Another release from the (Horizon Simulation) Playsims Publishing stable, is the long awaited Orkney & Shetland Isles, which makes it the 5th volume in the ‘VFR Photographic Scenery: Generation X’ series to date.
Since the release of Vol.4: The Western Isles, flight simmers in Scotland and around the world have waited with baited breath for another area of Scotland to be released. Using the best aerial photographic imagery and terrain data available, Vol.5 promises to give us unparalleled, detailed scenery quality, which will allow us to fly around and explore the myriad of islands that make up the two huge archipelagos of the Orkney Isles and the Shetland Isles.
Flying around these islands is best done in either, a single or twin engine prop’ aircraft, as there are some very small airfields dotted around these islands. Low and slow is the order of the day.
VFR Generation X, like most large coverage scenery packages, needs quite a substantial amount of hard drive space to install. Horizon Simulations suggest that you undertake a complete defragmentation of your hard drive before installing this scenery package. This will ensure that the scenery files are placed on the hard drive in the most efficient manner during installation. This may also significantly improve the performance of this software during flight.
VFR Generation X, has been designed to give you various options for installation, but this depends on your individual system specifications and how much hard drive space you have available to use for this package. I must admit that I have a 1.5Tb hard drive so I went for the complete install.
The following components are what you have available to install:
0.60m Photographic Scenery
Since the area covered by the Orkney and Shetland Isles is much smaller that that of other VFR Generation X volumes, disk space savings have allowed the developers to generate this scenery at 0.60m/pixel, as opposed to the 1.2m/pixel (max) resolution of that covered in the England and Wales series. This results in a much more detailed scenery experience for you to enjoy during flights over the islands. Also, unlike other volumes in this series, the Orkney and Shetland Isles volume is provided at a single level of detail (as opposed to multiple files of the same area at different levels of detail). As a result, the 0.60m photographic scenery is part of the default installation process.
5m Terrain Mesh
The terrain mesh provided with VFR Generation X uses the most detailed and accurate data available – 5m/pixel. The terrain mesh, provided at this level of detail, adds significantly to the realism of the scenery however, file sizes are relatively small, when compared with the photographic scenery. For these reasons, the 5m terrain mesh is also a default installation option with this package.
The night lighting scenery does what it says on the tin – it installs the night time scenery textures that are darker than those for the daytime and includes lights along roads and on buildings.
Again, given the relative size of the coverage area in respect of other volumes in this series and the subsequent disk space savings, the night-lighting scenery in the Orkney & Shetland Isles volume is also provided at 0.60m/pixel.
You cannot install the night-lighting scenery independently of the photographic scenery and terrain (unless you are adding it to (modifying) an existing installation of this package). The daytime photographic scenery must therefore be installed first in order for the night time scenery to be added.
VFR Photographic Scenery
Generation X Vol.5 Scotland – Orkney & Shetland Isles comes on 2 DVDs
Insert disk 1, go and make a cup of coffee/tea, as this scenery does take quite a while to install.
On my system (Specs’ at the end), it took between 15 – 20 minutes for both disks.
On inserting disk 1, auto-run should start the process unless you have this option inactivated on your system. If this is the case just browse the disk and double click on setup.exe. Alternatively, right click on it and select ‘Run as Administrator’.
Follow the usual on-screen advice for installation, and select which options you wish to install. If, like me you wish to go for a complete install, then grab a few biscuits as well as your cuppa. You are in for a wait. That said, the wait was definitely worth it for me.
If the complete installation takes up too much of your precious disk space, there is the option to modify your installation. To add/remove the Night Lighting separately from the photographic scenery, simply insert disk1, choose Modify and follow the on-screen instructions presented by the installer.
Horizon Simulations, suggest the following settings for FSX.
‘Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to set all sliders and settings within FSX to the highest/maximum level and still expect to get silky smooth frame rates with currently available hardware. There will be some compromises for you to make so that you can enjoy the features that are most important to you. For example, some users may want lots of AI traffic, others may wish to have better weather visuals and scenery complexity.’- (Taken from the manual)
Suggested Display Settings
It is suggested that you use a Cessna
172SP Skyhawk for flying around the islands and at an
altitude between 1000ft – 6000ft. Flying low and slow will
give you chance to see the scenery in all its glory. And I
mean ‘glory’ as the detail in this scenery is really
something special. You could also fly around this area in a
Heli’ as there are numerous helipads here too. In my
opinion, if you fly fast jets or jets in general you will
cover too much of the area in too short a time therefore you
will not benefit from the very detailed scenery on offer.
It is suggested that you start exploring this area in the summer season and during the day to take advantage of the detail.
Due to the constraints of flying and photographing this area of the UK, there are no seasonal variations supplied with VFR Generation X Vol.5, because all the photographic sorties were flown during the best available light, in the summer months to minimise colour variations of the vegetation and the length of shadows cast.
Start your exploration of Shetland & Orkney around noon and in the summer, that way you will get the best light and detail. The rest is up to you. In my opinion the best view point is the Spot View.
Here are the differences you will experience, between both FSX Default scenery and that of VFR Generation X Vol.5. The time of all these shots was around 11.00am throughout the series of shots.
|Default FSX||VFR Generation X Vol. 5|
As you can see above (Fair Isle), the
variation is very subtle but if you use different weather
settings you may get strange colourations especially the
Having spent a good time flying during daylight hours, I thought I must show you some of the night-time shots including Horizon's night-time lighting effects.
The next set of night time shots show clearly the differences between FSX Default and Generation X Vol.5. The first set are shots using FSX Default, the second set using Generation X Vol.5
As you will see there are marked differences with each additional software package.
Kirkwall - Orkney
|Orkney Isles||Shetland Isles|
In addition to these there are also quite
a few Helipads within the bounds of these islands but I will
leave them for you to find whilst you explore these
The Orkney Archipelago covers some 382 square miles and the Shetland Isles covers some 566 square miles, so there should be plenty for you to explore. Below you will find a selection of daytime scenery shots from both areas, using FSX with the settings applied that Horizon Simulation suggest.
SCAPA FLOW & SCAPA BAY
FLOTTA OIL TERMINAL
The amount of time and effort that has gone into Generation X Vol.5 – Orkney & Shetland Isles, is quite astounding. The level of detail follows on in the VFR Generation X vein in that it makes your flying experience more believable, because of the effort the guys at Horizon have put into it.
With the amount of area covered by this volume and the fact that there is such an abundance of airports, airfields and helipads to land at, makes this a superb addition to your scenery library. If you like flying GA at a low, slow pace then this volume is definitely worth contemplating. Even if you fly fast/airline jets I would still advise you to add this volume to your scenery library. Every now and then just take a look from your cockpit window and see the stunning islands below you.
Having set my system up with the settings that Horizon suggested above, I was impressed to see that my FPS hardly dropped below my preset of 30 FPS. Even as I set the sliders higher I didn’t notice any great effect on my FPS, just a drop of around 5-7 FPS. I eventually increased my Global
Texture Resolution to Very High. On my Scenery Tab, I set the Scenery Complexity to Sparse, Autogen Density to Extremely Dense and Special Effects to High. These adjustments did effect on my FPS but not to the extent of annoying me.
As no two systems are identical I suggest you try the suggested settings then work your way up the scale with your sliders, until you get a good compromise between FPS and performance that suits you personally.
I also had a drop in FPS when I increased the weather settings. The manual mentions this and advises caution when using intensive weather settings. Again it’s all about finding a suitable and visually pleasing balance.
With the advent of the Millennium Map which ‘Getmapping PLC’ has compiled, access to this level of detail has now been acquired for the use in FSX thus making your flight simming experience more enjoyable and believable.
As Generation X Vol.5 – Orkney & Shetland Isles, is not a 3D landmark add-on for FSX, I cannot find any other real faults with this scenery. After all, it is photographic scenery. There is a misprint (I believe), in the manual, where on page 26 it asks you to choose your airport to start your flight.
The manual suggests either (Barra, Benbecula or Stornoway); these are all airports from Generation X Vol.4 – Scotland: The Western Isles. To start your flight, just refer to the airport/ fields list above.
As I have given most of the airports/airfields available in this package above, I suggest trying either Kirkwall –EGPA, Sumburgh – EGPB or (the most southerly Isle of this volume), Fair Isle – EGEF.
If like me you like flying in Scotland, or you are just passing through I would definitely recommend Generation X Vol.5 – Orkney & Shetland Isles as an addition to your scenery library.
This is an excellent scenery package and a very worthy addition to the Scotland package in my opinion, therefore I can’t see any other Mutley’s Hangar score than 10/10 being sufficient!
Well Done to all at Horizon Simulation Ltd. A superb addition to their scenery library.
Review machine Spec: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 3.15 Ghz | 4Gb 800Mhz DDR2 Ram |GTX285 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit