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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey

Fighter planes have been landed without propulsion, with wings shredded by enemy fire, with tail sections shattered by flak, and with bullet holes peppering the fuel tanks and engine. World War II is a goldmine of tales of daring escapes and miraculous landings in direct defiance of the laws of physics. The real world can be weird in a way videogames can’t – at least until now.

IL-2 Sturmovik is as real as it gets. The planes in Sturmovik fly in the game because they’re built to fly in real life; so sophisticated is the physics model Russian developers 1C have designed. This isn’t Ace Combat or HAWX, where your plane’s energy bar is gradually reduced to nought by enemy fire. IL-2 knows where planes keep their engines, their fuel, their pilots and their ammunition, and can register unique hits on all of them. Every plane is an inch-by-inch recreation of the real thing inside and out, and the damage system so accurate, a single bullet in the right place on the right plane could puncture your fuel tank and blow you out of the sky; an inch or two to the right or left and it might have no effect at all. Sturmovik is a simulation, and it is perfect.

Sturmovik is a game already tested and polished over half a decade by thousands of PC gamers around the world. The big surprise is that 1C are daring to bring it to consoles almost unchanged. There’s an easy Arcade setting if Ace Combat is your thing, but with assists off it’s the same PC simulation where every aspect of the plane’s handling falls under your thumb and every wrong turn can end in a stall and a hundred mile an hour trip into the side of a mountain. Already the greatest combat flight sim on the PC, IL-2 is a game made by Russians for the hardest of the hardcore. The Eastern European gamer man enough to cobble together a PC capable of running the game is the kind of player who doesn’t need things dumbed down, and 1C are showing the same faith in console gamers here. Sturmovik will be the most hardcore game on the the latest consoles, and the toughest gamer’s game you’ll ever play.

Months wasted with the PC game have taught us giganto-respect for 1C. Sturmovik is the best flight sim ever, and though the console announcement is low-key, you can already trust that the game will be one of the best titles of 2009. Oh, and the game’s title? It’s named for the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik, a planethat the Russians consider as important to WWII as the Brits do the Hurricane and Spitfire. Trivia!

Sep 12, 2008