by Aaron "Spectre" Watson
Article Type: Preview
Article Date: February 03, 2003
Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles
Category: WWII Air Combat Simulation
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: November 2002
Req. Spec: TBA
Files & Links: Click Here
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Recently I was afforded the opportunity to contribute to the next generation of a combat simulation legend. It is just over a year old, and it's already a "legend"? In this situation, it is apropos. I am, of course, speaking of that Top Pick from 2001, IL-2 Sturmovik, and it's soon to be released sequel, Forgotten Battles.
|On target in IL-2: Forgotten Battles |
It was discussed for months on the official forum as an add-on. Then it was disclosed late last year that it would be a standalone project, as it was getting rather large. After banging on the preview for a bit, I can see why! I will probably only scratch the surface, but will hit the highlights as best I can.
When wandering through the familiar screens, for previous IL-2 flyers, you will notice some additional functions and options. In the graphics options area, there are some new choices, when OpenGL mode is chosen.
|New options added |
The picture above shows settings at maximum. Landscape details set at perfect may be over stating it, but allows for some very nice water effects. When choosing DirectX mode, perfect is not even an option.
Other menu choices have been added, and are apparent when choosing to fly via any mode available, quick missions, singles, multiplayer, and even campaign. We'll look at these after an introduction to the big reason for this next addition.
One of the real crowd pleasers is the already impressive list of aircraft in IL-2. Forgotten Battles is adding many more, but the types are becoming more varied. Multi-engine support will be seen in such airframes as the twin engine He-111, and the Soviet four engine TB-3. This last was the first one I tried out in the preview. With its fixed undercarriage, open cockpits for the crew and gunners, itís a definite departure from any other previously flyable aircraft. The full list of those made flyable follows, interspersed with some screenshots for a few from each side in the conflict.
- Ju-87D-3: Two seat dive bomber / ground attack aircraft
- Ju-87G-1: Two seat tank buster / ground attack aircraft
|Ju-87 G-1 |
- Bf-109G-14: Fighter
- Bf-109G-10: Fighter
- Bf-109K-4: Fighter
- FW-190D-9: Fighter, 1944 model
- FW-190D-9: Fighter. 1945 model with MW50
- FW-190F-8: Fighter-bomber
- FW-190A-9: Fighter
- He-111H-2: Multi-crewed bomber
- He-111H-6: Multi-crewed bomber / torpedo bomber
- Me-262A-1a: Jet fighter
- Me-262A-2a: Jet fighter-bomber
- B-239 (Brewster Buffalo F2A): Fighter. Finnish Air Force
- Hurricane Mk I Fighter: Finnish Air Force
- TB-3: Multi-crewed bomber
- La-5: Fighter
- La-5F: Fighter
- La-7 2x20mm ShVAK cannons: Fighter
- La-7 3x20mm B-20 cannons: Fighter
- I-153 M-62: Fighter
- I-153P: Fighter
- Hurricane Mk IIB: Fighter
- Hurricane Mk IIC: Fighter
|Hurricane MkIIC |
- Hurricane Mk II with Russian cannons and MGs: Fighter
- P-47D-10: Fighter / fighter-bomber
- P-47D-27: Fighter / fighter-bomber
- P-40E: Fighter
- P-40M: Fighter
- P-40 field mode with Soviet M-105P engine: Fighter
Definitely an impressive list. In total there will now be 80 different flyable aircraft, due to model upgrades of select aircraft. Total in-game variations are now up to an incredible 129 types!
Also, as previously eluded to, there are customizations available for all these types from any flight mode chosen.
Most of the areas in the user interface are similar to IL-2, but have additional capabilities. In the quick mission area, there is a new row added called Advanced Setup. In the single mission and campaign missions you will see an aircraft customization button. Here you can choose a skin for each of the flights in your group, and in Quick Missions, as you set the opposition up for yourself, you may even create different aspects for each aircraft in any flight.
|Quick Mission Customize screen |
From skins to armament, pilot, country and whether to include the markings, it can now be chosen for all aircraft, user flown or AI, in quick mission only.
The already stunning graphics of IL-2 Sturmovik are improved again in Forgotten Battles. It is nothing earth shattering, especially in comparison to the improvements over other simulations that IL-2 already had brought to the table.
It has made use of improvements in graphics technology, however, as the GeForce2 was the big guy on the block when the original was released. The "perfect" setting and the "excellents" shown above all run with 20-30 fps on my test system.
Weather effects along with fire and smoke effects from damaged and destroyed vehicles look better also. More persistent and convincing, would be the best way to describe them.
The on-ground items are more varied and denser. They help to suspend disbelief, but can have a detrimental effect on your FPS. In larger cities, especially Berlin, the sheer number of separate items to be drawn overwhelms my CPU and caused a slide show effect. I am sure that the last minute tweaking before going gold concerns this subject, but the FPS speeds at time of release will tell the tale.
Down low, in the less populated regions, it looks quite a bit better as the canopy effect of trees has been lessened. There is not a great detriment to framerates either. The terrain, overall, looks a bit better but the mountains, as seen in some areas, are breathtaking. One of the multiplayer maps has the full gamut of terrain elevations. From flat, multiple runway airfields on the coast, to towering mountains with scary-to-land-at airfields in the valleys.
|Hurricane in MP Map. |
Another addition, as seen above, is the capability to turn on landing lights for aircraft that, historically speaking, actually had them.
A new dimension is to be implemented in this newest edition and that comes in the form of engine management. Prop pitch, superchargers at altitude, and even controls for each engine are slated to be implemented. The preview version had certain aspects turned off, but should be ready by the release date. Such things as WEP were emulated by 110 percent engine output instead of requiring the use of separate keystroke. As in IL-2, prop pitch and radiators were all present, but mixture had yet to be implemented.
Rough outlays for in-flight models were apparent as aircraft known for nimbleness, such as the Hurricane, could out-turn the heavy P-47. The TB-3 drove like a bus and the Me-262 has a fine top end. Such things as the overly touchy throttle on the Schwabel are to be fine tuned just prior to release. Currently, if you jam the throttles to max power from anything less than 50 percent power, the old Jumos will burst into flame. Historically true, but a bit overdone (pun intended).
A few small "issues" still remained in my preview copy, like flap warning sounds that would not shut down, but the overall sound quality was similar to the ones in IL-2. There are few changes in sounds for events.
One thing this previewer discovered was the ability to change the voices to your preference. The structure of the directories in the speech folders is identical. Pulling the sub-folders from one language into another eliminates the need to have the scrolling messages at the top. For example, being an English speaker, I took the contents of the US folder, and placed them in the RU folder. So, as I flew campaign missions for the Soviet side, I could understand the messages. A change in the conf.ini allowed for the HUD messages to be eliminated. Less clutter plus a new dimension in sound equal better immersion in my book.
Small touches like this abound. While flying the TB-3 and switching to the bombers station, there is a table propped up by the wall of this spacious area. On this table is a map, and a pencil for taking notes. When the aircraft banks, the pencil rolls into the turn!
New nods to playability were also implemented in the items that can be controlled by keystrokes. I am a screen-shot junkie. I have many CD's full of them from various simulations. So when I saw the capability to toggle the speed bar and labels, even when enabled, I jumped on it. Clutter free captures are a beautiful thing.
One last nice touch that I will mention, as there are just too many to go over, is the recording system. The same "save a track" system is here, but also works in multiplayer and not just in single player like in IL-2. There is another type being added that allows a toggle on/toggle off while in game. I have tried both these systems and they work well in whatever mode you're flying in.
One of my true litmus tests, as an 80 percent off-line type, this time it's going to be different. Gone are the scripted engagements packaged with the original. "Starshoy," with his very well done Campaign Gen add-on for IL-2, has created a random battle generator specific to aircraft type. Tracking of personal careers has been enhanced, and pilot records are more informative. Each persona has a separate photo, and can be matched up to the pilot flying your craft in game. Adding your own to either is not at all difficult.
The campaign missions themselves have good variety. Depending on your ride of choice, air patrols and interdiction are assigned on the fly. Another addition is the showing of the front lines on briefing maps. You really get a sense of affecting the overall campaign via the movement of these lines.
|Debrief showing the FEBA |
Re-assignment to closer bases happens if all goes well, and fall back airfields are called for if the situation deteriorates. Overall, a much better feel of immersion is drawn upon.
As a preview it was difficult to gather anyone for multiplay, but I did manage a couple of flights on a few of the new maps. There are maps with islands and mountains, even multiple runway airfields for air racing. All of the old maps are there, also. stability seemed as good as the original, with four people on a server the one time that I was able to get that many people gathered. I also ran a few times, to test all these new aircraft, solo. The new maps are quite nice.
Comms, AI, and View Systems are all basically unchanged. But, as they worked well before, this is a good thing. The settings of the AI do seem to have more differentiation, and the Ace settings do make some more well executed maneuvers. They are still, seemingly omniscient, however. Clouds do not hinder them as they maneuver and fire on you. And sneaking up on an AI opponent's six o'clock low would seem like a good spot to be in. However when you close in to just outside of gun range, their "radar" seems to go off and they start defensive moves. I would guess this edge is unrealistic but a nod to balance. Factoring in clouds for the AI would probably also be close to impossible, though they are aware enough of them to utilize them for hiding now.
This is another area that was always very good, but did have more additions. The previously mentioned FEBA lines can be placed on a map in the full mission builder. There is also an amazing inventory of place-able scenery objects. You can build an entire town with train stations, warehouse and factory districts and more. There are the new nighttime search lights which come on and start probing the sky until they find an invader. At that time they can and will track you and cause AAA fire to be guided your way. Placing these on a night map can really add to the effects.
|Searchlight probing. |
Full environment control is there from time of day, winter or summer, plus storms, fog, and haze. The best mission builder I have ever worked with has gotten even better!
If you liked IL-2 Sturmovik, you will probably love this title. If something about it put you off, the new options could draw you in. I fall into the former category and greatly anticipate a release that should be fairly soon.
To sum it all up, for me, the best looks to have become even better!
- AMD Athlon XP2200
- 512MB PC2700 DDR RAM
- GeForce4 Ti4400 (128MB)
- Creative SBLive! 5.1
- IBM 80GB 7200 RPM HDD
- MS-SWPP Joystick
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