Just when you thought the air combat simulation genre was on its final flight, IC descends with a WWII payload sure to put fire in the belly of any good flight fanatics.
During its third annual Russian event, IC offered hands-on play time of IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey on the Xbox 360, giving attendees a look at several planes including the WWII German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the English Supermarine Spitfire.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey offers a huge, and I mean, huge single-player campaign with more than 50 missions based on five historic theatres of war, including The Battle of Britain, Stalingrad, Berlin, Sicily and Korsun’. Everything in IL-Sturmovik is large-scale, the wide open sea battles, the massive land battles, and all of it is supported by highly detailed scenery and expertly detailed planes. You’ll have the chance to pilot dozens of planes, from fighters, battle planes, and heavy bombers in the predictable but loveable range of mission types: straight up dogfights, rescue missions, escort missions, and bombing runs.
The game offers three views, cockpit, overhead, and first-person, and while the cockpit view initially feels the most constraining, the detailed controls, dashboard, and dials provided an authentic feel that was too hard to resist playing in. My first battle was a straight-forward dogfight across an open sea against a clear blue sky. The left and right analog controls provided the directional and speed controls, while the right trigger operated fire. The left trigger provided an evolved reticule and focus function. As I trailed a combatant and drew closer, white cross hairs would appear, providing a better idea of how to lead fire in front of the enemy.
The controls were easy to get accustomed to, and the planes provided fluid, nimble maneuvering. However, a little warning, even on a middling difficultly level, you can still stall your plane. As I did, if you continue to climb high into sky and lose speed while chasing enemies, you may lose control. My plane lost speed, control, and started a spin toward the open sea. I was finally able to gain control of the sticks, straighten out the plane and I was just beginning to arch it out of danger when the sea surface came up a little faster than I had hoped. As a test case for realism, I was impressed. As a fighter, I was done for.
My first actual combat engagement ended far quicker than I expected. Three enemy planes came soaring directly at me and the middle one didn’t budge, flying straight into my plane. Of course, in the game of chicken, the rule is to jump last if at all. Neither the AI nor I jumped, and upon contact, each of our plane wings broke off, and we both descended into the sea. My second fight was a little less fatal. I split the three enemy planes and followed and killed two of them before I was gunned down from behind.
You’ll find that depending in your skill level, IL- Sturmovik will abide, offering varying degrees of arcade to realistic simulation battles. But the flight engine is designed for hard-core sim fans, with additional controls to achieve precision maneuvering. That doesn’t mean that a virgin noob can’t jump in a have fun, it just means that when the game scales between difficulties, it’s scaling down from a harder threshold.
IC has good reason to boast about the new damage and graphics engine. The planes take visible bullet damage, wings tear off, smoke and fire gust out, and particles are sent a-flying. You’ll also see damaged planes trailing smoke and undamaged planes trailing clean white lines off their wings tips. The planes all show off incredible detail, from the texture detail to the landing gear to the shape and size of each craft.
In development with DiP Interactive, Dynamic Systems, and Gaijin Entertainment, IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, Nintendo DS this fall.