The games market is a broader church than ever before. It encompasses everything from grans and toddlers singing pop songs to vast, rich, online communities of hardcore gamers losing themselves in other worlds.
The flight combat genre has traditionally belonged at the hardcore end of the scale. It is a sector where depth and detail count. And it’s a sector that has been most closely associated with the PC.
One of the leading franchises over the last eight years has been IL-2 from Russian publisher 1C. It has earned a stellar reputation amongst critics and gamers based on the richness of its visuals, the accuracy and its range of planes and combat scenarios.
“Originally developed by 1C: Maddox Games in 2001, IL-2 Sturmovik is one of the most established and well-loved brands in flight-sim gaming,” says 505’s sales director Ralph Pitt-Stanley. “Previously a staunchly PC brand, with numerous iterations under its belt and franchise sales to date of two million, IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey sees this much vaunted property explode onto consoles in high definition and bring the epic airborne battles of World War II to the handhelds for the first time.”
The latest version opens the franchise up to a far wider audience, acknowledging the mainstream nature of the changing market, adapting to become more accessible (instantly accessible, in fact), but retaining the elements that make it a true flight combat sim and a fans’ favourite.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey will be published by 505 Games in collaboration with 1C Company on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and PSP. It is based around large-scale aerial combat over the main military operations of World War II.
Players take the controls of fighters, battle planes or heavy bombers and participate in some of the most famous conflicts and daring missions.
There are six main theatres of war: Stalingrad, Berlin, Sicily, Korsun, The Battle of the Bulge and The Battle of Britain. All are represented by the most realistic landscapes ever seen in any flight combat title.
The advanced environmental visuals are complemented by equal levels of realism in the planes themselves and an all new damage effects engine. Players can see real time damage to their aircraft, such as holes in wings and trail lines during dogfights.
“There is a real opportunity to tap into a huge installed base of gamers who are crying out for a good, solid air combat title,” adds Pitt-Stanley. “The WWII genre is still massively popular and the level of realism and longevity in IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey is unsurpassed in the genre.
“The important thing is that IL-2 is not just a flight sim, but an aerial combat title which caters for all skills and gaming abilities. We call it Call of Duty in the skies.”
IL-2 HOT TO HANDLE
A distinguishing feature of IL-2 is the sight of literally hundreds of airplanes in the midst of a huge firefight. It’s a game that is detailed and accurate, but also breathtakingly spectacular. Another nod to a wider audience comes with the ability to scale gameplay according to skill levels. In Arcade mode, players can jump straight into the action with some automatic control assistance.
In Realistic mode this assistance is turned off for a better ‘feel’ to the handling and combat. Simulator mode is not for the faint hearted, as the action and flying is as real as it gets with total control of the planes flaps and trim and only the cockpit view to play from.
505 has put considerable weight behind its marketing initiatives (see Battle Plans, right). Explains Pitt-Stanley:
“The team at 505 Games knows that when you’ve got a game as good as IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey in your arsenal, the worst thing you can do is not to back it with triple-A marketing.
“It’s time to back it in earnest, and give it the best chance of success. The primary strategy is to convey the intense nature of the gameplay and show off the genre-busting graphical detail through every visual medium on offer.”