US Cities X – San Francisco

A little while ago, I have written a review about aerosoft’s US Cities X – Chicago product. At the time, I had done so because of Chicago being an old familiar area to Flight Simulator pilots – and not so much because it is a nice real-world memory for myself (although I have been there twice). This time, looking at US Cities X – San Francisco, it is different.

Purchase and Payment

As usual with aerosoft products, I buy them straight off their own web site – makes more sense to me than getting it from simmarket – but either way, you have to pay 14.95€ for the product. Once purchased, you will have the record of the software sale and your license key and download link attached to your aerosoft shop account. The download is quick and easy – about 170MB run through the line.

Installation

The installation itself is a typical aerosoft: start the installer, type in the eMail you used to log in to the aerosoft shop as well as the license key you have received and then install into the desired location. In less than five minutes, the system is installed and I have placed my helicopter in KSFO – San Francisco International – which is outside the actual scenery being discussed but close enough to simply fly in…

Flight into Downtown

Coming from KSFO and heading almost straight to the north, I am passing what used to be Candlestick Stadium. Ahead – and slightly to our left – the famous skyline of San Francisco starts to appear – downtown with the skyscrapers and the Transamerica Pyramid, the Bay Bbridge and Treasure Island.

Amongst the San Francisco neighborhoods, the Financial District with the skyscrapers sticks out – the scenery resembles it pretty well and from the distance, the sensation of seeing the famous skyline passing by is present.

Turning west, following Market Street and then making a slight right turn towards City Hall, the sensation is fading – besides the skyscrapers and some other dominant buildings, there is too much standardized autogen for my taste: it just does not look and feel like it should.

From the Embarcadero to the Palace of Fine Arts

Turning around towards the skyscrapers and following the coastline starting at the Ferry Building, passing famous Pier 39 and finally ending at the Palace of Fine Arts, the feeling turns into certainty: this is not it, this is not “the city by the bay”!

Maybe that is unfair – maybe, it is impossible to catch and preserve the feeling the city creates – but in general, I have to say that I had expected “more” – whatever “more” is but certainly more than what I got.,

Technical Perception

From a technical perspective, I would consider the scenery as “mainstream” – specific buildings and other objects are well done – on the other hand, the two bridges, Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, simply are not – you get close to them, they look ugly. So does the strange accumulation of cruise ships between Pier 39 and the Marina – I have never seen them being stacked like this in all the months I spent in the city… it looks like someone did not really want to bother where to place the ships – as long as they are placed.

Frame-wise, I kept getting flyable rates around 10 – 20 FPS when near downtown – occasionally as little as 7 FPS but the scenery was flyable (in a default aircraft).

Night Textures and Seasonal Textures

In all fairness, aerosoft points that out on their web page:

“Because the file size is rather large due to the ground image it only includes one season (in most cases this is not a real issue) and no night textures. The VFR flights over these cities is mostly a day time affair anyway”

I did not really read (or recognize as such) but I do not agree with aerosoft on the night textures: they view of the skyline during dusk or dawn (and even at night when – by the book – you might not do VFR) to me simply is a “must have” for such a scenery. Leaving it out leaves a huge gap in the perception of the scenery. Anyone who wants to take a guess at what I mean, look at the picture heading this article… I took that one from Treasure Island back in 1997 – that is what the night skyline should look like!

Besides, the argument of size fades when looking at other scenery products: US Cities X – San Francisco is barely 170MB – even given that is is a bit older than the brand new Las Vegas Scenery – I am sure it was not a “matter if size” that night textures did not get included in this one.

Summary

On the positive side, the sheer availability of a city scenery for San Francisco is positive. The city is by far one of the top destinations in the US and deserves a quality representation in Flight Simulator X. The modeling of specific buildings and objects is acceptably good but not outstanding – but I did not recognize the strange “shaping” to buildings that – for the Chicago Scenery – aerosoft attributed to “scaling” effects.

On the negative side, I simply must say: the feeling does not carry over – this may be unfair but a “quality representation” of the city to me is different. While the Financial District shows a hint of what the scenery could look like, the rest of the covered area does not live up to that standard.

Finally, the lack of night textures to me is a big “no go” – as much as the totally inadequate modeling of the seashore area between Ferry Building and Marina is. Having said this, it is almost worthless to mention the close-up looks of the two dominant bridges – I cannot see why so much effort has been put into Sutro Tower but not into the so world famous bridge…

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