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Joseph Rositano
06 Oct, 2009

IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Review

360 Review | Fly my pretties, fly!
The IL-2 Sturmovik series was a critical success on the PC format. It has been praised for its challenging and realistic gameplay, and is largely considered to be one of the best combat flight simulators available on the market. With this in mind it came as a surprise to fans when it was revealed the latest entry, IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, would only be appearing on consoles. For the most part the transition from PC to home console has been implemented well, making the game easily standout from the likes of Heroes Over Europe and Ace Combat 6.

Birds of Prey lets players take flight in some of most famous European battles of World War II, including the Battle of Berlin, Battle of Britain and Battle of Korsun. At the beginning of each campaign, a short video documentary is played to give you a sense of the Allied Forces’ motivations. An example is the wave of momentum that transpired once America joined the war. At the end of each mission your character also writes a journal entry that gives you insight to the feelings pilots would have in the aftermath of a battle, such as grief towards fallen comrades or the adrenaline from blowing up enemy navel fleets. It’s all presented nicely and will really appeal to WWII enthusiasts.

Who's a bad pilot now?

Who's a bad pilot now?
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The main single-player campaign is set across 20 missions, but there are also around 30 additional scenarios to play through. Unfortunately, most objectives involve surviving dogfights with enemy aircraft or going on bombing runs. This makes the game feel mundane at times as the only thing that really changes is the type of aircraft you pilot. To the developer’s credit, the differences between each aircraft are instantly noticeably - things like speed and maneuverability are all heavily influenced by the aircraft’s size and overall design. For example, bomb carriers will be able to make short work of ground troops using their stock pile of bombs, but are absolutely terrible to maneuver when being targeted by enemy aircraft. In contrast, fighter planes are generally quick and can perform a number of dazzling maneuvers, but at the same time lack firepower and fortitude. It’s easy to see why the series has become one of the leading WWII simulation games on this basis alone, and it only continues to impress via the control setups.

Moving the series to consoles meant the developers had to make Birds of Prey friendly towards a broader audience as well as appease existing fans. To do this, the developers have incorporated three control schemes: Arcade, Realistic and Simulation. Arcade is designed for light-hearted players who aren’t too familiar with flight simulators. You can fly around without the risk of stalling your plane, have unlimited ammo and lives, and you even have a weapon assist icon which indicates where you should fire to accommodate the distance and angle between yourself and your target. Realistic takes away many of the luxuries from Arcade and makes gameplay feel a lot more authentic. You’ll no longer have that fancy weapon assist, ammo is limited, and you can’t bank your plane too quickly otherwise it’ll spiral out of control. This means there’s now the added challenge of being light with the controls and precise with your shots, which makes dogfights a lot more thrilling. Simulation takes things to the ultimate step. You will be forced to play from the cockpit viewpoint and you’ll have no radars or displays to help you distinguish friend from foe. The difference between each control scheme is inspiring and adds distinctive layers of challenge to the experience. Simulation veterans will feel right at home, and it also serves as an introduction for newcomers to the genre.

Battle over a Winter Wonderland.

Battle over a Winter Wonderland.
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Birds of Prey also features online multiplayer for up to 16 players. The gameplay modes typically consist of Dogfight and Team Battle, which is more or less the aviation equivalent of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The modes can be played using any of the control schemes, and you can even customise your aircraft to have specific weapons. Unfortunately, due to the varied control schemes it can be a little difficult to find a 16 player match unless you actually organise it yourself. Other than that the multiplayer experience is solid and is a nice complement to the already engaging single-player campaign.

One of the game’s weaknesses is that frame rate drops are quite common. If you happen to be trailing behind an enemy fighter who is smoking for instance, the physics engine seems to have difficulty with the effects when your aircraft flies through. Also, when there are multiple of fighters on your screen the visual display occasionally freezes for a split second. It’s not game breaking, but it’s still noticeable and can get a little annoying.

Birds of Prey is a mixed bag when it comes to its visuals. From the air, the ground looks very pleasing to the eyes and you can easily make out different-sized paddocks and buildings. On closer inspection though, it isn’t quite as nice, with everything looked blotchy and pixelated. The main attraction is, of course, the plane models. Everything looks realistic, and it’s interesting to see the different damage effects your aircraft takes from bullets and when it collides with other aircraft. The orchestrated soundtrack is scored by Jeremy Soule and suits the era and style of the game. Unfortunately it’s too common to hear the same tracks being played on a continuous loop, so a little more variety would have been nice.

It was a big risk to move the IL-2 Sturmovik series to consoles, but fortunately the end result is an enjoyable and thrilling title that will appeal to simulation fans. Birds of Prey also acts as an introduction to the genre for newcomers thanks to its three control schemes, which is certainly nice to see for a console title.
The Score
Despite a few minor issues such as frame rate drops and occasionally mundane gameplay, IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is an engaging title that will appeal to simulation veterans and newcomers. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 Comments
4 years ago
i want some people to comment and let me know what you really think of this......im still not sure as to get it or not......hmmmm
4 years ago
Been playing it on PS3.

1) Whilst the ground models are real (your wing will rip off if you hit one) they are immune to bomb/missile damage unless its a recognised target. No random stafeing here.

2) I like that plane controls ramp up with difficulty, but would like more flexibilty in choosing the aids (i.e why do i have to loose the leading reticule)

3) HUD on arcade makes this play closer to a modern flight sim them a period one. Being able to see targets KMs away makes it fairly repetitive. Sight target, line up and shoot.

4) Maybe it was just me, but despite the plane only carrrying 2 bombs (normally) it took several direct bomb hits to sink boats.

5) Not all craft have internal views. Also, i would have preferred an interior view for gunner/bomber postitions as well.

6) As noted in the review the frame loss / temp. pausing aslo frustrates.

For my $$ stick with BF1943 / battestations midway for the arcade flight thrills. Unless you are willing to invest the time coming to grips with the simulation side of things (I wasn't) I wouldn't pay rrp for . (Its available for as low as $60 via import) But true flight sims fans would surely have the (better.?) PC titles alredy.

EDIT: Just to show I'm not just trolling, the actual plane/damage modelling is outstanding. Seeing your plane shot to pieces with "realistic" holes in yout trim is nice.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  3/09/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  All Interactive Entertainment
Genre:
  Simulation
Year Made:
  2008

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