by Aaron "Spectre" Watson
Article Type: Review
Article Date: August 13, 2002
Product Name: Eastern Thunder for IL-2 Sturmovik
Category: WWII Air Combat Sim Add-on
Developer: Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Publisher: Just Flight
Release Date: Released
Sys. Spec: Click Here
Files & Links: Click Here
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Il-2 Sturmovik has been out for quite some time now, and the long-lived fervor is quieting down a bit. By now, you've possibly finished the campaigns, flown quite a bit online, and even dabbled with skin making and the full mission builder. If you're like me, it's all wearing a bit thin, and Maddox's IL-2: Forgotten Battle's add-on is months from completion. What else is out there to renew the spark?
|Eastern Thunder splash screen |
Well, I was informed of the “Eastern Thunder” third-party expansion some time ago and never gave it much thought. When I was asked to take a look at it, anticipation built. I got the package and looked at a very professional CD and manual depicting a nice screen shot of the Axis and Allied sides with guns ablaze. Other nice screen captures grace the back of the CD.
I popped it in the old CD-ROM drive and took a quick leaf through the 68-page manual. Installation instructions, patch application, and access to the online manual start things out. Descriptions of where missions are and how to access them follows. All of these are in English and German, though the remainder is all in English. The remainder is also the really nice, innovative part of this package. Letters home from both a German and a Russian flyer give a good feel in the "I was there" aspect. Maps and descriptions for each mission, and for each side, are also bound up. This last part I really like. If missions are scripted, like they are in IL-2 Sturmovik, a breakdown of each is excellent.
The CD has 242 MBs worth of data, 140 of which are on the root as an advertisement for Just Flight and its many add-on products. As a first time user of this group's offerings, I found this video presentation enlightening. I'm just a sucker for in-game videos, and these shots from different eras were in multiple panes.
The rest of the CD reveals patches for the game, up to 1.03, an HTML version of the manual, and the data files in *.cab format. The manual on the CD has a few shots of the target area for some of the briefings, and is recommended.
The installation will not proceed unless a valid install of IL-2 Sturmovik is found. My current version 1.1 was not a problem for the setup program and all campaign, single, and coop missions were neatly tucked into their correct locations.
As an ardent mud-mover, I decided to start my testing as a pilot in the VVS, as they are the only ones that currently field a user-flyable bomber. Sometime in August, an upgrade (free) will be offered by Ubi Soft and 1C:Maddox to allow the use of the Luftwaffe Stuka, but until then I will continue with the Russian variety. “Eastern Thunder” missions are under their own heading, so it is simple to get things started.
The briefings are not overly wordy, but are usually succinct enough for you to gather what it is you are supposed to accomplish.
|Succinct briefings were created |
Various airframes are flown throughout the campaign and the first Russian tasking is in the newbie friendly La-5. Upon loading, the missions are very full. There are multiple friendly flights and enemy flights. Some require intervention; others are going about their own missions. The static aircraft, vehicles, AAA and other objects at any given airbase are plentiful and give an air of authenticity. And if you are tasked to assault an enemy airbase, you will get quite a reception!
|A warm reception |
One of my favorite items to place in my own full mission builder creations are thoughtfully included in each of the missions I flew; namely, the static cameras. These are accessible toward the latter part of the list when scrolling through enemy units via the CRTL F2 command. Pausing periodically in an off-line game yields nice views of hot spots when cameras are placed correctly.
The missions themselves start off fairly easy and objectives are achievable without much trouble. Toward the end, however, the missions become more and more difficult to complete. Intercept point timings were tweaked quite well and the action is rarely too far into the future. Most of the available maps are used and at different times of day and varied weather conditions. These mission builds were very well thought out and implemented.
I even hosted a couple of the coops on Hyper Lobby to get a feel for the way things timed out, and they also seemed nicely choreographed.
There are also four skins included: two for the Bf-109s, and two for the Fw-190s created by Christian Schulz. All four are for actual Luftwaffe pilots like Trautloft, Nowotny, and Graf. Historically accurate, and well done.
|Historical Bf-109 |
There are quite a few third party missions available all over the Internet and a few campaigns here and there. One in particular that has gotten rave reviews is "Operation Barbarossa" by Ossi. There are quite a few more missions in it than there are in “Eastern Thunder”, but it is strictly a Luftwaffe campaign. And, if you wander by the Sturmovik Technika website, you'll see that an improved version of Barbarossa has been worked by this same mission maker, the talented Leonard “Viking1” Hjalmarson.
I must admit that I did not enter this review with the best outlook. These type of items are, as just mentioned, available for only the cost of your web connection, but gratis by the authors. Going through the package has, however, changed my opinion. Very well crafted missions, great manual on both CD and print, along with the historical skins make this a worthy add-on for an IL-2 Sturmovik lover's shelf.
To finish up, if Just Flight were to put out an “Eastern Thunder 2,” with both side's missions crafted as well as this, along with all the patches and upgrades prior to IL-2: Forgotten Battles, I'd pick up a copy.
IL-2 Sturmovik Resources
IL-2: Forgotten Battles
Reviews & Features
Interviews with Oleg Maddox
Files & Utilities
Virtual Squadrons and Groups
Home of the VMF-124 Death's Head Squad