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VFR Photographic Scenery - Generation X - Vol. 7
For FSX Published by Playsims Publishing
Reviewed by Brian Buckley
November 2013

Introduction

After what seemed an eternity to those of us who wanted to complete our collection of Generation X, VFR Photographic scenery, we finally have it in our hands. Was the wait worth it?

Before I go any further, I have to mention that I am going to review this latest (and by what is being said on the various forums, the very last photographic scenery from Playsims) the same way I have reviewed the other titles from Generation X, that is, by the experiences I personally faced from receiving the software, installing it (cough), and flying around the central belt of Scotland.

There have been numerous comments posted on multiple forums regarding the problems faced when trying to install the five dual layered DVDs. I will now give an account of my trials.

This is the last volume in the ever popular Generation X series covering the whole of the British Isles except Northern Ireland. If I have read the forums correctly, Northern Ireland is not planned for release in the near future. Suffice to say, I hope that Generation X / Playsims Publishing will eventually produce Northern Ireland for us, thereby completing the whole of the British Isles.

On the five dual layered DVDs there is a whopping 37.4GB of stunning Scottish scenery. Now you can fly this stunning country in astonishing 60cm pixel resolution with remarkable terrain detail providing, towns, cities, rivers, coast lines, hills and valleys for the ultimate VFR flight.

Features

The features include:
    ● ultra high definition photographic scenery;
    ● high resolution 60cm pixel scenery files;
    ● unparalleled terrain detail with a 5m terrain mesh included that gives you astonishing topographical detail and shows every lump and bump
       of the terrain;
    ● spectacular water effects providing translucent, highly detailed water textures on all water bodies which let you see beneath the
       water’s surface, and moving and reflective water effects which are excellent for floatplane flights; and
    ● enhanced performance, being specifically designed for optimal performance in FSX and providing smooth frame rates with crisp
       sharp scenery.

Installation

Well, as some people had their copy of Central Scotland quite a while before I received my copy, I was daunted by the reports being bantered around the forums about problems whilst trying to install the five dual layered DVDs.

I inserted Disc 1, waited, waited a bit longer, nothing, except the continuous whirr of the drive searching for what seemed an eternity. I took the disc out, cleaned it, cleaned the drive's lens and started again. Nothing but the repeat of the previous performance. I might add here that I have an Optiarc Litescribe DVD rewriter. I thought that as Volume 7 Central Scotland is supplied on dual layered DVDs, this might be the problem, so I swapped out my new Litescribe DVD rewriter for an older DVD drive.

Success! I put Disc 1 in the drive and it searched for a while, maybe 30 or 40 seconds, but then the action kicked in and I was now in the throes of installation. Once under way, it took only 67 minutes from start to finish. I thought this was miraculous compared to some saying that theirs took several hours to install. So now I have a fully installed Volume 7, Central Scotland.

Area Covered

Volume 7, Central Scotland covers the Scottish mainland and associated islands from Latitude N57.471543 at Inverness down to around Latitude N56.250277 and the Trossachs. This is a huge swathe of Scotland which covers what is known as 'The Central Belt'.

Flying in this area of several thousand square miles, you will encounter mountains, glens, coastal regions with their sea lochs, inlets and sandy beaches, huge open flattish (for Scotland at least) areas of farmland, and much more.
 
Area Covered by Volume 7, Central Scotland


Below is a screenshot result, showing the overlap of Volume 8, Scotland South and Volume 7, Scotland Central. A similar result was seen with the overlap with Volume 6, Scotland North.


The result of having Volumes 6, 7 and 8 installed, is a smooth transition from region to region.

Performance

As with all the Generation X photographic scenery volumes, getting acceptable frame rates during your flight depends mostly on your own systems specifications and how you set up the graphics options in FSX. I personally lock my frame rates at 30fps and this ensures a fairly constant 29-30 fps every time. Like all of the Generation X series, a 33 page manual in Adobe pdf format is supplied with Volume 7, Scotland Central. To optimise performance, it's best to follow the instructions in the manual.

The quality of the scenery is exceptional, but it is also governed by the data that Playsims received from Getmapping PLC, who are the copyright holders of the scenery data. In saying this, there is a valid argument that photographic scenery can appear quite flat, when flying low and slow. To a certain point, this is true, but the underlying terrain mesh puts all the correct undulations exactly where they are in the real world. So, although there are no 3D buildings in photographic scenery, there are things that can be achieved by adding a couple of software packages to Volume 7, that will enhance your enjoyment whilst flying in Scotland. They are, Treescapes Volume 7, from Earth Simulations and Scotflight Scenery (links are at the end of this review).

Below are some screenshots showing the advantages of adding Treescapes to your scenery library.


Treescapes screenshots courtesy of Earth Simulations

I'm not going to go into Treescapes here as a very detailed and informative review has already been covered by my friend Dai Williams here: http://www.mutleyshangar.com/reviews/dai/tree/tree.htm Suffice to say, depending on your system specifications, Treescapes will, without a doubt, enhance your flying over Scotland immensely.

Likewise, if you install Scotflight Scenery on top of Volume 7, Scotland Central, you will be extremely pleased with the effect it has on your overall enjoyment and immersion. Here is a small sample of just what Scotflight have done to liven our flying time up a wee bit.


Dyce-Aberdeen – Generation X Volume 7


Dyce-Aberdeen – Default FSX


Dyce-Aberdeen – Scotflight Scenery

As you can see, by adding Scotflight Scenery to Generation X Volume 7, you really do become immersed in your surroundings. One particular favourite location of mine, is Glenfinnan. The village and it's infamous viaduct, à la Harry Potter scenes, is located at the head of Loch Shiel. The beach here is where it is purported that Bonny Prince Charlie landed from France in 1745 to enlist the Highland Clans to start what is now known as The Jacobite Uprising. This culminated in the defeat of the Jacobites on Culloden Moor, just a few miles from Inverness. Here again, is the difference that Scotflight makes to the Generation X Volume 7 scenery. Although, if you are flying at anything above three or four thousand feet, Generation X Volume 7, photographic scenery is quite superb in it's own right.


Glenfinnan – Generation X Volume 7


Glenfinnan – Scotflight Scenery


Approaching the Viaduct – Scotflight Scenery

Here is a view of Glenforsa Airstrip on the Isle of Mull, complete with trees.


As you can determine from the handful of screenshots I've included above, Generation X Photographic Scenery Volume 7 is excellent, but it comes to life with the addition of Treescapes and Scotflight Scenery. Treescapes will also afford you some seasonal variation.

As with all the photographic scenery titles, frame rates depend mostly on how your system is configured and mainly, what CPU you have. As we all know, FSX is CPU hungry but with judicious use of the scenery / graphics sliders within FSX Settings, it is possible to easily achieve 25fps and above, resulting in smooth flying. Whilst I was using Generation X Volume 7 and Scotflight Scenery for this review, I didn't have Treescapes Volume 7 installed. I did, however, achieve frame rates of 28fps and above throughout the review test period. After unlocking my frame rate setting, I was often achieving frame rates in excess of 35fps, which in my opinion is perfectly satisfactory for achieving smooth flight.

Screenshots













Summary

So there we have it. A full set of Generation X, Photographic Scenery covering virtually the whole of the UK. It's a pity Northern Ireland is not included and we can only hope that either Playsims or another software developer takes up the mantle and produces photographic scenery for Northern Ireland. It has taken quite some time to get to where we are today with all the titles in the Generation X library, but in my opinion, if you enjoy flying using photographic scenery and, you enjoy flying in the UK, then you won't find a better collection of scenery titles than what Playsims Publishing / Horizon have given us.

Admittedly, there were a few issues with the installation, which, if I'm honest, did have me wondering if I'd received a white elephant. However, having persisted with the install and set up, I can quite honestly say I am thoroughly delighted with this final volume of photographic scenery for Scotland. For me, it will give many, many hours of joyful flying around a country whose terrain is so diverse that every day for the foreseeable future will bring something new and exciting.


Links
Treescapes Volume 7: http://earthsimulations.com/product/treescapes-uk-vol-7-central-scotland/

Scotflight Scenery: http://www.scotflightscenery.com



 Verdict:   silver
• Scenery Coverage: 10/10
• Level of Detail: 9/10
• Quality of Buildings: N/A
• Performance: 10/10
• Value for Money: 9/10
• Documentation: 8/10
Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.2/10, "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.


Brian Buckley
Review machine Spec:
Core i7 -2600 CPU @ 3.40GHz | 16Gb DDR3 Ram |GTX 570SC 1280Mb |Windows 7 64bit