by Marlon Carter
Aerosoft is well known in the flight simulation community for developing some of the best products currently on the market. Whether it is scenery or aircraft, Aerosoft products have always maintained the hallmark of high quality. A few years ago, Aerosoft released a highly accurate rendition of the Zurich airport. Since then, the overall quality of scenery products has dramatically improved and Aerosoft has seen it fit to make a good product even better with the release of Zurich Airport v2.0.
For those of you who are not very familiar with Zurich airport, it is the largest airport of Switzerland and it is the hub of the popular Swiss International Air lines. Apart from Swiss, numerous other airlines such as Air Canada, Air France, Air Berlin, British Airways, American Airlines, United, KLM, Lufthansa and a host of other airlines frequently fly to this airport. The video below shows a preview of what we can expect from this new scenery product.
As mentioned before, Aerosoft had previously released a rendition of Zurich airport a few years ago which was quite nice. Now that version 2.0 has been released, what special features can we expect? Well here is a list provided by Aerosoft that shows some of the major improvements you will see with v2.0.
Newly created buildings and objects with lots of 3D details, partly high resolution 2K textures with rendered shadows and lighting.
New transparent boarding bridges with glass sides at every gate.
Updated taxiways and parking positions, as creating parking positions for the Airbus A380 changed other positions and moved lots of taxiway markings.
Parking position E67 at Dock E now includes a separate, elevated boarding bridge
Static Airbus A380 of Emirates Airline, parking at Gate E67 (optional)
Terminal 2 is currently being rebuilt and set to be finished by the end of 2015 – we already completely finished the terminal for this scenery
Enhanced Apron P with additional parking positions
Jet engine test site with new, large noise absorption hall
The entrances to terminals 1 and 2 are currently being rebuilt – we already completely finished the reconstruction for this scenery, including a new roofing
Completely created scenery of Airport Zurich for FSX ACC-SP2-SE and Prepar3D, state of late 2015
Detailed representation of the airport
Photo realistic ground textures based on aerial images (0,5m/pixel)
Seasonal colouring of ground and vegetation
All buildings and airport facilities
Photo real textures for buildings, vehicles etc.
True to original navigation systems (ILS, VOR/DME, NDB, ATIS)
Complete taxiway and runway signage
“High speed taxiways”, allowing for exiting the runway at high speeds
Great night effects (baked textures)
Animated radar systems and wind hoses
Animated vehicle traffic at and around the airport (AESLite), for FSX ACC-SP2 with “Intelliscene”
ADGS – Aircraft Docking Guidance Systems
True to original runway and taxiway lighting
Traffic routes with ground traffic signage
Optimised for good performance (frame rate)
Optimised AFDs for different landing directions on the crossing runways
Compatible with Airport Enhancement Services (AES)
Compatible with default AI traffic as well as AI traffic add-ons (e.g. MyTraffic X)
Compatible with Switzerland Pro X and Ultimate Terrain Europe
Manual in English/German and up to date charts
From the features listed above, it is clear to see that this product is packed with detail and it is a significant improvement over the previous version. For example, much more emphasis has been placed on 3D details and the use of high resolution textures with shadows and lighting. Another improvement is the use of transparent boarding bridges with glass sides at every gate. As far as the airport infrastructure is concerned, Aerosoft has also improved this by adding numerous updates to the airport terminal buildings as seen in the real world. Some of the updates are still currently under construction, but Aerosoft has included the finished product in this scenery package. By the end of this review, we will see whether or not this scenery is worth having and we will also see how well it performs as far as frame rates are concerned.
Installation & Documentation
Purchasing any scenery product or any product for that fact has always been a very easy process. The installation of Aerosoft products is also quite simple and fully automated. Once the product is purchased and you receive your product key, getting started only takes a matter of a few minutes before everything is installed and ready for use. While it is always tempting to jump right into the simulator after installing a new product, you may want to take the time to have a look at the manual and configuration tools that have been provided with this product.
For example, this scenery comes with a Traffic Tool that allows you to select the dynamic airport traffic that will be displayed at various areas both airside and landside. By default these features may all be enabled but if you desire to minimize these details for the sake of performance, Aerosoft has given you the option to do just that. Another Tool that is included is an AFCAD Tool that allows you to select the runways that will be in use. This will be a handy tool for those of you who use traffic tools such as MyTraffic X. A final tool that everyone will be happy with is a Resolution Tool that allows you to optimize your experience by choosing high or low resolution textures.
Apart from the host of Tools at your disposal, this product also comes with a 60+ page document that contains updated charts for this airport. This type of documentation is invaluable if you desire to have a realistic experience flying to and from this major airport. In the end, I think that the tools and documents provided with this product are all very comprehensive and extremely useful. Now that we’ve become a bit more familiar with the contents and features of this product, let’s have a closer look at the scenery itself to see improvements that have been made.
My first impression of the airport was certainly one that left a smile and especially so after comparing the quality of v2.0 to v1.0. The layout of the airport was basically the same with the exception of a few more detailed buildings. Other obvious improvements included higher resolution textures along with terminals and jetways that had a truly transparent glass appearance. As far as accuracy is concerned, the entire airport and some of its surroundings have been so accurately recreated that terminal buildings currently under construction have all been completed for this product. An interesting aspect of this airport is that there are certain areas along runway 14 that include trees and other vegetation which have also been included in this product.
As we take a closer look at the airport, let’s have a look at the terminals. One of the terminals that stand out at this airport is the terminal bearing the name of the airport which is made largely of glass. In the past, airport developers may have opted to create such a terminal using textures to give the appearance of glass but thankfully, Aerosoft decided to give this terminal and others a truly transparent glass appearance which allows you to see directly through the “glass”. The textural details on the terminal buildings were absolutely stunning and we expect nothing less since the textures were mostly photo-real. With some of the best use of shadows and lighting, these may be some of the best airport textures I have ever seen from Aerosoft and I certainly hope that future airports are of similar quality. The only disappointment I had with this product is that it requires AES for functioning Jetways. While it is understandable that Aerosoft would implement compatibility with AES, users of GSX, while having ground services, will not be able to utilize the moving Jetways. Here are a few screenshots the nicely showcase the airport and terminals.
Shifting our attention to the ramp area and ground textures, it is clear to see that attention to detail was a major focus in developing this airport. The ground textures were also largely photo-realistic images that were of very high quality. By using these images, customers will immediately notice the striking detail of ground markings and vegetation. While the grass isn’t volumetric, it still has a very realistic appearance. Textures used for roadways were also very high quality and it went hand in hand with the detailed signs that are seen both for aircraft and ground traffic.
At night, a Zurich airport truly comes to life with spot lights and runway lighting that is remarkably realistic. Aerosoft has mentioned that the lighting for the runway and taxiway are true to the original and after looking at these lighting effect first hand, I would say they’ve done a good job at recreating the night time environment of this airport.The terminal and ramp/gate areas are also a sight to behold as they truly give a realistic representation of these areas being illuminated at night. For the terminals, the night time environment is greatly enhanced due to the fact that many of them are made of glass and are transparent. Although not previously mentioned, this airport also has a feature that allows you to see static aircraft. While I am personally not a fan of static aircraft, both during the day time and at night these static aircraft also gives an added elements of realism to the airport environment. Here are a few photos.
The final aspect of this scenery we will examine is the surrounding areas of the main terminal. One of the things I have always despised about older scenery products is that it never truly blended in with the surrounding areas of the airport. In an effort to ensure a smooth transition, Aerosoft has made this product compatible with product such as Switzerland Pro X and Ultimate Terrain Europe. While I haven’t had the opportunity to test this scenery with Orbx Global, I’m sure that both products will blend together nicely. An interesting feature of this product that is worth mentioning is the fact there is seasonal colouring of the ground and vegetation which will futher allow this scenery to blend in with the surrounding areas during all seasons of the year. Here are a few photos showing the airport surroundings as they blend with GEX Europe Textures and UTX Europe.
As mentioned previously, Zurich v2.0 comes with two configuration tools that directly affect the performance of this product. The Traffic Tool allows you to enable dynamic airport traffic at various areas while the Resolution Tool allows you to select high resolution or lower resolution textures. After testing this product in a number of configurations, I realized that having the max settings allowable for this scenery has only a slight impact on performance. The moment you remove some of the dynamic traffic or make use of lower resolution textures, the performance improves. Ultimately, the settings that will suit you depend largely on your PC, FSX setup and even the add-on aircraft you may be using. In my personal experience, since I use other ground service products, removing the dynamic traffic from the airside has resulted in a very stable performance for my PC setup. In order to find the perfect balance, it is highly recommended that you test various configurations for the best performance.
In conclusion, while I previously owned Zurich v1.0, I would find no issue in purchasing v2.0. Why? Well the most significant reason is that v2.0 is a significant improvement over v1.0 from a visual quality perspective and it also offers you a much more detailed rendition of the airport in its current state. Price wise, the box version of Zurich v2.0 will cost you $29.99 US while the Download version will cost you $25.08 US. If you previously owned version 1.0, you will be happy to know that Aerosoft is offering previous customers a 50% discount and for this gesture alone Aerosoft scores major points. In many cases, some developers would charge you full price on an updated product but Aerosoft has always put their customers first and have always offered a reduced cost on update products in most cases. However, whether you pay the full price of the discounted price, this airport is well worth having.
In the past, I’ve always been a bit hesitate about buying airports that are in areas that I typically do not fly. However, after thinking about the reason for my position on the matter, I realized that the only hindrance to flying in areas outside of the Caribbean and U.S was simply due to the fact that there has been a severe lack of high quality scenery outside of these areas. Over the years this has changed significantly and now that we have a high quality Zurich airport, it opens the opportunity to enjoy my simulator to the full by flying to new and intriguing destinations. Aerosoft has certainly outdone themselves (literally) with v2.0 and I would highly recommend it to anyone who desires the best scenery for this region.