Is It Vacation Time Yet?
Over 700,000 Square Miles of Caribbean paradise you say? All with custom airports, traffic and special effects all in one package?! That is what Flight 1 offers with their recently re-released Islands Of The West Indies on PC-CDROM; a deal you say? We will see!
Installation and Documentation
Installation is simple and relatively painless, however if you have any additional scenery for this particular region of the world you will need to remove it or de-activate it. In my case, I had several islands where I had created my own scenery files and found that the Islands Of The West Indies scenery didn’t match the default scenery at all. Elevation and scenery placement was considerably different so I ended up having to remove those files.
The CDROM comes packaged with a full color map that outlines all of the islands this scenery package encompasses. Though I was a little discouraged with the lack of airport ID codes which made things a little more difficult when trying to navigate to each island. The CDROM also includes a PDF file that goes into more detail and history of the region; I would have liked to have had a printed manual of this PDF as well as approach plates and charts for each airport.
Islands of the West Indies
Once installed you will find over 44 different airports covering the entire Island chain of the West Indies as well as graphically enhanced islands with their own textures and custom scenery objects. Each airport has been built from the ground up and match that of their real world counterparts as far as building placement and structures go.
As you tour each island you will notice that a lot of care went into designing an accurate match for each island. The island textures are their own, as well as accurate placement of roads and buildings though most of the roads appear as dirt roads rather than asphalt. This is believable on the smaller islands, but on the larger ones I don’t believe it to be as accurate.
The world is brought to life as you explore the island chain, you will see different types of marine traffic, everything ranging from sailboats to cruise ships and cargo ships. Though I had to laugh at some of the cruise ships, they are obviously from the early versions of the different scenery packages that were released as they seem rather primitive compared to some of the scenery objects that are used now in newer titles. I am not saying this is a bad thing, as they do tend to get the job done and represent what they are rather well.
It is important to know that this product derives from the original Islands Of The West Indies titles from Flight 1 that was released some time ago as 4 individual volumes for each different region and were released as a download only product when they first came out. Well, Flight 1 has taken all of the individual volumes and compiled them into one great package, creating the new Islands Of The West Indies scenery package on CD. The entire product is also available for download at Flight 1 if you prefer.
Taking to the Skys
Touring the islands is literally a visual treat as every island in the chain is modeled with accurate terrain textures and elevation data. The island chain covers almost 700,000 square miles of the Caribbean and not only covers the more popular islands of that region, but all of the lesser known ones as well.
The scenery region covers north to Saint Maarten and its surrounding islands of Antigua, Marie Galante, Martinique to all the way south to Saint Lucia and onto Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada, Isla De Margarita, La Orchila, and to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. With over 44 airports littered throughout this region this package offers some incredibly beautiful flights.
One my favorite islands to explore is that of Montserrat as it is animated with an active Volcano and the international airport there has been closed due to volcanic activity. There are several islands in this package that offer this type of environment and makes for some fun rescue missions to each of them. By making some adjustments to the weather settings, it will make for some interesting approaches into places like this.
On another adventure, I found a rather large fleet of ships, boats and cranes out near Bequia. I don’t know if this was a mistake or if this chain of objects actually exist, but it was kind of funny looking and I would hope to think that it was a mistake, otherwise it is kind of an eyesore. This region of the scenery package was the most impressive for me as the surrounding islands offered some nice eye candy and some rather challenging airports with lots of volcanic activity, so be sure to take the flight from Barbados to Bequia and onto Union Island, your passengers won’t be disappointed.
I spent a great deal of time exploring Barbados and over to the islands of Mustique and Carriacou with my newly acquired Iris F-4 Phantom. There is just so much to see that I can’t put it all into words. I will tell you one thing though; touring with the F-4 is the way to go!
One of the most challenging airports in the chain has to be The Bottom, Saba Juancho Yausquin Airport. The runway is small and has a drop off at both ends so it makes landing anything of any size a real challenge, so be sure to check it out if you get a chance.
As you tour the entire region there is more and more to see every time you go up for a flight, even by the end of this review I am still finding places to explore. So, rather than ramble on about every island I visited, I will just let the screenshots speak for themselves and I hope that you find time explore this region of the world.
Because the area is so vast and the islands are so far apart the scenery runs remarkably well as far as frame rates go. This aside, there is little that affects the overall impact on my machine with this title. I remember some time back there was a demo of this scenery released, and I ran it on a P4 2.4 and it ran okay but not as well as it runs on my machine now.
As I spent more and more time with this scenery package I found little issues; nothing too dramatic, but I should make mention of them. The biggest problem I had when flying a plane like the F-4 was maintaining clarity with the textures on the islands. They would quickly go from sharp and crisp, to blurry. I am almost thinking this has something to do with the amount of autogen and scenery objects that are placed as I have mine cranked way up. Sadly, if you turn the scenery down some of the islands much needed autogen scenery seems to vanish and you are left with an unpopulated and barren island.
Another issue that I had was that some of the runways seem to sit above the scenery. If I inadvertently taxied off the taxiway, I fell into a hole that would drop me into the ocean. On another occasion I found scenery objects literally hanging over cliff faces and appeared to be held in place by air. This is probably due to the Terrain Mesh that I have installed on my system, but it was my understanding that this product used its own terrain data; I could be wrong.
In The End
Is this package for me? Well, I have to tell you that it really does dress up this particular region of the world and makes for some nice island hopping adventures. Having never tried the original releases of this product, I had a lot of fun and find myself having a wanted need to go back and see what else I can find as the area of coverage is so vast. With that said, I would have to say "get this package" because there really isn’t anything else out there that will dress up that area as nicely as Islands Of The West Indies does!
I know that this title is relatively dated, but sometimes older things are better. This was an excellent product for its genre when it was first released and continues to remain a strong contender in the MSFS market for add-ons simply because of its location. Very few titles can match the size and beauty of the Islands Of The West Indies package and at $39.95 it is still relatively a decent price for this package, and now instead of just one region you get them all!
|What I Like About Islands of the West Indies|
|What I Don't Like About Islands of the West Indies|
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