IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Hands-On

One of the PC's premier flight sims soars to consoles. How's it play?


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The original IL-2 Sturmovik was a critical success in the flight simulator genre when it was released in 2001. Lauded for its hardcore realism, attention to detail, and amazing graphics, IL-2 raised the bar for combat flight sims--appropriate for a game based on a fighter bomber that Stalin said was as valuable to the Red Army as the air it breathes and the bread it eats.

The German Luftwaffe is again in trouble as new developer Gaijin Entertainment plans to release IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, with handheld versions on the PSP and Nintendo DS. At publisher 1C's annual press event, we got our hands on the 360 version of IL-2 and are pleased to report that Gaijin is holding true to the game's roots.

The Luftwaffe is about to feel the hurt in five different campaigns .
The Luftwaffe is about to feel the hurt in five different campaigns .

Expanding from the lesser-known Easter Front, fought between Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II, IL-2 now sets its sights on five different theaters of war: The Battle of Britain, Stalingrad, Berlin, Sicily, and Korsun. You'll be able to tackle 50 missions in several different aircraft that 1C claims are historically accurate.

We jumped into the cockpit of a nimble British flyer as wave after wave of Luftwaffe bombers slowly zeroed in on Dover. The attention to detail was striking. Every tree and building on the ground was modeled in 3D, so buzzing the tower proves to be a harrowing experience. We soared directly over Dover Castle, then over the deep blue of the English Channel. As we circled back toward the fight, the white cliffs of Dover rose majestically from the sea. But enough sightseeing. It's time to blow up some planes.

IL-2 will come with both a simulation mode and an arcade mode for the console crowd not accustomed to a level of realism that, for new players, can be frustrating. The German bombers didn't have a significant fighter escort, but they were well protected with their own onboard guns. Instead of approaching a heavily armed bomber from behind, we blazed in from above and below. Following behind a German tailgunner isn't advisable, but it's a great way to show off the awesome damage system in IL-2. Rather than a health meter, you'll see your plane take damage the old-fashioned way--with bullet holes.

On the 360, IL-2 handles much like the arcade WWII flying game Blazing Angels. The right stick adjusts your speed and rudder, while the left stick turns, climbs, and dives. You can cycle through targets with the A button and use a targeting camera with the left trigger. A small targeting reticle appears in front of enemies to help you shoot directly along their flight path. The squad commands are identical to Blazing Angels'. Using the D pad, you can order either an individual pilot or the entire wing to attack, regroup, or defend your position. We flew as part of two four-plane wings, and if you're shot down you can simply jump into the next plane, effectively giving you eight chances to silence the German engines.

The simulation mode limits you to a cockpit view only. You'll no longer have the assistance of any targeting reticles or bright red triangles that indicate the enemy position. Planes are much more likely to stall or spin if not handled properly, and you'll take more realistic damage as well. Naturally, you're forced to rely on your instrument panel, your squad, and your steely pilot instincts, something fans of the old IL-2 will appreciate. If you have a flight stick peripheral, prepare to plug it in.

Look for a number of different planes, including flying fortresses, in IL-2.
Look for a number of different planes, including flying fortresses, in IL-2.

We can't wait to release our bomber payloads over Berlin, but we'll have to wait at least a little while longer. IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey won't be released until 2009.

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Avatar image for R2-D2-586

Might be the best dogfightcame up to now

Avatar image for knnth

The PS3 demo is freaking awesome.

Avatar image for redtiger02

OK what is the actual launch date? Everybody was saying Sep 8, now Gamestop says Sep 2, some sites say Sep 15, so that being said, what's the real launch date?

Avatar image for nepats522

Just released the demo for this on Playstation Store today and let me say this.....WOW! Smooth graphics and a simulator mode for us hardcore flight sim junkies.

Avatar image for petewarrior

Wow, finally a current-gen hardcore flight sim.. This (including space sim) is the genre that got me into gaming in the first place :-D

Avatar image for inunison

Outstanding visuals and very promising game-play by the looks of it. With two WWII sims coming at the end of September, it would be interesting to compare the two (other one being Heroes over Europe). Just imagine if we would be able to fly in B-17 as a crew member in multi-player mode.

Avatar image for gfxarts

can't wait! a flight SIM for my console! I hope they get the online features right.

Avatar image for tig1979

Demo is shaping up nice

Avatar image for Chrisbut

I've just played the demo on the xbox 360, it looks and plays awesome but is it just me or did anyone else notice the big drop in framerate caused by the trails of smoke when shooting enemy bombers out of the sky? hope they sort that out for the finished version

Avatar image for rudy_mnv

IL-2 with expansions is my favorite flight-sims, I'm very excited about this game, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time that real flight-sim genre comes to consoles. Also I agree with pannic_attack that right stick should be reserved for free-view. This is crucial in aircobat... I can't imagine real dogfight without looking around...

Avatar image for scottyb825

IN response to jar288 I do believe you can play as the US and the P-51D. If you watch trailer 1 it opens with a P-51D with US markings and is shown a few different time throughout the trailer.

Avatar image for jar288

can you play as the u.s. and fly the p-51???

Avatar image for jar288

i think this will be much better than hawx. hawx is too muck of an arcade game, plus missles takes away the dogfight machine guns are much better.

Avatar image for dalejr-for-life

i have high expectations for this game.

Avatar image for pannic_attack

It definately looks outstanding, but I dont like the idea of the right stick being throttle and rudder. Are there buttons that let you pan the view around or do i have to fly around in circles like a tard trying to spot a target?

Avatar image for ATA_sa

does this version have a career part??

Avatar image for shirahen

I and 32 other guys were on 1946 on Saturday night in absolute dogfighting chaos. Hyperlobby is still very active for 1946 and is great to see that this game will continue on to 'Birds of Prey!"

Avatar image for division_9

IL2 on PC would be better unless ofcouse the xbox, the playstations and the DS start adapting controllers with hundreds of different buttons before 2009. I hope they extend the ultra cool realism even more if its possible.

Avatar image for Haigotron

The console versions are gonna be more action than sim to cater to the crowd but i am happy 1C is plunging into the consoles - Always been a big fan of the series!! (also, as a geeky note, the last picture is an he-111, not a b-17 :P )

Avatar image for riteon777

Ahhhhh. IL2 on console. Im sure it wont even come close to IL2 on PC. Now that was a combat flight sim.

Avatar image for mrhuntin


Avatar image for Last_Ride

I'm gonna wait for this one!

Avatar image for leezer4000

defo keepin an eye on this if they get it right should be a good game

Avatar image for kweeni

hmmm....wel i like flight games but i aint exacly a fan of them but if this turns out to be good i might buy it for psp, psp cus i dont have a next gen console and playing flight on pc is fun but not that

Avatar image for mjajiyani

is it simulator or like it? or a action air combat? any way i think its good to play

Avatar image for itwiz90

I like air combat games. This one looks to be really nice, we will see.

Avatar image for Carpface

I wonder if they'll make any joystick available for use. The PS3 has USB ports for a reason!

Avatar image for raiskis

I can't wait - it's about time the 360 had a great flight sim with in-cockpit as an option. Where do i get a flight stick?

Avatar image for FraserAlexander

I want a full sim game that's in the missle era, but not like today's planes where it's "TOO computerized...I want 70s or 80s planes only. That would kick ass...i just don't like a game that's entirely dog fighting, because it's nice to nail another plane with a sidewinder missle. EFF YEAH!

Avatar image for chechak7

We can't wait to release our bomber and take them out yaaaa can't wait

Avatar image for matt_kun

God, finally a real flight sim for a consol.. I know they have a flight stick that they released for ace combat, but I wonder if you can use any other flight sticks?... nothing wrong really witth ace combat, but I could really use a realistic dogfighter.

Avatar image for lindallison

I'm a big fan of the existing PC IL2 Cycle of Games, and don't see how this'll be an improvement. But I'm back-of-the-mind hoping that this in combination w/ the strange popularity of Mass-Effect will revive some interest in Space Sims. I just watched the end of Mass Effect on You-Tube. And I can't imagine anyone playing that w/o wanting to get behind the stick of a space-fighter and blow up cap-ships. Its a shame, but the consoles are probably going to be a necessary factor in the revival of the Space-Sim Genre. A successful console flight-sim w/ multi-player might help pave the way.

Avatar image for Tigarian

I think that has something to do with the fact that all the PC versions so far have been using modified versions of the original game engine from 2001

Avatar image for walrus8303

well it has modern graphics (2008) PC versions have been much older moreover it is going to be released for the PC as well

Avatar image for walrus8303

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Teh_Dana

Am I the only one thinking it looks better then the PC version ? O_O I mean, come on. Look at the ground details, or smoke... Bump texture res, models detail and port it to PC please :D

Avatar image for grimzeus

Count me in.

Avatar image for Vokuro

I'm a bit conflicted on this. Who is Gaijin, and Oleg doesn't have anything to do with the ports? But at the same time -- it's IL-2 on the consoles man, this sure will look purty on my 37 hd, and added to the fact that this is console -- it might contain a hefty good campaign mode at last! And IL 2 is the only multiplayer game where I've not killed more than 3 opponents till this day. Must be my joystick.

Avatar image for deactivated-58001fc0688c8

I'm just curious as to why all these flight games are coming out NOW. (particularly for consoles)

Avatar image for weddlecm

is this really for ds? somebody messege me back.

Avatar image for pidow

I'm feeling this game might be alittle much.......I need more to make up my mind.

Avatar image for CVM_123

this seems like its goona be very difficult

Avatar image for Josepiphus

Finally something else to do with my flightstick.

Avatar image for ISU_Cyclone

Oh man i can't wait for this game!!!!! i love the first one too SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for FlashCharge

IL-2 Sturmovik is one excellent flight game. Owing everyone on the PC I know how awesome these games are. Having it on the console is one awesome idea and I am looking forward to playing it. Just too bad I have to wait until 2009.

Avatar image for renknram

My Dreams have come True @ last, this Game is Awesome the Best WW2 Flight-Sim Ever( with the Best Graphics)! a very favorite of mine was the Messerschmidt ME 109G (Gustav) I used to tear people up online with that back in the day on pc! although someone had an American P47 Thunder Bolt ( never let one of those chase you in a dive/ascent as their Engine is Big/Powerful), a few times I've lost control due to lack of power & spiraled out of control struggling with my flight-stick with a P47 on my tail-end memories!!!

Avatar image for shpa

the il-2 series on the pc have been amazing!, i hope this game keeps to it's roots and doesn't lead into a stupid arcade plane game...

Avatar image for gamehell321

Cool, Very promising!

Avatar image for goonerscott1988

as this is coming out on PS3 maybe there will be Six-Axis compatability

Avatar image for childe_roland

This is crazy, was just talking to a friend about IL-2, he asked it if was ever going to come out on xbox and I said flight sims like that never come out on consoles. So RAD!

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