It’s getting worse with Speed. Two weeks ago he gave me a preview version of Car Tycoon, in German. We’re making progress. With IL2 Sturmovik, there is also Russian! German and Russian? Yes, this is the Eastern Front during WWII and depending on which side you choose to fight on, all conversations are in German or Russian. But fear not, there is translation to English at the top of the screen.
What I don’t understand is why Ubisoft named this game after the IL2 Sturmovik. The Russian plane was underpowered, sluggish, unstable and lacked maneuverability. As a result, this plane was an easy target to German pilots. I don’t know if I’m happy or not, but 1C-Maddox (the developers) simulated this behavior to the very detail. Apart from this IL2, you can fly one of the other Russian planes like e.g. the Mig 3, Yak 7, LaGG 3 or La5. For those not familiar with those names, they are all fighter planes comparable to the British Spitfire or Hurricane. If that isn’t enough for you, you can also swap sides and join Hitlers Luftwaffe. In that case, you can fly with the Bf 109 in all variants from E to K and with the Fw 190, the A4 and the A5 to be precise.
The flight model of all planes is excellent. I must admit I never had the opportunity to fly with any of these planes, but everything feels right. In normal flight sim games, one of the easiest things is taking off. Here in IL2, even that is a delicate task. So watch out the first time you try to take off with an IL2 packed with rockets and bombs. It’s not just setting flaps and full throttle. For casual players, you can switch off some of the difficulty options but it remains tricky. Especially the early fighter planes of the USSR are very difficult because they easily fall into a spin.
For the playground, you have the option between single missions, a campaign or multiplayer (both dogfighting and cooperative). There are 3 campaigns : USSR fighter, USSR bomber (with the IL2) and German fighter. The campaigns are not dynamic. It’s just a bunch of missions linked together by the events that happened in real history. So your individual performance doesn’t have an influence on the outcome of war or on the next mission. I don’t know how many missions there are in a full campaign, but judging from the number I flew, I would say an average of 2 missions per month of war. This would mean a total of 100 missions per campaign!
The missions themselves are very well designed. Only a shame that all vehicles in a mission are somewhat related to that mission. So no full out war like in Falcon 4 or TAW where there are dozens of planes and ground units on the battlefield. No, planes in the mission are supposed to be shot down and the ground units are there for flak and as targets (for you or for the bombers you escort).
Graphics : Provided you have a very powerful PC, this is the best you can get at the moment. The cities are real cities, full of factories, buildings and houses, all in 3D. The cockpits are also in 3D with 3 zoom-levels. Problem here is that with the Soviet planes, everything is marked in Russian. Good luck in finding the right dial or button. The same goes of course also for the German planes, but they use at least the same alphabet. There are clouds, real clouds, never seen better except in real life. The level of detail is incredible. Once I was hit (happens quite often) which resulted in a fuel tank leak. There was a friendly airfield close by so I landed. After my plane came to a full stop, I examined it externally. What I saw was unbelievable : the fuel poured down from various holes on to the ground. And of course, my screensaver wasn’t loaded and I forgot to save the replay movie. In my attempts to recreate this, I almost succeeded but at the final moment, the fuel caught fire. As soon as the plane came to a halt, I pressed the Eject key. The game then showed how I jumped out of the plane, on to the tarmac and then started to run away from the plane to throw me in the snow in case the plane should explode. But that’s not all. The game is filled with remarkable graphics. The waves wash on to the beach and then retreat. The lightning’s light up the dark, stormy evening. On the airfield, before you take off, you’ll see the refueling trucks driving away. During the missions, the days progress. So it’s possible to start a mission at dusk. On your way to and from target, you can admire the sunset and by the time you are preparing to land, it’s almost dark with the runway being marked by some barrels with fire. And so on. Just amazing!
The sound is almost of the same level. Every aircraft has it’s distinct engine sound, all radio chatter is done in the language of your side. You can change radio channel and hear the enemy. Every click and cloinck of gear, flaps is there, the whining of the turbo of the Bf109, the sound of bullets rushing by (when you use the external view), everything! But it’s not perfect. The radio chatter is not realistic. E.g. when a colleague cries out for help because an enemy is on his tail, you’ll hear something like “this is two, someone get him off me!” But the first part (“this is two”) is spoken very relaxed but the last part (“someone get him off me”) is yelled in a panic. Not very impressive.
The AI is also on a high level. They behave very unpredictable, make mistakes and give you a good fight. The AI is also very heroic. Almost every time when you shoot down a bomber, the crew keeps firing at you almost till the end. Only at the very last minute, they jump out to safe their lives. The fighter pilots are very skilled. And since the USSR fighter planes at the beginning of war were inferior to the German Bf109, you will have a huge task playing for the USSR to shoot down a German fighter. The only glitch in the AI is the way they react to the ground. They keep flying, executing their routines, no matter what their altitude is. It’s only when they are at 100 to 200 meters high that another procedure takes over, resulting in a rather sharp pull-up reaction.
IL2 Sturmovik is one of the best flight simulations ever. Don’t be fooled by the name: you can fly with almost a dozen airplanes from both Soviet and German origin. East Front Air War would have been a title that better describes the game. Only a shame that all the missions are scripted. Give this game a dynamic campaign and it would score 100%.