Review: Mega Airport San Francisco
By Bastian Blinten
San Francisco as a city needs no introduction. It is a popular location for many visitors of the U.S. and a popular flightsim location as well. It has been a part of the default scenery since FS4 or FS5 and it has always been well represented. I once had the luck to spend a few very pleasant days there and I visit the area regularly with my flightsim.
Searching for an add-on scenery of the area has been in vain for a quite long time. I guess this is mainly to the fact that the city and the airport have always been there in good quality, the main buildings, the bridges, Alcatraz and much more. There was little that programmers could improve so it's been quite a while until anything came around that made the place look even better.
Mega Airport San Francisco depicts the airport of San Francisco - no more no less - in high quality. It is part of Aerosoft's Mega Airport series while it was produced by Flightbeam Studios. The latter was new to me so I checked their web site and found that KSFO is their only product so far with Phoenix being under construction. They probably teamed up with Aerosoft to have a partner which is well introduced in the flightsim world. The title "Mega Airport" suggests a high quality product. Well soon see if it can live up to its name. The airport is compatible with Aerosoft's AES.
Basically this review stands for FS2004 as well as FSX as the two included versions are almost identical. The only difference is that FSX comes with animations such as the "elevated train" that was left out in FS2004. Unfortunately this is not mentioned on the box.
Installation is simple and flawless. FSX users are obliged to add the Aerosoft installer to make their product work. FS2004 pilots can skip this step if they like.
The first screen shots shown here are a direct comparison of the default scenery and the Mega Airport. Each pair of pictures was taken from exactly the same position. While the default airport is relatively detailed it shows semi-photoreal ground textures. Still it is a good deal behind modern add-ons as the average PC in 2004 had to be able to handle it. The Mega Airport doesn't feature seasonal textures as it is not necessary for a southern location like San Francisco.
The first picture shows that Flightbeam's version of the airport features highly detailed ground textures and extra scenery. The hangar on the foreground shows more quality, there are more AI and static aircraft and the cars on the parking lot are three dimensional. Everything looks crisp and clear.
The northern part of the airport features a lot more buildings while the main terminal comes in extra detail. The airport blends into the surrounding area pretty well although the border to the highway is not perfect. As you can see in the picture comparison the interrupted highway in the nearby town is a mistake of the default area and has nothing to do with a faulty add-on.
Taking a closer look at the terminal you will find it is a joy to the eye. In my opinion it is a work of experts. Some parking lots are 2D pictures while others are crowded with 3D cars. I found it a weird mixture but that's just a slight criticism to the otherwise great looks. Aerosoft states that the static aircraft - some United Boeing 747's - feature realistic shadows. Well, they are part of the ground textures and don't move with the sun. Apart from that they are lit up at night.
Mind that the AI aircraft on the screen shots offered by Aerosoft are traffic add-ons that are not provided with the scenery. My pictures show freeware AI aircraft that I use with the FS2004 default flight plans.
When the sun sets the terminals are nicely illuminated (below left and center). In my personal opinion Flightbeam Studios have done a great job in giving the right feel for nighttime landings.
This is a picture (above, right) of a bonus: Aerosoft offers a free download of Alcatraz Island on their web site.