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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey

11 Jun 2009  by   Paul Younger
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It’s not often you get a flight simulator on PC which really does give you a sense of urgency, a connection with the aircraft you thought impossible.  When IL-2 Sturmovik was released on PC many years ago it was a good little title, but it was the support and the updates released after, and over a period of years, which made IL-2 an incredibly realistic and enjoyable game.  When the complete series pack was released back in 2006, I remember being in complete awe and admiration at just how well the game ran, worked and how realistic, down to the propellor trimming, the flight dynamics were.  In addition to this, IL-2 was a dedicated, one-aircraft flight simulator and this meant that all efforts went into making this as true to life as can be.  Now, I may not have flown in a real IL-2, but I have flown in enough aircraft to know that this truly was as accurate a representation of a WWII as any other simulator, if not more so.  Even though we were introduced to the Petlyakov Pe-2 bomber in the updates, and as you’d expect we were able to distinguish between the two aircraft.

So why the reminiscent retrospective?  Well, to appeal to a wider audience IL-2 Sturmovik will now be coming to PS3 and 360, as well as the PSP and the DS.  505 Games has picked up the license from Ubisoft, and instead of concentrating on one or two aircraft, we have access to aircraft from across the Allied forces, ranging from IL-2s to Spitfires and Mustangs spanning six campaigns and 50 missions.

Before I expand on the missions, I want to discuss the button mapping, something that is always going to be one of the most problematic hurdles to overcome when bringing flight sims to consoles.  We saw HAWX earlier this year resolve this, but HAWX is no real simulator; it’s not got a hardcore fan-base watching its every move.  As a new IP it was able to create a standard which other arcade flight sims failed to do (I’m talking Ace Combat specifically).  So bringing a respected flight sim to the console will not be without its problems.  Consider it like this, how would the hardcore flight sim fans amongst you receive Microsoft Flight Simulator on the console?

So how has 505 games managed to map those buttons?  Well, it’s not as bad as I had anticipated actually.  Playing the game on the 360 console: the right analogue stick is use for your throttle, the right trigger is the fire button and the left stick is used to move the aircraft proper.  As the game is split into three different difficulty settings, more buttons and functions will be at your disposal.  We were only shown the arcade mode, the easiest of the three, which allowed us to jump into the cockpit and get involved in aerial combat immediately.  This mode is made for everyone, and you can rest assured you’ll not have an exhaustive amount of ammo or fuel.  You’ll also be able to take a huge amount of damage and you’ll also have the option to change your camera view from external, HUD, realistic cockpit and a combat view.

The other modes are Realistic, which is less merciful than Arcade and can be considered as Hard or Expert comparatively; and Simulation, which is a hardcore fans dream.  Our demonstrator assured me 505 were working with Saitek on flight stick software, otherwise this would be a game mode which players wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of.

As the squadron leader, you’ll have three wingmen and, as you’d expect, you’re able to assign them to certain tasks.  What’s best about IL-2, and this is a good example of how making the leap from hardcore flight sim to arcade sim for 505 Games has worked, is the ability to jump into any of the remaining aircraft from your squadron when you’ve been shot down, thus eliminating the need to restart the mission.  Make sure, however, you bail out your pilot from the burning inferno to maximise your points and to ensure you there are enough pilots to fight the invasion.

IL-2 also comes with some nice additions, all of which can be turned off for hardcore flight sim fans.  In the top right-hand corner of the screen you’ll have a radar outlining enemies and bogies as you’d expect on a normal MFD in modern aircraft.  You’ll also have the option of tracking your bombs or rockets in a TV style screen on the bottom right-hand side of the screen to see if you’ve hit your targets. 

The scenery too in IL-2, regardless of where you’re flying and what aircraft you’re piloting, is exceptional, and I can frankly say I’ve not seen anything like it before.  For those of you who’ve played some of the more realistic flight sims and have added VFR packages, you’ll know that below a certain altitude things don’t look so great.  You’re not to worry here, and using the maps of the era (I was flying over Dover in the Battle of Britain) you can see landmarks, such as the massive radar masts on the white cliffs over-looking the sea to France.

All in all this game does look pretty impressive and we’re looking forward to getting our hands on the full preview to give you a more detailed outline of the game.  We should have it next week and we’re very excited.  Well, I am.

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