When I first got wind of Imaginesim releasing their new and updated LaGuardia scenery, I wasn’t pumped — I was ecstatic. Another airport that seems to be neglected by every big-name scenery developer was getting the Imaginesim treatment it deserved. What really got me excited wasn’t just the promise of another high quality scenery, it was the fact that we would be receiving the concept version of LaGuardia, a project not scheduled to finish until 2021. Instead of the boring and repetitive hallways that make up one of America’s dullest airports, we would be seeing the new and futuristic airport set to revitalize LaGuardia’s position as a leader in passenger traffic numbers and comfort. But is it any good? You see, Imaginesim isn’t the biggest developer on the block, and while I am more than unfairly partial in favor of them for their business model of making sceneries of forgotten airports, I was wary of how big of an undertaking they were actually taking.
Installation: The installation of the airport itself was seamless. The installer was universal, with log in options for all distributors of the product. The scenery itself takes up merely half a gig on my hard drive, something I can definitely appreciate given the complexity of the scenery. What wasn’t seamless however was the installation of the SODE Jetways. I’m positive that someone who has done it once or twice will find a simple and seamless process. However, I had never done this before, and having gone in blind, the documentation served not to help me, but rather to confuse and frustrate me. The instructions used arbitrary terms like “that folder” and such. I eventually realized that you had to copy both of the folders in FSX\Imagine Simulation\KLGA LaGuardia 2016 FSX\SODE to C:\ProgramData\12bPilot\SODE\. An hour of my life wasted trying to understand poorly written instructions. However, this was the worst example by far, and for the most part, the documentation was pretty clear, if not amazingly detailed.
Performance: When I first loaded up the scenery, my simulator was a complete slideshow. I tried to modify my CFG file for better performance, but to no avail. I turned down max LOD distance with no result. Eventually, I contacted the developer about the obscenely bad performance. They told me that I would have to really crank down my Autogen, given the airport’s proximity to NYC. I followed the settings guide in the manual, and voila! I had double the performance I previously had. Granted it was a pretty big bummer not being able to see their custom Autogen in practice, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes. If you are considering this scenery, do be aware that you will have to compromise to get the performance you want.
This next bit is going to be for number nerds, so if you don’t even know what the FSX.cfg is, here’s the TLDR; Performance is respectable, so long as you are willing to turn down some settings, particularly Autogen. Anyways, with my Autogen at very dense, Texture Max Load at 4096, and my Max LOD at 7.5, I was hitting 15-17FPS, given that I was in outside view, parked at a gate, using the Aerosoft A320. Now, with my settings being similar to those recommended in the manual, in the same situation, I was hitting 29-35 FPS, a big improvement. My PC is equipped with an Intel Core i5 6600k running at 3.9 GHz. Overall, I think the TLDR sums it up pretty well, even for nerds.
Detail & Features: For this next segment, I figured instead of giving my own opinion on whatever I felt was important, I would first give my opinion on the features they promised on the product page, and whether or not they delivered on their promises, before giving my opinion regarding other smaller things:
1. FSX customers get the Prepar3D version free; Sounds Awesome! I can’t wait to see what improvements a P3D version could implement. We’ll have to wait and see.
2. 100% custom made UltraHD textures; The texture work is pretty amazing. For performance, I had to keep TEXTURE_MAX_LOAD at 1024, but when I occasionally turned it up to 2048 for some screenshots, I could really see the detail and effort that was put into them. The 1024 textures look great though, don’t get me wrong.
EDIT! After some revision, I got the 2048 textures working for regular use. The detail in this airport is stunning!
3. Realistic weathered and worn ground markings and runways & Complete non-generic runway and taxiway signage & Unique concrete, tarmac and grass texturing; The developers put a lot of time into this specific feature, and it really shows. The ground textures have some of the most convincing wear effects I have ever seen in flightsim, and although I had to disable the 3D grass option, the 2D grass texture still looked fine. the signage was nothing special.
4. Animated SODE jetways option; Read in Installation. Although I had difficulty with initial installation of the SODE Jetways, once I got them working, they worked without a hitch.
5. Custom building shadows; The custom building shadows worked as advertised. Nothing much else to report there.
6. Stunning night lighting & Realistic taxiway center and edge lighting; I did multiple landings in the night, as well as taxied around the airport a few times. All I can say is WOW! I was initially confused when they boasted lighting in their features list, but it really is great. No performance hit, colors stood out, everything looked illuminated realistically. One of the definite strong points of this scenery.
7. Thousands of hand-placed trees creating a lush outfield; having lots of trees surrounding the airport may seem like an awesome way to kill performance, but in reality, they did very little in the way of hindering performance, and looked great to boot.
8. Airport software code optimized for increased performance; I had to change my settings to those recommended in the surprisingly well written manual. Once I did, I was getting very respectable FPS, despite being so close to NY.
9. Hundreds of apron service and support vehicles; Although static, these vehicles definitely added an immersion factor to this airport. Pop in distance was a little short though, making them very noticeable as they load in.
10.Hand-placed custom Autogen; I can believe they made hand placed Autogen, but I couldn’t turn up Autogen high enough to see it.
11.Custom designed and hand placed parked cars; A bit of a gimmicky feature, but present and working non the less. They put more detail than average into the cars, which I guess is a plus..?
Now on to my personal experience with the airport itself. I want to lead off first with the modeling of the terminal buildings. They are pretty great. I can admire how much work was required to model almost the entire inside of the terminal buildings, given LaGuardia’s heavy use of glass walls. The architecture looks realistic, and it definitely doesn’t look brand new. Futuristic, yes. 100% clean, no. I also appreciate that every gate I tried in this airport supported GSX, a feature a surprising number of sceneries are lacking. Even the parking spaces not directly connected to the terminal still had GSX support, a feature rarer yet.
Overall, they delivered on their promises. In fact, this seems to be a recurring theme throughout this product. This product was surprisingly well rounded. Great detail, acceptable performance, an easy to use configuration tool, and a host of features to help you get the most out of the product. So, you may be asking, what’s wrong with the product? Surely it’s not perfect. To that, I would say yes, it isn’t perfect. For example, the PAPI light system is laughable. Hard to see, the colors blend together, and an overall train wreck. Some of the detail on the tops of buildings (particularly the main hall) left something to be desired, as well as the frankly lackluster Helipad area.
But who cares? Planes don’t land and take off on top of the terminals. The PAPI’s could be fixed with a quick 1KB patch, and who actually flies Helicopters in FSX? The airport does everything you need it to do, even if it skips over some gimmicky selling points that bigger scenery developers use to fill up their feature lists. Not to mention the scenery is pretty cheap compared to other sceneries in the category. And don’t forget that they made a rendition of an airport that isn’t supposed to be done for another 5 YEARS! Sure they may not have been the most graceful in their development of the product. For example, I got an email mere hours after the product was released for it’s first patch to fix it’s runway lighting! But you know what? They fixed the issue as soon as they knew about it, something that can’t be said about most scenery developers.
So, do I recommend this product. Short answer, yes. Long answer, maybe. You see, this product does have it’s issues, but the developers have proven to have a solid reputation for continued support for their products after release, meaning this already pretty good scenery will only get better. If you don’t like to buy a product that still has room for improvement, hold off a little bit. But, if you can put up with some of the issues knowing that they will be fixed soon enough, then you have yourself another great scenery for a respectable price.
Some extra screenshots 🙂
DISCLAIMER: This product was provided to me free of charge by Imaginesim. The opinions expressed in the above review are mine.