Ultimate Terrain X - USAIf there is any one product for Flight Simulator that deserves more recognition, in my eyes, than any other it has to be the Ultimate Terrain series. Flight 1 brought us the original Ultimate Terrain series for FS9, releasing Ultimate Terrain Canada/Alaska, UT USA and UT for Europe. All were exceptional products and have always had a permanent place on my hard drive.

When FSX was released I remember that I couldn’t wait for Flight 1 to release an FSX version of their UT series. Gone were the roads, rivers and coastlines and we were back looking at default scenery. It’s funny how people become spoiled, as I used to spend more time with FS9 after FSX was released simply because it didn’t include all of these features. Sure it had some, but it just didn’t offer the same kind of coverage the Ultimate Terrain series offered.

 

 


 

If there is any one product for Flight Simulator that deserves more recognition, in my eyes, than any other it has to be the Ultimate Terrain series. Flight 1 brought us the original Ultimate Terrain series for FS9, releasing Ultimate Terrain Canada/Alaska, UT USA and UT for Europe. All were exceptional products and have always had a permanent place on my hard drive.

When FSX was released I remember that I couldn’t wait for Flight 1 to release an FSX version of their UT series. Gone were the roads, rivers and coastlines and we were back looking at default scenery. It’s funny how people become spoiled, as I used to spend more time with FS9 after FSX was released simply because it didn’t include all of these features. Sure it had some, but it just didn’t offer the same kind of coverage the Ultimate Terrain series offered.

I don’t remember what month it was, but I remember seeing a post at Sim-Outhouse.com that UT USA X had been released. With my credit card in hand I quickly purchased a copy and I have not looked back since. Who knew the UT Canada and UT Europe would soon follow!

Ultimate Terrain USA X (UT USA) with Ground Environment X literally transforms the default environment in FSX. Gone are the vast deserts that were predominant with the FSX release, as are the sandy white textures around each and every airport. Roads now litter the terrain, creek beds both dry and wet are where they are supposed to be and, most importantly, cities and towns present themselves in a more realistic manner.


Ultimate Terrain X USA
Ultimate Terrain X USA is available on CD or download but for this review I am looking at the CD version, though there is no discernable difference between the two. The CD version does offer a printed manual and eliminates the need to have to download the product and remember the password every time you may need to reinstall it. The CD version sure makes things easier in the long run.

What this product does is quite remarkable. If you have used any version of Ultimate Terrain than you already have a good understanding of what makes this product good, but for those of you that don’t know this would be a pretty good place to start. UT X USA systematically transforms the Flight Simulator world into a recognizable place by adding such things as roads, highways, freeways, rail lines, rivers, streams, coastlines, parks, golf courses and cemeteries all accurately placed throughout the United States in your Flight Simulator world. You also have the option to add in rural roads that aren’t considered major rural roads. What this does is add roads that branch off into residential neighborhoods and country roads that seem to go on forever.
I choose to leave this function off simply because the roads don’t  always fi t over the terrain textures and can be a bit of an eyesore and, in my opinion, sometimes it does look better and more realistic if they are left off.

UT USA will also add 3D bridges to any and all roads and rail lines that cross water. Although the bridges are a default design, they still appear where they should be and are much better than just seeing a line drawn across the water. UT also aligns all existing bridges to match that of the new roads and rail system which is also a nice feature.

That isn’t all either. The program, along with adjusting your coastlines, also adds its own set of landclass fi les that make the cities and towns appear more like they appear in real life. What landclass does is tell Flight Simulator what type of textures should be displayed where. For example, if you are fl ying over an area that is largely farm land, the landclass tells Flight Simulator that it should be shown as such. A lot of people recommend running the UT landclass along with other 3rd party landclass products, but from what I have found the UT landclass works fi ne on its own for me.

After you get done admiring all of the new roads, bridges and coastlines, make an effort to check out the new night lighting. This feature was introduced in the original UT products for FS9 and they are back, bigger and better in FSX. What I like best about the lighting is that when fl ying at night you can make out the distant glow of cities or towns way off in the distance. This adds so much to one’s fl ying experience, not to mention the level of realism you’re seeing in your virtual world when fl ying at night.

Using the UT X USA Manager
At the core of UT USA is the setup utility that comes with thescenery. This program will allow you to add and remove whatever you do or don’t want. The program shows you the frame rate impact of each feature and how it will react to your overall system performance.

Setup here is easy; simply install the product and run the setup icon on your desktop. The program will automatically back up your existing scenery textures and then make the UT USA scenery active within Flight Simulator.

It will allow you to make changes to the following; road surfaces, railroad tracks, water bodies, coastlines, rivers, night lighting, landclass, and other features that include the addition of golf courses and cemeteries. With all of the different menu options, this product does offer an incredible level of customization for your fl ight simulator.

 

VFR Flying at its Best
This kind of product screams VFR fl ying, or seat of the pants fl ying for that matter, as it brings reality into Flight Simulator. I do mostly VFR fl ying in Flight Simulator, just because I don’t have a lot of time to invest into any one single fl ight. I just like to go and take off, fl y around and then land.
One of the areas that I frequent in Flight Simulator is Yakima, WA.

It is my old stomping ground and I have fl own out of the airport there on several occasions with my older brother. Flying into Yakima isn’t that hard really, but there are quite a few landmarks to look for if you are making an approach there and doing it VFR style.

First, as you come in to make the turn to Runway 27 for landing you should be out over the East Valley area, near the town of Moxee which is just east of Yakima. It is easily identifi able by Hwy 12 that runs both east and west just outside the town from the city of Yakima. Once you are near or over Moxee you can make that turn westward towards Yakima giving you an almost spot on line up to the airport. Making the turn into the airport reveals a whole list of identifi able markers; the fi rst would be following Hwy 24 west to the Yakima River and over Interstate 82 into the City of Union Gap with the I82 and Hwy 96 interchange to the lower valley off to the left. At this point you would defi nitely see the airport ahead of you. There are also two very identifi able roads as you make that approach that run East to West through the heart of the valley. These would be Washington Ave and Ahtanum Rd. Washington runs along the northern side of the airport and Ahtanum runs along the southern side and you should be smack dab in the middle of both of them.

For my test fl ight over the Yakima area I fl ew the new AlphaSim Rutan. This aircraft provides a wide open cockpit and is just a lot of fun to fl y, so if you were wondering whose aircraft that is in the screenshot, now you know!

Ultimate Terrain makes these VFR fl ights possible without the addition of photo-real scenery as it simply adds it over the existing default terrain. These features cover the entire United States, so you are not just buying one area or state, you are getting it for the entire continental United States and is really a must have if you want to see things as they actually are when it comes to road placement, rivers, coastlines and rail.

 

 

 

 


 

Performance In FSX
Performance can be a taboo word and I am surprised to say that UTX USA doesn’t really affect my overall performance at all. In fact, since I added Ground Environment X it seems to have almost improved it? When I fi rst bought UT X USA I was mainly concerned about what the frame rate impact would be, just because of the initial problems I had with FSX when it was initially released and really wasn’t sure about adding any third party scenery programs. The end result though was an improved graphics environment that brought out the best in FSX.

This is where the setup utility comes in. At the bottom of each option is a bar that rates the overall effect it may have on Flight Simulator, so you can essentially turn off some of the features that hurt your system the most and leave the ones on you want, giving you a customizable scenery environment tailored to your taste, or to your system’s hardware.

Since I have had FSX I have never been able to use the vehicle traffi c, but for the sake of this review and the screenshots I decided to turn it back on and I found that my frame rates were barely affected by it. I am going to chalk this one up to the performance improvements bought about by FSX Service Pack 2, but I do think the Flight 1 products do help a bit as their scenery and textures seem to be much easier on overall performance.

It is important to note that my computer is a Dual-Core machine, so for those of you with older computers you may see some kind of impact on system performance, but it should be small.

In The End
This product is probably one of the few “must-haves” for FSX out on the market. It brings a level of detail and realism that the default package just cannot offer. In fact, aside from fl ying the bigger jets in FS9, I am starting to make the transition to FSX only and it is products like this and Ground Environment Pro X that make it very worthwhile. The price tag of US$39.95 is just right. In fact, it’s a real bargain considering the large coverage area you will enjoy. It is available onCD from all good fl ight sim retailers

Ultimate Terrain X - USA Ultimate Terrain X Europe Ultimate Terrain X - Canada
Ultimate Terrain X – USA  Ultimate Terrain X Europe  Ultimate Terrain X – Canada