Lago Holiday Resorts
By Andrew Herd (5 April 2004)
Lago Holiday Resorts for FS2004 - Punta Cana, Hurghada, Lampedusa and Malé
ago has a well established tradition of publishing good quality single airfield sceneries ranging from grass strips in the western US to large European airports like Amsterdam Schiphol, so I showed immediate interest when they offered me the opportunity to look at a clutch of new packages centered around a 'holiday resort theme'. The airports concerned are spread all around the globe with the result that no two are alike - and neither are any of them so big that you run any risk of getting lost on the taxiways.
The system requirements for the sceneries are given by Lago as a 750 Mhz CPU, 128 Mb RAM, 20-30 Mb of hard disk space, Windows 98 or better, a 32 Mb 3D video card, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Adobe Acrobat Reader 5 to read and print the manual; to which I would add the observation that while I am sure the addons will run on a 750 Mhz Pentium, a faster machine could only improve the experience. At the time of writing, all the sceneries were €14.99.
Download sizes vary from 9 - 16 Mb and all have automatic installation routines which require entry of a key code emailed to the customer direct from Lago. After installation, each package creates a new folder under the Lago entry in the start menu, containing a pdf manual, a text readme and a couple of website links.
Once upon a time, Hurghada was a tiny fishing village, but thanks to the fact that it has access to some of the best diving available in the Red Sea, it has become massively popular. As the screenshots above and right show, huge investment has transformed the place and at times I am sure that the inhabitants wish it could return to its sleepy past. The scenery reflects Hurghada's new prosperity, with numerous hotels along the coastal strip, complete with cranes busily constructing more and even animated coaches that shuttle between the town and the airport. This truly is a great place to fly into, with the waves lapping barely a mile from the threshold, while in the distance, the mountains beckon.
Though the area covered by the addon is relatively limited, the developers have gone to considerable trouble to make it believable, with the result that there is a custom coastline with the various harbors neatly edited in. Rather surprisingly, there isn't a custom mesh as far as I can see, so at least one of the better known landmarks is missing, a crag which rises steeply from the beach on the promontory behind the tail of the PMDG 1900D in the shot alongside. It would be great if Lago could see their way to adding this chunk of rock in some future patch, as it is a distinctive feature of the landscape.
The airport itself is different to anything you are likely to have visited in Flight Simulator before, with a classical Middle-Eastern roofline which recalls the mosques and minarets of the ancient cities of the region. This is just about the only chance you have to see a classical roofline in Hurghada, as the entire place appears to have been built in the past two decades, but it does mean that you get a most wonderful modern terminal with a howling wilderness of a ramp to park on, fringed by animated palm trees. Yep, watch 'em long enough and they wave their fronds at you, shades of Lago's Honolulu.
The single runway (16/34) is 13000 feet long, so you have space to land just about anything and there is a VOR located on the field, for those of you who enjoy steam navigation. The manual supplies a VOR-DME and ILS-DME approach for runway 34 and there are even a couple of situations supplied as part of the default installation, the most interesting of which puts the Microsoft 777 on the approach. The custom AI is well up to standard, all the textures and taxilines fit neatly and if it wasn't for that missing hill, I wouldn't be able to find fault with anything at all. For some reason you don't see many sceneries released for this part of the world and Lago are to be congratulated for taking the lead.
One of the great things about flight simulation is the way you can flit from one side of the globe to the other without breaking into a sweat, so - cut to palm trees waving in the breeze - here we are in the Dominican Republic.
Well (here the presenter stares at his toes and looks a bit shifty), yeah. But look at the airport buildings and lighting, guys. Besides, could you actually tell two real palm trees apart?
Punta Cana is roughly 800 miles south of Florida, on the south-western tip of the Dominican Republic. From a touring pilot's point of view, it has the advantage of being almost exactly in the middle of the Caribbean and once you have found yourself in an idyllic location like this one, it must be kind of tough deciding whether to fly northwest up to Miami, or southwest to Port of Spain. The opportunities for island hopping are immense and this is probably one of the most interesting areas in Flight Simulator as far as VFR trips are concerned.
Like the other sceneries in the series, Punta Cana has seasonal textures and full night lighting, but the developers have gone one step further and thrown in detailed mesh for Haiti and the entire Dominican Republic, together with a hand-rolled landclass. Apart from a very much improved coastline, the surrounding area appears at first glance to be pretty much devoid of detail apart from a Go-Kart track (I hovered over it for hours, waiting to see if there were any animated karts, but sadly there aren't) and the golf course next to it. However, the manual chunters on about the delights of the Punta Cana Resort, the Club Med, the Catalonia Bavaro Beach Resort, boats and windsurfers - none of which could I find. It was only when I resorted to a low level trip along the coast in the Bell that it dawned on me that in an attempt to keep frame rates as high as possible - an object they have definitely achieved - the developers have chosen to cut the distance at which custom scenery becomes visible down to the absolute minimum. The result is that unless you are very alert you won't see most of the off-airport scenery until you are right on top of it; and if you arrive and depart in a fast jet, it might as well not be there.
The airport itself is enhanced by some excellent photo realistic textures which make the surrounding area of the field look extremely convincing, the road network is particularly well done and you get custom AI for a variety of airlines including Apple Vacations, Vacation Express, Thomas Cook/Condor, LTU, Air Europe and Lauda Air. Three situations are loaded with the package: one that puts you on short final for runway 9; a second that has you waiting for pushback in the Landmark 777; and a third in the Baron, ready for a trip along the coast. Should the weather turn bad on you, the approach plates are to be found in a separate 'maps' pdf in the Punta Cana start menu group. If you are interested in other airports for this area, you might take a look at Flight1's Islands of the West Indies sets.
Yep, this isn't Kansas any more, it is Lampedusa, the pearl of the Mediterranean. Fortunately for us, someone decided to put an airport on it, so we can go play there and it is an ideal spot for someone thinking about flying a bigger twin like the soon to be released Flight1 Cessna 441, or even one of the bigger turboprops available for Flight Simulator.
Lampedusa is located 110 nautical miles south-west of Sicily and about 90 miles from Tunisia, which means that visits to either Europe or Africa are on the agenda. Though extremely beautiful, the island itself is small, with a perimeter of only 14 nautical miles, so some accurate navigation is needed if you aren't to miss it on the way back. Fortunately, there is not only an NDB, but a VOR on the island, which has a 1900 meter strip and lacks an ILS.
The addons in this series are all extremely pleasing, but Lampedusa quickly became my favourite, partly because it is a reasonably meaty package by FS standards, but mostly because it has much in common with Lago's Venice scenery, which stands out as one of the best airport singles yet released for FS2004. The snag with Lampedusa is that it is very much a fly-in fly-out scenery, given that once you have made one trip around the island you have made 'em all, but that being said, it definitely has whatever it takes to make a classic addon.
In addition to the airport buildings, runways and taxiways, new mesh and photorealistic ground textures, virtually the entire old town on the hill to the north of the field has been recreated and it adds immensely to the atmosphere. While taxiing into Punta Cana gives the strong impression of having made a flight to nowhere, not only does finding finding this little island bring a sense of achievement, it is a has a strong sense of welcome and (the above comments notwithstanding) there is plenty to see, including a harbor full of boats, a couple of ships and surf pounding the cliffs on the north-western coast.
Malé - Maldives Scenery
A quick flip to the other side of the world and we are in the
Maldives, a constellation of islands stretching from the
south-western tip of India to the equator. There are over a
thousand islands, gathered into twenty-six different atolls, but
only about 200 are inhabited and the total land area is tiny - only
about 70% greater than that of Washington DC. The biggest problem
the Maldives face is an environmental one, and because the highest
point in the entire group is only 2.4 meters above sea level, the
inhabitants have taken a serious interest in the effects of global
warming. Rising sea levels already cause regular floods; though
storms have swept straight over the islands since time
Lago's scenery concentrates on atoll of Malé; capital of the Maldives on which an international airport was built in 1981, but in addition all the islands of the northern part of Malé’s atoll have been given a face lift. Quite a few of these islands have facilities for float planes and so the package not only offers airline AI, but also a fair amount of commuter traffic out to the outer islands. The installation includes a comprehensive set of approach plates, a map of the atoll and even a ultralight floatplane to fly around in.
Norman Burton has already done an excellent review of the package, so I have only included it here for completeness, however, I agree with just about everything Norman has to say. Malé is definitely up there with the best addons Lago have released to date and it certainly generates a terrific sense of 'being there' in the way all the best sceneries do. The final approach to the airport must be one of the most striking I have ever flown in Flight Simulator, chiefly because the town of Malé and the airport are so well done.
If the scenery has a weakness, it is that most of the islands in the atoll are unihabited and once you have got over being stunned and amazed at the trouble the developer has gone to getting the individual island shorelines right, all that is left is a long flight back to India. However, if you use the Cosmos Ultralight provided as part of the package, you can trundle around visiting, which opens up a host of new possibilities. In much the same way as happens with the Punta Cana addon, if you fly around the scenery at 3000 feet at 150 knots, you gain the impression that there is little human habitation outside Malé and the airport, but go lower and slower and quite a few of the islands turn out to have houses - three have fairly elaborate floatplane docking facilities - so it is possible to construct some entertaining flights. The other challenge the addon offers is that the only navaids are at the airport and you will look for the islands in the FS map in vain, so compass and eyeball nav are pretty much the only way to get around.
I guess the main message about these sceneries is that they should not be confused with Lago's Georender fields, which offer an intimate level of detail at the level where you kind of expect to see individual oil cans modelled and have dogs run out and chase the airplane down the runway. The Holiday Resorts series backs off a little and takes a wider view, which is inevitable when international airports are being simulated, but which allows treatment of a wider area.
If I had to rank these packages, Malé would be first, closely followed by Lampedusa in second place; Hurghada third and Punta Cana last, because of of them all it is the least interesting. You might see the order differently if you are a big fan of the Caribbean and personal preference will count for a lot. I guess some people might question the value for money aspect, because there are multi-airport packs out there for only twice the price, but the sceneries in those collections rarely provide any off-airport detail at all, whereas every single one of these does. As far as I know, this is the first time any of these airports have been released as addons for FS and I hope sales are good enough to encourage Lago to add to the series - and to pitch them all at the Malé level, so that there is something to do with them other than just fly in and then fly out again.Andrew Herd
Visit the Lago web site