Third-party developer Orbx just released its rendition for Microsoft Flight Simulator of Oslo Gardermoen Airport (ENGM), serving the capital of Norway, and today we're taking an in-depth look at whether the add-on is worthy of the importance of the real airport.
As the second-busiest hub in the Scandinavian region and one of the most relevant airports in Europe, Oslo is certainly a welcome addition to the Microsoft Flight Simulator line-up, hosting plenty of airline traffic to and from both domestic and international destinations, on top of enough cargo flights to provide flexibility regardless of the kind of flying you enjoy.
Speaking of airlines, it's also a major hub for both SAS and Norwegian Air Shuttle, so it works well whether you're in the Airbus or the Boeing camp.
It's available on Orbx Direct for $20.67, which means that installation and updating are comfortably handled via the Orbx Central client, which is one of the best on the market. Orbx's airports are usually released on Xbox as well, so it should become available on the official marketplace soon enough.
Looking at the functional aspects of the airport, all approaches, SIDs, and STARS, are functional and match the charts, while the PAPI lights are correctly positioned and calibrated if you'd rather land visually. Ground services are generally available and working, but the external power units seem to be missing, which is a bit weird, albeit it's mostly a cosmetic problem.
The airport has just a few static aircraft that appears to be in storage at remote aprons. While those don't usually get in the way, I'd like to see an option to remove them. That being said, the models are pretty good. The time in which Orbx used extremely outdated static models from previous simulators seems to be firmly in the past.
Incidentally, the screenshots you'll see in this review have been snapped with a mix of FSLTL and FS Traffic AI models handled with FSLTL's injector. The airport works usually well with the AI, with aircraft landing and finding their way around the aprons and taxiways perfectly fine. Yet, there is a small snag. It appears that occasionally aircraft that are set for departure fail to push back and simply remain at the gate. This is usually a sign of a small issue with the setup of some of the ramps. It's not a massive problem, but there's room for improvement.
It appears that the gates have been set with the correct airline codes. It's challenging to be 100% positive, but according to my observation, different airlines park pretty much where you'd expect them to. It's nice to see that developers have started to pay attention to this kind of detail now that AI traffic add-ons have become very accessible and widespread.
Speaking of gate functionality, the airport includes working VDGS (Visual Docking Guidance System) using the plugin by Nool, and the jetways even have audio when they are in motion, which is a nice immersion-enhancing touch.
All the gates and parking stands are also correctly numbered according to the charts, and the same can be said about the labels of the taxiways. You can expect ATC to guide you around the airport whether you're departing or arriving without any risk of getting lost due to mislabeled connections.
No less attention has been dedicated to the visuals of the airport, starting with the orthophoto and terrain mesh, which are detailed and realistic. Some of the roads and parking areas landside could have perhaps used a bit better resolution and better blending with the parts that have dedicated 3D models, but this is invisible during normal operations. You notice it only when moving the camera around and exploring way beyond what you'd see from the flight deck. The railway even comes with 3D tracks and current pylons, on top of an animated train adding to the atmosphere.
I am honestly very impressed by the work done on runways and taxiways. The textures for both the tarmac and the markings are exceptionally detailed and present a basically perfect balance between crispness and realism. They don't look either smudged or cartoony, which is awesome. They also match very well all the photographic materials I could find, including the realistic patchwork of colors generated by surface repairs over time.
Things get even better when you take a look at the main terminal, which sports top-notch modeling and texturing. The interiors are very detailed and the exteriors are beautiful, enriched by skillful use of physically-based rendering. The models of the jetways are top-notch and correctly reproduce the fact that Oslo has multiple different types, which is an element on which many developers would have likely cut corners. That being said, some have issues correctly attaching to the aircraft, but it's hard to blame the developer too much, considering that those don't have much range of movement even in the real world. The onus is more on the user to park in the correct spot.
The people inside the terminals aren't animated and their models aren't incredible, but that's a very small issue considering that you're not exactly supposed to get in their faces with the camera. There's plenty of detail to enjoy around them (including some rather neat monitors that switch between different ads), without going absolutely overboard and tanking performance, which is great. Even better is the quality of the glass, which looks impressively realistic both from the outside and from the inside of the buildings. Especially the latter is still quite rare in Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons.
Gardermoen's iconic ATC tower is also designed with the same industry-leading quality, providing a great complement for the Terminal. As you move further away the level of detail decreases a bit, but it's always at least quite good. I'd have personally used parallax shaders to simulate the interiors of some of the hotels, offices, and hangars instead of having opaque windows everywhere, but I suppose the developer may have traded off a bit of visual glitz for performance here.
More great details can be found on the apron clutter, pylons, signage, and various antennas and equipment, which are all done very nicely and enrich the airport as a whole. Vehicles are certainly a great highlight, as they are fully custom with real-world models and liveries, including some of the active ground services like pushback tractors and luggage carriers. This is a valuable extra feature that you find only in a handful of airports. That being said, the catering trucks haven't been customized. I know I've been given a hand and I'm asking the arm here, but when you go the extra mile, you may as well go all the way.
Night lighting is well-done across the whole scenery and the airport's textures react very well to the rain. Unfortunately, snow coverage is still very much hit-and-miss, which is a pity considering that we're looking at an airport that gets a lot of snow. How much the developers can work around Microsoft Flight Simulator's limitations on this front remains to be seen, though.
Performance is great, with the optimization work done for Gardermoen being among the best I've seen. Despite the fact that we're looking at rather dense scenery for a big airport that improves massively on the default simulator, I lose only between 5 and 10 FPS on average on my i7-13700K with GeForce RTX 4070 Ti and 32 GB DDR5 RAM. In the comparison above you can see the difference in frame rate between Orbx's scenery and the (horrible) default airport without using DLSS or Frame Generation in DirectX 12.
In conclusion, Orbx's Oslo Gardermoen Airport for Microsoft Flight Simulator is without a doubt one of the best scenery add-ons published by the Australian third-party developer, showing top-notch attention to detail and a bunch of extra features that we can't yet take for granted in this market.
While there's always some room for improvement here and there, I was honestly impressed by this one. If you want an airport for your Scandinavian flights that looks great, works well, and is optimized just as well, this is an easy recommendation.
TechRaptor reviewed Oslo Gardermoen Airport for Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The add-on will likely also be made available for Xbox Series X|S in the future.
- Fantastic visuals including great textures, models, PBR, and more
- Custom vehicles including active ones
- The airport is functionally solid
- Awesome attention to detail
- The snow coverage isn't great
- Some of the peripheric buildings could have used the addition of parallax shaders
- AI aircraft occasionally fail to push back