Monday, October 7, 2013

MegaSceneryEarth Switzerland: Our impression!

FSX/P3D. Greetings from the Great Land! My name is E.K. Hoffen and I'm humbled and honored that D'Andre has invited me to do some reviews here on ADX and I only hope they're half as interesting as his are. As a real world commercial pilot here in Alaska and an avid sim enthusiast, I'm looking to add a different perspective to some of the add-ons available to our little community. Many of the reviews I do will be based on real world operations in regions and aircraft I am very familiar with and over real routes I have flown many times. But my first contribution here will be a look at the recently released MegaSceneryEarth: Switzerland. So please bear with an old ham-fisted, tongue-tied crate driver as I bomb around virtual Switzerland and give you my honest review of this product.


Ah, Switzerland. This country has always been very high on my list of places I'd like to visit, and a frequent destination with my FSX adventures. My virtual exploits range from an ILS to minimums on a stormy, snowy night into Zurich, to riding the thermals above Sion on perfect alpine day, and many hours of just hopping around exploring the region. The Alps are very similar to the different mountain ranges here in Alaska, except there are a lot more roads in Switzerland and subsequently it's a lot easier to access the peaks and valleys. Up here you have to fly in, or if you're a nutter you can hike in. Of course, the best way to see any mountains is in the pilot's seat and Switzerland is an awesome place to burn up time in whatever your aircraft of choice may be. Except helicopters. Helicopters are weird.

Honestly, I've always stayed away from photo realistic scenery products for one reason or another so this is a real first impression for me with any of the MegaSceneryEarth products. You can order MSE Switzerland either for download or on DVD. If you have a slow internet connection you may want to order the DVDs; the total size is about 8 GB divided into 8 separate zip files(not including the installer). I really like that they divide the files into separate 1 GB chunks, this can be a real life saver if you have a spotty internet provider(as I do). Nothing like downloading a giant file and at nearly the end, having a service interruption and having to start over. Fortunately I didn't have any trouble at all downloading the files, and once downloaded the installation is a snap. Just unzip the installer in the same folder as the scenery files and start it up, complete a few instructions and voilà, you're pretty much done. I was a bit disappointed to find no charts included with the package. Oh, well. 

Time to fly. I loaded up my Citation Mustang at Sion (LSGS) for a VFR flight to Zurich-Kloten (LSZH) to get a good look at this scenery product and to see how Aerosoft's Zurich meshes with the photo realistic surroundings. All of my screenshots are straight V-key grabs; no editing except for a little cropping here and there. 

One of the reasons I was never into photo realistic scenery is the lack of autogen and how 3-D objects look sitting on the flat surface. Here, Sion is looking pretty bleak. I like to look at 3-D stuff like trees, buildings and such when I'm sitting on the ground. Nothing to see here, which is a shame, because Sion is a groovy place.

Lets get airborne and see how it looks as we climb to altitude:

Hmm, Flat castles.

Looking a little better at 1500' AGL.

Looking pretty good on that side.

Here is where MSE Switzerland really starts to shine, it's hard to beat photo real from altitude. The roads and rivers are all in the right place....well, everything is in the right place. The detail is pretty amazing. I admit I was skeptical about this product until I got up away from the ground and looked around, now I'm rethinking all my preconceived notions. Other than the color having a bluish tinge, it really looks fantastic. The glaciers are clear and the valleys beautiful, the switchback roads up the sides of the mountains are scary looking and yet somehow enticing, and the little ponds and lakes hidden in the peaks are just asking to be splashed down in. I see now that I may be spending much more time here in this beautiful little corner of the world.

Continuing on to Zurich with the Alps stretching out in the distance, the view is just captivating. I believe Mega Scenery Earth has won me over, at least flying through the jagged Swiss peaks.

Out of the mountains, on the descent and still looking good:

Coming up on Zurich:

Uh, oh.....I don't like the looks of this.

Yeah, this is a reality check. The honeymoon is over here, I think.

When seen next to a quality airport like Aerosoft's Zurich, the comparison is very clear. To me, the realism takes a big dive on approach, and can be very distracting (my excuse for being low on the glide path).  


On the plus side, the placement of the airport relative to the roads is spot on. 

The borders show the color contrast with the default scenery. A little blue and washed out to me.

Here are some shots from FL300. The higher you go, the better it gets:  

For the next flight I loaded up my Jet Prop in Locarno for more Alps flight seeing. Please place your seat in the full-upright position and fasten your seat belt, and enjoy.

Over the hill into scenic Lugano. The cars follow the real roads, neato.

Default Italy on yonder hill.

More exploring:

Eiger fly-by. I didn't see Clint Eastwood anywhere.

I call this “The Glitchhorn” I have spent hours winging around this scenery and this is the only problem like this I could find. It is very strange looking, jutting up like a big spike.

The Glaciers are fantastic.

The Matterhorn is on the border with Italy which means the backside is the default scenery.

Runway misalignment is a common problem with photo real scenery. The default airports are sometimes a little (or a lot) off from the picture. It would be nice if MSE would address this, although that might drive up the price.

Interlaken looks rather “undefault-like”. Maybe they did fix some airports.

Airliner time. Vecters for the ILS 23 at Geneva Cointrin.

The border looks pretty good from 17,000 feet.

Default trees on the France side of lake Geneva. TREES!





The more I fly around in MSE Switzerland, the more I find little things like this. They put some effort into the various dams and other features like bridges and such. Very nice. The question is: Can I land the Otter in there?

One of my favorite approaches in Switzerland is the twisty turny approach to Ambri's runway 29. Good fun:

I love it here.

Glitchhorn again.


Looks fairly real.

3-D object! Yay!

Which one?

Performance is good with MegaSceneryEarth Switzerland; I got frames greater than 30 most of the time on my aging, but trusty mid-range system. Although, for some reason my Flight1 Mustang took a frame rate hit in the mountains. And of course, Aerosoft Zurich took the frames down a bit..... mostly because I have WoAI at 80%. Otherwise everything was smooth.

In conclusion, I think the screenshots speak for themselves. Altitudes above 3000' AGL are gorgeous, especially in the mountains. It really is a fantastic experience cruising around among the majestic peaks and lush valleys of the Swiss Alps with this product. The downers are the lack of autogen and the scarce 3-D objects....oh, and did I mention the lack of night textures? No night flying for you. Well, there are some limited city lights around major areas like Zurich, but they look ….bad. I guess it just comes down to how important autogen and night textures are to you. Those mountains are beautiful. The price point makes it even more appealing; cheap enough to get and decide for yourself. I plan on many more excursions and much time spent tooling around the area. Oh, and the little lakes in the mountains must be frozen over.....I recommend using wheels or skis, not floats.

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Unknown said...

If I'm honest it looks pretty bad. I guess I was expecting it to look somewhat like aerofly's swiss, which is definitely incredible and even has autogen.

chino said...

without autogen, without night textures, and I suspect no change in seasons its of little interest to me. Yes at altitude it looks nice but limited to 1 season and no ground lighting at night. I have a couple of their megascenery earth state all similar with switzerland. I use UTX so I get lights at night in some areas.

You did a very good review. I hope you will do more.

DAndre Newman said...

Yes I have a feeling we will be seeing more from Captain Hoffen! Well done review. And good to have another personality on ADX for a change, I am sure everyone is sick of me already!

Andreas said...

It looks terrible ! I cant believe that they are serious to sell that : low-res blurred wallpaper with no autogen. No comparison to Flylogic´s Switzerland Professional.

Øivind Skau said...

Excellent and thorough reveiw, with a touch of humour, hope to read more.

Andreas said...

It looks terrible ! I cant believe that they are serious to sell that : low-res blurred wallpaper with no autogen. No comparison to Flylogic´s Switzerland Professional.

Danny said...

I have to second the great review comment - nice to see a balanced review highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and comprimises of a product.

Looking forward to reading more from the Captain.

Danny said...

I have to second the great review comment - nice to see a balanced review highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and comprimises of a product.

Looking forward to reading more from the Captain.

Unknown said...

Actually I live in Switzerland and this scenery is really nothing for me. If I would take a scenery which covers whole switzerland it would be Flylogic's Switzerland Professional X. Though its not very cheap its 100-times better than this.

ALX WNT said...

As someone who's living in Switzerland, this looks like a disappointment to me. Without 3D objects, without seasons, without proper lighting, without proper proper contrast it looks horrible. There are better quality freeware photoreal sceneries out there, c'mon guys...

Albus Cai said...

MSEv2 has four times resolution as high as the Swiss Pro. How come they are blurry?

Albus Cai said...

For those who want autogen, simply purchase OpenVFR (about EUR 5), and it adds autogen to this photoscenery. For those who have Swiss Pro, simply copy and paste Swiss Pro into the MSEv2 folder and you get the autogen from Swiss Pro and 4x higher resolution image from MSEv2.

Unknown said...

I'd suggest to look at the screenshots on the actual product page. These show the textures in full resolution. The ones supplied with the review are mostly not showing the fully resolved imagery (they are showing a lower LOD) - possibly because of the reviewers system, or video card settings. The actual product page images are straight v-key captures and are the best guide of the quality of the textures. A fair review however yes.

Unknown said...

This is a good alternative to get autogen for MSE v2 Switzerland yes... and cheap!

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