by Chuck "SmokingCrater" Norton
Article Type: Review
Article Date: September 09, 2002
Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik
Category: WWII Air Combat Simulation
Developer: Maddox Games
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: Released (Nov. 2001)
Min. Spec: PII 400 (or equiv.), 128 MB RAM, 3D Accelerator
Rec'd. Spec: PIII 600 or better, 256 MB RAM, 32 bit 3D accelerator with 32 MB RAM or better
Files & Links: Click Here
Unparalled SupportFor nearly a year now, 1C: Maddox Games' IL-2 Sturmovik has dominated the flight simulation genre. It provides the gamer with unparalleled flight models and stunning visual effects to create one of the most enjoyable simming experiences of recent memory. On top of all this, Oleg Maddox—not surprisingly, the founder of Maddox Games—and his crew have shown tremendous care and dedication in their efforts at post-release support. This is something few companies can even claim. They have listened with open ears to the concerns and views of the general simming public and, over the course of the last year, many of our suggestions have been implemented in the game.
As is so often the case, however, complaints began to arise. Many of these complaints were focused around the fact that while the Russian Air Force (VVS) had a wide selection of aircraft to choose from, the Luftwaffe's hangar was, by comparison, very limited. Several variants of the famous Messerschmitt Bf-109 and the equally famous Focke Wulf 190 were all that were available from the boxed copy of the game. As the months passed however, Oleg and company began to release a series of upgrades that allowed more and more aircraft to be flown both for the VVS and the Luftwaffe; yet for the latter, there still remained only variants of the two basic airframes. The latest upgrade, version 1.2, changes all this.
With this upgrade, Oleg's team brings us four new airplanes:
In the past, "Sturmovik" upgrades have provided a wide array of bug fixes, new airplanes, and gameplay enhancements to satiate the simmers' hunger for fun and realism. In this latest edition, however, the new aircraft are the main feature of the upgrade. This is due to the fact that 1C is hard at work on the upcoming standalone add-on for IL-2 known as Forgotten Battles. So, that said, there is very little in the way of bug fixes and gaming enhancements in this latest upgrade.
- Ju-87B-2 Stuka
This observation is not meant to downplay these new aircraft in any way. It is simply meant to give the reader an idea of what to expect when they download this ~30 megabyte file. (The README file provided with the upgrade explains what fixes and/or changes have been made.)
InstallationAfter downloading the version 1.2 upgrade file from 3DGamers.com, installation was a cinch. Simply double-click the self-extracting file and when the dialog box appears, select the directory to which you installed IL-2. Click "Unzip" and you're done! In a few seconds, version 1.2 is ready to go. You really can’t ask for a much simpler install. From the time the download completed to the time I was hunting T-34's in my Stuka was less than a minute. Nice.
No changes were made to the game's front end, so when the familiar menus popped up, I set up a few missions in the quick mission builder to test out the various aircraft. I'm no tactician, so I can't tell you which airplane rolls faster, has a better turning radius or anything like that, but I will do my best to tell you how each airplane felt.
Russian AircraftFirst we will take a look at the new Russian aircraft. The Yak-9, a successor to the Yak-1 and Yak-7 series, was first introduced to combat in 1942. That's all well and good, but what does this mean for the gamer? It means that for the first time since the game's release, the VVS forces will have an aircraft capable of matching early Luftwaffe designs in year-restricted online servers. All too often, the early-war German aircraft were capable of knocking out their VVS counterparts with relative ease. Up until now, this has also been the case in online dogfight servers that are restricted to 1941-1942. Now, VVS pilots won't be forced to use the relatively inferior Yak-1's and LaGG-3's as their primary fighter.
|Yak-9 on final. |
Though the Yak-9 is fast and maneuverable (comparable to many previously released versions of the Yak-9), it suffers from weak armament. One machine gun and one cannon are all that this baby packs for a punch and this is one issue that can leave the player feeling a bit naked in online fights. The magazines carry a fair amount of ammunition, but again, with such a weak weapons load-out, that ammo is necessary to knock down one or two opposing enemy aircraft. That, of course, is assuming your gunnery is above average (i.e., far better than mine).
Much of the same can be said for the Yak-9D. This is essentially a long-range version of the Yak-9 and was introduced in 1943. Again, it is fast and maneuverable, but sharing similar armament to the Yak-9, it lacks any serious punch. Additionally, considering that most people (myself included) reduce their online fuel load to between 25 to 50 percent of full, the advantages of a long-range fighter seem a bit moot. Of course, if you don't stay alive long enough to burn through a fraction of that fuel, then it doesn't really matter anyway. Hey, I didn't get the nickname "SmokingCrater" for nothing.
|Having some fun with the new Yak-9D. |
The flight models for the new Russian aircraft seem to be well done or at least on par with every other flyable plane in the game. As I've never flown anything bigger or faster than a Cessna 210, I can't really comment on their realism. All I can say is that they just 'feel' right. Stall characteristics of both airplanes are fairly modest. They stall when you expect them to and when they do, they recover quickly and efficiently, keeping altitude and speed loss to a minimum. Cockpits on both are laid out nicely (even nicer if you can read Russian) and provide a good field of vision in nearly all directions. The entire line of Yak aircraft is a one of thoroughbred turn and burn fighters and these new additions are no different. Watch out for these two fast and low aircraft on early-war servers. Watch extra hard if your airplane has black crosses on its wings.
German AircraftWhile the VVS guys and gals were given two new variants of old airplanes, the real star of the version 1.2 upgrade is the Ju-87B-2 Stuka. Slow, (some could argue) ugly, and possessing only a pair of weak machine guns, the Stuka seems like an unlikely contender for a highly-anticipated airplane. Yet, that is exactly the case. Ever since Oleg announced that it would be in the 1.2 upgrade, the www.il2sturmovik.com forums have been alive with the chatter of pilots eagerly awaiting the Stuka's arrival.
|A Stuka on the hunt. |
I was skeptical of their excitement first, but I’ve since come to see what they were getting all worked up about. Despite a cruising speed and offensive punch that's comparable to that of a hang glider, the Ju-87 proves herself to be an absolute joy to fly. Load the bent-wing-bird up with bombs and she becomes a true terror on the Eastern Front. Vehicles, tanks, and other ground targets are no match for this sharp-shooting bomber.
The Ju-87 in IL-2 is equipped with a simplified dive control system. As you near your victims, use the glass window between the rudder pedals to keep a bead on them. (This is an historically accurate feature that surprised me to see in the game, thinking it was too minute a detail to bother with. But with Maddox, I've learned to put that type of thinking aside.) When you are in the proper position for your dive bombing attack, an extension of the divebrakes engages a sort of dive autopilot similar to the auto-control on the actual Stuka.
|Look out below! |
When the divebrakes extend, the aircraft is automatically re-trimmed to a nose-down attitude and it immediately begins to dive. Line up your targets using the gunsight—a good amount of "feel" helps too—and let loose your bomb load at 500 meters. At release, the autopilot re-trims the airplane back to its original cruise configuration, allowing you to leave your target a smoking wreck without much concern on your part. No doubt about it, dive bombing takes some time to get used to: hurling yourself towards Mother Earth at high rates of speed CAN be a tad unnerving, but it is a blast once you get the hang of it.
|A look at the Stuka's cockpit. Notice the sight glass between the pilot's feet. |
While the aircraft packs quite a mean sting on its bomb racks, due to its slow speed and poor defensive armament, it's a sitting duck for VVS fighters. However, with the proper escort, this aircraft can prove devastating to Russian ground units. In the coming weeks, watch for this aircraft to make online co-op missions very exciting.
|Uh...oops. Heh heh |
The final new aircraft is the Bf-109E-7/Z. Featuring a new engine and boost system, it is a specialized high-altitude fighter. In fact, engaging said boost system below about 6500 meters will kill the engine almost instantaneously. Other than that, this airplane is a standard –109E at heart and performs very similarly to the others in the family. Possessing good speed and maneuverability through many altitude ranges, it will prove to be worthy adversary on early-war servers. Firepower consists of two machine guns and two cannons, giving this little 109 quite a bit of firepower in a relatively small airframe. Stalls and slow flight are similar to other 109E's and spin recovery is reasonably easy with standard techniques.
In all, 1C has given us, the gamer, yet another great enhancement for an already wonderful sim. In the past year we have received a gaggle of new airplanes and game improvements for which we have paid nothing beyond the retail price of the core game itself. 1C's devotion to its fans / customers is an unfortunately rare occurrence these days and should be commended on the highest level. If this type of dedication and attention to detail continues, and I'm sure we all hope it does, the simming community can expect there to be much more in store for IL-2.
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