Review by Gene Davis. Over time I have had many favorites when it comes to Flight Simulator and this can be said for airplanes, scenery and even some utilities, but one of my absolute favorites still has to be flying over photo real terrain in FSX! Ever since the earlier days of flight simulators, titles like Flight Unlimited 3 have made it possible to fly over a virtual representation of Earth allowing you to look out the virtual window of the plane and say “Hey, I know that place!”
There are still many different scenery titles to choose from and use in the Flight Simulator world and the most prevalent and well known has to be the Orbx sceneries as they are some the best add-on’s on the market, but I still find myself flying over photo real scenery and given the two I choose to run two different Simulators.
The first being Prepar3d as it drives my Orbx scenery and FSX is my home for titles like MegaScenery 2.0 and other add-ons that do not work well with the Orbx stuff. This way, I get the best of both worlds and it ultimately just depends on my mood and what I want to do when I power up my computer.
One of the reasons I enjoy the Photo-Real terrain so much is that fact that I am able to build over it and I do this with Flight 1’s Instant Scenery tool (review coming shortly on its latest release.) Instant Scenery allows me to be creative and play with Flight Simulator in a different way, I guess kind of like building your own route in Train Simulator and having the satisfaction of looking at your own creations after its completed.
What is MegaScenery Earth 2.0?
The MegaScenery Earth titles are based on photo-real images that are taken from actual photo of the areas they are set to cover, in this case it is individual states in the continental US. The scenery itself is much like what you see in Google Earth when looking from the top down.
For this article I will be taking a look at three different states, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. MegaScenery Earth 2.0 has now released all of states in the continental United States and provides scenery from the East coast all the way to the West coast, giving the arm chair pilot the ability to fly where ever he or she wants In the U.S.
These titles have since replaced the original MegaScenery Earth titles , called 1.0, from Aerosoft Australia and are now referred to as MegaScenery Earth 2.0 and these are the sceneries that were originally available from Sim-Savvy, a quick check at Sim-Savvy.com reveals that their site has closed and that all support and contact is now apparently through Megasceneryearth.com
The 2.0 scenery uses 50 CM aerial photographs that have been transformed for use in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. The end result is a real world as you would actually see it from the air. Think of it as looking from the top down view in Google Earth.
Purchase and Download
You can locate and purchase any of these products at the MegasceneryEarth.Com website and prices vary per state. The price is a deciding factor here and if you are able to get to their site on a day when there is a special or you have a coupon you can save a considerable amount of money! The best day to go, in my opinion, is Tuesday because that is when they offer 10% off their products, this coupled with any other promotions they may have is a great time to buy and a cheaper way to pick up multiple states at one given time.
Remember, that if you received a coupon in the mail or an email from the site administrators for MegaScenery Earth 2.0 make sure that you visit MegasceneryEarth.Com because that is where the discounts will work. I tried going through PCAviator using their link to MegasceneryEarth.Com and the system would not accept my discount codes when attempting to purchase.
It’s all about size when it comes to each individual state and the overall speed of your internet provider, however there is an option to purchase on DVD if necessary. When I purchased Washington and Oregon I had a download rate of 15 MBPS via a DSL service and it took almost all day to download one state. Since then I have switched providers and have gone to a Cable service provider which is twice as fast and it only took about 4 hours to get all of Idaho downloaded which was considerably faster than the previous.
Looking at individual states during the download phase can be a bit daunting because of the number of files you will need to download, Washington for instance has 30, Oregon has 48 and Idaho has somewhere around the same number with files in excess of 1GB each to download, extract and install.
After the 1.0 scenery I was pleased to see they released an install manager, free but a separate download, to handle all of the files at once instead of having to install each one individually. All you have to do is extract each individual file into a master folder, copy the installer program into that folder and once you are done downloading all of the installers you can run it. It does all of the work for you and even makes the necessary changes to FSX for the best optimized settings when running the scenery.
There is excellent documentation included with the installer explaining what files need to go where and is pretty simple to follow, I recommend just reading the instructions first and then going from there.
MegaScenery Earth 1.0 Versus 2.0
The biggest difference between the two titles has to be price, I remember paying quite a bit of money for Washington 1.0 when it was first released and I also paid quite a bit for just half of the state of Oregon. With 2.0, the pricing on each individual state varies in its size and the average price seems to be around $39.95 with some states less and others like California and Texas right around a $100.00 – $109.00, which still isn’t bad considering the sheer size of both of these states and yet 2.0 is still cheaper than the original 1.0 scenery.
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For me the quality of the 2.0 scenery and the way it presents itself in FSX makes it a much better choice than that of 1.0 simply because it’s colors are more vibrant and the textures are considerably clearer and much cleaner than that of the original 1.0 scenery. Given this, I am willing to forgive the lack of autogen scenery and night lighting in the new 2.0, there are however buildings in major cities like Seattle, Boise and Portland, but you just will not find them in towns like Yakima, WA.
In my experience with autogen I have found that having this type of scenery without was much better because if you look back at the 1.0 scenery it was always misplaced and usually showed up on roads or other places where it didn’t belong.
Another nice feature with the 2.0 version is that almost all of the airports have been enhanced with extra buildings and they are visually more convincing than that of the original default airports. I would have liked to have seen more of the airports lined up with the scenery because there are some that are still considerably off when it comes to matching the actual location of the airport in the scenery.
A prime example of this has to be Goldendale Washington; on approach you actually see two airports from a distance which is kind of confusing. This usually occurs with more rural airports and air strips as I have found very few major airports or larger GA airports with this problem. This was a common issue with the 1.0 scenery and it has been much improved with the 2.0 scenery!
For the sake of this article I had initially purchased Oregon 2.0 and was still using Washington 1.0 as the 2.0 WA scenery had not been released yet, I decided to add some comparison shots while flying out of The Dalles Oregon, this turned out to be a great area to make the comparisons because the split was right at the Columbia River and the airport for the two different sceneries.
The top down picture that I included shows great detail for both the 1.0 and 2.0 sceneries but the 2.0 is much cleaner and gives off more natural, vibrant and realistic looking colors than the 1.0 scenery which had bland and washed out textures. The Columbia Gorge in 2.0 is absolutely beautiful!
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I also found that the scenery was considerably newer in appearance to that of the old 1.0 title’s as it has more up to date roads. I made this comparison while flying over the city of Yakima using Google Earth as my guide. It has been over 10 years since I have been to Yakima and many of the newer changes to the Yakima road system includes the addition of round-a-bouts at quite a few intersections and to my surprise they were all in place in the newer 2.0 scenery, to where the 1.0 scenery reflected the way they used to look well over 10 years ago.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho
Oregon comes with over 98,380 square miles of scenery with 352 airports, Washington is over 71,300 square miles with 374 airports and Idaho has over 83,570 square miles and 219 airports throughout. Quite frankly, if it’s there you will see it! Each package also includes a full set of FAA aeronautical charts in PDF format.
Included in PDF:
SECTIONAL CHARTS: Great Falls, Salt Lake City
LOW ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: ELUS-11/ELUS-12, ELUS-13/ELUS-14,
HIGH ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: EHUS-01/EHUS-02
AIRPORT FACILITY DIRECTORY: A FULLY INDEXED 41 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
APPROACH CHARTS & AIRPORT DIAGRAMS: A FULLY INDEXED 161 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
SECTIONAL CHARTS: Great Falls, Klamath Falls, Seattle
LOW ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: ELUS-1/2, ELUS-11/ELUS-12, ELUS-13/ELUS-14,
HIGH ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: EHUS-01/EHUS-02, EHUS-03/EHUS-04
AIRPORT FACILITY DIRECTORY: A FULLY INDEXED 60 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
APPROACH CHARTS & AIRPORT DIAGRAMS: A FULLY INDEXED 255 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
SECTIONAL CHARTS: Seattle
TERMINAL AREA CHART: Seattle
LOW ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: ELUS-01/02, ELUS-13/ELUS-14,
HIGH ALTITUDE IFR CHARTS: EHUS-01/EHUS-02
AIRPORT FACILITY DIRECTORY: A FULLY INDEXED 88 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
APPROACH CHARTS & AIRPORT DIAGRAMS: A FULLY INDEXED 341 PAGE PDF BOOKLET
Flying Over the Terrain!
Flying over the terrain is impressive once you get enough altitude it to see it, sitting on the runway you will see little because there is no dimension to it because it is just a photograph laid across the terrain in FSX and unless there is elevation ahead of you, you will not see much from the ground. Mountainous regions are beautiful, Central Idaho offered up some pretty incredible sightseeing flights along with Oregon’s coast line and Eastern Washington vast amounts of farm land.
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There is a little old ghost town called Silver City in Idaho and it is almost on the border between Oregon and Idaho in a small cluster of mountainous terrain. I set up flight that would take me out of a gravel strip in Eastern Oregon (12OR) and flew directly to Silver City. I was able to find the little town just based on what I saw using Google Earth for planning and what I already knew about its location.
The textures in FSX remained clear and I was able to match up the larger landmarks nearby, one of which is a major mining operation that defines one of the mountains just before the town if you are coming from West because it sticks out like a sore thumb!
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I spent a great deal of time flying in areas that I always fly in when using FSX and none of which disappointed me. I did, however, find a section of missing scenery on the Oregon coast near Manzanita but after contacting the folks over at MegaScenery the problem was quickly rectified with a new updated installer for that particular region. I had to laugh, out of three states I managed to find about ten miles of missing scenery and had to wonder what the odds of that happening actually were!
Flying up and down the coasts of Washington and Oregon is simply beautiful with the new 2.0 scenery because the coast lines are more defined and they are much richer in color giving them a much more realistic appearance from the air than from I have seen in the past. Being from the Oregon Coast I really wanted this scenery excel here and it did not disappoint!
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Places like Portland, Eugene, Boise, Cour De Lane, Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver are incredible in both detail and color, though they lack autogen they do include buildings in the city centers and most of the surrounding airports have been enhanced with additional buildings and objects.
I was really impressed with the attention to detail around Lake Chelan in Washington, the airport was obviously enhanced and it blended in well with its surrounding terrain, though the town did not have buildings it looked remarkably good.
I have done a lot of work with Instant Scenery 2 and I have built up cities like Yakima, WA by adding buildings in and around the surrounding communities as well as places like Newport, Waldport and Yachats, Oregon to compliment the 1.0 photoreal scenery. Granted, I usually just use default scenery objects and buildings it still adds a lot to the whole experience in the end.
I will be writing up Instant Scenery 3 shortly and it will feature screenshots of some of the cities and towns I have enhanced. I do plan on making my files available here on AVSIM in the near future for anyone that wants to use them with the MegaScenery titles.
You guessed it! I like MegaScenery 2.0 and the new versions of these three States have gone a long way to enhance my flying experiences with FSX. I know there are a lot of tradeoffs when It comes to using terrain like this but for me it just creates a wonderful flying experience and it gives me the opportunity to create and explore my own personal world that is Flight Simulator!