Okay, before we get started here, I just want to say that I did not deliberately pick a clothing item by the same artist for my second review. That was purely by chance. I picked Casual Heat because its relatively new, and for the boys. The fact that it is also by the same artist as the Urban Metro Outfit did not enter into my decision to review this item.
The Casual Heat Outfit is a set of conforming clothing for the Genesis 3 Male line of figures. Its contents, pictured on the left, contains a shirt, a tank top, a pair of shorts and a pair of boat shoes. The set includes one set of coordinating textures for the outfit. The package comes with a Wearable preset that will load all of the conforming figures at once, which is a very nice addition and more artists should include them.
The materials for the outfit come in both Iray and 3Delight formats, though they Iray materials are applied when the clothing items are loaded from the library.
The promo pictures from the store are pretty representative of the results you can expect when rendering with the Iray render engine. Though you will note that there are no close ups, and the models are all standing. I am going to suggest that there are reasons for this, but we'll get to that.
The models are all relatively light weight, ranging from about 9,000 polys to 22,000 polys. The models are not particularly detailed; they look pretty good to a casual examination, but they break down upon closer examination and simple posing reveals some serious flaws both in modeling and UV mapping. The most obvious issues with the models are apparent with casual observation: the buttons on the short sleeved shirt are appear unevenly spaced (look at the spacing of the between the second and third and the third and fourth buttons from the top in particular) and oddly placed. On no similar shirt that I own (I looked at 6) is the lowest button placed at the bottom edge of the shirt like this model. Also, with simple posing the fabric of the shirt pokes through the buttons to various degrees. The shorts have detailing that is more suggestion than modeling: the pockets are slits with no movement morphs at all and the same is true for the fly. The fly is modeled in such a way that with simple posing it deforms rather unsightly (see pictures further down). The shoes contain the most convincing details of any of the pieces, being well modeled and realistic; but they are not without their flaws. The seam where the vamp meets the upper is too flat for the style of the shoe (a minor detail to be sure) and the laces lack a knot and bow. It is very uncharacteristic for a man to wear this style of shoes with the laces tucked in (you might see a shoe displayed this way or in a product image -- a simple Google image search shows many examples); if the laces are not conventionally tied, they are usually barrel wrapped or shortened and each lace end tied in a simple knot near the eyelet (see the same images from Google). The laces themselves, though the traditional flat shape for the style, are much too thin. Even with these flaws, the shoes are the highlight of set.
The clothing items have little in the way of morphs. As already mentioned, the pockets do not move or open in anyway. The shirt has more adjustment morphs than the other pieces and has two movement morphs that serve to open the shirt wider, focusing mostly on the waist. The tank, the shorts and the shoes all have morphs to adjust the fit in various areas (the shoes have a single morph that affects the entire model), but no movement morphs.
The textures that come with the set and the additional textures available for purchase separately are highly detailed, but flawed. The textures appear to have been built, in many cases, from photographic references. But there appears to have been little effort to remove the tell tale signs that these items have been photographed. There are clear specular highlights and reflections visible in the leather textures for the shoes and particularly in the buttons for both the shirt and the shorts. There are also painted on details, like wrinkles on the shirt and pleats on the front of the shorts. The details contain artificial highlights and shadows.
The included specular and bump maps, again while highly detailed, were built directly from the diffuse textures and the same specular is visible on these effects maps, marring their purpose.
The add on textures are based on the same textures as the included ones, but they have been altered to produce different colors. In all other ways, they appear to be the exact same textures. The same issues there are with the included textures are present in the add on set.
The textures are only part of the story when talking about how an item renders, however. The rest of the story is in the materials and the materials can make or break a surface. The materials for both the main set of textures and the add on textures are... ok. They don't quite give the items that extra bit of realism, but they aren't bad enough to say that they distract from the appearance of the textures or items (though if you zoom in close for a portrait, the heightened bump and smooth specularity can look like wet canvas or damp clay rather than fabric).
The real problem with the materials is the lack of differences in them. The shirt is a loose weave, light weight fabric, while the tank top is tight knit cotton, the shorts are a heavy, denim like material and the shoes are leather. But the material settings are all exactly the same, even the metal eyelets on the shoes. The specular settings are identical and they all have a uniform bump setting. This should not be. Even if the bump and specular maps were of excellent quality with unique detail, the materials are very different and the settings should reflect that. They do not.
The sets do come with both Iray and 3Delight materials, so they are versatile. But the materials for both engines exhibit the same problem: all the materials are set up exactly the same. And I'd like to mention a further fact about the 3Delight settings: they all have the same pink reflection color, with a zero reflection strength. Every surface, regardless of it diffuse color and type of fabric. Why? I'm not sure it results in anything when rendering via 3D3light, but in my previous experience with materials like this it leads to unpredictable results when converting the settings for a different render engine (for example, using Reality to translate to Luxrender).
Now that I have covered the main features of the set and its textures, I want to mention some of the problems that I found. If you look at the image to the left here (click on it to open the larger view, it will be easier to see what I am referring to) the wrinkles on the tank top show evidence of texture stretching. This is not readily apparent when the underlying model is posed with torso aligned vertically, but once you start to twist and bend the torso, it becomes more and more apparent. The picture I am using to illustrate is obviously used to demonstrate and focus on the area in question, but I first noticed the issue from a more normal portrait orientation. There was something too drastic, but we are talking about a clothing set that carries a regular price of $17.95 with the add on textures costing $12.95. When paying these sorts of prices (and those prices are pretty average right now), I think one can expect a little more attention to detail and versatility in the models and a little more than color variations from the materials.
I opened this by saying that I did not pick this set to review with any relation to the last review that I did and that is the truth. But afteabout the way light was falling on the wrinkles that just made them stand out. I had to zoom in and work with the pose a bit to see the issue, but it was distracting enough in the original to be alarming. You can also see the way the buttons on the shirt are being obscured by the fabric.
You'll also notice some deformation in the fly of the shorts, this is caused by the sitting position. Now, the image on the right here focuses on the fly and crotch area of the shorts. This pose is a little extreme, but not too much so. I loaded a few different pairs of pants and shorts on this same pose to see if I got the same sort of deformations. Each other item I loaded did show some distortion in this pose, but nothing like the apparent split that can be seen here. You'll notice that there is also more texture stretching evident in the area of the inner thigh and across the top of the thigh.
So, this isn't a glowing review. There are some problems with theses sets, both with the models and the materials. None of the issues are r critically looking at two sets by the same modeller (the texture artist is different), I will be very careful about purchases from this artist in the future (I already have a few other outfits in my library, most of which came in bundles). I was already familiar with the work of the texture artist, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect there.
I hope this review was fair and honest without being overly critical. I recognize that I highlighted the faults, while somewhat glossing over the rest.