IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey
Flight sims belong on the PC, or at least, that’s the general idea for fans of the genre. Still, Gaijin Entertainment has dared to make a console version of the much-praised realistic WW2 flight sim IL-2 Sturmovik. Can the famous properties of the series be kept or will they need to be toned down a bit to make the game playable on our beloved consoles?
Authenticity is one of the points IL-2 Sturmovik strives for and also in Birds of Prey that’s the case. All missions are based on historical events and take place with the authentical-shaped planes.
The campaign is built on the six biggest fights in World War 2 history, from “The Battle of Britain”, where you keep the shores of Dover free from Germans, through the Ardennes Offensive where you help ground troops to defend their line, to finally end flying over Berlin where you get to decimate the “Reichstag” with your Russian bomber. Of course, only if you survive the flight from hell, laughing at dozens of anti-aircraft batteries with German Messerschmitz on your tail.
To give it all a bit more atmosphere the large scale battles get introduced with original material from that era. When you’ve gone through the entire campaign also several other singleplayer missions await to increase your hours of flying.
Another important point in IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is the controls. You start standard with the arcade controls where you can’t get into a spin and won’t have your plane falling, but there are also other means of aid included like target markers around your enemies, automatic selection of a target and an additional crosshair that points towards the ideal line for your bullets. A difficulty degree for beginners so to speak and if you prefer a bit more realism you can better choose the realist setting. Here all aids are removed and only the markers around targets and hostiles remain. Doing countless stunts is then also a lot more challenging as quick movements all too often lead to inevitable crashes.
If you’re still not satisfied with this setting you can go another step further and go total sim which only serves a cockpit view and disables all means of help. The dot on the horizon is now an unknown object and only when you get close enough you’ll be able to determine whether it’s a friend or foe. Due to the claustrophobic effect of the cockpit you really start to respect the pilots from those days as what they’ve gone through is truly hell! Luckily the girls were waiting with wet pants on the ground (at least, that’s what we imagine with the heroic life or a pilot during World War 2)…
Graphically the game has both heights and lows, but while playing everything looks overwhelming. Beautifully recreated cockpits with eye for detail are a feast for the eye and the amazing explosions and smoke effects even make your windows dirty. An incredible draw distance and the possibility to have hundreds of units participate in the fight without having framedrops for one second is a technical masterpiece. The maps are very realistic and show enough attention for the smallest details and it’s clear they were created on the basis of old aerial fotos and current-day satellite pictures. All good for miles of eye candy while you’re flying towards your target.
Where the game does crash is with your own plane. The outside could use some more detail and love. Of course when playing in simulator mode you won’t notice this thanks to the phenomenal cockpit but in Arcade it does disturb a bit, just like when you’re going to the hangar and want to look at the planes. This could no doubt be done a lot better and the same goes for the ground troops: while flying over them slowly they look like crap.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey has next to the singleplayer also a multiplayer for up to 16 players with a Dogfight and a Team Battle mode where you can take on the rest alone or with a couple of friends. Next to this there are also two modes where working together as a team is central. In Strike you need to destroy the ground troops of the enemy camp and team work consists on attacking and defending, but also the type of planes chosen is important as not all ground troops let themselves be killed by the same ammo. An idea combination between fighters and bombers is a necessity.
The last mode is Capture where you need to land on an enemy airfield and need to wait as long as possible to score points. Those that can land and lift off the best are the hero of the day.
Real flight sim fans can keep defending their preference for PC with ease, but this shouldn’t stop them from enjoying this console version. The fights are still as intense and the game offers hours of flying fun. Only the bit lesser hardware compared to a decent PC makes this version a bit weaker than its older brother.