Today, I got the opportunity to review the Cardiff Airport (EGFF) scenery for X-Plane 11 developed by a well-established and known developer within the flight simulation scene, Orbx. I would like to thank Orbx for making this review possible and note, that even though we received a review copy, the review will express our true opinions.
Before we get into the review, it might be good to know something about the airport itself. Cardiff Airport (EGFF) is an international airport serving the capital of Wales, Cardiff. With over 1,5 million passengers annually, it is the busiest airport in Wales.
The history of the airport dates back to the 1940s when the Air Ministry requisitioned land to set up a training base and aerodrome named RAF Rhoose. The first civil flight from the airport was started ten years after the airport opening in 1952. It was an Aer Lingus service to Dublin.
Nowadays, the biggest operator at the airport is TUI Airways with mainly seasonal flights to destinations such as Corfu, Antalya, Málaga, Rhodes, or Zakynthos. Other airlines such as Vueling, Ryanair, KLM, BH Air, and Eastern Airways operate at the airport also. What kind of stands out is a scheduled service to Doha operated by Qatar Airways.
To be completely honest, I had big expectations from Orbx when I first loaded the airport. I set the simulator to spawn the aircraft on the runway so when I first saw the scenery, I’ve seen everything from quite a distance and everything around me looked really nice, including the airport itself. What I’ve noticed very quickly is the great color-corrected orthophoto imagery and nice-looking vegetation around the runway.
If I was told to describe the modelling with one word, I would most-probably choose mediocre. When looking at the airport itself from a distance, you can’t really say anything bad about the modelling quality. However, if you fly closer in free camera mode, or even park your aircraft at the stand, you will quickly notice that the scenery models just do not meet standards which you would expect from Orbx sceneries. It is though important to keep in mind, that the scenery has been released almost two years ago!
The biggest issue I have with the modelling is the fact, that most of the models do not have any proper details included. For you to have an idea, the airport windows are only visible on textures with a small gap in the model, for example. In summary, the airport feels a lot like a colourful block. I just really miss the small details around the airport which are nowadays considered as a standard
The modelling quality is mostly the same all around the airport including the British Airways Maintenance area and the general aviation area. However, for some reason, a bit more detail has been added to certain parts of the general aviation area.
Vegetation is present around the airport and looks very nice. However, I found a strange thing about the grass around the runway and taxiway. For some reason, the grass is present only at a certain distance from the runway or taxiway, and then it just disappears.
Well, since the modelling was mediocre, and everything was based on the textures, you would expect the scenery to at least feature high-quality and good-resolution textures. I need to say, that the textures are nice, but the resolution of them is very low and therefore it just does not look very good when you’re standing close to the buildings or ground. I was very much disappointed about how the textures look.
Not to forget, the textures react to the sunlight in a very unrealistic way. Basically, when the time is set to around 12AM the terminal reacts as if it would be painted in some kind of highly reflective color. Screenshots showcasing the issue can be found below.
On the other side, I really like the runway and taxiway textures. Unlike other parts of the scenery, they have a good resolution that does not affect the experience. What I am a bit skeptical about is the accuracy of the textures though, based on Google Maps data from 2020, there are a few missing details on the runway and taxiway textures, however, when the scenery was developed, these things could be different.
For the best experience, Orbx recommends using their TrueEarth Great Britain South to which the scenery has been colour matched. At the time of making the screenshots, I had the demo version of TrueEarth Great Britain South installed.
The scenery covers the close surroundings of the airport with custom landmarks, autogen buildings and custom vegetation with accurate placement. To be honest, although it is not perfect, I really like how the airport surroundings look.
At some parts of the surrounding area, the houses did appear to be missing and were only shown on the orthophoto background. This did not add a great feeling when flying over it but is not something that would completely ruin the experience. It might be also caused by the fact, that I used the demo version of the TrueEarth Great Britain South rather than the full version.
It might seem, that the scenery is just not worth the money, however, performance-wise the scenery is really great. Even though I’m running a high-end PC, I don’t usually get so high frames per second (FPS) on custom sceneries as I got in this case. On every screenshot in the review, an FPS counter is present. I got around 60-80 FPS when flying around the airport with a 4K version of Zibo 737-800.
The installation is very straightforward as the only thing you need to do after purchasing the scenery is to download it through Orbx Central. Through the installation, you can choose both where the scenery files should be stored and whether you want static aircraft to be present at the airport. You can change these settings after the installation as well.
Orbx has included an eleven-page User Guide within the scenery files. The guide concludes the most important things such as product requirements, information about the airport, installation guide, a coverage map, airport charts, support information as well as technical details about the scenery.
In conclusion, the scenery is far from being perfect. Low-resolution textures, not very detailed models, and missing autogen buildings around the airport. On the other hand, the optimization is really good, the vegetation looks nice, and the landmarks around the airport are also decent. If you’re looking for Cardiff Airport (EGFF) scenery, it will probably do, but don’t expect to get perfect scenery. The price has been set by Orbx to approximately €20.95 which is in my opinion a bit overpriced for what you get.
If you want to purchase the scenery, you can do so through the Orbx services for $34.95 AUD which is about €20.95.