 countries that are represented under the title “Europe”.  Nevertheless, the makers of the scenery are not hiding the fact, and they point out on their web site the coverage area quite clearly.

Now that we got that out the way, let me say that this product enhances the FSX in several ways, and changes the FSX world in some of the most fundamental sense as it provides a substantially different visual experience than the default terrain. 

As the authors put it, Ultimate Terrain X – Europe will “upgrade your Flight Simulator X world to a whole new level of reality. Commercial quality scenery data accurately places roads, coastlines, rivers, streams, parks, golf courses, cemeteries and much more in their real world locations and shapes.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Pentium Dual Core at 3 GHz
9600GT PCI-E video 512MB
2GB memory dual channel
TH2GO and Track IR

Flying Time:
15 hours

The installation is quite automatic as the Ultimate Terrain (or UT for short) DVD finds your FSX folder and then installs the needed files. Immediately afterwards the UT Set-up tool is started.  This tool “validates”  your FSX installation, UT scenery layers, and UT textures.  My installation found no problems with 3rd party add-ons, but the Set-up tool features “advanced error checking to help resolve any issues that may come about as a result of the use of other 3rd party products or tweaking…”

Once the initial installation and validation are done you may proceed to your FSX airplane and start checking things out - which is exactly what I did!

Before doing so however, I did glance at the nice printed manual that came in a DVD box, but there is an even a better PDF file placed in your Flight One Start Menu Program Folder.

To those who wonder about the potential tweaking and adjusting of the various components in UT – that option is available at any time through the conveniently placed desktop icon – but more on tweaking later.

Features of Ultimate Terrain X -Europe

The Lights

Before I even started installing UTX-Europe, I took some screen shoots of my bone stock FSX scenery around some of the bigger airports, so that I have a reference point for comparison.  I know that many companies provide informative before-and-after shots, but in some cases the “glamour” shots in the “after” sections are usually not what your average computer might display, at least not fluently.  

One of the features I was anticipating most eagerly in UTX were the night lights suspended above a ground, and that is what I checked out first. The results are displayed below.

Top row are default FSX pics taken in the vicinity of London Heathrow and Innsbruck.  The bottom shows how the FSX looks with UTX in same locations.

Overall, the result are impressive and worked well with one big exception.  If you are using multiple monitors for the outside or VC view, be ready for those neat pin-points to expand and glow like medium sized balloons.  I searched the forums for answers and found some people are replacing the halo textures with smaller sized ones and that works OK on lights, but has a negative effect on the runway and apron lights. 

I will keep searching for the ultimate solution to this glitch.  I am currently using the Triple Head 2 GO to stretch the view across three screens and those neat night-lights are a bit too big for my taste on a stretched display.  Again, there is a general awareness of this problem, but since this add-on was not designed with three monitor displays in mind, I understand how there really is not much the authors can do to address that.

The Roads

The next feature that provides a big difference in UTX are the roads.  While the FSX roads have some general resemblance of real ones, they are not always accurate.  Only mayor highways in default FSX provide car traffic on them.  UTX addresses that with more precise placement of roads, and offers traffic on all of them.  It even offers the small residential streets that can be conveniently turned off or on -based on the user’s preferences or system performance. 

Not only can you choose the type of roads you want to display but you can also assign individual textures to classes of roads to be different.  For example, you can assign 3 lane divided roads to be either concrete or asphalt, and then you can customize the next eight types of roads with the same two options.  In addition, you can decide which roads can have an “auto-imprint” on them.

Near Belluno, Italy you can see the alpine bridge, two types of roads with traffic and alpine pass with all the twisting roads.  Second row shows Frankfurt and Paris at dusk as well as the approach to EDDF during the day.  Sometimes all those roads don’t connect, as you can see in the EDDF day approach picture.

The Water

While at first I thought that water is not a feature that has much to offer, there are actually mind boggling numbers of combinations in the setup tool which offer choices for each type of water feature.  Do you want your water/lake to freeze in the winter, evaporate, and then become dry in the summer?  You can do that, and in a simple way! 

You can change the texture of your water features individually and let me just say that there are almost as many types of lakes, streams, and rivers as the number of countries in this product.  Really, it is an amazing way to customize the look of the scenery.

Even more, the user can select from different ocean colors for different parts of the world as oceans are defined like landclasses, but aptly named waterclass. From the manual: Ultimate Terrain X will provide 4 alternate coloring environments, using 4 different waterclass replacement sets: Clear water (blue tint), Algae/Plankton (green tint), Muddy (brown tint), Muddy+Algae (greens and browns).

Technical Info: Waterclass is just like the FSX landclass, but is used to define different water textures for different locations around the world. Ultimate Terrain does not actually provide different water textures. Instead, it reclassifies the waterclass definitions using the 60 different water textures currently available in FSX.
 
Upon installation of Ultimate Terrain X, the Ultimate Terrain X waterclass features will be active, and the selected waterclass will be the “Clear Water Coloring” (blue tint) option
. WOW!
 
So far so good!  Not only do you get some serious VFR scenery which can guide those low flying airplanes to their destination by dead reckoning, you also get many trafficked roads that are laid out exactly as they are in the real world.  Next, you get the landclass, or layout of populated areas, much closer to reality with railroad tracks and new water features. The latest patch is 1.4 and is said to include “some important race track polygons” as well.

I went to check out Monza in Italy and as you can see below the results are not that great.  Regardless, race tracks are not the reason you would get this scenery enhancement.  In my search of the race tracks, I then flew to Nice, France and as you can see from the Google Earth vs. FSX pics, the UT has the layout of the roads done pretty well.  From Nice, there is only a short hop to Monte Carlo so I decided to do some VFR dead reckoning following the coastline. 

At the same time, I was running Google Earth and a nifty little program called FSX Google Earth Tracker - just to see how the scenery compares to real world images.  As you can see from the pictures below this is the reason why you would get this product.  The roads are there, the landclass is there, the coastline is there, and the best part is you can pretty much go to places just using your VFR flying skills.  Get out the road atlas and off you go.

Fortunately in Germany the “great FSX desert” is still absent, so I was able to compare the city of Hockenheim in Google Earth to the FSX plus UT version.  The results were quite impressive.

For those airliner types, there are some benefits as well.  First, the approaches are more realistic as you fly and cross the actual roads that surround the big airports on your short final. Even more, you can do some visual approaches just using the landmarks. If you like wing views, then enjoy your take-offs and landings over the realistic cities, with buildings and motorways placed in their right places. Moreover, from altitude you will see cities glow in the dark with their shapes that resemble their real world counterparts.

One thing about night flying in FSX is that there are no really dark areas, other than water, as if all of Europe is covered in some sort of low glow. Even the agricultural fields at night have some sort of light glow, which then gives the impression that you are continuously flying over the populated area.

Thanks to UT’s set-up tool I was able to quickly disable and enable UT to see the difference.  There is no difference in the night “glow”, but there is a big difference in the coastlines and other water features.  I also noticed that in order to see the changes you have to reload FSX.

Next, I wanted to see how UTX handles add-on scenery such as Lubeck, Germany, which I previously reviewed? That too looked fine, and the roads and city features blended in well.  On the other hand, I thought I found a problem as far as the bridges and UT go.  Sometimes they are there, and sometimes not so much. 

Below you can see the picture in which one side of the town has the bridge and not far from it there is another bridge missing.  However, going through the UT set-up tool I discovered that some of my bridges weren’t turned on.  Yes, there are actually six types of bridge objects that can be turned on or off and they range from bridge objects for freeways to bridge objects for minor rural roads.

Nice, France in FSX with UTX, compared with second picture of Nice in Google Earth. The next two pictures compare the coast between Nice and Monaco in FSX with UTX and Google Earth.
FSX default view of Northern part of Germany compared with FSX with UTX.

 

Hockenheim in FSX with UTX and Hockenheim in Google Earth, last picture is Monza, Italy.  Monza’s race track is missing a big chunk plus has a strange river running across the main straight.

The following set of pictures shows the randomly selected features that are both good and not so good.  While UT adds many roads and other features over the large area, sometimes the results can be mixed.

The good, the puzzling and the ugly: Luebeck Germany at night – add-on works perfectly with UT.  On the other hand there is a missing bridge here and there on the same type of road.
3rd picture shows great frozen lake near Bodo, Norway, but the road textures sometimes have strange night effect texture at dusk in spots.
Gibraltar Airport in real life has the road running across the runway in real life and UTX adds it.   Basle–Mulhose Airport in France should not have a road running across the runway (after the patch 1.4). 
San Siro stadium in Milan Italy seams to be floating with UTX

Performance and Support

Performance of this product is not something that can simply be described as good or bad.  Depending on your settings, the performance can be great - without any impact on FSX - or not so great, dropping your FPS and adding stutter.  However, one great thing about it is that you can adjust not only the settings of  UT, but also the settings of FSX through the UT Set-up tool.  For each setting that you change in UT, the set-up tool will show you the bar graph representing the impact it will have on FSX.

Once you change a feature, you do need to exit FSX in order for those changes to take effect.

For the FSX settings you will have the entire page that also graphically represents how your changes will affect the overall sim performance. On this page, you can tweak your FSX settings and save them without exiting the set-up tool.  You would then go to FSX and check out the changes. If you do change settings, you must exit FSX and restart it.  There are many options and adjustments which will allow every user to adjust the scenery to his or her own liking.

Support for Ultimate Terrain X is done via their forum. The manual says “developers and publishers in this market cannot really afford to provide personal phone or email support.”

Menus and various configurations available in UT set-up tool.

Closing Remarks

Ultimate Terrain X – Europe is an excellent product.  While I was hoping that the “terrain” part of the product would get rid of those horrid default desert textures in some parts of Europe, it did not. It did however do many other things, and all of them rather well.

The coverage is limited to what used to be known politically as Western Europe, and that to me is the greatest drawback.  On the other hand, the areas that are covered are done extremely well, with properly placed roads, rivers, railroads, landclass, bridges and more.

Along with excellent coastlines and many more roads that have FSX cars on them, you will also get the outstanding night lighting. Do not forget however, that you may experience night-light distortion issues if you run triple displays via TH2GO or across three monitors through some other product.

Ultimate Terrain’s greatest feature for me is its scalability, or the flexibility to adjust not only the individual settings of this product, but many display settings of FSX itself.

 

What I Like About Ultimate Terrain X - Europe

  • Great and precise coast lines
  • Vertical and individual night lights
  • More roads with cars on them
  • Good placement of roads relative to their real location
  • Water features
  • Ability to run only what you want, like, or need, and exclude things you don’t want to see or can’t “afford” to display

 

What I Don't Like About Ultimate Terrain X - Europe

  • Coverage is less than half of Europe yet the name implies differently

 

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"

Ultimate Terrain X - Europe

(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!

2010 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved