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IL2 Sturmovik Update

by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Preview
Article Date: July 06, 2001
Previewed Version: E3 Pre-beta Release

Yes, Virginia, there is an IL-2

IL-2 Sturmovik has finally entered beta testing! Close to three hundred CDs have been sent to the selected few world wide, finally putting to rest any fears that IL-2 would never see the light of day. There was even some sporadic speculation that IL-2 didn’t really exist! LOL!

But while funny from one perspective, it wasn’t difficult for me to understand. With the huge number of cancellations over the past eighteen months, “once burned, twice shy.” Moreover, in spite of my many hours of flight in the pre-beta, I continue to be amazed at the technological leap that is IL-2. It’s only natural that there would be some doubt out there—as Arthur C. Clarke said “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

This past week I loaded up and flew a few missions in the version journalists were shown last May at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). I’m fairly current in IL-2, having flown the pre-beta for four or five hours just last week.

The E3 version is five months further in development than the pre-beta. My first impressions are of the clouds…they look even more real if that is possible, and the shadows they cast on the ground also seem improved. There is actually an additional setting for clouds in the setup, where you can choose a higher level of detail. Clouds are simply the best ever.

109 Takes on a Convoy

I chose the 109 F-2 escorting Ju87s to their target. We took off from a grass strip set in the hills. Along the way I spotted some dots on a road far below and dove down to investigate. A supply convoy! I dove on the convoy with cannon and machine guns blazing and managed to knock out a truck on the first pass.

The explosions have far more detail than in the pre-beta.

VVS off the ground just in time.

Voice Comms and Sound

The other immediate impression are the voices and sound. There were no voices in the pre-beta, and the E3 version sported all Russian voice recordings. But I noted that the comms menu for the Luftwaffe was now in place, changed from the Russian only selections of the pre-beta.

The sound now has a detailed setup menu of its own. You can select the number of sound channels you will allow, including the resolution and fidelity. I chose 16 bit sound at 22,050 KHz with 8 channels, and selected hardware acceleration. You can also select sound occlusion and environmental effects.

The aircraft engine sounds are as detailed as ever, with change in tone according to prop pitch and engine RPM. The cannon and machine gun sounds are improved. IL-2 may be the FIRST combat simulation that gives as much attention to the sound as to the graphics.

From the cockpit

Superior Graphics

And what graphics those are…again, it’s a technological leap. No matter where one turns one's eyes in IL-2 the scenes are stunning. This is the first combat simulation I have ever flown where I have gone back to watch the flight recordings simply for entertainment! It’s not unlike watching a movie.

Have I told you about the cockpits? Whew—IL-2 would be worth the purchase for the cockpits alone. Again, no matter where you shift your eyes, the beauty and artistry are stunning. The smallest rivets are here: the sliding slide panels in the 109…and raising your eyes upward, every detail of the cockpit support structure is in place.

Reflections? Got em. Rain water blurring your view, or fog forming on the inside—yep. Oil smearing your windscreen from an engine leak? It’s there. Black out and red out…of course.

Naturally, the instruments are fantastic. But how about a unique cockpit for each model of the 109? And appropriate changes for various models of the IL-2 also. Attention to detail has never been so fine.

Reality check. Does this sound like journalistic hype? You’ve heard it all before?

It is really tough not to wax eloquent when such standards are met. Never before has a simulation designer kept so many promises. There simply aren’t any parallels, and so this journalist doesn’t know what to do except to express his admiration.
“Never before has a simulation designer kept so many promises. There simply aren’t any parallels, and so this journalist doesn’t know what to do except to express his admiration.”
I had heard some time ago that additional effects were being added to the bail out sequence. First, you see the canopy come off. Then a few seconds later your pilot will go over the side; a few seconds later he will pull the chord.

Now, however, when the pilot touches the earth he will immediately detach his chute and start running. When he is 100 yards or so away he will hit the dirt and lay flat. This wasn’t unusual behavior, since there was a high risk of being shot by the enemy when on the ground.

Pilot Running.

Time For Another Mission

My next mission choice was flying the LaGG 3 against an incoming Ju87 raid on my airbase. The nerve of those Germans!

Ju87 with Attacker

Ju87 in serious trouble.

It was in this mission that I first noticed the new startup sounds. Hitting the “I” key gets your starter working, no more engines just blazing into life. You will hear the engine cranking, then catching, then the revs begin to rise.

As you inch your throttle forward the bird begins to roll…and none too soon with the Stukas beginning their diving run.

View from the Attacker

In fact I caught some great images of the bombs as they fell. The first LaGG made it off the runway fine; the second was less than ten meters away from a bomb impact and the entire aircraft disintegrated.

This LaGG is flying into a falling bomb

The craters are nasty and the smoke from the explosion rises for more than a few seconds.

Bf 109 vs P39Q

Not long after the E3 version arrived at my door, the full beta version also arrived. I flew two missions that same hour: first, in a P39Q for the VVS, and then in a Bf109 F-2 for the Luftwaffe. I have probably a hundred hours in the 109 in the pre-beta, so this was a great test of changes in the simulation.

P39Q. A tricky plane to fly.

In short, my experience in the P39 was mixed. The aircraft handles adroitly, but it is essentially an unstable air platform. Anyone who knows their aircraft knows that unstable aircraft make great dogfighters…and very dangerous mounts.

The P39Q will turn on a dime. But think about it. Turning on a dime does nasty things to airflow. In a dogfight in the P39Q pull high G’s for more than one circle and you will stall out. Spins in the P39 are nasty with little warning, a far cry from the 109’s stable handling. In three different fights I lost control twice and spun in. In the third fight I was more careful and got on the tail of the 109, but I found the P39 very tricky.

More surprising, the P39 is not a stable guns platform. Using the rudder to point the nose easily gets one into an oscillation that is hard to control. On the other hand, with a 37mm cannon you only need one hit.

P39Q from 109

The 109 versus the P39 is my choice. I can't out-turn him but I can outmaneuver him. And the 109 F-2 is faster than the P39Q.

Once on the tail of the P39Q it’s tough to stick because he is so maneuverable. Even on the mid level AI actually getting a hit on the P39Q is one of the toughest chores I have faced in a combat simulator. I stuck with it, and after a vertical loop at 3000 feet I see the P39 pilot lose control and spin…SMACK…scratch one. No kidding…the AI is amazing. I have never seen AI so human.
“No kidding…the AI is amazing. I have never seen AI so human. ”
Another example: I am just getting within guns range at 250 yards or so. Now the pilot is jinking. He rolls and twists, smart guy…I can’t tell which direction he will go. Finally he pulls hard up and to the right. I move to follow…his turn rate is high so I have to move fast to keep him in view. What the…he reverses and pulls down and into my turn. In a moment he has zoomed across my field of view and I have to hit rudder and roll to try to stay with him.

Finally I am back on his tail, about 275 yards. He is heading up and for the clouds. Not so fast, we have a score to settle…

There he goes, into the clouds. I am around 200 yards now and I follow. Oh oh. Can’t see a blessed thing. But my ears are working just fine. I hear an engine sound above and to my left, and now passing behind me. Hmmm…could it be?
“There he goes, into the clouds. I am around 200 yards now and I follow. Oh oh. Can’t see a blessed thing. But my ears are working just fine. I hear an engine sound above and to my left, and now passing behind me. Hmmm…could it be?”

I bet he has shaken me off in the cloud. I pulled up hard and popped out the top to see him heading to my left and down—WOW! Using the clouds for a tactical maneuver. I just KNOW they have Oleg’s engrams in silicon in this AI.

Nice line up boys

Next, I run a 2 on 2. I order my wing to engage. He does so, and next thing I know he has two P39s on his tail. Is this too good to be true… a drag maneuver? I pull onto the tail of #2 P39 and a second later he is streaming a fuel leak—a fine white mist that looks TOO cool.

P39Q in the background with fuel streaming.

In short, I am looking forward to more. I don’t believe we will see IL-2 surpassed in 2002.

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