|Developer: Maddox Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, online multiplayer
Let's get this straight from the very beginning; IL-2 Forgotten Battles is, in my not very humble opinion, the finest ever combat flight simulator ever made, bar none, and is probably the best overall game in terms of simulating the physics and 'feel' of flying. There you go. However, there is one tiny, niggling problem - it is hard, bloody hard. The sort of hard that will see you swearing and screaming at the monitor as you die a fiery virtual death at the hands of your unfeeling, uncaring, computer generated enemies for the three hundredth time. So if you own this game and have already turned the CD into a drinks coaster or indoor frisbee for sheer frustration at the difficulty, save your blood pressure and don't read any further. If, on the other hand you've got up from the umpteenth pasting, spitting blood and teeth and determined to master this game if it kills you, then read on. For the developers of IL-2, Maddox Games, have dealt out an expansion pack which delivers more pain and pleasure in equal measure (poet, huh?) than any back street massage parlour could hope to match.
So, what do you get? Well, firstly, you get the entire game patched up from version 1.22 to version 2.0. This means improvements in the flight model, effectiveness, or otherwise, of the weapons, and behaviour of the enemy and friendly AI. You also get 3 new 'maps', covering the Ardennes, Normandy, and a fictional Pacific Islands map (this last map only for online players). This opens up the possibility of campaigns and battles in the European Theatre of war (at last), and a number of freeware campaigns and missions have already started to appear on the various fansites. Well worth a look, as some of these are very good indeed. But most importantly, you get a whole host of new flyable aircraft from different nations to fly and die in. At the risk of turning this review into a spreadsheet, I'll list them, as they are not all mentioned on the box, and there is, surprisingly, little publicity or information on the developer's website. OK, deep breath… In terms of new, flyable aircraft, you get:
Spitfire Mk V (Yes at last! A Spit!!), Mustang P-51 (4 variants), Lightning P-38 (2 variants), P-63C, Lockheed YP-80, ME-163B, He-162, FW Ta-152, Mistel, Me 109Z, Me Bf110G-2, Ju87, Ho-229, IAR80A, IAR 81C, Fiat G.50, Fiat CR.42, Ki84 (3 variants), A6M2, A6M5, J8 (Gloster Gladiator). As in previous reviews, look 'em up if you don't know what they are. Not bad eh? I remember years back paying 20 odd quid for an expansion pack involving just one plane for Falcon 3 (ee, those were the days, when you could leave yer front door open… )
In addition, you get 13 new AI aircraft to battle against, and a goodly number of new ground objects to blow to kingdom come… if they don't get you first, of course, which they usually do. Of the flyable aircraft mentioned above, some of them are old faves that even casual combat fliers will probably recognise, such as the Mustang, Lightning, Stuka and ME-109. And, of course, best of all, A Spitfire. My favourite aeroplane of all time, this is the best representation I have seen in any game ever. It looks so real you feel you could almost reach out and touch it. The sounds and the flight modelling are excellent, and watch your ammo, as you only get 15 seconds worth, just like the real thing! In many ways the legend is bigger than the ability of the plane, as there are many aircraft in the game which can knock spots off it in a dogfight, but who cares? The chance to fly a Spit in combat is something no combat sim fanatic is going to want to pass up.
As to the others, well, they are a mix of the obscure, weird and wonderful and generally lesser-known combat aircraft of WW2, covering every type from creaky old biplanes to jets, some of which barely made it off the drawing board, if at all. Some truly odd aircraft are thrown into the mix, such as the Mistel, a Focke Wulf 190 fighter with a Junkers 88 bomber strapped underneath it. The idea being that the combination would fly to the target, the bomber, packed with explosives, would be dropped onto the target, blowing it to kingdom come, and the remaining fighter could then deal with any opposition. Or the TB-3, a Russian biplane bomber that carried a fighter under each wingtip to protect itself in the event of an attack! All of these aircraft are, in their own way, enormous fun to fly, each exhibiting 'unique' handling characteristics - some of these are 'unique' in a fairly terminal way. One gets the impression that some of the real world designers of these aircraft spent their time thinking up creative and different ways to kill off their pilots. Take the Heinkel 162 for example, an early jet fighter which has the endearing characteristic of exploding like a bomb if you keep it on full throttle for too long, or the IAR-80, a Romanian (yes, Romanian!) built fighter which, when I put it into a steep dive, tore off its rudder and ailerons, leaving me to yet again admire the animated 'bailing out' sequence, something I do a lot in this game.
Hours of fun can be had mixing up all these very different aircraft up in combat using the quick mission generator within the game, and the new campaigns supplied in the expansion give even greater depth to what is already a deep and involving game.
In conclusion, if you are an IL-2 fan, you don't really need convincing, do you? I imagine you've bought it already. If you are wavering and wondering, well look, last time I was down the shops, I reckon you could pick up both IL-2 Forgotten Battles and the Aces Expansion Pack for around 40 quid. What's that then? 4 curries, a few DVDs, 2 or 3 rounds down the pub - depending on how many mates you've got - go on, buy it. You know you want to. Let's face it, once you get stuck into this, you won't be going out anywhere for a while anyway!
- Massive add-on for IL-2, with 29 new flyable aircraft, new campaigns, maps and missions.
- Worth buying just for the Spitfire!
- The world's best flight sim game just got even better.
- You won't be getting out much.