One of the many things I enjoy doing with MSFS is finding out of the normal places to fly, whether it be an island in the Pacific, or small airstrip hidden in the mountains of Alaska. I find this to be some of the most satisfying virtual flying for me. So when I saw that Prolific Software had released South Atlantic Series 1 through Simmarket, I decided I would give it a good looking over.
The scenery package covers the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island thus giving the Flight Sim user accurate representations of 3 major airports in those particular regions in the South Atlantic. Essentially, we all know the historical background of the Falklands and their military importance, so it is only fitting that one would go into this package with military operations in mind, at least I did.
Installation and Documentation
Installation was a bit of a bear on the package that I was given by Simmarket, as it relies on the user having to install a freeware package by the same author and some file removal is required. In total, I ended up having to download the commercial package, an update and the freeware package atlcv2.zip.
It is very important to install the freeware ATLCV2.zip package, as this commercial add-on requires the terrain mesh and custom scenery textures from that package.
It is also very important to note that I did receive an email from Prolific Software stating that they will soon release the South Atlantic Series 1 with all of the added files and there will be no need for the user to have to do any manual removal of files. So, hopefully by the time you read this, they should be closer to that goal rather then relying on the way it is set up now.
The manuals that are included in this package go into detail of the history of the Islands as well as very detailed installation instructions.
The Farthest Reaches of the Earth
The scenery package contains 3 major airbases; Ascension Aux AFB, RAF Mount Pleasant, and Stanley with the surrounding communities for each island.
Each airfield is built from the ground up using custom buildings and objects, and it is important to note that I have not seen any default buildings at any of the airstrips. I was really impressed with the military bunkers and hardened hangers that make up most of Mount Pleasant airfield, they are actually dug in and blend right in with the surrounding terrain; as for the remaining buildings, I found them to be a little on the repetitive side, but they do the job. I would have liked to have seen a different shade of green used as some of them almost seem too dark at times.
As I stated above, it is important to get the freeware package as it includes the terrain mesh for this area. The terrain mesh that is included in the freeware file is a highly detailed mesh, and in fact, the author recommends that you run your terrain_max_vertex level at 21, the highest setting possible. This gives in to the dug in structures at these military bases and makes for a very real representation when flying overhead. Another interesting feature with the freeware package is that it adds airstrips in the Antarctic, thus allowing you to fly from Stanley to those research bases.
THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
Flying over the Falkland Islands is a visual treat, as it has been given a virtual facelift and there are over 50 different airstrips all over these islands to journey to. The airstrips included in the freeware package do not have any buildings or distinguishing scenery objects and are mostly dirt, grass or sand; they are just the fields themselves as they serve as a quick and easy way to get around the islands.
Mount Pleasant Airbase was built by the RAF in 1985 after the Falklands war in 1982 due to a need for a military presence in that region resulting from that war. The military base alone can house over 2500 personnel and the airport supports not only military flights, but a few Commercial flights and some government flights in and around the islands. As you explore the airport and surrounding military base you will see that a lot of care went into the placement of these objects to make them as accurate as possible to that of their real world counterparts.
Stanley Airport is located due east from Port Stanley and is about 26 miles from Mount Pleasant; it houses the British Antarctic Survey team and is mainly used as a civilian airfield. This airport received notoriety during the Falklands conflict when a British Vulcan bomber dropped a bomb on the runway and achieved a direct hit after traveling all the way from the UK with a stop over at Ascension Island. I found that I really liked Stanley, as it is a smaller airport and offers less of a frame rate impact then that of Mount Pleasant, thus allowing for smoother performance during takeoff and landings.
I found this island to be the most impressive, as it uses custom land textures and gives a very real representation of what the island looks like. One of the most notable features of this part of the product is that of the ground color, it has a volcanic look to it. The surrounding terrain is also mountainous and adds some interesting challenges to landing in a bad weather situation. The base itself is represented nicely and make sure to take note of the BBC towers when your there, nice addition!
Being one of the most remote inhabited territories in the South Atlantic; Ascension Island is a popular stop-over for many military flights dating back from WW2 to the present. The base is operated by the United States, but the island is part of the UK, so the island sees both RAF and US flights. Civilians fly in on military flights and general aviation is prohibited, though there are certain exceptions like in-flight emergencies or the immediate need to refuel. There will be increased civilian use at Ascension Island for increased tourism to the islands in the near future thus giving easier access to that favorite vacation spot, St Helena.
The airports in this package were not created using the current XML format, so that means that the scenery objects tend to take a toll on your frame rates and do tend to tax your system resources. Ascension Island isn’t that bad, but the Falkland Islands near Mount Pleasant tends to bring my computer to its knees. The best frame rates I can get at Mount Pleasant are about 10-12 and that is without flying a detailed aircraft.
I have been told that Prolific is working on an update to change over to xml format, which in my opinion would be the best thing as the biggest problem right now is the amount of scenery objects in one confined area just hurts the overall performance of this product. The good news here is that I guess we can consider this a work in progress, and the manual states that future updates will be available to existing customers at a discount or free of charge.
The add-on does include custom AFCADS for each airport, so if you don’t have a program like My Traffic 2006 or the military traffic package by the same people, you might find it a little lonely at these out of the way places. The directions include a list of freeware and payware aircraft that you can find on the net and how to instructions on incorporating them into AI traffic for this package. I chose not to even go that route as I already had My Traffic 2006. My recommendation to you is, if you haven’t picked up a copy of the military traffic package, or My Traffic 2006, then do so as it will save you a lot of work in the end and give you AI in that region quick, fast and in a hurry.
In The End
Though some of the scenery objects are a little dated in this package, it does offer some much needed scenery to this particular region of the world. I really do enjoy flying in out the way places and this was a different type of flying for me as it re-introduced me to military flying.
Performance problems aside, these are some real nice islands to explore and with the additions, custom textures and modifications, this package offers a nice addition to the MSFS scenery library.
Try the freeware files that I listed at the start of this review, it will get you into the program and see what this is all about and then make the decision to buy. With the promised support for future updates I think this add-on has some real potential to be rather unique!
|What I Like About South Atlantic|
|What I Don't Like About South Atlantic|
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