IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Fulqrum Publishing
Release Date: Sept. 2014

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Preview - 'IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Sept. 8, 2014 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad is a new sequel in the long running WWII combat flight simulator series, and will include both single-player and multi-player scenarios for virtual pilots to enjoy as well as brand new gameplay modes.

If you're into combat flight simulation games, you've probably heard of the IL-2 Sturmovik series. The original title and its expansions were some of the more hardcore flight sims around. They were also designed to make their gameplay approach as realistic as possible. The upcoming IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad marks the most recent entry into the series, and it runs on an updated engine from a previous game, Rise of Flight. This makes for considerable eye candy, but more importantly, it also allows for some of the most nuanced control that the series has had to date.

At its core, the current build of the game is for hardcore flight enthusiasts. The amount of on-screen prompts or GUI information is minimalist. Rather, for most information, you must use the head look controls and look around the cockpit for the proper indicators. As should be the case, there are a bevy of options to control your craft beyond that of simple directional and throttle controls. These options aren't needed to stay aloft in a basic sense, but knowledge of how to feather a prop or change the trim can be helpful.

Yet, don't expect the game to hold your hand while you're learning. There are no tutorials and no warnings when you're putting your plane through dangerous maneuvers. There is no indicator of how many rounds remain for your limited machine gun ammo, and there isn't a gun sight to help you learn how to lead a target. Novice players will likely have a hell of a time learning the ropes, since there is a lot to take in.

With that said, the flight model feels a lot more informative thanks to visual and audio cues. As you put your plane into maneuvers that mess with its aerodynamics, you'll hear the wind rushing along the surfaces of the plane. The louder the sound, the closer the plane is to either stalling or otherwise losing lift. This system becomes intuitive, allowing for a subconscious style of trial and error as you learn how to ease your plane out of those maneuvers without losing control. This is important to learn because there are no safeguards to stop you from pulling back on the stick too tightly for a sharp turn and putting the plane into a maneuver beyond its means.

All this together means that flying your plane is sometimes a bit of an art form before you even engage enemy planes in a dogfight. Leading your shots takes some time to master, and it can be hard to tell if your shots are ahead of or behind the target. Often, it boils down to walking a burst of fire along the flight path, seeing at what point the shots connect, and then trying to discern the proper distance from there. It just takes some time before you start to get a proper feel for it all.

When your shots connect, boy, do you know it. Even small bore machine guns are capable of inflicting damage that sends shards of paint and bodywork loose into the sky. Larger guns cause much more immediate and significant visual damage to the plane. Engines and the planes catch fire and emit smoking trails in their wake. Wings can take damage or break off entirely, and disabled aircraft often show obvious distress before losing control and impacting into the dirt. Watching this damage unfold is worth all the time spent learning how to judge shots.

The content currently available in the beta lacks much in the way of a cohesive campaign. Instead, it's a collection of missions that can be undertaken, under various conditions and objectives. Some can be as simple as one-on-one dogfights in and against aircraft of your choosing, while others have you fighting alongside fellow wingmen as you engage enemy aircraft or assault an enemy airbase. This makes the game feel like a box of parts more than a cohesive experience, but hopefully, that will change in the complete game.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad is shaping up to be a pretty hardcore flight sim for equally hardcore enthusiasts. The current build feels a lot more approachable than previous titles in the series. This doesn't come at the expense of cheapening the gameplay, as it thrusts you into a world where the best players are the ones who know what they're doing and how to push the envelope. We'll have more information on the game as it gets closer to release, and we can check out how it shapes up.

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