Austria Professional HD East

Austria Professional HD East
For FSX / Prepar3D Published by Aerosoft
Reviewed by Jessica Bannister-Pearce
July 2014

Introduction

Austria is a country very close to my heart. Its people are friendly, its food delicious and its beer is welcome on a hot summers day. By far though, its the Austrian landscape which takes the biscuit. From the lowlands in the north east to the splendour of the Alps which make up so much of the country, the Austrian landscape has done more to influence the people than anything else.

Capturing the best of Austria for flight simming is not an easy job. Flugwerk Design and Aerosoft have already tried twice with Austria Professional for FS2004 and Austria Professional X for FSX. Both packages use land class tiles, vector data, and a good mesh to create a fair facsimile of the whole country. It was fairly successful, but not without its problems. The main issue I had with Austria Professional X was the cities. They did not really match with the surrounding areas with problems such as rivers changing colour within city boundaries. The use of photo scenery as a background for these also did not match terribly well. The resolution was rather large and the overall effect was not the best. However, with the arrival of the latest version, Austria Professional HD East, things look to be changing.

Availability

Austria Professional HD East is available from Aerosoft as a download and boxed product and is priced at €54.99 (boxed) or €52.95 (download), or the equivalent on currency cross rates.

Unlike its previous versions, Austria has now been split into two parts. This is the first clue as to the size. Austria Professional HD East, is not a small install. It comes on two DVDs or as a massive 13GB download.

Photo Scenery Detail and Coverage

Austria Professional HD East has certainly been through some changes. Gone is the land class and vector data to be replaced with pure photo scenery. The photo scenery is around a reasonable 1 metre per pixel, which is a fair compromise as far as quality versus size goes. The downside to this is the lack of seasons. In fairness, Aerosoft have been upfront about this from the beginning, so there is no use crying over spilt milk.

The photo scenery is only one layer. Rather than leaving Austria looking pretty from 5,000 feet, but flat on landing, Flugwerk Design have added custom autogen to flesh out the world a bit. Add the inclusion of every airfield found in the coverage area, as well as two airfields which have been correctly modelled, and a vast improvement on the originals found in the default FSX scenery, and you can see this is no simple scenery pack.

Coverage of this part of Austria starts just the other side of Linz, in the north on the Czech border, straight down to the south near Klagenfurt and the Slovenian border and extends all the way to the east, covering three big cities, Graz, Linz and of course the Capital, Vienna. The famous Danube river flows through the north, so let's get into an aircraft and go take a look.

First Impressions

As first impressions go, it is fairly good, if not a little green. In fairness, Austria is a very green country, and since the only season available is summer, the green should be expected. Starting at Graz, I figure I can circumnavigate the coverage area in three flights. Departing Graz and heading north to Bad Voslau, then Bad Voslau to Linz and finally Linz to Klagenfurt, will take me through the country, the lowlands and into the Alps.


Graz city and the Museum of Modern Art

 
Graz city looks great with autogen turned up

The first flight out, I took my time and really had a good look around. Things look great from just a few hundred feet. This is a vast difference from some photo scenery I have used which looks great from 5,000 feet, but rubbish below. It was interesting to see the various bridges around the route too. They match up with the photo base nicely, but they did not blend well. They tend to jut out a bit in places, and with the bridges in place, it would have been nice to see the road beneath removed. It is odd to see a bridge cross a ravine and the photo base road follow the contours of the land underneath. These are little issues though. By the time I reach Bad Voslau, I am already enjoying the beauty of the Alps and their foothills.


Another autogen error, I'm not even sure what's going on there

Leg 2 takes me over Vienna and it is all very familiar. A lot of custom autogen has been used to bring the city to life. Leaving the city behind, I eventually come across the first of the two improved airfields, Tulin Air Base. It is a great improvement over default FSX, but not without its issues and I will have a detailed look at those later. The lowlands look great and with the Alps off to my left, the views are stunning. Just before I arrive at Linz, I pass out of the coverage area and pass over Horsching Airport. It is just over the border, and outside the coverage area, and the transition from photo scenery is so sudden. A straight line comes from the north and on Leg 3 I keep it to my right now and again, dancing with the edge.


Leg 2 - Vienna's city limits

 
Leg 2 - Heading north of Vienna to Mayerling


Leg 2 - Grass fields suffer less from being flat, but a few buildings would be nice

 
Leg 2 - These tiered fields caught my eye


Leg 2 - Some of the custom autogen

 
Leg 2 - End of the world time


Leg 2 - Approaching Vosendorf

 
Leg 2 - Heading to Linz

Leg 3 is the most fun. Into the Alps I go. Here, things get fun with climbs and descents a plenty. There are loads of interesting valleys to explore and with the photo textures on the Alps, the scenery looks lifelike. By the time I reach Klagenfurt, I am tired but happy. It has been a good trip and it only took a few hours.


Leg 3 - Photo scenery at its best in the alps

 
Leg 3 - There's always something interesting to discover

 
Leg 3 - The burnt in shadows really add depth

 
Leg 3 - Arriving LOXZ
Cities

There are three main cities covered by this scenery pack. To the south lies Graz, famous for producing the Mercedes G wagon. To the northwest is Linz, a beautiful city which sits on the Danube, and on a clear day you can see the Alps. Finally, to the northeast is the capital, Vienna. City representation is key to a package like this and fortunately I happen to know Vienna well. So flying over the city, I was very pleased to see many of the important buildings and sights. I will start with Vienna.


Vienna City - St. Stephen's Cathedral


Vienna City - Having passed these apartments numerous times, its great to see them here


Vienna City - The famous Gasometers are now home to apartments, shops and even a concert hall


Vienna City - The Rathaus looking fantastic


Vienna City - The famous Prater Wheel


Vienna City - The stadium and Danube

Vienna is scattered with great landmarks, from the hugely impressive Rathaus to St. Stephan's Cathedral all the way to the UN building at Uno City. These are all included in the city, along with several other items. The famous Gasometers, as seen in the James Bond film 'The Living Daylights', make an appearance, whist the Ringstrasse is just littered with palaces and museums. The famous Prater Wheel is also there.

Moving To Linz, things are also fairly well covered. The museum found on the banks of the Danube is modelled nicely, although it takes some finding. The football stadium on the hill also looks great and makes for a nice VFR waypoint if your flying by eye.


Linz City - Sitting on the Danube


Linz City - This stadium sits above the city and makes a great VFR waypoint

Down in Graz, and although I am not familiar with the city, wandering over to the old town part of the city and you will find the mot bizarre building I have ever seen. The Museum of Modern Art, known affectionately as the 'Friendly Alien', certainly looks out of place in the old city. The usual city hall and churches are also there and you could spend hours just picking around the various cities looking for these fascinating buildings.

The special buildings are just one part of the autogen. The rest of the buildings are generic but fit in with the Austrian look well. There are a few odd examples though. One or two train stations on the U1 line in Vienna seen to have sprouted homes.

At night, things are not so nice, with the night textures being a bit generic. Hopefully, I can edit the scenery.cfg file and get Orbx's FTX Global Lights in to help fill out the roads.

Airports and Airfields

Every airport in the coverage area is available in the sim. This is a huge improvement over default FSX and adds around 20 extra airfields for you to explore. Many are grass fields which make great places to branch out and explore the countryside. Now, in the older Austria Professional X product, these airfields came with their own runways and the odd buildings. For this latest version though, things are a little different. In place of the custom BGLs, there is, well nothing, airfields are just left empty, relying on the photo scenery to provide the airport layout. Basically, this is something I just do not like. For the grass strips, things may be ok, but for the asphalt strips not found in the default FSX scenery, they are simply left blank. Landing on one of these strips is bumpy and because there is not flattening of the runway surface, it is just like landing on dirt. Added to this is the resolution of the photo scenery. At 1 metre, it is just not good enough to convincingly look like your landing on an asphalt runway. Indeed, even some of the grass strips are difficult to spot due to 'fuzziness' in the image. For the grass strips, it would have been nice to see the background image resampled and augmented to produce a sharper look.
 

A great example of on of the flat asphalt runways

Away from the flat strips, there are two airfields which have been vastly improved over the default FSX ones, Tulin Air Base (LOXT) and Zeltweg Air Base (LOXZ). Tulin Air Base sits to the north of Vienna, just around a bend in the Danube, whilst Zeltweg Air Base sits in the Alps between Linz and Graz. It is fair to say both are greatly improved over the default FSX versions. Having flown into Tulin Air Base on the sim a few times, it is nice to see more than just a wide slab of concrete. Tulin Air Base now boasts the barracks, the three grass runways, along with the main concrete one. The tower and hangars also fill out the area.


Airfields - Zeltweg has some odd bunkers on the field


Airfields - Zeltweg hidden object


Airfields - Zeltweg's buildings look a bit bland

Likewise, Zeltweg Air Base features all its hangars, tower, and a bunch of buried bunkers which dot the field to improve matters no end over the default FSX scenery. So, that is the good news. Sadly though, these airports are not exactly great looking. The buildings are ok, but the textures used are not that good. They are low resolution and lack any weathering or dirt. The overall result makes the airfield stand out from the scenery as opposed to blending with it. It is frame rate friendly, but does let down the immersion a little.


Airfields - Tulin also has several grass strips


Airfields - Tulin Barracks.


Airfields - Tulin tower is a vast improvement on the default

Technical Requirements

This version of Aerosoft's Austria Professional HD East is for FSX / P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:
    ●  Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 (fully updated);
    ●  Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX with SP1 and SP2 (or Acceleration Pack) or Lockheed Martin Prepar3d Flight Simulator installed; and
    ●  Pentium V, 3.0GHz or similar, 2GB RAM (4GB recommended), 512MB 3D graphics card (1GB recommended, and 14GB available HDD space.

Summing Up

As mentioned earlier, Austria is a country close to my heart. So I am holding Austria Professional HD East to a very high standard. It is a standard which it exceeds in places but does not quite reach in others. For now, my biggest bugbear is the lack of airfields. Even if the airfields themselves were left blank, a building here or there and a few standard aircraft parked up would do wonders to help fill out the airfields and make them feel a little more real. Even the improved air bases lack static aircraft to help fill them out. Speaking of those airfields, the textures could just use a tweak to help lift them from good to great. Whilst the airfields lack punch, there are a few other issues I do not like. Roads are occasionally seen with trees in the middle of them, some bridges do not seem to fit and, for some strange reason, the colour saturation in P3D V2 is very strong, leaving you feeling it is just too green.


FSX Version

 
P3D Version

It is not all bad though. Take a flight over the eastern Alps and you will see some of the best scenery seen in any sim. The hand placed autogen really adds to it, leaving you smelling the fresh alpine air. There is so much to discover, from the hidden gems of the cities, to the perfect little airfield hidden in the Alps. Sure, there is only the summer, but summertime in Austria is beautiful. Just pour a glass of Amdudler, order a slice of Sacher Torte and listen to the sounds of Mozart and Strauss.

Verdict and Rating

A great scenery for one of Europe’s most beautiful areas.

Pros:
Very good resolution.
High level and attention to detail.

Cons:
Lack of detail on airfields.
Minor issues with blending.
Bland textures.


Aerosoft's Austria Professional HD East is awarded a Mutley’s Hangar score of 8.5/10, with a "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.



Links

    ● Austria Professional HD East product page  

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