Having flown more hours now than the average allied WW2 pilot did before he took on the Jerry over the white cliffs of Dover, and turned plenty of fine German engineering into flaming scrap metal, what is it really like to be a ‘bird of prey’? If you think zooming around in a Spitfire (possible the best combat aircraft name ever thought of) and bombing, rocketing, and machine gunning your way across war-torn Europe is wholesome fun, then I think IL-2 might just be for you.
On the front of it, IL2 is presented in a very ‘classic’ (cliché) fashion. As it loads up you are greeted by the usual montage of video footage from WW2 sorties and dog fights as you are met by the ‘band of brothers’ triumphant music at the game menu. If that’s your cup of tea then fair enough, and I know that in all honesty if you buy a flying game set in WW2 you tend to end up with the ‘Saving Private Ryan’ video plethora accompanied by shameless renditions of Flight of the Valkerie and other such classically epic sounding and fitting scores. Looking past the hangar and into the cockpit, the game is well produced and made as fun or as challenging/impossible as you want it to be.
Jumping straight into the cockpit; the game requires that you take flying lessons before they let you loose in combat. After you have completed the mandatory training you have then got a number of optional training courses that can better hone your skills, from bombing targets to getting the hang of leading your wingmen into battle. The flying is good, very good. The planes are faithful to their real counterparts in almost every way from styling to camouflage and handling. You can’t throw around a Blenheim like you can a Hurricane, and boy can you throw them around some, but what really made a mark on me was the ground detailing. I know flying games have come a long way since Ace Combat first saw action, but still all too often you find very dull scenarios with very little to look at when you get down to ground level, and I know this is a “flying” game; having affiliation with the sky, but to me it made all the difference when I looked down over Kent to see rolling hills, trees, houses, fields, and rivers all beautifully rendered in very good detail even up close (I had a very close look indeed…after my outside loop went pear shaped).This for me was one thing that used to actually put me off flying games/sims; the fact that so much time had been devoted to the physics of flying that the actual design and graphical explicitness of the game world had all but been forgotten, as you soared over towns and cities as 2D as a piece of paper you had no sense of speed and as you pulled up over box shaped hills and valleys where the edges of the joins that created the landscape were clearly visible. But thankfully the creators of IL2 have taken as much time on the ground detailing as they have the planes making it a hearty mix of demon low flying foolery and full on dog fighting up above.
The game plays well, the action is smooth and the missions are challenging
IL2 comes into its own when you take to the skies over Europe with confrontation in mind. This is something that the creators have done so well, and that is to inject some adrenalin into the dog fighting. They have adopted a new POV when flying in 3rd person that follows your target plane no matter where you aircraft is facing; you can always have a mince pie on your enemy and then align your cross hairs on him easily (well, in arcade mode anyway). The fact that there are no heat seeking air-to-air missiles to rely on for a fast solution makes it a bit more of a challenge than Ace Combat or HAWX. You have to rely on your wits, machine guns, acrobatics, and sometimes a bit of old fashioned luck to take your enemies to the ground. I must say that it is very satisfying to shoot a wing or tail plane off here and there and watch the burning wreck spiral to the fields below and explode in a ball of flames.
The game has varying difficulty settings from arcade which is made for the fun player who just wants to jump into the action without having to worry about stalling when conducting a tight turn, right up to realistic, which is,…realistic. If you pull the nose up to quick; you will stall, if you dive to quick; you will stall, if you throw the plane around, guess what? You will stall. Maybe better with a joystick than a controller as the controller doesn’t give you the same level of control. I can imagine that playing on realistic rewards come with large levels of satisfaction if you make a kill as the plane is very hard to control, well it was in my ham-hands anyway.
The game plays well, the action is smooth and the missions are challenging, in fact sometimes they are a little beyond challenging and do encroach on the realms of impossibility, and frustration can abound quickly, though perseverance pays as ever. On completion of missions you can also unlock other planes to use in other modes on the game from fighters to bombers which does add a little variety.
Like all flight games, unless you are really into your planes and flying, the game can get pretty dull pretty quickly if played a lot, and with the deficit of a two player mode there really isn’t much in it for your mates either other than to do the customary one-mission-each controller pass.
If you are into your WW2 planes and love your single player flying action then this is definitely a game for you as it does boast a good selection of faithfully reproduced allied and axis planes to bomb around in coupled with good action and flight physics. Graphically the game is excellent from planes to ground detailing, as well as explosions and the damage you can reap on enemy planes. The maps you will find to be accurate and faithful to 1940’s Europe, including southern England, and offer up a reasonable variety of battle grounds. But sadly for me it just didn’t cut the mustard in the replay stakes as it lacked a two player mode and didn’t hook me for very long as it became quite samey fairly quickly; one mission after the other with every mission pretty much following the same premise.
I would recommend this game even if you are only remotely interested in playing a flight game because it is very good, but I wouldn’t recommend paying too much for it as it realistically doesn’t have a great deal of replay value. Good game – short life span.
The Bad: Other than on ‘arcade’ the flying is very challenging and will need much practise, missions consist of much the same thing reapeated, no two player mode