Like everyone else in the world, I love a great vacation spot and Puerto Vallarta has always been high on my list of places to see before I die. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit over the top but there is certainly excitement to be had in the vacation mecca that is Mexico and Puerto Vallarta is a place I’d like to visit. As usual, I’ll get to see Puerto Vallarta in the virtual world first.
I’m always excited to review a new airport, especially one that is as out of the way as MMPR IS and created by smaller-house scenery designers. This is my first review for Pacific Island Simulations so let’s see what we have.
Puerto Vallarta is, of course, a resort city on the western coast of Mexico, in the state of Jalisco. Almost 50% of the workforce in this city is employed by the tourist industry so you could imagine how important this airport is to the local economy. Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, or Puerto Vallarta International Airport, is named after a former president of Mexico, and was established in 1970.
The airport boasts a single runway over 10,000 feet long and caters to such international carriers as American Airlines, Alaskan Airlines, Air Canada, WestJet and many more. Over 70% of the airport’s traffic is international but there is also a thriving domestic operation with carriers like Aeromexico, Interjet, and VivaAerobus among others. The airport sees over 2.5 million passengers per year.
Installation and Documentation
Installation comes in the form of a downloaded executable and text file (key in the text file) from the publisher’s website. After double-clicking on the executable you are asked to enter your key while the program finds your FSX installation from the registry. There are no options to choose and you are soon finished with the install. It’s nice to see that the scenery is added to your scenery configuration file without having to manually add the area.
After installation you can find the concise, but informative product manual in the PacSim folder under Windows Start > All Programs (for Windows 7 users). The manual is seven pages long and contains product features, recommended FSX settings, an airport overview, and my favorite…acknowledgements. There’s also an airway chart that I’ll have to get one of my pilot friends to help me interpret.
I love flying around these airports in the FSX default helicopter to get a good, close up view of the scenery. The first thing I do is get a bit of altitude and look at the background poly. I’m looking for the usual characteristics: sharpness, colors, seasonal variation, blending with the default, etc.
The photo-realistic background included here is pretty good, especially at altitude. The colors look realistic and everything looks really sharp. The background does lose a bit of focus as you get closer to the ground, in particular around the water areas and golf courses, although you see this degradation with most scenery.
Only one season is included but perhaps the weather in Puerto Vallarta doesn’t change much from month to month? Either way it blends in alright with the default background. One thing I found kind of odd was that the background has an irregular shape with the city on one side and the mountains on the other. You can see in the two pictures what I am talking about. No, it’s not a huge deal but I always prefer that the background poly not be so close to the airport.
|Front side parking||Aircraft lined up at the gates|
|More gates behind the tower||Note background poly clash lower right||Flat photo textures don't look so good|
|Yellow tower||Fire trucks at the ready||Background seen at altitude (Fall)|
There is a lot to see in Puerto Vallarta. The vendor has included many of the buildings found inside the fence and out. The terminal area is well represented and highly detailed from a modeling perspective. The jetways look really good but I noticed something odd when looking at them. They do not appear to be lined up with the terminal very well.
They appear to be connected to the terminal too low. Look at the pictures in the table below to see what I am talking about. Also, the scale is off on the jetways or perhaps the texture scale is not correct. If we slide around to the front of this terminal area we can see a double door that is completely out of scale with the buses or jetways around the other side. Am I being picky? Absolutely, but it’s pretty noticeable as you get closer to the terminal.
|How can a passenger walk down?||Door is out of scale|
I’m not too fired up about some of the photo-realistic textures used in and around the terminal. In some instances, they look flat and “painted on”. This is really noticeable when combined with non photo textures right next to each other.
There is only one static aircraft included in the scenery, so if you are into that sort of thing you’ll have to add it yourself. I like to add my own AI so I’m always grateful if static aircraft are not included or they are easily removed.
You can see from Google Earth that Puerto Vallarta is a relatively small airport so there are not a lot of buildings outside of the terminal area. You will find, what I assume, is small cargo and general aviation areas. These areas are reasonably well done but also suffer from some not-so-realistic looking photo textures.
There are many buildings included outside of the airport as well. I thought it quaint to find a building with a huge Corona sign on its roof. Is Corona the national beer of Mexico? I did find one instance where the texture was backwards at a gas station/strip mall. Again, this isn’t a big deal but I do like a bit more attention to detail.
Many of the hotels along the beach are represented in the scenery and add a nice touch. It must be heavenly to fly into such a tropical paradise and see all the lovely beach activity! The hotels are fairly well done and add that nice bit of realism. The apartments behind the hotels, however, do suffer a bit from some fairly poor textures.
You can see in the included pictures how the same picture is tiled again and again; the worst part is that it doesn’t look very uniform. I can’t tell where one apartment ends and another begins.
|Somewhat uneven apartment textures||A tableau of resorts!||Can you spell cerveza backwards?|
|Corona!||Lots of photo-real billboards||Sungard|
The nice thing is that you find custom buildings scattered around the airport. Some of these buildings are well done and others are simpler in nature. You’ll also find many billboards with probably-realistic advertisements for the area. I like when scenery designers add something more than what you’ll find inside the airport wire; especially when the airport is so small.
The night lighting is fairly standard but tastefully done. My take on the subject is that you shouldn’t notice night lighting one way or another. It should just blend into the scenery and it does so here. The terminal lighting is soft and provides the perfect ambiance. The billboard lighting may be too bright but that’s not a problem, obviously.
|Good night time lighting||Reminds me of a postcard! Get it?||More lights.|
Overall, I didn’t suffer too big a performance hit with this title. At any one time I had several AI aircraft (commercial and general aviation) on the tarmac and never saw my fps drop by more than 50%. There were a couple of occasions where I experienced some stuttering but it was hard to reproduce, so I don’t know if I can blame that on the scenery.
I noticed no difference in performance whether it was day or night, though dawn and dusk were harder on my system. Again, that’s pretty normal no matter where you are and what you are doing in the game.
Summary / Closing Remarks
This is a fairly solid effort from Pacific Islands Simulation in a region that I love to fly in and around. Even though this is a fairly small airport, the designer has added lots of different eye candy for the simulator pilot to enjoy. The texturing of the models leaves something to be desired and detracts from an otherwise nice product.
Take a look at the screenshots and visit their website for more information on this airport and others if you are interested.
What I Like About Postcard Puerto Vallarta
- High resolution background
- Beautiful fly-in area
- Detailed terminal
What I Don't Like About Postcard Puerto Vallarta
- Photo realistic textures are relatively poor
i5-2500K Sandy Bridge
3.3GHz OC to 4.0,
8 GB DDR 1600 RAM,
Windows 7 64-bit HP,
Dual GTX 460 video cards,
FSX SP1 + SP2 (Gold),
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro
Scenery Test Time: