Having spent many years flying to Alicante (LEAL) in various capacities, it’s an airport I have a strong affection for. We have been using a version of the airport for many years from Eiresim, but it hasn’t seen any love for many years. Luckily for us, developer PILOT’S stepped up and has spent the best part of a year developing the Spanish seaside airport.
Let’s look at some facts. It’s a hugely busy airport for tourists. Although it peaks in the summer season, it sees frequent flights from a variety of airlines including low-cost, charter airlines and legacy carriers. Whether people are travelling to party up in Benidorm, or travelling south towards Torrevieja, it is no wonder it holds the crown as the fifth busiest airport in Spain. Over 13 million passengers hurtle down the runway at some point throughout the year and that number is increasing all the time.
As it is such a desired destination in my scenery library, I couldn’t wait to get in and try out the airport.
Full disclosure: I did have access to some early beta builds, so I was able to support the team in giving some advice. This won’t detract me from being critical on the final product.
I am going to begin by discussing one of my favourite elements of Alicante airport and how it’s portrayed in the simulator. The glass-covered main terminal building is a really beautiful piece of architecture of many airports in the world. It has a very distinct look and feels – especially given its size across the area the airport is in. What I find with a lot of glass textures for within the sim, there is often an over exaggeration of the effect or it’s done to a low quality. What I mean is that it just never sits right in the simulator. Luckily, PILOT’S have found a good balance between realism and making sure it is suitable for the simulator. Whilst it may not be PBR texturing (this airport was released prior to all the PBR hype), there has been a lot of care and attention to make sure that you can appreciate it’s a ‘glass’ building, but also not stick out like a sore thumb within the simulator itself. There’s a good use of colour correction, modelling and detail which makes it an incredible achievement in scenery design.
Because the main airport terminal building is mostly glass, it meant there was an opportunity to include interior modelling. Whilst we have seen it with other airports, this is one of the best implementations of it that I’ve seen. As I mentioned before, I have spent a lot of time at Alicante airport so I know its interior quite well. When I moved my camera through the airport, seeing accurately placed shops, cafes, and signage blew me away. Everything from the layout, placement, and information was as I remember it. You may not spend much time inside the terminal (as this is a simulator after all), but it’s this sort of attention to detail that makes this airport stand out against others on the market.
Exterior buildings, such as the air traffic control tower, old airport terminal, and cargo operations all look excellent. They all have a high polygon count, with lots of neat extras on them to really make them stand out. For example, there is a focus on ventilation shafts and emergency / warning signs. Whilst small details, they just add to the feeling of really being there. Even other areas such as the departure/arrival forecourt is extremely detailed. People, buses, and cars all populate the area. They have even rendered a particular bus stop I frequented when hitting the beach. It even has the bus schedule and pricing on it. It’s impressive that PILOT’S have studied the airport in such detail.
I’ve spoken a lot about modelling, but there’s also so much to love about the 4K textures. Throughout the airport, care has been taken to recreate the look of the airport. I’m thrilled that the team has provided a really immersive experience and used the highest quality textures I’ve seen with a product in a very long time. Areas you feel developers could cut corners on such as the roof, undersides of buildings, and small alleyways have been textured to the same quality as the more exposed areas. It’s hard to really describe how the textures blend with the modelling and the simulator. Sometimes the realistic looking textures don’t fit the purpose of the simulator, but with Alicante – it works flawlessly. There is a real ‘Spanish’ vibe to the whole airport. It comes across as a clean airport, but with that tropical flare. White textures are nice and bright, whilst those that need to be dark, are so. Even the huge amounts of photoreal texture work surrounding the airport blend beautifully with the airport and nearby areas. The same high-quality work is also there on the SODE jetways.
Something I really like having developers focus on is the ground polygons and texturing. When taxing around these airports, looking out of the window is key. As a result, having the ground done right is hugely important. From the tyre markings left by heavy-braking aircraft to the odd oil spillages – there is a lot of added niceties scattered throughout to enhance immersion. Impressively, there is clear signs of environmental wear and tear which just adds to the sense of being there. Volumetric grass sprouts up between the cracks in the ground, dirt marks cover some airport signs and visible signs of use can be seen throughout. It is things like this that bring moments of joy when using Alicante in the simulator.
Whilst the airport has a range of static objects throughout, it’s the environmental additions that make the airport feel alive. From the diligent airport workers cleaning, loading, or sweeping to the moving airport vehicles. Each moving piece is well animated and doesn’t sacrifice performance.
Animation is certainly a fantastic way to improve immersion, but something rather unique to PILOT’S airports is how they use sound to make the airport stand out. Introduced in their Almeria airport, Alicante also includes the Environmental Sound Package. So, whilst you’re waiting at the gate, taxiing around or panning the camera through the airport, you’ll be treated to the sounds of the airport. That could be general radio chatter, airport announcements or other sound effects. The ambient sounds are subtle enough to just be there in the background as you prepare your pre-flight paperwork. It’s a great addition to the product giving you even more reason to pick up this scenery.
With the most recent update (download it now if you haven’t), the full city of Alicante has been included. From the harbour, local shops, and town – Alicante is now a complete package. This is important as the approach to runway 28 has the city in full view as you turn onto final. As mentioned before, despite these additional details, the impact on performance is almost non-existent. The modelling of the city is incredible with lots of variety in the building styles and types, and various custom designed buildings to really bring the place to life.
There is a lot to love about the airport and product in general. PILOT’S have pulled out all the stops to include all the features you would expect. SODE jetways, dynamic lighting, and also realistic shadows throughout. Alicante Airport is certainly a feature rich airport, but it does carry a weighty price tag. At 29.95 Euro (roughly $35 / £26), it is a hefty investment for an airport add-on. Despite that price tag, you really are getting value for money product with a lot of appeal and excellent qualities.
- Crisp, clear and detailed texturing and modelling throughout the entire airport.
- Superb performance and no shortage of features with the product, including SODE, animated traffic and more.
- Environmental sound effects and the entire city of Alicante covered all in one single pack
- Plenty of other features such as configuration tool, animated traffic and people
- Price a tad too high for my liking for an airport add-on.