Aerosoft’s Helgoland X
Reviewed by Ludo Lambrechts
Helgoland, is a small little island with the history of a large country. Helgoland is located in the North Sea, about 70km from the German coast. The remoteness of this island is what has allowed it to adopt a distinctive culture. This German territory does not speak the traditional German language or operate under the same tax laws as the Germans. Amidst a turbulent history which included seven years of bombing during World War Two and the largest non-nuclear explosion of all time. However this island stood strong and has become a big tourist attraction because of its unique landscape, its summer time beaches, and its tax-free goods. Despite being only 4.2 km squared in size this place is important enough to have its place in both the history books and tourist’s hearts.
Aerosoft, an experienced team of developers which have made terrific aircraft, scenery, and utilities looked at Helgoland and decided it would be a terrific spot to begin learning all of the new features of FSX. A unique area with a very unique landscape, Helgoland challenged the developers to create all sorts of landscapes as well as giving them the opportunity to use all the new features of Flight Simulator X. The Aerosoft team used Helgoland as their test zone for FSX. However the results were very successful and this project quickly became a product.
The installation of this product was very quick and very simple. It was the standard Aerosoft Online system which was just enter serials, confirm installation path, click yes, and then – BAM it`s installed. The installation automatically activates the scenery and will back up your scenery.cfg just in case. The install is worry free which is the way a payware product should be.
Helgoland is not hard to find in FSX, there are only three areas which you can take off from. One is the Helgoland-Dune airport. This is the only airport where you can take off from with an aircraft. It is also very limiting on which aircraft can land/depart there. It`s short runway presents a challenge to each pilot landing there. Aerosoft states that when talking to real German pilots they all said that this was one of the most challenging airports in Germany. This airport is located on the smaller island and takes up most of the land there. It has two small runways which can only take STOL aircraft. However nothing is stopping you from trying to land bigger aircraft in FSX. The ground textures are photorealistic and look quite nice from a couple feet up. However from right on the ground they can look a little murky at times. This is a common characteristic of scenery like this and is unavoidable. There are few buildings at this airport due to the small size of the island. However the main terminal which is a little bigger than most small airport terminals has been re-created with terrific attention to detail. Most other buildings around the aiport resemble the same quality. Aerosoft has also included some static vehicles and aircraft on this airport. The quality of these isn`t bad, but it also isn`t amazing either. In comparison to other projects like Budapest and Frankfurt I`d think they could have done a little better on these vehicles. Also included at the Helgoland-Dune airport is an older pilots who waves at everyone while he stand with his aircraft. This guy has been well detailed, including grease stains on his jeans. The waving arm is very fluid and does not look like a slideshow. The airport is well recreated, and sits well on top of the smaller island.
The 2nd area where you can take off from is the SAR Basis Helgoland. This helicopter base is the northernmost German SAR base and is relied on for a lot of Germany`s Search and Rescue operations in the North Sea. This small base is located on the bigger Helgoland Island. It is not very big as everything in Helgoland is compacted. You will see a big mechanic`s garage/hanger beside the helipad and that is about it at the SAR base. It is very small and did not require much work on the part of Aerosoft.
The third place you can take off from is the Olbohrinsel Mittelplate which is a German oilrig. This oilrig isn`t documented very much in the English speaking world. I have tried to perform research on it but my searches have turned up nothing. I can only imagine the difficulties Aerosoft had finding information on this oilrig. This oilrig is not as well detailed as the two islands in the package. It is nice, but it is not based on photo textures like the islands are. It is a nice bonus added to this package, it adds a lot of value to the product.
The easiest way to see the island is to fly the mission that has been included by Aerosoft. It’s a basic 10 minute flight in which you are a pilot, of a small C172, taking tourists on a tour of Helgoland. It is a simple, easy flight but it is a nice opportunity to view the whole scenery package excluding the oilrig. There is one other mission included which puts you in the role of a helicopter pilot stationed at SAR-Basis Helgoland. A worker at an oilrig has been injured and requires a hospital. It is your job to fly to the oilrig and pick up the injured worker. Then you must bring him to a hospital. It is a mission which will challenge your skills, but does not require advanced skills.
The islands themselves are the main highlight of the package. As stated before it is a small area so the quality of the scenery can be increased to higher levels as the performance won’t be as much of an issue. Aerosoft has taken advantage of that. Both islands are made with photorealistic textures. The ground looks awesome from 6ft up or 6000 ft up. The rock escarpments on the larger island are captured with great accuracy. The red look of the eroded rock is very special and Aerosoft has captured this extremely well. The rest of the landscaping was done very well. On top of the landscape you’ll find lots of high-quality custom made houses. These island do not resemble anything default and look amazing. All around you’ll find boat docks and boats sailing around. Flying seagulls have been included and so have the sounds of the ocean and the nature. Nothing has been overlooked in this package.
The scenery is quite easy on frame rates. The add-on scenery covers a very small area. It has the ability to be high in quality without a trade-off in performance. Photo material is usually not hard on frames but can take a while to load. This add-on did look somewhat blurry from the ground but as I took off it only took a few feet up before it looked normal. I didn’t have any loading issues as everything was already loaded and I didn’t have to wait. My system had not one problem with this scenery, there were no frame rate drops at all. This scenery runs extremely smooth for me.
This scenery, unfortunately, is not flaw free. There are a few issues with the scenery, most which Aerosoft will quickly be willing to acknowledge. In the manual Aerosoft indicates that this is “state-of-the-art” scenery which has some issues with the FSX platform. The biggest issue I have is that FSX has trouble realizing where the ground really is. When panning you can bring the camera below the aircraft and look up through the ground. Sometimes your aircraft will start up below the ground. It is kind of frustrating but Aerosoft insists that this is not their fault but rather Microsoft’s. The other big issue I had was that Helgoland did not show up as actual land on the GPs. I only saw the airport on the GPS. Again Aerosoft claims that this is FSX’s fault and not theirs. They do not impede on the overall quality of the product but do at times cause mass frustration. This is a very early product so there hasn’t been much time to try and develop a workaround. Hopefully in the future someone will take the initiative to solve these issues.
Helgoland is the first scenery of its type that we see developed for FSX. One can only hope that this standard of quality will be maintained throughout all Aerosoft sceneries to come. There are some issues which I outlined earlier but considering the short time that FSX has been available it is understandable that there would be some issues. FSX isn’t perfect yet so how can you expect an add-on to be? The eye candies of this package are extra special and remind me a lot of the best FS9 add-ons out there. This add-on is very deserving of a 9.0 out of 10!
Reviewed for Aerosoft by Ludo Lambrechts