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IL-2's Contrails: A New Dimension in Immersion
by Douglas Helmer

Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik
Version: Pre-beta
Category: WWII Prop Simulation
Developer: Maddox Games
Publisher: Blue Byte Software
Release Date: TBA
Minimum Spec: PII 300, 64 MB RAM, 3D Accelerator
Rec'd. Spec: PIII 600 or better, 128 MB RAM, 32 bit 3D accelerator with 32 MB RAM or better
Past Articles: Click Here For List
Article Type: Preview / Screenshots
Article Date: February 23rd, 2001

Hey, Buddy, Did You See A Bomber Go By?

IL-2's high-altitude contrails are going to change the way we play air combat sims . . . forever.

For example, while playing MicroProse's European Air War, if I went in behind a group of American or German bombers, made my strafing pass, then broke right, then down and away, I'd invariably lose my bearings back to the bomber formation if I didn't have my view padlocked onto one of the enemy bombers.

Without that padlock, I'd lose my sense of direction and would waste valuable time, altitude and energy making a circle to find the bomber stream again. Worse yet, I might see an aircraft in front of me thinking it was part of the bomber group or at least heading back that way only to find later that it was a shot-up comrade or enemy heading home. Sure, I could've checked my compass first before chasing or following some dubious contact, but usually, in the heat of battle, such rational decision-making skills are thrown by the wayside.

Finally! Vapor-ware You Can Really Use!
Rational decision-making skill? We need no stinkin' rational . . . ahem. If the impressive variety of clouds, fog, and weather effects weren't enough, we will also be getting high-altitude contrails.

Now, unlike in EAW or other prop sims, I can come in behind the bombers, make my strafing pass, break away and down (or up) and then just follow those beautiful contrails back to the bombers . . . no padlock needed! It's bloody brilliant and must've been exactly how German fighter pilots would orient themselves when attacking Flying Fortresses in WWII. Immersion City, baby!

To illustrate my point, I've included a short image essay that shows the obvious gains afforded in the immersion and tactical awareness departments when contrails are added . . . oh, and in addition, they are bloody marvellous just to look at!

Fig. 1 Sky without contrails

Fig. 2 Same sky as Fig. 1 with contrails. The advantage is immediately obvious.

Fig 3. Strafing a German He-111 bomber

Fig. 4 Now I break down, away and to the right

Fig 5. Same as Fig. 4 but from cockpit. At this time I have no point of reference back to the bomber stream. This would be typical in a sim like EAW.

Fig. 6 As I come around I see three aircraft. Should I follow or keep turning?

Fig. 7 But wait, what are those contrails a little further on?

Fig. 8 Obviously, I decide to keep turning, following the contrails

Fig. 9 Lo and behold! Three bombers up ahead. Simple!

Fig. 10 External view of my own aircraft's 'coming around' contrail meeting back up with a bomber's contrail

Fig. 11 Il-2's contrails are going to enhance immersion and change multiplay tactics considerbly

Fig. 12 In this looping dogfight, I could tell, intuitively, just from glancing at the shape of my opponent's contrail (from my own cockpit point of view), that I was losing ground. So I skeedaddled to fight again another day. Of course, there won't be contrails at lower altitudes so you won't always have this aid.

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