There are more than 22,000,000 people residing in Southern California, more often called SoCal in the United States. The majority of the population is located along its Pacific coastline and mostly in the Greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas. To the east are mountain ranges, deserts and national parks, with farmland and huge plantations interspersed.
FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California is the seventh region for North America that Orbx has produced and it appears at first flight, that Orbx add-ons are getting bigger and better with each production.
Apart from Los Angeles and San Diego, you will also find Las Vegas. Although strictly speaking Las Vegas is in Nevada, the Orbx team have covered it in this release along with the famous Hoover Dam.
With some of the prominent locations in Southern California being covered with photo realistic scenery, this looks like it is going to be their best so far.
FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California is available by download from the FlightSim Store as a 'download only' product (a master back-up DVD service is also available for a minor additional cost). It is priced at AUD$49.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 6.37GB and a key code is issued via email and required during installation, with the installed file size on the hard drive being approximately 8.5GB.
The installer offers you a choice of FSX, P3Dv1, P3Dv2 or P3Dv3 flight sims with the key code being valid for multiple platforms e.g. FSX and P3Dv3 installation on the same PC.
The installation for me was faultless and fast considering the amount of data being installed. You will need FSX Central 2 installed on your system, but if you don’t have it, the installer will install this for you and the scenery installs seamlessly as part of the North America Region in the FTX Central 2 application.
FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California covers approximately 140,000 square miles (365,000 square kilometres), from the boundary with FTX: NA Gold USA Northern California south of Monterey to Tijuana in Mexico, and from the Channel Islands to Las Vegas in Nevada and Kingman in Arizona.
There are several photo real scenery areas covered with FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California so I am including a portion of these, including their real world counterparts. As you can gather, Orbx have once again managed to work their magic to combine photo real with their very own textures to make SoCal a more rounded, believable scenic region to fly around.
The various areas that have been given the photo real treatment have, in my opinion, been done extremely well and they blend almost invisibly with the other textures. The areas of photo real scenery are bounded by a green border. This is visible in the KMZ file if you attach it to Plan G, as shown here. This is the area encompassing Edwards Air Force Base.
Explore a wide variety of landscapes: the scenic coastlines and offshore islands; the urban metropolises of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas; the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges; the vast agricultural areas of the southern Interior Valley and Salton Sea; and the salt flats, dunes, colourful rocks, and military ranges of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. All of these landscapes have been recreated with great detail and accuracy.
Hand placed custom land class, along with the road and railroad networks, power lines, wind and solar farms, observatories, and major vertical obstructions are included for true to life VFR flying. Many key points of interest, urban/industrial as well as natural, are featured with local photo realistic coverage that are fully annotated with autogen buildings and vegetation.
Downtown San Diego has been upgraded with 17 landmark buildings and there are custom models of other important structures throughout the region, including the Hoover Dam east of Las Vegas, half a dozen major bridges, many of the large wind and solar farms, and 17 lighthouses. Additionally, each of the 312 listed airports in the region have been given a major upgrade, with more accurate placements of runways and taxiways, as well as buildings, hangars, static aircraft, moving people and creatures, and lots of clutter. A further 53 unlisted airstrips that don't exist in default FSX/P3D have also been added.
All ground textures are hand annotated with Orbx custom autogen objects, including the FTX Global style night lighting.
Other features include:
superb ground textures from local sources;
hand placed landclass covering every square mile;
photo realistic beaches and marinas;
enhanced San Diego waterfront and downtown;
over 50 photo realistic natural and industrial areas; and
customised 10 metre resolution terrain mesh.
FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California comes with a fully customised 10 metre, high resolution, terrain mesh. Also included are some excellent photo realistic areas which enhance the eye candy enormously in and around Southern California. The largest cities included are a huge improvement over the default FSX versions. With the inclusion of several areas of photo realistic scenery, there is no time to get bored whilst flying around Southern California, especially the beaches and waterfront areas. The whole coastline of the region is almost exclusively photo realistic, adding great depth to the scenery. There are some discernible patches where you can detect the immediate change from photo realistic to other Orbx textures but the overall appearance overcomes this.
As there is approximately 140,000 square miles of scenery to investigate, I will break this down to individual areas such as coastal, deserts, mountains, and cities. So following on from this, here are some screenshots of the terrific work done by Holger Sandmann and the team who worked on FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California.
Coastal. The coastal regions include some of the best scenery in FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California in my opinion. Using mainly photo real textures adds extra interest, giving the beach areas especially an added depth of realism. You can even see tyre marks and the odd beach patrol units on the sand.
Islands. The Channel Islands of California are a chain of eight islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel. Five of the islands are part of Channel Islands National Park, and the waters surrounding these islands make up the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The US military uses the islands as training grounds, weapons test sites, and as a strategic defensive location. Spread over these islands are nine airfields and a helipad one of which is situated on Santa Catalina Island, a short way along the coast from Avalon Bay in a south west direction. These islands are a playground for pilots of all sorts of aircraft and there is always something different to find on each island. There are loads of lighthouses to spot, both on the mainland coast and on the islands. If you don't wish to use the KMZ file to locate them, just wait until dusk and you will spot them from miles away. There are other islands included, most notable of which are the islands of Chaffee, Freeman, Grissom and White. Small islands which are all dedicated to the oil and gas industries. These four islands have been well executed by Orbx and are worth a fly over.
Deserts and Mountains. There are three main deserts in California, the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin Desert. The Mojave Desert is bounded by the Tehachapi Mountains on the northwest, the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains on the south, and extends eastward to California's borders with Arizona and Nevada. The Colorado Desert lies in the south eastern corner of the state, between the Colorado River and the Transverse Ranges, and continues into Mexico and Arizona to the south and east where it is known as the Sonoran Desert. The Great Basin Desert lies immediately to the east of the Sierra Nevada cordillera and extends eastward into the state of Nevada. The Orbx team who worked on this project have truly gone to great lengths to recreate these environments, making FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California one of their best works to date. It is a misconception that deserts are entirely made up of sand. The deserts of Southern California include mountain ranges and remote areas where the population is minimal, to say the least. Here is just a taste of what you have in store should you purchase FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California, but again, with such a small amount of screenshots, I am barely scratching the surface of what is on offer.
Towns and Cities. Holger Sandmann and the team have pulled together some very impressive cityscapes for FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California. One of the best though, must be San Diego. The work that has gone into improving the cityscapes is extremely well done, although there were some minor issues with some building placements. Overall though, the resulting work is very nice and believable. So let's begin with San Diego. The eighth largest city in the USA, San Diego is approximately 120 miles south of Los Angeles. It lies on the Californian coast and is adjacent to the Mexican border. Orbx have included 17 additional landmark buildings to enhance the cityscape. Heading north to Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the USA after New York. It is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, sprawling metropolis, and as a major centre of the American entertainment industry. Los Angeles lies in a large coastal basin surrounded on three sides by mountains reaching up to and over 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). You will also find Las Vegas is covered very well in this region add-on, although it is strictly speaking in Nevada and not Southern California. Having said that, Orbx have covered it extremely well and there are some beautiful points of interest to find around this particular area, including the amazing Hoover Dam, which has been rendered extremely well and is a particular favourite of mine. There are numerous towns included which have all been given the Orbx treatment and have been given the same amount of attention as have the larger cities. Orbx have not missed a beat with this region.
Rural Areas and General Points of Interest. There are also the unexpected rural areas included in FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California. I say unexpected because the region is predominantly desert, city, or coastline, but mixed up in all of this, are some very impressive lush green fields. Of course, where else would you get the great Californian wines from? Sometimes though, I feel the fields tended to look a little too green but taking a peek at good old Google maps and sure enough, the agricultural areas of the region really are that green. Also included within the KMZ file are all the little surprises that Orbx have placed in the scenery for us, such as bridges, towers, dams, and loads of other points of interest. Far too many to include in this review, there are also the hundreds of small regional airports and also some not so small. You will come across bridges galore, lighthouses, and piers/jetties around every coastal corner and more than enough other goodies to whet your appetite.
Suffice to say, you really need to install FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California to find all that it has to offer and one thing is for sure, you will not get bored flying around this region.
As part of the installation, is a 19 page PDF user manual offering detailed installation and setup procedures. Also included is an interactive map in the form of a KMZ file. This file can be imported or opened in Google Earth and it allows the user to see exactly where all the airports and points of interest are located. By zooming in on any particular area, it gives you a better understanding of the amount of detail that Holger Sandmann and the team at Orbx have included in this release.
This map can also be imported into Plan-G, should you be using it, from where you can identify all the airports included in this coverage, plus all the points of interest, such as bridges, dams, specific buildings, etc.
I had no problems with my system when it came to flying in and out of FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California and my frame rates were fairly stable throughout. Please check out my system specifications at the end of this review and compare them to your system.
Orbx seem to have managed to put together a huge swathe of North America as a frame rate friendly add-on. I had no noticeable spikes in performance except whilst flying in and out of the large, built up areas and only then did I get a drop of maybe two or three frames.
If your system is a mid range to low end system, you may very well have some minor interruptions in smoothness or even the dreaded OOM error.
With all that FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California has to offer, the cost seems insignificant, especially if you take into account the sheer amount of airfields and square mileage to explore. So I believe this represents exceptional value for money.
There are no stated, specific system technical requirements, other than a system capable of running FSX / FSX SE / P3D.
FTX: NA Gold USA Southern California, in my opinion, is one of the very best regions to come from Orbx to date and it is one that I can whole heartedly recommend. The sheer volume of airports and scenery to explore is just amazing. I did however come across one or two locations within the KMZ file that appeared to not show inside FSX. This did not, however, give me cause for concern and this is still an excellent product.