When MK-Studios confirmed they were working on a Helsinki Airport scenery back in January of this year, I could not be more excited. Finally I would get a new version of my (nowadays) home airport. Until now I had been using the Aerosoft version, and happily so, but with the evolving simulators it was starting to look dated, even with the community made SODE jetways profile.
The MO of JustSim has long been known. A developer announces a scenery, and about a month before this developer is set to release their scenery, JustSim releases a version of the same scenery. It’s an interesting debate for another time, but one thing is clear: JustSim is ready for the competition.
And this scenery is certainly a confrontation between the two. Never before have I felt so conflicted about two sceneries that set out to do the same thing: give you a good-looking, entertainable and up-to-date version of Helsinki Airport. Going in to this review, I had certain expectations about either developer and what the scenery would look like. But both sceneries were rather surprising in both good and bad ways, leaving me conflicted on both of them. In this review, you’ll see why.
Let’s start with the main focus of the airport: the terminal. Helsinki Airport has been, and still is, undergoing a lot of construction work. In the last two years, one of the terminal piers got entirely renewed. Another one was built new from scratch. A new bus terminal was built, and the construction work isn’t quite done yet. The airport is still undergoing a lot of construction for the foreseeable future, including terminal and pier extensions, an entirely new departure/arrival hall and changes to the existing structure.
Both MK-Studios and JustSim have modelled the future, ‘to-be’ version of the airport terminal. This includes the new pier extensions, but also future pier extensions that are currently not in place yet. It also includes the new terminal area at gates 34 through 36. Both developers have researched these terminal expansions very well and have made very good, high quality and accurate renditions of the airport. There are slight differences between the two, but overall, very on par. A few details that stand out is the modelling of the jetways, for example. These are more accurate and detailed in the MKS version, although MK-Studios is missing some important details such as the gate numbers on certain gates.
Both sceneries include nicely modelled apron clutter and vehicles, such as baggage carts, busses, tractors and more. MK-Studios has a slight edge when it comes to these details, with more custom modelled objects at and around the gates, but JustSim has more equipment in areas further away from the apron. Both developers have also beautifully modelled the iconic ATC tower. JustSim’s version of the scenery also includes more detailed modelling on the landside area of the terminal at the entrance halls. Overall, both developers have modelled the terminal building very well and there is no clear winner. Some things are done better by MK-Studios, whereas others are done better by JustSim.
As nice as the modelling on the terminal is, I am not too big a fan of the texturing of either developer. Straight off the bat, JustSim seemed to have missed the mark with the colours. They seem a little too bright. The glass texture on the terminal has the wrong colour and this makes it look wrong and substandard, despite the textures having a high resolution. MK-Studios textures seem more on point in terms of colour, but seem to lack a little in resolution, especially on the glass textures. On certain surfaces, the MK-Studios textures seem a bit noisy or reflect in a weird manner. MK-Studios has also partially modelled a simple terminal interior, but the glass is too opaque to see this from where you’re sitting at the gate.
During winter, Helsinki Airport gets about 4 hours of daylight, so good lighting is of the essence. Both developers have implemented dynamic lighting, but I feel MK-Studios has done this a bit more nicely. The colour of the light seems more accurate. Neither developer has succeeded in making a very good looking night airport though: MK-Studios night glass textures seem very light blue and don’t look very good. JustSim’s night textures on the other hand look even worse and showcase a lot of repetition and low resolution. They also don’t resemble the night textures of the airport at all, and rather seem like generic night textures.
Here, too, I don’t have a clear winner. Although I do think that MK-Studios, in some small cases, holds a slight edge over JustSim, it’s not enough to say they definitely did better.
Moving away from the terminal for a moment, we focus our attention on the apron, runways and layout. Both developers have made an accurate taxiway layout, taking certain liberties that are not currently reflected on a map due to the future versions of the airport they have created. The ground textures look nice and sharp, with the JustSim ground textures having a bit of an edge here in sharpness and accuracy. They include some details, and JustSim has modelled the little patch of forest in between the two parallel runways accurately: something that is sadly missing from the MK-Studios version. What is missing from the JustSim version, however, are elevation effects, something that is nicely yet subtly present in the MK-Studios version.
One point of feedback that seems to be coming back in every JustSim product, is the runway textures. As for the colours: these seem off, both on the runway and the apron, and JustSim’s runway includes awful and very inaccurate tire marks. The JustSim version also has an issue with the seasons, where it will already display winter textures during autumn and not match the rest of the sim. The winter coverage on the MK-Studios version is lacking as well though, with too much ground still visible in the ground textures. There are no big snow pile-ups at the airport in either scenery, which is another miss. MK-Studios does have some nice snow-texture blending effect on the apron, but neither developer has succeeded in recreating a realistic airport with winter and snow vibes, something that this airport is quite known for. Both sceneries are simply unrealistically clean from snow.
Both sceneries include 3D grass. JustSim’s grass looks nice and subtle, not too big or green. MK-Studios grass looks horribly out of place. It’s too bright, too tall, and you can see the straight lines along which it has been implemented very clearly.
Missing on both scenery versions is proper snow- and icing equipment. The MK-Studios version does include a handful of these, mostly out of sight, but neither developer has really created an airport that feels busy and alive. Another oversight is the missing de-icing equipment in the designated de-icing areas. It would have been very nice if this would have been included, perhaps even with effects as can be seen with several other developers. The MK-Studios version includes animated traffic, but this is limited to two busses driving around the airport and thus is rather lacking. Both scenery developers could do well to pay more attention to details and animations like this. Again, I don’t feel like there is a clear winner here, with both scenery developers excelling in certain different aspects.
Some of the biggest differences between the sceneries become apparent on the landside. Both developers have a different version of the ground maps, with MK-Studios having a more up-to-date one. However, as mentioned above, the airport is currently undergoing a lot of construction work. This work is also going on heavily on the landside of the airport. I mentioned the new departure hall for Terminal 2 before, and Finavia (the state owned operator of airports in Finland) is also heavily expanding with new parking facilities. None of this is visible on the MK-Studios version of the scenery. They have opted to model the landside of the airport the way it looked 2-3 years ago, with none of the construction work going on. They have included some of the buildings that were present in that state of the airport, but are missing some others that are already visible on the ground textures they have opted for (such as the new office complex next to the Clarion Hotel).
JustSim has, in that aspect, modelled a far more up-to-date version of the landside of the airport, despite their ground textures being a bit older. They have a big construction pit with the bare-bones of a new hall, and the construction site even includes construction cranes. They have also modelled the landside offices, such as the Finavia office, Finnair crew office/Scandic hotel and Hilton hotel far more nicely and with more detail. The Finnair office, that can be found opposite of the Finnair kitchen (where the JustSim version of the scenery includes service trucks) also looks far better, with better-detailed modelling and far higher resolution textures. The textures that MK-Studios used are of a very low resolution, have a weird blue tint to them, and the modelling on the landside buildings is of a rather low quality, lacking in almost every department. The MK-Studios version also has some missing textures on the back of the terminal building (which hasn’t been fixed after two update patches), and some objects reflect light in a weird way here. JustSim simply did a far better job on the modelling and details on the landside, and is a clear winner in this aspect.
Both sceneries also expand their coverage well beyond the airport, and both sceneries have included a lot of buildings and facilities that can be found further away, such as offices and apartment buildings. In this aspect, the sceneries are quite on par with each other, with MK-Studios having a bit larger coverage area with a few more custom buildings. Another nice touch that MK-Studios has, is the inclusion of the quarry at the end of runway 22L.
As I said, reviewing this scenery left me very conflicted. I went into it, fully expecting MK-Studios to blow JustSim out of the water. After finishing my review, I can come to no other conclusion than to say that both sceneries are roughly on par. Neither developer excels far beyond the other, and both developers excel only in certain aspects. In the end, I can’t say that there was a clear winner, which was very surprising to me. I think JustSim did a phenomenal job, particularly in the modelling aspect. However, I feel they are lacking in the texture field, particularly so in the areas of the airport that matter most, such as the terminal and the apron textures. I also think MK-Studios did a phenomenal job, but perhaps I was expecting more from them in certain areas, especially after reviewing their Keflavik scenery. As a customer, however, it’s absolutely great that both developers have made such great quality sceneries. That means, whichever one you end up buying, you’re not likely to end up disappointed.