IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Preview

Written by Joe Martin

August 1, 2009 | 14:52

Tags: #arcade #birds-of-prey #flight-sim #il-2-sturmovik #nazi #plane #world-war-2 #ww2 #wwii

Companies: #505-games

Birds of Prey Impressions

Birds of Prey has three different difficulty settings – Arcade, Realistic and Simulator – and as well as altering the accuracy of enemies and such, each one changes how hard the game is by altering the actual interface.

On Arcade difficulty mode for example, your plane will handle perfectly and you’ll be able to easily target enemies using any of four different camera views. You can have a third person view of your plane, a virtual cockpit view, a cut-down targeting view similar to some modern planes and a special camera reserved for bombing runs. You can’t stall and, while bullets will still drift in flight, you don’t really have to worry about aiming ahead or even running low on resources too much.

Bump IL-2 Sturmovik all the way up to Simulator difficulty though and the game suddenly becomes more punishing than sliding naked down a giant cheese grater and landing in a pool of vinegar. There’s no auto-correction for aiming, you’re confined to the cockpit view and the bombing camera and most importantly you have no radar or way to discern enemies from allies. Running the crosshair over nearby planes in lower difficulties will turn it red or green to signify their allegiances, but in Simulator mode that’s gone. Along with your extra ammo and fuel reserves. Yikes.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Preview IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Impressions
On the hardest difficulty you're restricted just to the cockpit view

It’s also worth mentioning how lives are handled in Birds of Prey – as it isn’t as simple as dying and reloading. Instead, when you get shot down in IL-2 Sturmovik you simply jump into the cockpit of a nearby ally – so the game is only really over when your entire squadron is destroyed. Likewise, if you run out of ammo then you simply jump into the next plane over while your previous plane goes back to refuel.

Realistic mode is obviously where most players are going to jump in and start playing the game in order to avoid the unbelievably difficult demands of the Simulator mode, but one thing that unfortunately runs through all the difficulty modes is a fairly clunky control system. Our hands-on time with the game revealed that aiming at fast and unpredictably moving enemies at range with thumbsticks is comparable to trying to tie your shoelaces with chopsticks tied to your fingers. In the multiplayer journo vs. journo portion of the event we’re not sure we managed to down a single enemy. On the other hand, maybe we just suck at video games.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Preview IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Impressions
There are plenty of planes on offer, from fighters to bombers

There’s still a lot to get arcade flight fans interested in IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey admittedly. For starters, though we quickly mentioned it earlier it really does bear restating just how fantastic Birds of Prey looks. Unlike most large scale flight-sim games where the environment looks good from up high but turns all pixellated when you get up close, the maps here actually hole up remarkably well. You can actually see fires from crashed planes spreading through cities and forests as you fly over, which is pretty cool.

The sheer quantity of stuff in the game is a fairly big plus too and as well as the massive amount of missions there are at least 40 different planes for you to get to grips with, each of which comes with a series of unlockable extras such as galleries and model histories. 505 Games confirmed that there’ll be on-going support supplied through downloadable content too, which should help give the game some extra replayability for long-term fans of the series.

For more casual gamers though it seems like IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey might be a bit of a mixed bag, with gorgeous graphics balanced out by stiff controls and a feature set which doesn’t really set the title apart from its peers. As we mentioned in the intro, arcade flight sims on the consoles aren’t exactly in short supply and, while Il-2 Sturmovik looks set to tick some of the right boxes, it hardly looks like it’s going to get us massively excited.

Il-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is being developed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by Gaijin Entertainment. It’ll be published in September by 505 Games, but until then you can discuss it in the forums.
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