Flying at night in GA aircraft is something that requires a rating all of its own. It’s challenging but in good weather makes for interesting flying. Despite the wealth of photo-realistic scenery add-ons we’ve had over the last couple of years, realistic night textures for FS have still largely eluded us. The reason is fairly straightforward.
The size of the task required to photograph an area such as the United Kingdom and make it into a scenery package is huge. Imagine repeating that task at night, given that much of the landscape you are photographing will just be inky black. See this NASA photograph which kind of proves the point. In quite simple terms, it’s just not worth the while. Zinertek however have taken up the challenge and tried to improve upon the default night lighting at major airports and for built up areas with Ultimate Night Environment 2007 (UNE). This add-on also gives you some nice dawn and dusk effects as well. But is it worth the money?
Installation and Documentation
Those of you that have read more than one of my reviews will know that I’m not big on detailing the installation process other than to say if it’s straightforward or not.
In this case, the zip file I got contained a 68 Mb exe file which was password protected. Other than entering my name and the product code, there was little else to say. Documentation is limited to a user guide which you wouldn’t otherwise know existed other than the option to read it right at the end of the install process. This readme is particularly useful for users of Ultimate Terrain as it gives guidance on how to get the best out of both packages.
Installing these new textures didn’t affect performance on my setup at all. In fact, there really is little to say about it in this respect as it makes for a very trouble free add-on in all but one unusual respect – uninstallation! As it writes over all the relevant textures, uninstalling requires you to download a separate 51Mb file to effectively replace the Ultimate Night Environment textures with the original default ones.
A slightly complex process but one that seems borne of necessity, I think. Below is a before and after shot of Manhattan. There’s no doubting there is an added ambience and a more realistic nighttime glow, however for me, the scenery textures were repeated across too many other parts of the world. Rather than give my editor headaches by including lots of similar looking night time shots in this review, I suggest you have a look at Zinerteks website to see for yourself.
The producers claim that this addon works well with Ultimate Terrain, but as I don’t use that particular addon so I cannot comment. Zinertek are hoping to make this FSX compatible by way of an upgrade and will be better able to make use of the more detailed textures in FSX, rather than the 256 x 256 pixel textures in FS9. This is the reason that textures look blurred from close up and is a limitation of Flight Sim rather than UNE.
In short, this package did little to inspire me. All the night time textures appear the same irrespective of where you go and, if like me you have a lot of freeware or commercial airport addons, then the enhancement to certain major airports will be non-existent.
Furthermore, packages like Just Flight VFR scenery, which has been around a while now, aren’t enhanced at all. As a user of Active Sky, I didn’t notice the new Dawn and Dusk textures, meaning I wasn’t getting much out of this addon when used in conjunction with other more well established addons. This meant that for me, the only enhancement was a slightly more ambient and realistic glow to the night which quickly became monotonous as it’s the same criss-crossed grid system for seemingly the majority of built up areas.
I did have a freeware addon which did well to replicate major roads but installing this overwrote it and I can’t even remember its name and appear to have committed the cardinal sin of not backing it up either. Suffice to say, that it was just as good as UNE except it was free!
Overall I’d recommend that you save your money for a more worthwhile add-on or FSX if you don’t already have it. If you really want to improve the nighttime look of your FS9 experience, try the AVSIM File library where you may well find a freeware alternative.
|What I Like About Ultimate Night Environment|
|What I Don't Like About Ultimate Night Environment|
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