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REX Studios released an interesting product not long ago. Worldwide Airports HD! The goal of this product was to improve the textures of Default Airports. Now they have improved textures of airports before, Mostly in the surface and marking department. This addon however set out to improve the building textures of default airports. To quote their own feature list, “Give all default airports the payware treatment.” A very ambitious project indeed, and a really good idea. Since it was 10 years ago some of you may not remember that moving from FS9 to FSX, airport buildings saw a massive texture upgrade. But now those textures do feel a bit lacking when compared to dedicated scenery addons. So if this addon truly accomplishes what it sets out to do; Then it will surely be a must have addon.
I think it’s necessary to create a distinction. FSX, and by extension P3D, has 2 types of ‘Objects’. There’s the modeled objects, which are custom made by an artist. These are further subdivided into Library objects (Which are global) and area specific objects. Then there’s generic buildings. Generic buildings are just telling the sim to draw a simple 3D shape in a certain spot, and use the dimensions and texture you define. Now most default airports use a mixture of Modeled objects and generic buildings. Some of the Modeled objects use the same textures as the generic buildings. These are the terminals at the non HD airports. The Library objects are things like Towers, Localizer antennas, and some hangers that are generic enough that they can fit in anywhere in the world.
Maybe I should cite an example. If you look at the Default Miami International; This airport is one of FSX’s HD airports. It has custom-made buildings, and specific textures for them. Next look at the Default Jacksonville International. This airport has Generic buildings, However the terminal is custom made. But since it’s not an HD Airport, it uses the generic textures. Lastly let’s look at the tiny little Davis Field in Folkston Georgia. This airport has nothing but a small building, and some hangers. There’s no fuel service, no parking spots; And the only hard surface is the airports one runway. Davis field is made entirely out of generic buildings. So as you can see there’s essentially 3 levels of detail an airport in FSX can have.
Now we Install this Addon. Upon running we’re greeted with the normal Activation and Initial options of any REX addon. Select your Sims install location, and the quality you want the textures to have. And your done. The UI of this program is a bit different to other REX Addons. However it’s nothing complex. It’s really simple to navigate around. On the left you select which category of objects you want to improve. Then in the center you select which texture set you want that category of objects to use. Each set will have numerous textures inside of it. A new feature from earlier REX programs is now we can actually see what our chosen texture will look like at night.
However it’s also in this UI we come to our first problem. It’s a small problem. In fact it’s so small the only reason I’m mentioning it is that I found very little else wrong. At least as far as UI is concerned. The descriptions of the textures could use some work. As an owner of two REX addons before this one, Essentials plus Overdrive is by far my favorite. One reason is because it had fantastic descriptions of the textures to help you decide which one’s to use. They even went as far as to tell you what conditions would lead to the colors you see. Now maybe it’s because we’re dealing with building textures this time; But the descriptions are basically the same across the board. You could at least tell us if the lights are LED lights or Old fashioned lamps. Or if this type of hanger is common in one area of the world or another.
Once we have selected and installed our chosen textures we are ready to start-up the simulator. Now be sure to spawn at an airport that you don’t have custom scenery for. Custom scenery usually does not use generic buildings so you won’t see these new textures if you spawn there. The textures themselves I must say are very well done. Each texture is HD and looks really good. Some of them even create an illusion of depth. From a distance you may not be able to tell you’re looking at a simple 2D texture. Some of the textures I must say are not that good. Notably the ones that have reflections on them. They are not true reflections, they don’t reflect what they see. Instead they are painted reflections. Literally painted on the texture itself. They look hideous in practice.
There’s a few other problems with the textures I’ll mention. The Cessna logos on some of the hangers are cool at first but they get really old really fast. Worst than that though are the Airline logos. On the medium hangers you have the option of selecting one of twenty six different airline logos to be painted on the door. My main problem with this is, Why the medium hangers? Surely it makes more sense for those to be on the larger hangers? Also keep in mind that this logo will appear on all hangers of that type across the world. Even airports that airline doesn’t service. These are small problems. But there is one problem that’s not only small, but also kind of funny. On one of the textures for T-hangars. Well I think one of the developers working at REX is the Doctor. Because the night texture for this hanger has a see through door, and the interior looks way bigger than what the hanger can possibly have.
If you’re worried about performance then don’t. At Least on my machine I saw no Noticeable frame rate hit. Which is nice considering these textures are of higher quality than the default ones. Know however I saw no noticeable frame rate improvement either. So if you think this is one of those programs that will work miracles and actually improve the performance, think again. This is a bit of a short paragraph. That’s because when it comes to performance. You either pass or fail. So there’s really nothing else to say here.
So good texture quality, Good performance, and only minor headaches in the UI. So good product right? Maybe maybe not. During testing I came across some things that got to me, I feel I must point them out. But these problems are a ‘your mileage may vary’ kind of issue. The first thing I noticed is Worldwide Airports improves the texture for Concrete and Asphalt surfaces. But it stops there. FSX Supports 20 different surface types. Okay technically 18 because water is transparent, and cement uses the same texture as Concrete. But Asphalt and Concrete combined only cover 44% of the runways on default airports. With over 24000 Airports by default, that’s only 10,500. That leaves 13,500 airports without improved textures. In case any one is wondering, cement is a supported texture, but no default airports use it.
This addon also kills variety. That’s a problem with a lot of REX addons actually. Much less so with this one, but still a problem. Let’s talk about other REX addons real quick. FSX, and by extension P3D; Has a 10 day cycle. Each day comprises of 14 textures. This is to give you some variety. Addon’s like REX Essentials, or Texture Direct however; Load their textures into Day one, Then copy the textures across the other nine days. So you always see the same texture every time. Though to be fair all texture addons do that, and I don’t know why.
Now Worldwide Airports does something else to kill the variety that you get out of the box. It affects the fuel truck. By default there are two fuel truck models. Which one you see depends on where in the world you are. Worldwide Airport however forces it to use the same fuel truck in all places of the world. Now it does allow you to select the textures the fuel truck uses. But seeing the same cab over model everywhere does break the immersion a little. Especially on airports that have a static version of the fuel truck parked next to the animated one. Its not a big deal. But its noticeable.
One last thing, Though this one will only affect you if you have other REX addons. When you decide to change your installed textures, you have to run the program. No big deal, until you have other REX addons installed, and want to use their textures. Currently I have three REX addons. Essentials+OD, REX4 Texture Direct, and now this one Worldwide Airports. That’s three separate programs that have to be run to change the textures. This is a bit of a pain in the ass. What I would like is just to run one program. Could one of them just have import the textures from the other 2, and then let me pick which ones I want from there. Maybe someone could write a simple program that can do just that. Just keep all the textures in one place. Being able to select default textures to would be nice to. In some cases I may want to go back to them without having to restore my backup.
One last minor complaint. Why can’t I mix and match textures from different sets to get the perfect combination? That seems like a massive missed opportunity.
The following screen shot show buildings from various airports both before and after installing REX Worldwide Airports
But wait there’s more
Now there was another feature that REX has added to the list of things Worldwide Airports does. They plan on making improvements to several airports in FSX/P3D, and releasing them as freeware to existing WWA customers. Far as I can tell this means that they will use a default airport with the default objects for it. But improve the textures of those airports. Just a reminder, HD airports in FSX/P3D have custom-made terminals and specific textures for them. Non HD airports may have a modeled terminal, but use the generic textures. I believe what REX is trying to accomplish is improving the texture quality of the HD Airports in FSX and Prepare.
Their first one just came out at time of writing, Salt Lake City International. REX you may have made a mistake. There exist some good freeware Scenery for that airport. It’s the Utah complete package by James Udall. so If REX’s goal is to give the default airports the “Payware Treatment.” Lets see how they stack up against an old, yet good freeware package.
This package does have a fully custom modeled terminal, and does some tricks that I can tell you from experience in my own scenery design; Are very tedious and irritating (Though not really difficult) to pull off. However the package only models the Terminal, Delta Connection Hangar, And cargo buildings. It keeps the default objects in place for all other buildings. That’s no big deal but it does have a very annoying problem. Who ever made the AFCAD did not add in the vehicle pathways correctly. This leads to airport vehicles driving along the taxiways meant for airplanes and completely ignoring their dedicated pathways.
The Improvements REX Made to the default SLC are only on the texture level. Far as I can tell they did not do any thing else to the airport. No new objects, no custom AFCAD, No GP Objects. So if you were expecting full payware quality scenery out of this, you’re not going to get it. However the improvements they made to the textures are very good. The airport buildings now look a lot better. They even fixed the bug with the default SLC terminal building turning transparent at night. Though for some reason the terminal still does that, it’s still clearly visible now. The default would go full 100% transparent. The REX one only goes a little transparent.
Good as it is though I honestly think the freeware package is better. Now this is no surprise. It’s hard to beat a custom-made building with custom-made textures. But I must say this. Since the freeware package only made a terminal, and a few other buildings. The two together are really nice. With the customized terminal of the freeware, and the improved textures from REX. SLC never looked so good. And I really like this Idea REX has had. Improving the textures of the default airports will definitely be a welcomed change. Especially if there’s no scenery available for that airport. And for those not interested, or unable, to buy Airport specific scenery addons. This idea could make even simple AFCAD mods a good alternative to Full scenery packages. Or at least passable.
These screenshots show of the Default SLC airport, The Default SLC Airport after installing Worldwide Airports, and the freeware SLC airport mentioned above.
Honestly it’s what I’ve come to expect from a REX Addon. Their average is the above average of most other studios. But they always stop short of amazing. The UI, whilst good, has some weird limitations. Why can’t I mix and match textures from different sets to get the perfect combo. Why Only stop at Concrete and Asphalt textures; What of the Eighteen other surface types? And when combined with the other REX software; Running all three programs when you want to get just the right combination of textures, is a real hassle! It stops just short of being amazing. Combine that with Some of the textures being ugly. Some textures having really no variety. It does hurt it. Thankfully however the performance helps it out. With no noticeable frame rate problems, but also no improvements. All together the addon is good. But I don’t think it’s $30 good. If this were at auction, the highest I would go is $20. Maybe $25.
Patrick also had chance to try out the product. You can watch his thoughts via our video.
By: Timothy Thomas
Utah Complete, Freeware scenery for Salt Lake City by: James Udall