MK-Studios is no stranger to creating detailed airports for our simulators. With airports such as Tenerife South v2, Lisbon and others under their belt, they have a strong history of product development. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that the community was excited to see Dublin finally get the long-overdue treatment of a true P3Dv4 native airport. Yes, we had the iniBuilds patch, but there was still a lot to be desired from a true Dublin airport in the simulator. For an airport that holds a lot of significance in the world, it is surprising just how long it took. Fortunately for us, MK-Studios hasn’t let us down.
Dublin Airport is the primary airport for the Republic of Ireland, with its two largest airline operators being low-cost carrier Ryanair and the IAG-owned Aer Lingus. Both airlines try to offer different products to customers, but ultimately, this fiery competition has meant there is plenty of route opportunities in a variety of aircraft types from Dublin Airport. Of course, a variety of other airlines frequent the Irish city: United Airlines, Cathay Pacific and many more. All of these choices mean that for simmers, plenty of excuses to fly from or to Dublin and over the lush green fields if following real-life routes is your thing.
MK-Studios has been pioneering the use of PBR texturing ever since Prepar3D v4.4 enabled the feature. With various updates of their Lisbon and Tenerife sceneries under their belts, they went to town to ensure that Dublin was fully covered with PBR textures and built it with the technology in mind. This forward-thinking design has benefited us simmers by providing a spectacular looking airport that runs silky smooth. The full PBR ground textures really compliment the accuracy in the ground markings. Tug reference points, taxi/gate line variations and other intricate details exist with the idea being to immerse you into this busy airport life. Environmental effects such as dirt and oil are also employed in Dublin, but are a bit too excessive and detour from the realism a bit.
The PBR effect stretches beyond just the ground poly. Glass work on the buildings is exemplary with an opaque shine adding a huge amount of realism not seen in many other airports of the past. Ireland does face its share of rain throughout the year, which is emphasised at MK-Studios’ Dublin airport. When it rains, superb water puddles form with physically based rendering applied to give this truly materialistic look with accurate light reflections. It’s stunning attention to detail and performance doesn’t suffer from it.
I am hugely impressed with the level of detail found within the textures, but I am also a fan of the 3D modelling work. The main terminal building is known for its iconic curved designed. MK-Studios has done a great job on this. Various cargo buildings are present along with Aer Lingus’ head office and hanger. Some of the more impressive elements from the scenery include the fact that some recent construction work is also accurately placed within the scenery. Small details such as air vents, height-clearance signage and interior modelling all featured as well. The airport is also full of other objects such as blast fences, baggage carts and apron floodlights that, again, make the airport feel as alive as possible. MK-Studios has also incorporated a working VDGS system. The animated traffic is also a big bonus and is non-intrusive unlike other add-ons with similar features.
Whilst these details certainly fill me with excitement, there are some unpolished areas scattered around. For example, some areas of the landside area of the airport feel incomplete with floating buildings and missing platforms. There is also a car park next to an incomplete area near terminal 1. It’s a shame as there are so many other polished qualities with Dublin.
Beyond the airport, I am also left impressed with how much attention and care the outskirts have been given. Although no a national landmark by any means, the IKEA store sat near the airport is iconic from the skies thanks to its bold yellow and blue design. Despite key buildings such as a Dublin Bus Depot Harrsitown being modelled, it is odd to see other important visual points such as the M50/M1 interchange or the airside retail park left out. Under the custom buildings and objects designed for the airport is highly detailed orthoimagery, which extends all the way to the coast. As I cycled through seasons, the imagery changed colour to better match the time of year. The included imagery did not match the included imagery within the airport area, which I did find a little odd.
Despite all of these impressive details, one thing that MK-Studios has clearly focused on has been performance. Throughout Dublin, frame rates remain mostly consistent, with the occasional dip when facing more detailed areas by the main terminal buildings. On my machine, I was seeing frame rates consistently around the 30-40 mark, with the performance taking a bit more of a toll when using a more feature-rich aircraft.
Whilst a configuration tool is included, for those with a powerful computer will find less benefit than those with weaker systems. Regardless, it’s always a benefit to have the option – just don’t expect massive differences in performance when switching off some of the eye-candy features. Some of the changes you can make include the 3D people, animated vehicles and static aircraft.
As the day turns to night, the dynamic lighting lights up the airport in all of its glory. Whilst I have no issues with dynamic lighting, aside from a small impact on performance (which is normal and not related to Dublin), it would be nice to see more variation in the colours used to depict the lighting environment. Taxiway and runway lighting blends in beautifully with the surroundings and a dusk approach into Dublin is simply breathtaking. Another neat feature includes the dynamic lighting as the headlights of these animated vehicles cruising around the airport apron.
As mentioned, Dublin Airport is hugely important in the aviation world. It’s still a wonder why it took so long for Prepar3D v4 to get a version of Dublin that looks this stunning and runs this amazing. In spite of some small graphical hiccups, MK-Studios has done a stunning job at bringing the Irish airport to life. This is yet another step-up in quality from the team and really are starting to reach the levels of other top-tier scenery developers in the flight simulation space.
- Plenty of nice details appropriate to how the airport is in the real-world today.
- Great orthoimagery extending far behind the airport itself (with seasonal variation).
- Plenty of nice details beyond the airport fence for those visual approaches.
- Solid performance in a busy airport.
- Some graphical oddities in some rarely visited parts of the airport.
- Slight overuse of some environmental textures that look a little unrealistic in places.
- Mismatch of colour on ground imagery inside and outside of the area looks a little odd.