IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad has an incredible amount of detail for flight combat sim fans to enjoy, but needs some work before it can hold the same appeal for novice players.
We first saw IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad in action about a year and half ago, when some of the developers walked us through some of the key features in their WW II air combat game. A lot of those were technical in nature, and had more than a little to do with the series’ move back to the PC platform after previous entries appeared for consoles as well. Being designed from the ground up for the PC platform, the goal was to create the most accurate representation of the Battle of Stalingrad as possible – and in that regard, they succeeded.
Using the superior processing power of modern day PCs and their graphics cards, it’s easy to fully appreciate how much detail went into developing this game if you know where to look. To the uninitiated, IL-2 Sturmovik may look like just another decent-looking flight combat sim – but the differences are in the little things. Each plane isn’t just a plane model with some high res textures plastered onto it – every single one of them was modeled after its original, modeling individual components that behave and react independently. That may sound trivial, but you see the difference when you get hit, or when you collide with something. Of course you can make a smooth landing, but come in a little rough and your landing gear might break, sending you into an uncontrolled slide or spin across the surface. Collide with a ground object ever so slightly and you might not burst into flames right away, but your steering will feel off due to the damage you incurred.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop at the visual aspect, although we could also talk at length about how detailed the ground models and scenery elements are – all rebuilt using maps, photography and eye witness accounts from that time. The same detail also went into the game’s sound engine, where a plane’s roar isn’t just a recording but actually a sound that’s being generated based on the plane’s model, height, distance, wind direction and whatnot. The fact that the game focuses on a single battle (and region) helps in keeping the level of detail so high, but it’s still impressive if you consider the enormous scale on which the Battle of Stalingrad played out.
Under the hood, the latest IL-2 Sturmovik is a complete success. Where it’s a little lacking is in the package in which the game is delivered. Menus are fairly bare-boned (they don’t even have music playing), the single player campaign is lengthy but lacking on the storytelling front, and there is a steep learning curve. None of these issues are likely to scare away the purists playing this as a full-blown sim, but it might deter would-be combat pilots from getting to the heart of the game.
This is a shame, because this is a game that deserves to be played. All the little details we’ve discussed above can be enjoyed in single player, but the game really comes to life in its multiplayer mode. While a dedicated coop mode hasn’t been added yet, the thrill of taking out an enemy who’s right on your buddy’s tale is about as exciting as it gets – especially if the both of you are in the same room playing on a local network.
Is this game right for you? That depends on how much of a seasoned combat pilot you are. If you are then you’ll feel right at home here, but if you’re not then you have to consider your options. If you want to play the best WW II combat flight sim out there and are willing to persevere, then you have no reason to hesitate.