Third-party developer Orbx recently released another of its city packs for Microsoft Flight Simulator, this time for the German city of Frankfurt.
The urban area is located right by the glide paths of three of the runways of the busiest airport in the country, and yet its default version in Microsoft Flight Simulator is strangely inconsistent in terms of quality.
Only its easternmost districts and the bordering city of Offenbach are represented with detailed photogrammetry, while most of the city is extremely lackluster, with procedurally generated buildings and anonymous rectangular skyscrapers that really don’t convey its skyline.
The iconic and massive Frankfurt Central Station isn’t even modeled at all, left simply painted on the ground. Let’s just say that the whole scene is very underwhelming.
Luckily, Orbx’s package attempts to right this wrong, and if you want to see what it looks like, you can check out the videos above and below. The first showcases an ILS approach to runway 25C. This should provide you with a good look at what the city looks like from the cockpit both during the day and at night.
The second video is a flyover showcasing the city’s landmarks from up close, in a variety of lighting and weather conditions.
The scenery is available on Orbx Direct for $11.65, which also means that can be installed and updated comfortably thanks to the developer’s handy Orbx Central client.
The first relevant detail to point out is that the area covered by the addon is very close to Frankfurt Airport’s approaches, meaning that (unlike other similar city packages) it provides welcome eye candy even for simmers who enjoy flying airliners, and not just those who engage in tour flying on small Cessnas.
It also complements the weirdly-positioned default photogrammetry from the base Microsoft Flight Simulator very well, basically filling the giant patch of generic procedurally-generated wasteland between Offenbach and the airport with a much more detailed and believable representation of the city.
Orbx did a rather good job matching the edge of the photogrammetry with its add-on. The rather high-quality orthoimagery used is well color-matched, which mitigates a lot the usual rather unappealing border between photogrammetry and generic scenery. You’ll have to squint to notice the discrepancy.
The orthophotos are nicely complemented by a very good job done on elevation and terraforming, which gives the Main river the proper depth and even fixes several “bumps” that marred its default portrayal.
Orbx took a slightly different approach compared to previous city packages: individual buildings are slightly less fancy, lacking for instance the parallax shaders that gave some of the windows the illusion of transparency, but in exchange, we get details like modeled train on the tracks, detailed ships and barges, and beautifully detailed bridges, which in my opinion are much more important.
I certainly approve of this tradeoff. Parallax windows are fancy, but they are really quite hard to see unless you get much closer than any real aircraft ever would. Bridges and trains are much more visible. I just wish the trains were animated, but I’ll definitely take the static ones over nothing, especially considering that they look very nice both in modeling and textures.
This is not to say that the buildings aren’t good. They’re actually very nicely modeled and sport just the right amount of detail, fitting the scenery very well also thanks to generous and skillful use of physically based rendering. In many city packages, the main buildings tend to look slightly cartoonish and out of place, but they don’t here.
The selection of landmarks included in the package feels definitely appropriate. As far as I could notice, no skyscraper in the downtown area was missed, restoring the city’s recognizable skyline. You can also find several charming historical buildings and churches that are perhaps less visible due to their smaller size, but no less relevant.
We also get plenty of points of interest further out like the iconic (and very detailed) Europaturm, the Deutsche Bank Park stadium (which is right under the glide path of runway 25C), several factories, the Griesheim barrage, and many more.
I wish Orbx went a bit further and modeled the Großkrotzenburg Power Station which is quite far from the city, but it’s tragically very visible while on approach and looks absolutely nasty in the default simulator. Yet, I guess I’m being too greedy. I can’t honestly complain about the number and variety of landmarks offered in this package. It’s certainly very rich for the relatively compact price.
The scenery looks just as good at night as it does during the day, and tall buildings have aircraft warning lights, which is a nice touch. Some are even equipped with flashing strobes.
The window lights look fairly natural and they don’t suffer from the excess brightness that you often see in this kind of package. Perhaps they could even be defined a bit on the weak side.
All buildings also work well with the weather, and snow coverage is very good, which isn’t something one should take for granted in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
The add-on appears to be a bit demanding in terms of performance. On my PC (RTX 3070, Ryzen 9 3900x, 32 GB RAM) I lose about 8-10 framers per second at 1440p resolution and Ultra detail settings compared to the default scenery. That’s certainly not crippling, but it can be significant if your rig doesn’t run the default Frankfurt area at over 40 FPS.
Ultimately, Orbx’s Frankfurt City Pack fixes beautifully an extremely weird implementation of the area in the default Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Not only it improves Frankfurt massively, but it does so in close proximity to the approaches to one of the most important airports in Europe.
If you fly to EDDF often and your hardware can handle it, this can easily be considered a must-have add-on.
- Massive improvement over the default scenery exactly where it’s needed.
- Good selection and variety of landmarks portrayed.
- High-quality modeling and texturing.
- The Main river looks a lot more natural and its bridges look great.
- Performance isn’t stellar.
April 23, 2021