Will the juggernaut that is Orbx ever slow down?
It seems hardly a week goes by without something new coming out
and raising the bar again. Orbx have kindly donated a copy of one
of their latest add-ons, Stewart Airport, to Mutley's Hangar for a
review, let's see how it stacks up.
Stewart Airport is approximately 100 miles northeast of Ketchikan and has a 3,900 x 75ft runway. Other than that there is very little information about this airport anywhere on the internet, which goes to show how small and remote it is. Don't let that put you off though, this is one of the best Orbx add-on airports that I have used, the level of detail is stunning.
Stewart Airport can be purchased from the Flightsimstore (www.flightsimstore.com) for £21.75 as a 1.05gb download, a fast and reliable internet connection is a must. The installation process, as with most add-ons, is very straight forward and it's a matter of waiting for the product to install before you can take to the skies.
As we are frequently told, there is a theoretical ground resolution limit with FSX, but Russ White (developer) has managed to introduce a new method of building airport terrain (more on that later) which gives you an unbelievable ground resolution of 2cm per pixel without any real performance penalty. During testing I didn't noticed any problems with my frame rates.
● FSX 3DS poly runway, aprons and more
● The most scenic location in all Pacific Fjords
● Includes Orbx "Flow" technologies
● A large photoreal area including mountains
● Town of Stewart and other POI buildings
● TextureFlow optimised and excellent FPS
● Unique new sharp edged burnt shadows
● Unbelievable level of object detail!
● Expert 5 seasons color matched imagery
Due to the lack of information about Stewart Airport in terms of ground photography all the airport and building textures had to be created by hand and the results are stunning, as I hope the screenshots show.
As with most of the Orbx manuals the majority of it is dedicated to setting up FSX to get the most from the add-on. Quite simply, if you follow the instructions you can't get it wrong. I used the suggested settings as a base line and was able to increase the scenery settings to experience even more stunning visuals.
There are a few drawbacks to Stewart Airport, all of which are listed in the manual, along with how they will be corrected (patch) or how to work around them. The major disappointment for me was the lack of AI traffic at the airport, which is due to the location of CZST between two steep sided mountains. During development Orbx found that the AI crashed into the side of the mountains during circuits. The airport doesn't feel totally deserted as there are some static aircraft on the aprons. Turning off your AI also helps increase frame rates.
There are also some mismatched shortlines, traffic, street lamps and 'creeping water' in the river system on approach to Stewart. Orbx are well aware of these problems and are looking to fix them with an upcoming patch.
The best way to explore this little airfield is by using Orbx Bob, which is a freeware utility available from http://fullterrain.com/freeware.html . This allows you to get really close to the scenery and take great screenshots without having an aircraft in the way.
When I loaded up Stewart Airport for the first time my jaw hit the floor, the level of detail is on another planet. The runway looks almost real as do the buildings, even the insides of the hangars have been given the treatment. Moving around the airport is one surprise after another and you may even forget that you are in a flight simulator. When you move away from the central part of the airport the level of detail doesn't drop, the airport also blends seamlessly into the PFJ scenery.
One thing that I did find annoying is that when you move the view point (in spot view) down to eye level the scenery appears to be floating above the airport. Once you move the view point back up slightly everything returns to normal. I asked Orbx about this and they advised that this happens due to the way that the scenery is designed and there wasn't a way around it. A small price to pay for the level of detail in my opinion.
Realistically you'll struggle to get anything bigger than a Cessna Caravan in or out of Stewart, but you'll never be short of places to fly to as there are lots of airports/airfields in the region within an hour's flight time. If you fancy going for a trip around the area this little adventure I made is a lot of fun http://forum.mutleyshangar.com/index.php/files/file/1376-orbx-pacific-fjords-trip/
On approach the airport is very easy to pick out as it is at the end (or start depending which way you're flying) of the Portland Canal. It's very easy to get the approach right as you can see the runway from a long way off, just don't come in too low or you'll get your feet wet. The scenery in the area is so good that quite often I found myself flying around the local area and returning to Stewart.
Included within this add-on are the flows; Snow, Nature, Object, Texture and People.
People Flow is people (or zombies) moving around the airport on pre-determined paths.
Nature Flow is the trees, grass and leaves moving in the breeze, although the strength/direction of the wind has no bearing on the movements of the trees. But that's being REALLY picky.
Texture Flow is a technique used by Orbx to process hi-resolution textures.
Object Flow is a technique used to replace objects without having to re-load FSX.
Snow Flow during the winter all buildings will display icy snowy roofs.
After a while you wont notice these individual flows working and will come to accept it as the norm when a man/zombie meanders around the side of a building or a tree begins to sway as you wait to take off. You'll really appreciate how well all of these work when you go back to a default airport.
This is yet another fantastic release from the team at Orbx and is well worth the investment for a GA flyer. There are a few niggles and drawbacks but most of these will be solved soon with an upcoming patch. The level of detail is stunning and the airport location and surroundings perfect. There are lots of airports within the local area and some fantastic scenery near the airport, you'll never be short of places to fly or things to see.
I'm happy to award Orbx Stewart Airport a Mutley's Hangar Score of 9/10
Review machine Spec: Intel i7 2600k @3.40GHz | 8GB DDR3 RAM 1600MHz |NVidia GTX570 1280MB GFX Card |Windows 7 64bit Home Premium