MK-Studios Keflavik: The FSElite Review

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FSElite's preferred Flight Sim vendor is SimMarket. (Why?)

As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favouritism. Don't forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you read.

Simmers have been waiting for a proper rendition of Keflavik airport for a long time. The scenery developed by Aerosoft, which through a little fiddling worked in Prepar3D, dates back many years and is missing a lot of the expansions that since then have been added to the airport, including an entirely new parking apron and a terminal extension. When MK-Studios announced their Keflavik airport, naturally people got excited to finally get a new version of this scenery. In this review, we’ll see if MK-Studios has managed to meet the expectations that come with a scenery product these days.

To begin with the installation process: this is done through the SimMarket installer. Compared to the painless, near click-less installers some other developers provide, the SimMarket installer is starting to look a bit dated, but I won’t judge MK-Studios on that. What I will judge MK-Studios on, are the extra steps taken with this installer to ensure compatibility with Orbx OpenLC EU and Global Vector.

Some installers or configuration tools offer the option to disable conflicting files. The MK-Studios installer seems to want to disable some conflicting files, but it still left a few conflicting files, mainly from Orbx, in my simulator. I had to go and manually disable these. There is also no option to ‘enable’ the conflicting files through a configurator, which might have been a nice and useful addition. After installation, you can find the scenery manual in the scenery folder. This comes with a few instructions on installation, Orbx compatibility, simulator configuration recommendations and a little bit of airport data. I will highlight one of the recommendations in this manual: the scenery has been colour optimised for default Prepar3D shaders, and the team recommends you do not run any brightness modifying shaders. Considering shader customisation is a rather popular thing in the flightsim community, I think this is an odd request, though I do understand where it is coming from. For the purpose of this review, I have not used any shader modifiers.

Let’s move on to the scenery itself, and begin with the modelling. Loading up the simulator at the gate, I immediately noticed the high detail and high quality of the modelling of the main terminal building. Everything looks very detailed, even though Keflavik Airport’s terminal barely comes with any odd shapes or structures. This same modelling quality is represented in the custom SODE jetways, and the ground service equipment, which includes busses, pushback vehicles, containers and more. It’s clear a lot of work has gone into recreating the terminal building accurately, and it pays off, since it looks very good and realistic.

MK-Studios has also modelled the interior of the airport, at least partly. You can look into the terminal building from a few gates through semi-transparent glass. Inside the terminal you can find benches, info-desks and airport signage. The entire scenery has also been created using PBR materials, which requires no introduction anymore by now. The team has included them appropriately, and it definitely brings a huge element of immersion to this scenery with the realistic looking materials and reflections, such as on the terminal building and apron.

A nice seasonal touch to modelling are the heaps of shovelled snow on the apron and at the edges of taxiways. Unfortunately, any snow shovelling vehicles seem to be absent during winter (they are present during summer), and there is no animating traffic either. The scenery includes static aircraft, with seemingly no way to toggle these as there is no configurator and the manual doesn’t mention anything. The two A320’s near the main terminal building look okay for static objects, and it’s clear these are re-used models as they have received more refinement work over time. The same cannot be said for the static aircraft that are supposed to resemble the grounded Boeing 737 MAX of Icelandair. These look very bad, and I am very happy they are not found closer to the terminal building but rather on a remote parking near the Icelandair maintenance facilities. The issue with badly modelled statics also comes back in the GA planes that are present at Akureyri Airport (BIAR), one of the four airports included in this scenery package. It’s clear that some of these static models have been refined over time, whereas others literally look like a few rudimentary shapes assembled together. They are downright ugly and have no reason to exist in this scenery.

The textures of this scenery are very nice and highly detailed, but once again this is limited to the main terminal building and its immediate vicinity. As for the terminal building and textures, these look very good and accurate, helped by the implementation of PBR. The airport has very distinct coloured windows that cover large parts of the terminal building and these look very much like the real airport. During winter the terminal building will be covered in a slightly snowy and icy layer, and it gives a very nice and realistic effect. This same effect is also applied to the ground textures and from the cockpit it looks good. Unfortunately, if you look at it with an outside view, top down or just panning your camera around the airport, you will notice a huge texture repetition effect which does not look particularly good.

MK-Studios Keflavik Airport extends well beyond the borders of the airport, and I think it’s important to talk about this. At Keflavik airport, the parking lot north of the airport has been recreated with nicely modelled static vehicles. Also very nicely modelled are some art sculptures here, which are very recognisable. Furthermore, you’ll be able to find the Aurora Star hotel airport, and the many car rental service garages that are located directly outside the airport. It’s a nice touch, and again, probably very recognisable for those that have visited the country. The scenery also includes a rather large photorealistic coverage area, that extends well beyond the borders of the airport and nearby cities. Unfortunately, I am not so happy with the ground textures. To begin with, the coverage area seems a bit outdated. The roads and structures do not resemble the current layout of the island. Some roundabouts and buildings are missing on the photoreal textures. This isn’t a real deal breaker if you aren’t familiar with the area though.

Second, after MK-Studios’ explicit instruction to disable any shaders, you would imagine that the texture blending of the scenery is heavily colour corrected to make sure everything blends together harmoniously. Unfortunately this is not entirely the case. The scenery blends reasonably well with the default terrain textures. If you pay attention to it, you will notice it a bit, but overall the edges of MK-Studios scenery terrain transition nicely into default textures. However, closer to the airport itself, you will notice a clear mismatch between the extended ground textures, and those directly at the airport. During winter, the snow coverage looks far denser and does not match the effect of the surrounding area. In summer and spring, you will notice the clear difference in the ground colours. The surrounding area seems to lack a lot of vibrance that has been applied to the airport ground scenery itself. The details of Iceland’s rather interesting looking ‘moon-like’ landscape are still there, but it lacks in colour and vibrancy and looks rather plain and pale. The shorelines, on the other hand, do look really well and there is a nice pronunciation effect in place here. The water blends perfectly here.

The effect with the surrounding scenery not blending in with the regular landclass becomes particularly apparent, and painful, at Akureyri Airport. To the south of the airport, there is a river, and next to this river, the Orbx landclass includes an (inaccurate) body of water. This body of water is simply cut in half with a straight line where the ground scenery of the airport begins. Additionally, the seasons don’t match up with the surrounding region, and Iceland may still be covered in snow when these custom airports already show grass and stone surroundings. All in all it’s an odd sight, and considering MK-Studios actively recommends using Orbx Iceland Demo, I would have imagined they would do more to ensure a smooth compatibility between it and their own scenery.

Is this scenery value for money? It’s tough to say. The airport itself is done very well, with very highly detailed and accurate modelling. The textures on the airport itself look great, despite the ground-snow texture being repetitive (this isn’t very noticeable from the cockpit). Sadly there is no animating traffic, this might have helped immerse you even further into the scenery. There are also three other airports included in the package, but two of those are limited to ground textures (Grímsey and Ísafjörður), and I am not too impressed with the above mentioned Akureyri Airport. Though for people looking to do a lot of Icelandic flights they are undoubtedly nice to have, most people probably won’t care and having these three airports included doesn’t immediately add value to the package.

And then comes a list of complaints and issues, mostly related to the airports ground textures and surrounding region. In my opinion these issues aren’t easily overlooked either, they are very apparent and in your face. But, with all that said, looking at just the airport itself it is a very accurate rendition, and it is the most up to date one we have, so if you can overlook the issues this airport is very well worth the money, even if just for the incredibly beautiful atmosphere Iceland can give you.

Overall Summary
We’ve been waiting for a long time for a new and up-to-date Keflavik airport, and that’s something MK-Studios certainly delivers on. Not only is it up to date, but the airport itself is modelled very well and the scenery is very detailed, using modern development techniques and features available. Included in the package are also three smaller airports that have been modelled to much less extent, but are nice nonetheless. Sadly, the ground textures of all airports in this scenery leave a lot to be desired, and do not seem very compatible with Orbx’s Global Iceland Demo, a scenery the developers actively promote using together with Keflavik.
  • Ground textures are not of a very good quality, lack colour correction and lack blending with surrounding area
  • Static models of airplanes look really bad
  • Lack of animations/animating traffic
  • Lack of configurator for some options


Tags : IcelandKeflavikMK StudiosReviewScenery

The author Daan

Dutch guy that got lost and now lives in Finland. Flight simmer by day, mobile developer by night. Or vice versa.
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