Aerosoft - Mega Airport Lisbon V2.0
A review by Maxim Pyankov
This summer we (the flight sim enthusiasts) have been treated to a new release of the Lisbon airport from Peter Werlitz and Michael Kopatz from Aerosoft. This airport was released under the Aerosoft's Mega Airport brand and can be used in FSX, or in Prepar3D V1 or V2. According to the product description page, this airport has been modeled "with many dynamic and static objects to visualize the busy atmosphere at this airport...[and]...also has been modeled with the 'Rapid Exits' on runway 03/21 as in real life...the frame rate has been kept high". So, the premise and expectations have been set; now, let's take a look at what we have under the hood.
Purchase, Install, and Manual
For those of you, for whom this Iberian Peninsula location represents an exotic destination (myself included), I would recommend that you read up about this airport's history, which began during WWII. The story is quite fascinating (hint – Portugal remained neutral). In any case, this airport is a major gateway into Portugal and, according to Aerosoft's product page, serves as an "important hub for connections between Europe and South America". Just this past week I read about this airport, in a major newspaper publication, being described as one of the best Europe's equipped airports.
This package retails at $28.53 (the download version) and, once purchased, can be downloaded from the Aerosoft's My Account landing page. The original version I downloaded was 2.00, but by the time I was ready to consolidate my thoughts into this review, it was upgraded to version 2.01 (some of my screenshots reference the original, 2.00, version). The upgraded download file is about 621MB.
The installation process is straight forward and will be very familiar to those of you, who have other Aerosoft products. The installation wizard allows you to select the platform you are installing for (FSX or P3D V1 or P3D V2), and then asks whether you want to install high-resolution textures. In my case, I selected FSX as the simulation platform, and I did install the high-res textures.
After the installation, you can use Aerosoft Launcher to access the utilities, the charts, and the manual files.
There are two separate utilities provided with this package. One of the programs allows you to manage the airport traffic (ground-based vehicle traffic), and the other allows you to switch between the high and the low resolution textures. I did not encounter any visual or performance issues, during my review, related directly to high resolution textures, and thus I never had the need to switch to the low-res option.
In addition, you get two PDF files - a 40-page detailed airport chart document (including SIDs, STARs, and ground navigation charts), as well as a 20-page bilingual Manual document (in German and English). This manual is very generic and offers only very high level airport history, some technical details, and some installation hints.
This is what the default airport looked like prior to installation.
After the installation process, the same area displays a vastly improved narrative. This airport sits in a fairly dense city environment, and I felt it would be helpful to outline how much surrounding areas the developers included into this package! As far as I am concerned, additional airport-surrounding-areas are always a huge plus, and they add greatly to the immersion factor of the scenery during landings and take-offs.
Now, the quality of the surrounding areas (flat, 3D, etc.) is yet to be determined. But we will examine it in due time.
Airport Features and First Impressions
This airport, not the largest by any means, offers a vast variety of different areas to explore and to enjoy. Between the remote passenger-shuttle parking terminals, the numerous remote aircraft parking spaces, the cargo areas, and the rows of new and shiny jetways - you will find a plethora of 3D objects, colors, and textures to enjoy. There is also plenty of ground traffic on the ground. The 3D objects, scattered around the airport, range from random traffic cones, to cargo pallets, to construction crates (and even a portable toilet, knows as Porta Potty in the US), to the more traditional airport staples like ground power units, cargo conveyor belts, the ladders, and the like.
The quality of these textures is usually quite incredible. The screenshots above attest to this fact. From completely weather-worn and totally rusted out construction equipment and trailers, to the haphazardly stacked wooden cargo pallets and canisters, to the newer and colorful cargo crates - all these artifacts look great and add to the immersion factor greatly! Some of these objects are so close to the actual passenger-aircraft operations areas that you can really get a sense of a busy, crammed airport.
As you move further away from the remote sections of the airport, and move in closer to gates and jetways, the 3D objects become more "airport-appropriate" - you get the luggage trucks and conveyor belts, external power units, and the ladders. This is where I would like to mention the first area that could be improved. First of all, all the jetway areas that have airport "clutter" have the same 3D objects from one gate, to the next: you get an AES Lite conveyor belt, a luggage truck, a power unit, and perhaps an airport service minivan. This is unlike true airport operations, and a wider variety of objects, from one gate to the next, would be welcome and more realistic. In addition, there are same jetway gates, which have no vehicles, or 3D objects, or other clutter whatsoever. It definitely makes those gates look desolate and somewhat sterile.
In addition to some completely empty jetways, there is also a lack of some basic objects, commonly found near the terminals - the likes of trash cans, fire extinguishers, and other miscellaneous objects. While not at all a showstopper, it does add to the air of deserted gates.
Overall, I am very impressed with the level of detail displayed in modeling of the jetways. The glass looks great and very realistic, the wheels the jetways sit on are modeled nicely, and the level of detail of the varying jetway assemblies is superb. All (or, at least, most) of the gates - both with jetways, and the stand alone ones, have functioning parking systems which work well. I do use the GSX aircraft service vehicles in my sim world, and thus have not been able to test the jetway movements attaching to, and detaching from, the aircraft.
As far as the terminal buildings go, I feel a bit torn between being completely impressed by the attention to the detail, and between being perplexed as to why some things were implemented the way they were. Case in point - look at the screenshots below.
The light fixtures, attached to the building, look fantastic! The attention to detail is amazing - you may as well be standing (well, hovering) right next to it. It feels that real and looks that great. In the next screenshot, again, the building assembly, and the attention to detail thereof, looks impressive! You can almost feel the massiveness and the weight of the building. On the other hand, overall, the terminal building displays almost no signs of wear and tear.
I would guess that the typical wear and tear, the rain and the winds, and the residue from all the exhausts from all the activities in the airport would leave behind a dirty, stained look on the terminal buildings. What we see above, however, is a pristine white building. Now, if it really looks that clean in real life, then please forgive me and call me out in the comments. But as it stands, I think the terminal buildings look a bit too sterile, and it does take away from the immersion factor. The same applies to the clean roof, as displayed in the screenshot below.
To be clear - technically speaking, from the 3D modeling perspective, the buildings look great! Landing in the airport, and taxiing up to the arriving gate, feels and looks great, as is exhibited in the screenshot above. Other buildings in the airport - be it the fire-station, or the radar station, also look great. The attention to the detail is amazing. Interestingly enough, there is one stretch of the terminal building roof that contains both great level of detail, and a wonderfully modeled worn, used look.
Ground textures, from the quality of the texture perspective, look impeccable. You have a wide variety of surfaces to enjoy. The different texture types display the appropriate cracks in the paint. The actual cement textures look great as well. The paint looks new in some spots, and well-worn and faded in others.
The aircraft parking spots display the appropriate signs of liquid seepage. Personally, I think this particular effect could be improved a little bit more, but I applaud the fact that it is there. In my own experience, I think it looks better in the dusk, dawn, and the night-light, than it does in the daytime.
My only concern with the ground textures has to do with a complete lack of rubber tire marks. As far as the runways are concerned, there are some tire marks although, much like the stains at the aircraft parking spots, I think they could have been developed a little bit more and given a more realistic look. But they are there. The rest of the airport grounds, though, completely lack any signs of hot rubber leaving black streaks on the ground.
As I mentioned at the very top of this review, this scenery comes with a large surrounding area. This is a huge plus of this scenery, and it sets this scenery aside from other similar packages. The immersion factor from landings and takeoffs in airports with detailed surrounding areas is increased many times over. No matter whether it is a nicely modeled dense forest, the beach, or an urban setting. In this case you have a completely reworked Estádio José Alvalade (home of Sporting FC), a rail yard, and a vast number of custom buildings in the close vicinity of the airport. The highways, snaking around the airport grounds, have also been greatly improved, with high quality custom vehicles zooming by.
Personally, I love the approach to runway 21. You get a great feeling of descending into the heart of the city, with the runway running along right beneath the runway, and the multitude of custom buildings popping up on the both sides of the aircraft.
During the dawn, the dusk, and the night hours, the airport takes on and exhibits different lights and shades.
The terminal building shades, created by the night-time lighting, look good and very realistic. The different parts of the buildings, being eliminated by the multiple light textures, create multiple shades, which gives the environment a realistic feel. The light fixtures, when examined up close, illuminate with a warm, radiant light, which softly dissolves into night air.
The runways and taxiways are well illuminated.
As you would expect with this airport, due to its' geographic location, there isn't a huge seasonal difference in the textures loaded. The screenshots below display a summer screenshot, and the same view spot in the winter.
I think this does the job at hand. Nothing special and nothing bad - it is what it is. Looks a bit greener and brighter in the summer, and a bit more subdued in the winter.
All of my testing was done in the "Preview DirectX 10" mode.
Besides the hours I spent roaming around the airport using the ORBX's Bob utility, I performed three outbound and three inbound flights into LPPT. My outbound flights were fully loaded, meaning they started in a cold-and-dark or the turn-around state, and I used full GSX range of vehicles, with all the other applications (like the EFB, the REX, and others) running in the background. I am pleased to announce that performance of this scenery was smooth and had not hiccups of any sort. Frames wise, during the taxing and the approach phases, they hovered in the mid-twenties. During other phases I enjoyed a stable high twenties range (I have an FSX-based cap at 30 FPS).
The airport is fairly easy to spot from the air.
As I mentioned above, the vast area besides the airport perimeter, provided with this scenery, makes both the takeoffs and the landings that much more exciting. There a lot of custom buildings to enjoy, including Sporting FC's home stadium.
This is a good, solid package that has some very strong advantages, and a few minor areas which could add a little more life to the inner works of the airport. Overall, the sheer quality of the package and the vast quantity of areas in and around the airport, modeled in this package, outweigh the few cosmetic suggestions I would offer to the development team.
This package performs well and all the objects - be it the main terminal building, or the radar station, or the construction trailer, or the highways snaking around the perimeter - they all have been modeled to a great detail. You will find very few corners cut, if any, so to speak. On the improvement side - things like a lack of any tire marks on the taxiways, or completely clean and pristine looking buildings, or gates completely devoid of any airport clutter (i.e. no vehicles, no luggage, etc.) - these deficiencies, while only cosmetic, take away a little from the realism factor.
For me, this is a first gateway onto the Iberian Peninsula and I am looking forward to exploring the various routes from and to this destination. I will overlook the occasionally ‘sterile and clean’ feel on the ground, and will fully enjoy the vast, dense, and busy areas, in and around the airport, during takeoffs and landings.
What I Liked
- Vast airport surrounding areas.
- Great attention to 3D model components (all objects - buildings, vehicles, buses, etc.).
- Great variety and well detailed ground textures.
- Great performance during all phases of simulation - taxi/takeoffs/landings.
- No obvious corners cut in the modelling.
What I Would Improve
- Lack of variety of 3D objects from one gate to the next.
- A bit too clean and sterile looking terminal building and gates.
- No tire marks on the ground (except the runways).
System Specs Reviewed On
- Time spent on the scenery: 10 hours
- Intel® Core i7-4770K @ 3.5 GHz, Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
- Installed RAM: 8 GB
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
- Running on Windows 7 Home Premium, Service Pack 1
- DirectX 10