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IL2 Sturmovik

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Computer games Il2 Sturmovik PC flight simulator review

Bf109e cockpit
Bf109 Cockpit
Il2 Sturmovik is a PC aviation simulation that covers the aircraft over the Eastern front during ww2. The simulator is without a doubt the finest representation of aerial combat and for that matter pure flying to so far be seen on the PC.
There have been other great aircraft simulators over the years but IL2 Sturmovik is in a different league at the moment in virtually all respects.

Many of the aircraft in the sim will be unfamiliar to westerners. The Russians had some great aircraft during ww2 but until this simulator hit the shelves they were only famous East of Germany. This game will surely change that. There are also much more familiar aircraft from Germany including the BF109 series and the potent Focke Wulf 190.

Grapically the game is unsurpassed. The aircraft are modelled with amazing fidelity and look almost photo-realistic in their appearance. The virtual cockpits (there is no stale old static view) are tremendous recreations of the full-size aircraft. You can pan around with the mouse looking both in the cockpit and outside through the canopy. This system feels identical to using the mouse look in a first person shooter such as Quake 3 and is very satisfying. You soon get used to flying with one hand while looking around with the mouse. The instruments are fully functional while panning around, though due to the limits of screen size may appear small in the normal view. Externally the aircraft also look the business with awesome localised damage modelling effects.
It's not just the aircraft graphics that shine in this pc simulator, the ground targets such as tanks, trucks, ships etc are also excellently represented. The outside world is also an amazing piece of work. Weather effects are amongst the best I've yet seen in a computer game and the sun is just about on a par with the one in Rally Trophy. Clouds are once again the best I've so far encountered in a simulation. They are volumetric and give an amazing feel of realism to the game (having flown in real aircraft I can say these clouds are very close to the real thing in appearance). It's perfectly feasable to use these clouds to your benefit in a dogfight by hiding in them. The sim even manages to reproduce the turbulence that is associated with flying through cloud formations.
Junkers Ju87 Stuka dive bombers
Junkers Ju87 Stuka dive bombers. With the 1.2 version patch this aircraft becomes flyable. Features dive brakes and siren.
Mig 3
The Mig 3 cockpit view.
Terrain graphics are very good and amongst the best on offer in simulations, though they are not as far ahead of everything else as is the rest of the simulation. Hills roll up and down nicely while sometimes fog fills the valleys to good effect. Forests have been represented in an interesting manner that seems to use extra layers of textures. This works good until you get very low when the illusion of forest trees falls apart. These forested areas can also slow down an otherwise smooth framerate. Maybe this is one of the few points that could stand some improvement.

While on the subject of framerates I get good smooth graphics (except sometimes when looking at those large forest areas) with a 1.1 Ghz Duron , 384 MB SDRAM and a now rather dated Geforce 2MX. I run it in 16 bit mode at 1024x768 (The Geforce2 MX slows down badly in 32 bit mode).

( I now run a Geforce FX5200, this card runs the simulation very smoothly at 1024x768 in 16 or 32 bit mode. The tree covered areas are now rendered at a much faster rate. The computer game really shines when using this graphics card. )

Yak 9
Amongst the finest of the Russian fighters, the Yak 9 is a match for almost anything. Powerful, fast and well armed.
Sound is very good in this simulation. Engines sound realistic and the sound of weapons fire is excellent, be it your guns firing or the impact noises of enemy fire on your plane. Sounds are positional in this sim. As an example when flying the P39 Airacobra the sound of the engine comes from behind you as this unorthodox American lend-lease aircraft had a mid mounted engine with a long driveshaft that went under the pilot to the front mounted propeller. This example shows the incredible amount of effort the developers put into the creation of Sturmovik. Radio chatter fills the airwaves in the simulation. This is in the native language (Russian or German) but text subtitles display the English.
Another view from the Bf109 cockpit
The game plays as well as it looks and sounds. It's tough due to the level of realism but strafing enemy supply columns or dive bombing an airfield are so well represented that the satisfaction is immense. You have some control over your squadron as well and can order them to target ground or air targets for example.

The game features both single missions and several full campaigns to fight through. These are all excellent and greatly satisfying. You can also setup you own missions either in the full mission builder or the much simpler quick mission builder.
The only negative thing one could say about campaigns in Sturmovik is that they are not dynamic like in Mig Alley for instance. This matters very little though in my view.

There is a very long list of aircraft simulated in this game, all of which are superbly done. The patches increased the range of aircraft still further and now as of patch version 1.2 there are around 80 aircraft simulated (including variants) many of which are flyable (including the Stuka).

Here is the list of the flyable planes (Version 1.2).

  • BF109 in about 10 different marks. (There is a big difference between the early lightly loaded BF109E and the later G variants)
  • FW190 in three different marks. (Amongst the finest fighters of any nation in WW2)
  • Ju89B-2 Stuka dive bomber. (The infamous Stuka is simulated complete with dive brakes and siren)
  • Polikarpov I-16 type 18
  • Polikarpov I-16 type 24 (both these Polikarpov aircraft are great dogfighters and deceptively dangerous foes)
  • BI-1 (this is a little known rocket plane the Russians developed, short endurance coupled with high performance and very low ammo)
  • IL2 Sturmovik in a myriad of versions (this tankbusting aircraft is well armoured and packs a considerable punch)
  • La-5fn (high performance Russian fighter aircraft)
  • LAGG 3 (high performance Russian fighter aircraft)
  • Mig 3 in various versions (this early aircraft from the famous manufacturer is an effective weapon on a par with the BF109)
  • P39 Airacobra (the famous American aircraft was sent to Russia under lend-lease agreement. It packs a punch like no other fighter and shreds enemy aircraft with it's cannon. Not as manouvable as some aircraft.)
  • Yak 1, Yak 3 and Yak 9 in various versions (Superbly effective Russian fighting planes that match the best of Germany)

There are many other non flyable aircraft including the Junkers Ju88, Heinkel 111, Me262, Junkers Ju52, Storch, Folgore and others.

P39 firing
The P39 Airacobra has awesome firepower and will shred anything that gets in it's sights.
IL2 Sturmovik ground attack aircraft
The name of the game. The Sturmovik is a stable aerial platform from which to attack enemy ground targets. Can carry bombs and rockets as well as it's gun armament. You can also let the AI fly the plane while you man the rear gun position.
The computer opposition AI in the simulation is generally good and challenging. Aircraft will turn hard to get on your tail and are difficult to shake off. The computer controlled aircraft do sometimes show weakness at low altitude however. For instance if you get on the tail of one at low level his attempts at shaking you off become repetitive and predictable. The A.I. works much better at altitude where it can use vertical manouvers.
Engaging AI bombers is especially tricky (even more so if they are in formation) as the rear gunners are highly accurate. You need to try to either take out the aircraft quickly with cannon or get an angle that makes it difficult for the gunners to get a bead on your aircraft.

You can padlock the other aircraft during combat so that the view follows them automatically. This can be useful for the final part of a dogfight but generally I find it better to use the mouse look during most phases of a dogfight.

Computer Games SCORECARD

Graphics 9.5/10
Sound 9/10
Gameplay 9/10
Originality 8/10

Computer Games score 9.5/10

THE BEST aircraft sim on the market as of early 2003. Buy it.
All in all IL2 Sturmovik is a must for any aviation enthusiast who owns a moderately powerful PC. It's the best out their at the present and offers a level of realism coupled with fun that no other simulator has yet achieved. The game is stable and relatively bug free in operation and should keep your interest for a very long while. Thouroughly recommended.