IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Xbox 360 Review
Too often, when PC games come to consoles, they’re dumbed down to appeal to the apparently less intelligent console crowd, but IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, an established and uncompromising flight simulation, has made its way to consoles with all of the complexity intact, but enough arcade style to also appeal to us brain cell challenged types.
IL-2 Sturmovik is a World War II era flight simulation and a game that for once correctly shows that victory came about not only because of the mighty Americans, but also because of the efforts of a number of other countries too, all of which had a significant and too often ignored impact on the course of the war.
Your initial play of IL-2 Sturmovik will require you to complete an in depth tutorial, taking you through all the varying flight manoeuvres and allowing you to master the three play styles that are generously on offer.
Arcade is the style that many console gamers will be accustomed to and is focussed on immediate thrills ahead of realism, allowing progression through the game to be relatively easy: perfect for those who just want to blow stuff up without all that aerodynamics complexity and such. A big issue is that on the arcade difficulty there’s little real resistance from your enemies. They’re just cannon fodder (it’s a shame that there’s no way to alter the AI difficulty of your enemies without having to radically affect the handling of your plane), and for many the simulation and realistic difficulties are just going to be too taxing for their limited levels of skill, there’s simply no middle ground here.
Realistic and simulation are only for those who want to fight with their plane as much as the enemy. Obviously the aforementioned difficulties are far more skill reliant than the arcade method. In Simulation especially there are no concessions: you’re forced to use the cockpit perspective and there’s no markers to recognise friend from foe. Obviously it has a steep learning curve, but for those looking for a deeper, more unforgiving game, the effort it takes to master it will ultimately be worthwhile and every successful kill is sure to be of greater satisfaction.
The campaign is reasonably lengthy and, from a mission design standpoint, consists of the usual blow things up and protect things, which is no real fault of the developer. Thanks to an excellent damage model (which allows you to really deform planes) combined with lovely explosions, blowing things up is always an immense pleasure anyway.
On top of the 20 missions of the campaign, there’s also a separate mission mode containing 50 additional stages, which actually offers a bit more variety than the core campaign. There’s also an online mode, which sadly has little interest right now, but if it were to take off (be nice and laugh) the core pieces would be sure to make for some excellent aerial combat.
Graphics wise, IL-2 Sturmovik looks lovely, and the developer has given the ground, an area that is too often ignored by flight game developers, as much attention as the all important sky. Rather than looking like a blurry afterthought, the ground here has a striking level of detail, with buildings, trees and so on looking very much like their real life counterparts. The audio is fantastic, too, with chattering guns, buzzing planes and big booms, which, with the high visual quality, really play their part in complementing the dramatic action.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is a bit of a tough one to call. Those who enjoy learning the brutal ways of the simulation and realistic difficulties will likely enjoy the mastery of their planes, but those that are more used to the gentler arcade style games will find it to be an intimidating undertaking. On the other hand, the arcade difficulty is too easy and will only really hold appeal for the inexperienced gamer, as well as those who have no problem with a challenge free game. In spite of this, it’s still a great game, but, if only a little more thought had went into the design process, it could have been an even stronger offering.