• Review: Orbx FTX Global

    Review: Orbx FTX Global

    By Michael Hayward

    Orbx - FTX Global

    One add-on seen as a must-have by much of the flight simulator community for FSX and P3D is Orbx's "FTX Global". What FTX Global does is it change all of the default sceneries within FSX and P3D to produce a much more realistic representation of the world, without the need for VFR scenery, which would be almost impossible to do on a global scale.

    Having released in July 2013, this add-on has been out for quite some time now. In this review, I will be taking an in-depth look at what this add-on does, and if it still stands with today's high standards when it comes to flight simulation in general.

    Installation

    Installation of Orbx add-ons is now as easy as it gets since the release of FTX Central 3.

    Once you have an unlock code or purchase the add-on from the Orbx Store, all you need to do is install FSX Central - the hub for all things Orbx on both FSX/P3D and X-Plane.

    Orbx - FTX Global     Orbx - FTX Global

    Next, you head over to the 'FTX Global Range' sub-header where you will find FTX Global BASE Pack unlocked. Click on that and click 'Install'. The add-on will then automatically configure onto your simulator.

    You are also given a 16-page configuration PDF which also goes into brief detail on exactly what is included with this add-on, and how to set up your simulator for the best results.

    What Does It Do?

    Orbx FTX Global changes ALL of your default FSX ground and autogen textures, landclass and in some cases ground mesh into their own high-definition images and higher Level of Detail (LOD) mesh. This aims to ultimately re-invent your flight simulator experience with ground detailing that rivals VFR scenery, while only using a fraction of the hard drive space.

    Orbx have expertly done the bordering of the land class images. When you fly at both low and high altitude, the ground images fit into one another seamlessly. One issue the default ground textures had is that when the ground type changes it didn't matter what was there, it would just be cut and a border made. That means sometimes you would have the odd building cut in half or a road layout that didn't quite fit. While it would be impossible to have it 100% perfect, the Orbx ground texture layout comes close to ensuring that everything matches up where it should, without looking terrible.

    Orbx - FTX Global     Orbx - FTX Global

    One thing that the default FSX and P3D textures suffer from is checkerboarding. This is where the textures are so few and used so much, you can see them repeat over and over again. This makes the simulator look bad and, especially for those that fly VFR, much less appealing. As Orbx includes many more textures (that differ depending on your region, I might add) and spread them out much further, this problem is essentially removed entirely and the issue of checkerboarding is no more.

    Speaking of regions, they also have their own set of textures. While the default simulator just had 'Africa' and 'Europe' textures per se, the new Orbx set breaks it down into smaller areas for example 'Central Africa' and 'Continental Europe'. This means there is a lot more variety depending on where you fly, and the environment itself is a lot more suited and recognisable - again both a benefit for VFR pilots low to the ground and IFR pilots who may have just flown half the way around the world! Imagine flying all the way from Beijing to Boston, just to see that everything looks the same!

    Orbx - FTX Global     Orbx - FTX Global

    New autogen buildings and vegetation textures also replace the default ones. This means ground buildings from a neutral worldwide perspective are much better and won't appear out of place no matter what continent you are in, they fit the environment well. The default buildings are very American, meaning when you fly in populated African and Asian cities, things start to look...off...

    Textures are also of a much higher resolution meaning you can see a lot more detail in buildings while on the ground - perfect especially when flying out of smaller airfields and regional airports where housing and buildings may only be a stone's throw away.


    6 Comments
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Nice review Michael.

      For newcomers just starting out with MSFS, FTX Global is a definite must have. I myself have used it since day one and wouldn't be without it.

      It really does help bring the MSFS/P3D world to life.
    1. mlam's Avatar
      mlam -
      So I just purchased FTX Global, as well as the vector and US packs, and am really impressed. I knew part of what I was getting since FTX Global was the base scenery for FSW but the combo of all three really makes a major difference. Highly recommended! I got mine on sale a few weeks ago too which saved a TON of money.
    1. CRJ_simpilot's Avatar
      CRJ_simpilot -
      I just have global and it really is a step up. I realized that after being so used to using it then one day I reinstalled my OS and FSX and I went into the Sim prior to adding back global and I couldn't believe how drab FSX was by default without global. It really is a must have.
    1. oldcrusty's Avatar
      oldcrusty -
      Good review. This is a wonderful product well worth the outlay it does transform FSX default LC in a way that is quite stunning. When you add in Global Vector which fixes a lot of other different issues with FSX it will change your sim experience for good. Big files to download and install but 'indispensible' is my view, certainly could never revert to standard FSX again.
    1. crustydog's Avatar
      crustydog -
      Nice review. I have been flying FS since version 4, so have seen many upgrades to the base program. That said, I have recently transitioned to P3D 64 bit. Toward the the end of my FSX days, I purchase several of the MegaScenery products mainly during the extended v2 sale while they were rolling out v3. Was tired of the unrealistic default textures, and autogen framerate hit (or repeated CTDs) as I began appreciating the value of the A2A, PMDG, Flightbeam & FSDT payware products. MegaScenery is great except for the lack of seasons and night lighting, even with autogen off, if you are flying commercial or military aircraft. You generally are not below 10-12,000' MSL very long during departures and arrivals to really notice a lot of detail and lack of 3D buildings. The v3 resolution is so good that in my opinion, totally flat photoreal is better than unreralistic 3D autogen "Monopoly" buildings, roadways and structures. Disadvantage is that the MegaScenery texture colors and graphic style in general does not blend with the ORBX products, but it does not blend with the default scenery either. If this bothers you, crawl back into the cockpit from outside and check your instruments for 2-3 minutes until the mismatched textures transition is behind you.

      In P3D this is where even at the combined price of the ORBX Global base and Landclass (LC) packages, they are a great value. As the review indicates, ORBX FTX Global covers the entire world. To acomplish this in all MegaScenery products would be ridiculously expensive, require terabytes of HD space, and still only have on season and no night lighting or autogen. While I still think it is worth buying MegaScenery for some of those large urban areas where I have spent many hours flying in real aircraft, and know the landmarks/ terrain by heart; FTX Global is good enough to almost fool me in other areas that I do not have memorized. The color accuracy and brilliance of the landclass in FTX far outshines MegaScenery, and if you don't want to spend any more for the photoreal payware, it still makes flying anywhere great compared to the default textures. For anyone flying completely VFR in GA, I can't imagine not having FTX Global. If unsure it's for you, check out some of the ORBX regional freeware. That level of quality is the same for all of their scenery packages including FTX Global. I also purchased the Global Vector package, and while I really like the integration of all the Global components, I found too many terrain mesh conflicts at airports which I could never get corrected to my satisfaction, even with the ORBX provided airport terrain mesh fix utility. I finally just disabled the entire vector package; if you are willing to take the time, many freeware packages doing the same thing often better, and certainly are just as good. After being compiled, and on the market for 5-6 years, I agree that it is still visually the best there is.
    1. Mac6737's Avatar
      Mac6737 -
      I can't believe I had never heard of this add-on until a few days ago. Against my better judgment, I scraped together the Aussie $$ required and spent a while downloading and installing last night, but did not dare open up FSX until this evening. I agree with oldcrusty: this product utterly changes the FlightSim experience. I've yet to do more than a few short flights in familiar (but vastly different) environments, and can't believe I am using the same old FSX.
      Just one example: flying over Cuba towards Grand Cayman, the terrain no longer looks like western Pennsylvania farm country, but like -- well, like Cuba.
      Can't wait to see what other places look like now.
      BTW, I've been doing FS since FS 2.0 on my old Apple IIc in the 1980s. You young whippersnappers sure have made some worthwhile changes!
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