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iL-2 Forgotten Battles
By:WhiteKnight77
Published : October 12, 2003
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Reference Links : Official Site


Special to GhostRecon.net courtesy of UbiSoft Entertainment

Now I know this review may seem out of place on a Ghost Recon fan site, but I am gonna give it a GhostRecon.net feel and yes there shall be comparisons between the two. This is a Ghost Recon site after all. ;)

Originally developed as a mission pack for iL2 Sturmovik, it grew enough to become it's own stand alone game iL2:FB is THE ultimate WW2 flight sim to hit store shelves recently. It has everything that a hardcore flight simmer wants with what a novice can enjoy too. Russian Game developer Oleg Maddux has built on his surprise hit iL2 Sturmovik and added to it by creating a dynamic campaign for single player missions and including more flyable aircraft from the original. While the original game featured at least 31 flyable aircraft (more after patches were released) il2:FB offers a total of 138 aircraft with 89 flyable with more being developed to include a P51 Mustang and a Mitsubishi Zero (where is the F4U4 Corsair?)

iL2:FB has a dynamic campaign mode for single player that allows for changes in weather, and reacts to what you do in each mission. One day you may be flying bomber escort (if you are flying a fighter aircraft) to being a ground attack bomber the next to scrambling to repel a fighter-bomber attack the 3rd day. Campaigns allow you to choose what you want to fight as whether it be a heavy bomber pilot (sniper in GR though not as safely out of the way like in Ghost Recon) to a fighter pilot (soldier) to a dive bomber (demo) to even an iL2 Sturmovik (support) pilot that takes on tanks and other ground targets. Missions can take place at any time of day and in any kind of weather. Now you can have a static campaign if you wish by using missions that you build in the full mission builder, but more on the mission builder later. You can pick what country you wish to fly for be it Russia, Germany, Finland or Hungary though the latter 2 only you to fly campaigns as fighters and not as a bomber.

There are also single missions that you can play depending on your mood that are not related to the campaign and are much like GR's quick missions. Pick a country, plane and jump in and go.

Once at the briefing window, you can read the briefing then move onto the aircraft arming page where you can chose different weapons packages, though sometimes all you will be able to carry are the default weapons. You can also change skins, units, and pilots. You also set your fuel amount, weapons stats and the like for proper delivery and timing. Doesn't this all sound like the solider selection process in GR? I sure think so. You can also set how much realism you want while at the briefing screen. Don't want to black out while pulling to many G's, turn it off. Don't want to stall, turn it off. Want to have to take off and land for each mission, turn it on. While you can make these choices for a quick mission or a single mission, you have to make the realism choices prior to starting a campaign and you will use those same settings throughout your campaign.

During a mission, you will encounter sun in your eyes, flak traps, fighters and ground based weapons on your way to your target. Flak being ground based anti-aircraft artillery is much like a support or demo character in GR. Explosives do play a big part in trying to down you along with fighters. If it's completely air to air, which I liken to two soldiers trying to outwit each other and get to the others rear for an attack. While some aircraft are easier to get behind than others (bombers vs. fighters) it can be done. While Ghost Recon is a small squad ballet on the ground, Forgotten Battles (as with any flight sim) takes it to the air with dog fighting and in the process adds the 3rd dimension that combat on the ground can't provide (unless a sniper is hiding in a tree or up on a hill.)

Once the mission is completed and you either back at your home airfield or dead from not keeping an eye on your six, you will go to the debriefing screen which tells you how well you did and even plots out your flight path and what kills you made along with your AI pilots or the enemy, hopefully it is you and your squadron mates that do all the killing though. If you are playing a dynamic campaign, you will be told of any awards you have received along with any promotions you earned. If you should be shot down and captured behind enemy lines, you will be told of it along with being KIA also. If either of those happen, you will have to replay that particular mission until you complete it successfully and make it home safe. Just like in Ghost Recon if you lose pilots during a dynamic campaign, they are gone for the remainder of the campaign.

iL2: Forgotten Battles includes 2 mission editors. Both editors are accessed from in game unlike Ghost Recon and are fairly simple to use. While GR has quick missions, they are unlike FB's due to the fact that GR uses regular missions along with a few other modes. The quick mission builder allows you to pick what ever country, aircraft, weapons, altitude, advantage/disadvantage, how many aircraft in your flight, other friendly aircraft and type and that of your enemy (maybe GR2 will have something similar, I sure hope so) for your mission. Once created, you fly it similar to a single mission or a campaign mission. This is a good way to start off learning how to fly, dogfight, bombing runs while playing as a fighter-bomber or just to get the feel of a new plane and how it reacts to different load outs.

The full mission builder is similar to Ghost Recon's Igor. While I have dabbled a bit with Igor, I barely understood it. With FB's mission editor, though not very intuitive at first, I didn't know about the slider on the left side of the screen (I had no idea it was there until I asked Yodasplat) so I didn't know how to zoom in to see how accurately I placed something. With the FMB you start with a blank map with all the airfields places along with cities, rivers, roads, bridges etc. already in place. All you have to do is position objects where you want them be it the static or dynamic (being aircraft or ground vehicles that will actually move or be flown) and assign them to an army whether it be red (Russians of course, funny joke there Oleg ;) ) or blue for the Germans or other country. You can have aircraft start an an airfield or even have them start in the air. You assign way points for the aircraft to follow and assign altitudes, airspeed and a particular order for each way point. You can also do the same for vehicles and plot a course for them on a road. At a particular way point you assign a ground attack parameter if the mission has bombers of either the heavy type or fighter-bomber. Dive bombing have to have their way points set high enough or they will make a regular bombing run which could have detrimental effects on them if the bombs aren't timed right. You can even place where the battle fronts are located.

For each mission that you make, you choose the map which sets the location and sometimes the time of year, time of day, and weather effects. As in GR, you can create missions to make your own campaign though it will be a static campaign similar to iL2 Sturmovik. Just string all your missions together in a folder. You can even build your missions for multi-player play and have your own campaign for online play. There is so much you can do with the FMB I can't detail it all here in my review. I did make one mission of my own to see how well it works and once you get the hang of things, creating missions is a breeze really.

Now here at GhostRecon.net I know we all love multi-player games whether it be Coop or VS. and FB gives us that. There are Coop missions that can be played and are not for the impatient type. Depending on the realism settings, you start from your airfield and fly to the target area. The day I tried Coop with Nightcrawler, we spent about 3 hours to fly 3 missions to completion. Like with GR, comm's is a plus and the game includes it though I have not tried it out. Dogfights is the other mode of MP and looks to be interesting as this is where you find out how well you can fly against another human player. Pick the army color you want to fly as and your plane and set convergence, fuel quantity and delay along with aircraft skins, pilots faces, regiments etc, just like in SP.

Graphically, this game is impressive, you have particle effects, spectacular views, dynamic lighting and wondrous weather effects such as lightning. Shadows are visible on the ground from the aircraft you are in, contrails form when flying high enough, the sun can blind you if you dare to fly into it. When an aircraft is hit, holes are blown into it and pieces break off, when enough damage is done, fireballs erupt and smoke trails the plane. Bombers and other multi-place aircraft will have crew members jump from the damaged aircraft just like you can bail out (hopefully you are high enough so you don't go splat if you should have to jump.) Jumping crew members can be seen safely parachuting to the ground unless you build a mission that has lots of flak and other AAA going off around them *sly grin* that can preclude the crews from making it safely to the ground.

Controls are fairly simple to complex. If you choose, you can set up as many keyboard controls as you wish by using key combinations. You can run multi-place engine management if you so wish or leave it to be automatically controlled for multi-engine aircraft. There are throttle controls along with prop controls. While flying with the keyboard is possible, a joystick works that much better and if you can afford such a set-up an HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick, a Thrustmaster Cougar is a very good example of this) is even better. You can map buttons on your stick either in game or use the joysticks profile software to allow for ease of use.

While FB allows for a 1st person view, you can change views to 3rd person and a view from your wingman. In wingman view, you actually get a free camera to rotate completely around your aircraft. If flying in 1st person doesn't fit your style, you can choose a view with a few instruments and a ground plane to show you which way you are oriented as can be seen in my movies. These views are great for watching tracks (replays.) FB gives you to way to save tracks. The first is, by the Esc button and selecting Start Recording and naming the track where you want to start recording or wait till the end of the mission to save it all. I tried to save it all at the end several times, but ended up crashing the game (too large a file to save all at once maybe???) and having to restart my PC.

Conclusion

All in all I find iL2: Forgotten Battles a very enjoyable sim no matter what difficulty I chose to play on. Oleg Maddox included aces from both sides so you never know who you may go up against and that alone is a big plus as you can fly with or against either. Though I didn't go against any that I know of, just knowing that fact brings a bit of tension that really gets the adrenaline flowing. By bringing us historically accurate aircraft and a flight model that is tremendous, Maddox has built a worthwhile game in a genre that is truly lacking in titles nowadays. I hope he keeps the series alive as it seems he will by working on more aircraft for inclusion.

I would like to thank UbiSoft and Rocky for allowing me the chance to review this game. Thanks to Oleg Maddox and his design team for bringing the planes of the eastern front alive with the latest in hopefully a long line of WW2 flight sims.

 


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