MiGMan’s Combat Diary
The original IL-2 Sturmovik enabled the player to get some 'virtual experience' of what it must have been like for pilots flying in the Soviet and German airforces on the Eastern Front in World War 2. It did this while setting new standards for the fidelity of flight models and realism of the perspective and speed portrayed in the graphics.
A MiG-3 in winter livery.
IL-2 Forgotten Battles sets a new standard in the quality of sequels. PC games in general have led us in recent years to expect from sequels a bunch of missions that, two days after purchase, leave you looking at the end credits and thinking "I paid 50 bucks for that?!?"
In contrast IL-2 Forgotten Battles, if it's your cup of chai, will still have you turning and burning 2 years down the track, as you work your way through the hundreds of included missions, play online and enjoy the publisher's updates and user-created extras.
The in-cockpit map shows your aircraft, waypoints plus all the details you would expect to see on your real kneeboard map. This sort of functionality you would expect to see in a modern jet fighter. The makers of IL-2 have ingeniously blended in this high tech functionality without disrupting the period feel of the sim.
Check out the walled city with detailed docks in the distance and fully animated surf and wave effects.
How do you play IL-2 Forgotten Battles?
You choose your country from Germany, Russia, Finland or Hungary in one of 11 areas and time frames and a range of units from Fighter Squadrons to Bomber Groups. Rank is another choice - a higher rank means you have to command and control more wingmen - not advisable for beginners. Career type lets you concentrate on ground atttack or dogfighting and lastly difficulty, which sets the general difficulty level of the whole campaign.
Industrial targets are fully destroyable.
Your subsequent career will consist of 4 to 8 campaigns - each in turn consisting of about 30 missions. That's 120 to 240 missions per career, and the new dynamic campaign engine makes sure that targets, opposition and weather vary if you choose to replay a campaign.
This makes for immense replayability even before delving into the plethora of user created extras.
Damage modelling is a key feature of the series.
IL-2 broke from the "hit bubble" approach which had sufficed for most combat sims, to a system of quite specific damage effects where your bullets or cannon shells had to actually impact the enemy aircraft model to inflict damage.
The decision to use 'open architecture' meant that very quickly IL-2 had a large user base which began contributing missions and modifications to the already original excellent sim. In the couple of years since IL-2's release the developers have maintained and encouraged this dialogue and as a result the very features and improvements most desired by fans have turned up in IL-2 Forgotten Battles.
The list of enhancements over the original IL-2 Sturmovik is absolutely huge - note that this is only a very small selection of them:
- 81 flyable aircraft, 31 of which are new in Forgotten Battles. That's 81 variants on a small number of types, but the devil is in the details, and IL-2 excels in the details, right down to the choice of flying the personal marques of several ace pilots.
- New Theatre of Operations - Gulf of Finland
- New AI ground objects and vehicles, new ships. The tanks, truck convoys, anti-aircraft artillery were always impressive in IL-2, now there are more!
- As well as highly detailed ship models, the wake effects are the best yet seen in a flight sim, blending smoothly into the rippled water surface.
- Water effects also include reflectivity, splash effects and animated surf.
- The Torpedo bomber variant of the IL-2 sacrifices all but 2 of its guns.
- Selectable user-made skins.
- It's now easy to apply the paint scheme of your choice to your aircraft.
- Improved flight dynamics.
- What was already a the industry standard for fluidity and fidelity has been improved further.
- More realistic AI scripting
- Fans have been raving for a couple of years now about the standard of AI in IL-2. It easily passes the "Flight Sim Turing Test" - which means in practical terms it is hard to tell whether you're flying against a human or computer controlled opponent.
- Manage your radiators, superchargers and fuel mixture control.
- Note that like most of the sim options - the option itself is optional! Many players don't want to fiddle with engine management in the heat of battle, but it's there if you want it.
- Online track recorder and editor.
- Record, edit, play back and share your most glorious victories and defeats including selection of camera angles.
- Search lights and barrage balloons
- Enemy skies just got busier!
- Communication with AA artillery (Don't shoot ! Don't shoot !)
Beginners get a fair shake in the Instant Action module. With a couple of clicks you can set up a situation that's as easy as you like. In fact I spent many enjoyable hours just sightseeing.
The pop-up map makes navigation a breeze. Press 'M' and a windowed map appears which you can manipulate with the mouse, dragging and zooming. It shows
- your aircraft
- runway orientation
- place names
All this without obscuring the main view! This care and attention shown to the map implementation is typical of IL-2 and shows the focus on the needs of the user.
The torpedo bomber tutorial informs us that a single torpedo attack rarely hit a ship let alone sink one, and then goes on to show a successful hit on a cargo ship.
When is a runway not a runway?
Mass formation take-offs and landings are possible.
On touchdown, or on one of my typically bumpy take-offs, the wheels independently spin up or slow down as they contact the runway, with accompanying smoke effects.
The standard cockpit is a virtual cockpit.
Many of the aircraft have multiple gunner positions which you can man. Im multiplayer mode you can even share your aircraft with other humans!
The sim models what must amount to millions of trees. Clever use of textures and transparency give the illusion of a real forest canopy at lower altitudes
As well a muzzle flash and spent cartridges falling you see thin lines of smoke marking the bullet trajectory. At altitude the aircraft leave contrails as well, so that during a dogfight the sky becomes a intricate tapestry of black and white smoke.
IL-2 The Forgotten Battles gives you the opportunity to fly play World War 2 crash test dummy from the safety of your own home.
The sensation of speed at low level is the best yet in a flight sim. I enjoyed whizzing past excellent ground textures, individual trees, small stands of trees and whole forests of trees, vast cities (Moscow alone has 500,000 buildings in the sim), flying through clouds, fog, rain and snow, and all with a smooth frame rated with no s-s-stuttering at all on the test system.
All this would be an impressive achievement for a civil flight sim, to create a world in such detail and still enjoy a sedate and fluid sensation of flight. But IL-2 is a combat sim and once you add multiple aircraft manoeuvering vigorously, tanks, trucks and ships, bombers, anti-aircraft fire you would expect the sim performance to take a severe hit. Not so.
Without a doubt the most outstanding World War 2 flight sim currently available, unfortunately hamstrung at the moment by the installation and running difficulties users are experiencing.
Test system | AMD 1800XP, Windows 98 SE, 512MB RAM, Geforce 3 Ti500
The most outstanding World War 2 flight sim of the 2000's.