December 30th, 2014 by Bone Head
Review by NS-IceFire.
1CGS’s IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad is a successor product to the original IL-2: Sturmovik series that has dominated the PC World War II flight simulator market for the better part of a decade and a half. Does the new entry in the series measure up to its predecessor? The answer is both yes and no.
What you get
There are two versions of the simulator available for online purchase. The Standard edition is $59.99 USD and includes the core of the game including quick mission builder, single player campaign, and multiplayer modes plus 8 aircraft. The Premium jumps up in price to $99.99 and adds two additional “special” aircraft to the set.
The Battle of Stalingrad is a key World War II battle and 1CGS have created a huge 385 x 230km map including significant parts of the battle area including Stalingrad itself and huge stretches of territory both east and west as well as a narrower section to north and south of the city. Everything from Set from November 1942 to March 1943 – basically you have the major pieces like Operation Uranus, the air bridge campaign and the final liberation of the city. Expect a lot of snow!
The aircraft set is well chosen with the specific types and variants that flew during the battle. The Russian side gets the IL-2 AM-38 (both with and without the field modified rear gunner seat), LaGG-3 Series 29, Yak-1 Series 69, and the Pe-2 Series 87 (and Series 110 with the modified rear gunner station).
For the German side we have the Bf109F-4 and Bf109G-2, Ju87D-3, and the He111H-6. All contemporary types and sub variants that fought in the battle. If you opt for premium then you get the La-5 Series 8 (first introduced during the Battle of Stalingrad and the FW190A-3 (introduced on the Eastern Front during this time period but not at the Battle of Stalingrad specifically).
All of the vehicles, artillery, tanks, and trains are historically and faithfully recreated. The important landmarks of Stalingrad circa late 1942 are there including the infamous tractor factory and scenes that any Red Orchestra infantry player might find familiar – just rendered from up high in the sky.
For the history nut (like me), this is a great collection of pretty much everything that is essential to this battle. The glaring omission to the aircraft set is the Ju52 transport aircraft that played such a key role during the air bridge scenario. Developers have shown the aircraft in development and we expect to see that sometime in 2015.
7/10 – Good value for the money but this is an expensive product if you go for the Premium version. Two extra planes for $40 is not great value. Recent holiday sale prices make the extra aircraft more reasonably priced so jump on those when a sale comes up if you can wait.
Flight Modeling, Damage Modeling, Sim Stuff
Battle for Stalingrad really shines on the simulator side of things. The feeling and sensation of flight with the physics engine they have implemented for this game engine is superb. I’m not a technical expert in this area but the developers claim to have developed the flight system from highly detailed technical reports and using methods similar to those of what you might see in Eagle Dynamic’s Digital Combat Systems (DCS) more recent additions to that series.
The aircraft feel like they have weight, you almost feel as if they are cutting through the air and that the air is pushing back. There is a distinct feel to each aircraft and the historical strengths and weaknesses are all there. It’s everything you would expect from a modern flight simulation and although there have already been concerns about some areas of the performance modeling or the handling – the core technologies really do shine here. These issues will be worked out in time.
My impression is that this flight model takes things a step further than anything you might have seen in IL-2 1946. It is really quite impressive overall.
Damage modeling is highly detailed with individual components failing due to battle damage and misuse. Wings crumple, fold, and break apart in a convincing manner and gun ballistics are all there. Some of the most impressive damage I’ve seen is in the crash landings where pieces bend or break depending on how great an impact was sustained. There are also great moments where you hit your target with a cannon shell and at first it appears as if nothing has happened but then slowly you see the wing begin to deform and then the whole thing comes apart. Spectacular!
9/10 – It really feels like you’re flying along and that is easily half the battle with a flight simulator.
Graphics & Sound
Battle for Stalingrad also really shines in the graphical department and not too many people are going to be disappointed here.
Aircraft are faithfully modelled from a visual standpoint and they are beautiful both inside and out. If you look strictly at 3D object and texture quality, IL-2 Cliffs of Dover still has an edge here with slightly more detailed aircraft, but Battle of Stalingrad is very close.
Shadows and lighting effects, not to mention some of the more sophisticated particle and fire effects, are also really impressive. Just look at the screen shots that are part of this review or that are out there (full disclosure: mine are taken at the second highest graphical setting). A sunrise or sunset with banks of clouds, a little snow and that golden hour shine in your cockpit is easily one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had in a video game.
The sound is equally impressive. There are some sounds that could be slightly better but there is definitely an authenticity to everything. The whine off the Bf109s supercharger is there and the harsh sounding M-105 engine stands in stark contrast. The AM-38 on the IL-2 has a beautiful purring sound and the ASh-82 and BMW radials capture their distinct character very well. Gear drops, flap systems, bomb releases and so forth are all there and they sound a lot better than the stock sounds in the old IL-2 1946.
I have a constant reoccurring problem where I don’t hear impact effects on my own aircraft. So sometimes I will be hit and have no idea despite the hit being from a 20mm cannon. This is experienced by some but not all players and it seems to be a bug.
9/10 – Graphics and sound are superb although missing impact effects for some players is a notable problem.
This review probably sounds pretty upbeat so far and that is because as a simulator product, IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad really shines. It has the fidelity and the historical attention to detail that you need for this type of product. Where Battle for Stalingrad has serious problems is more on the game side of the equation.
The campaign and multiplayer are the areas where things tend to fall apart. I’m going to be honest and say that I actually like the concept behind the campaign. The designers have created something that is easy to jump in and play.
When you start up a campaign you have the 6 phases of the Stalingrad battle with historical front lines and bases. You pick your plane, your preferred mission, and then the whole thing is generated dynamically. This is a great way to get into a mission and experience the battle in a short amount of time – and that time is often pretty tight for many of us these days.
Unfortunately, the missions at present tend to be repetitive at their base level. An intercept mission plays out basically the same way each time and the ground attack, ground support, bombing, and escort missions do too. The briefings provide all the necessary detail but are also very mechanical. There are a few waypoints (takeoff, midway to the action, action point, midway home, and landing) in each mission type and that is pretty typical of a campaign mission. The one thing that saves this from a boring monotony is the random events generated on the way. You may be on a ground attack mission but a formation of enemy bombers with escorts may fly overhead.
Dynamism in each mission aside, there is no investment in squadrons or wingmen and it’s hard to have that feeling of what being on the front really is like. It’s definitely missing that human factor that could have propelled it to the next level. The approach overall is valid but a few extra layers adding squadron/aircraft combinations (with the historically appropriate JG and IAP and GvIAP units for example) would have been a great way to add to the experience.
Any investment in your own pilot is done through a leveling progression system whereby additional equipment and skins for your aircraft are unlocked. Your pilot levels up (like in a RPG) and the equipment for your aircraft and skins are unlocked by scoring XP points playing through missions and accomplishing your goals. None of the unlocks are strictly necessary but some players find this a chore.
Worse yet is that you can’t do the unlocking of these extra pieces of equipment in competitive multiplayer like you might with Call of Duty or Battlefield – you have to do this in the Campaign mode. For players who spend their time exclusively online, this is a critical decision as it forces them to grind through a single player experience they don’t want. Simulator pilots that are used to a more sandbox approach aren’t going to like this and I’m not convinced more casual gamer types are going to appreciate this much either. If Multiplayer and/or Campaign mode contributed in the same way then I think this would be less of an issue.
Speaking of catering to different types of gamers and Sim pilots, there are two levels of difficulty. Normal and Expert take care of some of these needs. They both have similar difficulty level when it comes to flying the aircraft so the simulation level is there no matter what mode you’re in. Where the two really differ is in the helpers involved. In normal mode you can play with just the basics like throttle, flaps, gear, guns, and so forth and a kind of AI system manages the rest. With Expert mode you also need to worry about engine RPM, fuel mixtures and supercharger settings and these vary with aircraft and engine involved. Normal is good for taking care of more casual players but it’s not going to simplify down to the same level as the War Thunder Arcade mode might – this is still a serious simulation. Expert mode is considerably more difficult but it also doesn’t go down to the level of detail as a DCS module like the A-10C might although I’d say it’s still pretty close.
The QMB mode is ideal for quick action and although it is fairly simple, it has all of the features that you’d need to get a quick dogfight going and it’s often my go-to for a quick dogfight.
5/10 – The campaign system itself has potential but is hindered by an unwanted unlock system and repetitive mission types. Multiplayer unlocks being tied to the single player campaign unlocks are a poor design decision.
IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad is an essentially near bug free release with a great simulation engine and excellent flight dynamics and historical detail. Its game elements are less well implemented and the campaign’s predictable missions could use more variety. The unlock system is highly controversial.
Battle of Stalingrad has great potential. It can’t yet take the crown from its predecessor having neither the scope nor the flexibility of the past title but it has a solid technological base with a great selection of aircraft that they could expand on from here. 1CGS hasn’t revealed future plans just yet but we have seen some very early development images of a MC.202 and a Ju52 (non-flyable). A future I-16 addition has all but been confirmed so more content is likely to come and community issues are hopefully going to be addressed as time goes on.
With some design changes Battle of Stalingrad could be an excellent successor product with all of the pedigree of a simulator we might still be playing ten years from now. It’s not clear if that will be the case but Battle of Stalingrad is a good, if sometimes rocky, start.
Overall score: 7.5 – An authentic World War II combat simulator held back by some of its more “gamey” features.
All screen shots taken at the High detail level (there is one higher) on a four year old gaming rig (Core i7 870, 12GB of DRR3-1333 RAM, nVidia GTX 570 1GB.
December 22nd, 2014 by Bone Head
Merry Christmas, that expression seems to get used less and less these days as people try and become more politically correct, which is a bit sad. Personally my family do celebrate Christmas and I know many of our site visitors do to so if you don’t bear with us as we eat drink and play games wearing party hats and silly jumpers.
I have to admit I haven’t got into the Christmas spirit really yet as I’m working most days around the holiday but I am trying!
With that in mind I thought I would drag the picture out of the loft of the old site mascot from back in the 1990’s of Bobbi looking festive. Its getting a bit old but its the only Christmas decoration we own and it might put me more in the mood for the family celebrations.Things have been a little quiet at B-F of late as IL2 seems to be slightly less popular than it was a few years back and it’s ‘replacement’ Battle of Stalingrad seems to be surrounded by mixed feelings and controversy. However good news is Icefire has written what I think is a very fair appraisal of the sim as it stands now. I will be posting it here once it has been finalised.
Meanwhile the regulars seem to be lurching from one game to another like a class full of kids with ADHD. At the moment Elite Dangerous seems to be holding our attention but next week who knows?
Anyhow I’v got pans to clean beer to brew and server to fix so I’l say goodbye for now and wish all of you who are interested a very happy Christmas and if you wont be doing anything special then B-F will still be here if you need it
All the best!
December 1st, 2014 by Bone Head
Because of the inevitable mayhem happening on our Arma server (and not just caused by the regulars) we decided that we would password the server.
So if you feel you can play nicely with the boys and girl from Battle-Fields.com then here is the pass: battle
May I respectfully ask all those who use the server that they try and adhere (thats posh for stick) to our basic rules.
They are very basic, not unlike the people who enforce them, but hopefully they enable us all to play shooty bang bang games in a friendly and safe environment.
It is our intention to arrange a ‘serious’ gathering from time to time for a coop where people dont drive karts or wear silly hats.
Watch this space!
November 19th, 2014 by Bone Head
OK, before we go any further let me admit to you that I have spent most of the day sat in my kegs staring at my monitor. Not because I am lazy, no, I have been out for a thrash on my mountain bike and whilst sweating like a fat bloke on a bike (!) I had an epiphany, I had a bottle of water and a piece of flapjack too but that is beside the point. In fact as this is a gaming site and not a site for lycra wearing EPO using cyclists I will try to get back to the point ….. which was …….
Pants, bikes, water, oaty sugary things …. Arma 3! That was it.
About 4 or 5 weeks ago I decided it was about time we had an Arma 3 server, after all, the boys and girl from B-F (yes girl, there was one once) used to play Operation Flashpoint, badly, but it was fun. So as we have all been enjoying the KOTH maps I thought I would download the map and get things running.
Little did I know that the KOTH maps we had been playing are not available unless you pay to rent one! I ask you, its getting like the Battlefield ranked server debacle, sod that, I don’t mind paying for a map but with a ton of server hardware sat in our rack that is underutilised I’ll be buggered if I am being forced into paying for something I don’t need. So I lost interest.
Not just because of the map / server thing but because I couldn’t get any form of Arma 3 server working. Ive been really busy doing real work so I haven’t had the time to spend on it but I kept coming back to it. I thought I had got it cracked last night but no. I was very close though.
So it was when I was out on my bike today I suddenly realised where I was going wrong and I was so excited rather than getting in the shower I sat at the PC and in just my pants (that English pants not American pants) I got it going. I’ve always done my best work in my pants.
Anyhow, its up, its got some random map on it for capture the flag, as much as anything to test it but all we need to do now is decide what maps and how its going to be run and we can all sit in our pants and play Arma 3 on a descent server.
October 12th, 2014 by Bone Head
Sunday morning, hung over a tiny bit after spending last night at my oldest mates 50th birthday bash, which was slightly spoilt I guess knowing that I was going out to have fun leaving all those of you who like me like to hang around Battle-Fields.com on an evening / morning / night (delete as appropriate depending on your time zone) with no servers to play on.
Im now sat in the B-F server bunker drinking coffee waiting for the IT guy who looks after the network here to turn up and hopefully tickle his router back into life. When was the last time you sat at a computer with no internet connection and no games installed? It’s a bit strange let me tell you! All of a sudden I have time on my hands, the computer is useless without the Internet, or games. I mean I could be writing this by hand couldn’t I?
Anyhow a quick summary of what went wrong. If I said we were using the network and our servers in a desperate cloud effort to combat an alien drilling attack which was hovering above planet Earth cloaked and gathering power ready to drill a hole straight through the middle before threading a plasma string through the hole to use Earth in a game of planetary conkers you might not believe me. So I will say that there was a power outage (come on don’t sigh it hasn’t happened for a good while!) and after a substantial investment by myself all our servers did indeed continue to function thanks to the nano nuclear power packs I bought (sometimes called Battery Backups or UPS). The trouble is the router that connects them to the outside world (and unfortunately out of my control) didn’t continue to function.
So in summary, power goes off servers keep going router doesn’t power back on servers still working fine router not working. Im more than a little annoyed as I did offer to pay for a backup system for the router but my kind and generous offer was turned down.
So here we are (or at least here I am) waiting for the router to be kicked back into life and so I can resume my life and go home after making sure all is well. You will know it is well because if you read this it means the internet connection is back up which meant I could post this message.
For those of you who support the servers, the ones who pay each month to make sure Battle-Fields.com continues I offer my sincere apologies, for those who have paid with their hard work by building maps and keeping things running nicely, likewise; sorry. To those who turn up regularly and could help out financially but don’t; what did you expect? I have looked into moving the servers back into a ‘normal’ data centre but it is just not affordable if we want to have the flexibility we have now.
So for now I’m afraid we are stuck with what we have unless we scale back or we get more income to pay the bills, something that I doubt will happen any time soon. Although I did win the Euro Lottery the other day! I got the email saying we have news about your ticket, unfortunately it was only £8.50 and I spent that driving to the server hut today!
September 28th, 2014 by Bone Head
The battle-fields.com 128 tick server is now back up after a brief outage. You can find it by searching for battle-fields.com or using the ip address 18.104.22.168:27015
It has bots on it so if you just fancy sharpening your skills on a top class server feel free to take them on but be warned, they are almost as good as our very own bot (Flying Finn).
If you have a clan and fancy game against the BFs crew then get in touch, there is so much cheating going on in CS at the moment the game is not worth playing using the normal match making options. Valve really do need to stop selling this game to people who have been VAC banned in the past, the cynical side of me thinks maybe Valve arent bothered to fix it because they make more money by selling multiple copies to the cheats.
Am I wrong?
September 23rd, 2014 by Bone Head
I have wiped the stats due to the fact that the poor little database servers was struggling to keep count of all the bullets fired, or was it all the plane crashes? You can find the stats here: http://www.battle-fields.com/BF1stats/
August 3rd, 2014 by Bone Head
I have just completed the regular mucking out of the battle-fields1 IL2 server stats, so as always if you want to get to be in first place (at least until Jon wakes up in Oz) you should fly now!
You can find the stats here.
August 1st, 2014 by Bone Head
I had just made a post on our forums regarding getting geared up ready for Battle of Stalingrad and for some reason I had a look at how many posts I had made; the figure was 19,999! The ! on the end wasn’t there I just put it there to show how surprised I am that I have typed so much drivel since the forums started back in 2000.
We did have forums before then but we dumped the data when we went over to Vbulletin which we are still running today. Yup a lot has happened since 1998 when B-F first started. Here is a potted history for those new to B-F.
It certainly feels like my life has flown passed and in 4 years we will have been providing gaming goodness for 20 years!!!! There cant be many gaming related sites alive today who can say that. Hopefully we will make 20 years but if we dont then all I can say is its been a pleasure!
May 10th, 2014 by Bone Head
Re-member I Re-made .. oh hang on too many re’s and hyphens, I went on a rant recently about gamers paying for games before they are released (should that be re-leased?
Well anyhow, someone with a fairly confusing accent has made a video on YouTube regarding (re-guarding?) this very subject so I’ll let him explain why you shouldn’t preorder (pre-order?).
So stop it You have been told!