IL-2 Sturmovik fans have had a long wait for a true sequel, with hardcore enthusiasts regarding Birds of Prey as compromising on realism for the sake of console gamers. In fact, the original IL-2 Sturmovik came out just after the turn of the millennium – and a decade later impatient fingers can now finally cease their drumming, and grasp the flight stick of a new engine.
D is for detail…
IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover is set in the theatre of the Battle of Britain, with its campaign starting in 1940, and featuring some 30 British, German and Italian planes. Around half of these are flyable by the player, and the cockpits are modelled with some impressively authentic detail.
As you’d expect, the visuals have been stepped up massively, with the new graphics engine offering some extremely tasty landscapes to go along with those polished kites. But there’s a price to pay on the performance front, with even medium detail settings causing the odd bout of jerkiness, particularly when flying over clusters of buildings.
These particular Cliffs of Dover certainly have some jagged edges. The presentation has a rushed feel to it, with haphazardly organised menus that load sluggishly. We also experienced a number of in-game glitches, such as wingmen speaking simultaneously, faulty autopilots, and erroneous ‘mission complete’ messages.
R is for realism…
All of which doesn’t create a very positive first impression. But beneath the occasionally shoddy exterior lurks a fearsomely realistic flight engine. The physics are finely tuned, and the various planes handle very differently. For a truly authentic experience, propellerheads can turn on complex engine management and deal with intricacies such as getting the fuel mixture correct.
This isn’t for the faint-hearted, as maximising the efficiency of your plane’s engine is as much of an art as flying it. However, it’s a challenge some folks will relish when proving their true fighter pilot mettle in multiplayer (which can support up to 128-player online battles, theoretically – although we shudder to think what that might do to the frame rate).
- Excellent flight physics and realism.
- Frame rate jitters and general lack of polish.
Cliffs of Dover presents a rich and detailed dogfighting simulation with scary levels of realism for virtual pilots to lose themselves in. The graphics are lushly detailed, although we encountered some jitters in the frame rate stakes. IL-2 also lacks polish in a number of areas, which is somewhat mystifying for a game that has been in the works for so long. Hopefully after a patch or two much of this will be smoothed over.