REX Game Studios (once known as Real Environment Simulations) thundered into the marketplace in 2008 with their first product, the critically acclaimed Real Environment Xtreme…or REX. That software earned the prestigious Avsim Gold Star Award among others and was the talk of the various flight simulator forums. If you are new to flight simulation or perhaps have been in Afghanistan the past few years you may not be aware of this company or what this software does in FSX (or P3D and FS9).
At its heart, REX is a weather creation generator and also allows you to change environmental textures within the simulator. This may not sound like much (and perhaps I am making it sound simple) but programs like REX can drastically change the way that you immerse yourself and enjoy FSX.
Outside of your aircraft, almost everything you see and hear can be changed by this program. That’s a tall order and we’ll put the program through its paces to see if it can deliver everything that’s promised.
Now THAT’S turquoise waters
Antarctic waters and sky
Coming in for a landing
Flying over Brazil
Very impressed with the water details
I want to point out though, that I have never owned another weather program and that the community that does is very passionate and knowledgeable. In preparing for this review I have read through the Avsim forum topics and tried to educate myself in the things that are important to you as the user, but I will be coming at this program as a weather neophyte.
I know what looks good and performs well. I’ll do my best at reporting what is “accurate”. Obviously, this review will not be a comparison of weather/texture options currently available on the market. If there are any comparisons to be made, it will be to the default FSX program.
Besides, there’s a topic in the Avsim forums with a couple of hundred replies doing those comparisons…and you guys will do a much better job than me!
Installation and Documentation
I was actually given access to the program prior to general release so how I installed the application is different from the regular end user. I understand too, that depending on which program you had previously, affects what you download from the REX site. Given all of that, it was still extremely easy to install and only took a few minutes.
I was expecting to have to make several choices as you sometimes have to do in an install but, no; the installer took care of everything. There is a note in the Read Me not to install to the FSX folder but it appears to default to the root of your C drive. I just accepted that default and let it go.
Manual cover page
Visibility configuration in the manual
Wind configuration instructions in the manual
Let’s talk about the manual. First, the manual is very slick and comes in at a hefty 70 pages. This isn’t 70 pages of fluff, either. This software can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it and the manual covers every facet of the program. I think it’s laid out very well but even so. I had to review it a few times before I learned my way around.
When I review a new piece of software I’ll always read the manual first and I rarely go back. In this case, after my first review, I dived into the application and often came back to the manual.
You could and should spend a lot of time with the manual and experimenting with the myriad options available.
General Configuration Manager
It takes about a minute on my system for the general configuration manager to open. The vast majority of that time is devoted to the weather download process where all of the information is taken from TAF and PIREPS reports, winds and temperature aloft, and Vatsim metar data. I only know this because you can see the messages at the bottom of the screen.
This is the “heart” of everything that is your REX Essential + program…where you have options upon options to choose from to configure your weather and textures.
The “Main” menu that shows upon opening the program
You can make changes to all of these textures
A look at some of the available texture themes
You can make choices like this for many different types of textures. This is for Sky
When you first open up the program you come to a simple Quick Start screen where you can choose to start flying, select your textures and themes, or follow/create a flight plan. This is “Main” at the top toolbar. You also have a bunch of choices at the top of the menu: Textures, Flight Center, Weather, Fly Now!, Options, Configuration Manager, Help, and About Rex.
We won’t go into all of these options; suffice to say that most of the menus work the same. I don’t want this to read like the manual but I want to give you an idea how the application works.
Selecting the TEXTURES button brings us to the texture configurer (my own word) and allows us to choose an almost innumerable variety of texture options. You can choose textures for the sky, clouds, inland, ocean, and tropical waters. You can also change how your waves look, runway and taxiways, airport environment, sun/lighting, and preview sounds. If all of that is too much for you, you can pick one of the premade themes or allow the program to randomize these options. It’s almost too much information for my old brain to process and I know as a user I am probably going to use the themes more times than not.
There are some buttons at the bottom that allow you to download new material for REX; product from the vendor or even those themes that have been created by users. When you create a special theme that you want to use again or share with others you can do that via the save and share buttons. That’s pretty cool.
Selecting and installing a theme is a snap but it does take a few minutes to load the new textures into FSX. At the end of the loading, REX will ask you if you’re ready to fly and will launch FSX.
Selecting Flight Center and you are asked to choose the type of weather you want
Perhaps the biggest change to this upgrade is the addition of the new Weather Engine Plus. This new method of weather generation utilizes weather themes that can inject real-time, archived, or custom weather into the simulator. Also included is the much-talked about winds and temperatures aloft.
This feature seems to be the cat’s meow when it comes to the “weather generating community” so its inclusion will certainly be welcome. I have to be honest, though, I really don’t do the kind of flying where I think this is a serious issue for me.
Weather Plus offers the ability to use synoptic and micro weather stations which should smooth out weather on trans-oceanic flights given that there are few weather-reporting stations in the middle of the ocean. I didn’t do any of these flights so these really didn’t affect me but it will be interesting to see if this helps long-haul flyers.
Yes, it’s raining in Indianapolis when I took this picture
Same time as the previous picture. You can see the sun trying to peak out
Landing at KIND with this rain. Included is the REX weather map
Waiting for takeoff at KSFO
Climb out from San Francisco
Both engines were very smooth and I did not experience any loading or popping as I flew around. My first flight was low and slow in a trusty C-172 from Austin to Houston. The flight was silky smooth and the weather representative of what I see outside my house window. I could see REX injecting weather but there was no noticeable effect to my flight.
My second flight was longer and took place in the default Boeing 737-800. I flew the 737 from beautiful Las Vegas into sunny Los Angeles and enjoyed much the same type of flight. I mean, it was faster and higher than my general aviation jaunt, but again…silky smooth with no hiccups and beautiful skies flowing by me. I did each of these flights with both weather engines and was singularly impressed with weather depiction and textures.
Being able to go back in time and fly in archived weather was also a blast. As you can see from my screenshots (and mentioned below) I took the liberty of flying around in Hurricane Sandy in and around NYC.
Important to me is that the weather be representative of the real time weather. I’m not as picky in my old age about things being exact. Is it raining in Indianapolis? Well, I expect it to be raining in my simulator. You’re telling me you can do historical weather? Okay, was there a hurricane in New York in October? Is the weather representative of a hurricane in my sim? Yes! Brilliant!
In simple terms, there are two types of textures that you’ll interact with and notice the most: water and sky. As most of you know, these can be broken down into even smaller groups. Also included in the software are upgrades to airport markings, wave animations, sounds…again, a myriad of options. We’ll concentrate on the first two major groups so as not to make this review 100 pages.
I’d read quite a bit about REX textures and how they’re really in a class by themselves in terms of quality and realism. Many who use other weather engines still use REX textures. Much to my delight, the cloud and sky textures are absolutely fantastic and when compared to the default textures…stunning in their presentation. I’ve had the privilege to fly in the real world and these textures harkened back to those instances. I’ve taken several screenshots in the table below to highlight the combinations of cloud and sky you can choose and you can see for yourself how much more immersive FSX can be with these textures.
Be warned though, that you can spend LOTS of time tinkering with the various themes and combinations included in the application to say nothing of the download center. Still, part of the excitement for me in this review was just letting REX decide which textures to use and being surprised by the combination.
Dusk, dawn…I can’t remember
Some cloud textures seem to disappear below the aircraft
Over Alaska with a few clouds
Clouds in the Dominican Republic
A lot of body to these textures
Cloud cover over NYC on 10/29/12. These gaps seem out of place for a hurricane
Remarkable, thick cloud textures with JFK Metar data
Landing under hurricane conditions. Why not?
Now this looks very real!
Blue skies and fluffy clouds. These textures really look good
More great shots of the wild blue…well, you know
Waters off the coast of Venezuela
Very realistic looking when combined with the sunlight
Coming out of some spotty weather
Outside of Hawaii
I can only imagine what it’s like to fly low and slow over the water but if it’s anything like these textures then I am missing out.
When reviewing software of this magnitude I am always prepared for the “worst” when it comes to performance. To my delight, nothing glaring came to light in my review. In the beginning of the review I used mostly 1024X1024 cloud textures which is probably most appropriate for my machine, but when I switched to the HD textures…wow! What a difference and I still saw no appreciable hit to performance. My FPS remained high and the flights were silky smooth.
I never had any issues with the program “timing out” or being slow. The application opened and shut down tidily. Once I was into my simming experience I hardly noticed that REX was running. That is exactly as it should be.
I spent a great deal of time with this program and I am only scratching the surface. I think that this program offers something for everyone. If you’re hard core into weather (and I know many of you are) then you can experiment and play around until your heart is content. However you like it, I believe that REX can give it to you.
If you’re someone like me who just enjoys “realistic-to me” weather and have a smaller interest in all of the bells and whistles, then REX works fantastic right out of the box. The textures are just fantastic and I believe that the screenshots speak for themselves. On their own, I believe they are worth the price of the program. The sky and water seem so real!
I know there is a lot of debate about the different weather engines out there but there is wide consensus that REX textures are second to none.
Foggy landing at KLAX
A wet runway texture
The sunny skies over Las Vegas
I have also been impressed with the level of support and commitment from the vendor. The REX forums are active and resources have made themselves available on the Avsim forums, too. The company seems committed to not only putting out a quality product but building upon its successes instead of resting on their laurels.
There are so many facets of the program that I haven’t even touched upon. New realistic thunder that sounds like the banging of komodo drums.
| Test System |
• i5-2500K 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)
Test Time: 39 hours
Publisher: REX Game Studios
Format: Download (4.35GB)
Reviewed By: Daniel Martinez
What I Like About REX Essential +
- Breathtakingly realistic textures
- Outstanding performance
- Seamless weather injecting
What I Don't Like About REX Essential +
- Long loading times to start the game (opening REX, REX opens FSX, etc)