As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favourtism. Don’t forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you have a read.
Barcelona almost seems like a sore subject within the Flight Sim community. Aerosoft did a good job a few years ago, but it was soon outdated and didn’t perform well enough for modern machines. Then suddenly, THREE developers all announced / released / previewed their version of Barcelona. We’ve also reviewed JustSim’s Barcelona, and now it’s time for LatinVFR’s version to be put under the microscope. We won’t be comparing in this review as we don’t feel it’s a fair reflection on either developer’s work.
Barcelona is an important airport for many reasons. Mostly due to being one of the largest Spanish airports and serving a wide range of airlines and destinations. It’s an exciting coastal airport which attracts visitors from all over the world. Serving over 44 million passengers a year, it’s always busy and making use of the various taxiways and runways. Further to that, the approach itself flies right over the city making for some stunning views along the way.
LatinVFR are known for taking on large airports and bringing them to a flight simulator. Their commitment has always been to provide a rich experience and to cover as much as possible. Barcelona is no different as you’re downloading the airport as well as the city itself complete with autogen, hand placed buildings and even the Sagrada Família. It feels like a complete package as once you download, you will have access to a manual with detailed instructions, a simple to use installer and a configuration tool. I found that the tool was pretty basic only allowing you to change a few things – none of which really impacted the overall performance of the scenery. More on that later.
Having traveled to Barcelona many times, I am very familiar with the airport, the approach and the surrounding area. LatinVFR have done an excellent job at creating the city of Barcelona. The buildings, the colouring and the layout of the city look fantastic and you can see the dedication the team have really made to ensure that this element feels right. If you look into the details, you’ll see swimming pools, roads and little houses, all of which are nicely modelled.
Whilst the detail in the modelling is well done, the photo scenery accompanying it lacks the same love. I know that developers can only source what is available, but in my opinion, it deters from the quality which impacted my experience. This wasn’t just at over the city, but same could be said whilst over the airport. The grass verges looked blurry and would’ve been better had LatinVFR created these textures themselves. It’s a shame, as the taxiway and runways textures looked great.
The textures themselves on the ground look great, like I said. There’s dirt, bump-mapping and clear wear and tear which is to be expected from a busy airport. What I did notice was that the taxiway markings were a little inaccurate. As I said, I’m a regular visitor to Barcelona, so I knew instantly that the way the markings had been represented in the sim were off. For example, when the taxiway line intersects with some text (i.e. gate numbers or upcoming taxiway), the line is supposed to be blocked by solid colour and the text inside. However LatinVFR have skipped on this detail and the result is the lines jump and are no long continuous. Have a look on Google Maps compared to my images to see what I mean. It may seem like a small point to make, but LatinVFR are regarded as a high quality scenery developer who charges a premium for their products. Smaller details do have a big impact on scenery especially when there are competing products.
Just a few of the texture issues. I have checked Google Maps and whilst there’s a change in colouring, it’s not as extreme as above. Also, the cracks look too cartoonish in my opinion. Finally, the textures go through ground markings.
Despite some troubled texture work, LatinVFR continue to impress with their modelling work. The airport structure is well modelled with lots of detail having gone into gate areas. Vent shafts, barriers and more are littered around the airport. Down by the runways, the PAPI lighting looks fantastic with lots of great-looking 3D objects like windsocks, radio towers and light fixtures all adding to the immersion. LatinVFR have ensured that SODE jetways can be used, although it’s not clear you have to manually adjust files to get them to work, it is documented in the user manual. A little frustrating, but when you get it working, they work really well. The terminals look great too, and LatinVFR have really captured the design of the buildings really well. Smaller details like the Norwegian banner on the air traffic control tower also brought a smile to my face. I also loved the excellent aircraft models found throughout and the reflective glass on some of the outer surfaces of the building. The secondary terminal also has internal modelling – it’s relatively well detailed with a few well done objects sitting inside. Whilst I am a fan of internal modelling, Barcelona is an airport where I don’t feel it is required. Why? Well it comes down to performance.
Barcelona is a huge airport with a sprawling city nearby and plenty of activity. It’s no surprise that simmers would be worried about how LatinVFR’s Barcelona would perform. Unfortunately, it’s not good news as Barcelona suffers from stutters, slow downs and quite high VAS (note that this review was written before the release of V4 and also ensuring we benefit those who haven’t moved on). Usually, a few stutters here or there wouldn’t bother me – but unfortunately it occurred to me during taxi, take off and landing – they key times you want the sim to be as smooth as possible.
Now my machine is no push over.
My machine (basics):
- GTX 1080ti
- I7 7770K overclocked to 4.6ghz
- 16GB ram
Despite this, the experience in the sim wasn’t as smooth as hoped. LatinVFR have updated the scenery several times based on feedback and version 1.3 (the version reviewed) seems to have resolved most frame rate issues. It does dip occasionally, but I’m still far from having frame rates as good as some other, more detailed, international airports. It’s a trend that has haunted many LatinVFR products beforehand and Barcelona continues to track that trend. I suppose I’m just conscious that if my machine is struggling, then weaker machines will see similar if not worse results (obviously depending on your settings).
The night lighting in LatinVFR’s Barcelona also proves to be a mixed bag. Some elements look fantastic – with attention to detail given to shadowing and lighting. There’s some natural glows coming from the lights, although there doesn’t appear to be any SODE lighting or even P3D specific effects. Whilst I know that Barcelona radiates this beautiful blue glow from the glass terminal, I feel LatinVFR have overdone it and it dominates far too much of the area. It’s quite overpowering which makes it look unrealistic. The engineering and maintenance hangers have some subtle lighting which does work very well.