Something which will immedialtely strike you as odd about Il-2 Sturmovik is that when you start it up, on the loading screen it has the names of all the add-on campaigns to the original Il-2 Sturmovik game which made it to the ‘grand compilation’ that is ‘1946’. When I talk of a compilation, I mean that it’s actually made up of 5 other expansions or sequels which came after it:
- Forgotten Battles
- Forgotten Battles Ace Expansion Pack
- Pacific Fighters
- Pe-2 add-on
According to Wikipedia, the game contains 256 flyable aircraft. Now, it’s not immediately obvious from the start-up menu where exactly all this stuff is. There’s only really a set of nationalities and planes with which to fly different scenarios. And for each plane, there are about five different ‘types’ which can be flown. So divide 256 by 5 and we get 51. Which sounds about right for the amount of menu space they take up.
Il-2 is hailed by flight-sim enthusiasts as being the most faithful rendition of the experience of fighting planes on the Eastern front (and in the Pacific). And, that’s all well and good. In fact, the realism of the game shines though in moments of brilliance when you go and do things like ‘look at the sun’ and then you’re blinded by this massive bright thing through the clouds and can’t see much else until you look away. I’d like to stress how important stuff like that is in a game. It makes the whole thing more believable. And yet, there is where it all falls down. It took me 20 minutes of scouring the manual and doing tutorials just to take off in a normal plane. Now of course it’s like second nature: Start the engine, flaps to ‘take off’ mode, wheel brake down, power to 110%, release wheel brake; once you’ve reached 120km/h on the runway, you can pull back on the flight stick and lift off.
It is easy, but to start off with it’s a real pain. The same concept of realism ruining an otherwise perfectly acceptable game is in the fact that your airfield is 50 km from the battle, at 320 km/h at full speed in the air, that always means you’ve got an anxious 5 minutes getting there before the ten seconds of ‘fighting’ in which your plane gets blown out of the sky by some man poking a pistol from the cock-pit of his bi-plane.
I tried doing some of the bombing campaigns, having neglected to learn how to bomb, I went straight in and strafed a tank. Annoyingly so, it was still in good working order on my first pass, and when I got low enough it would start firing at me. I repeated this twice before turning a little too steeply and setting my plane off into a spiral. I didn’t have the time to eject my pilot.
In conclusion: Il-2 is more of a flight simulator. It requires patience and strategy, but if you master it, it’ll be much more entertaining than Ubisoft’s other ventures in the combat-flight-sim genre (Blazing Angels and HawX) which focus on arcade-style kills and are geared toward a console audience. I’m qualified to say that because I bought Blazing Angels 2 the day it came out. and played it for ages. Il-2 is much better, but it’s a lot harder.