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Xbox 360 Review: IL-2 Sturmovik – Birds of Prey

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There have been flight simulator games on the market for a long time; Blazing Angels, HAWX, and Heroes Over Europe are among the more recent releases. They all suffer from the same simple arcade flight controls and simple mission types, which involve following an on screen prompt and blowing up the targets. This simple design is really good for first time players, but for people who have been playing flight games for a while it becomes quite repetitive. Sturmovik solves this problem by adding a variety of difficulty of missions from arcade to simulator in which you have to find the enemies without any assistance.  Of course, there is a tutorial that will bring players up to speed.

When it comes to the campaign there are approximately eight big historical battles in which the player will participate.  Each of the battles has several missions that must be completed in order to progress and missions often contain primary and secondary objectives. 

A World War II game, the battles all take place from 1940 to 1945. There is no real story line here, just in-game movies ranging from full-motion video to simpler cut-scenes.
Graphics are another thing that sets this game above the rest of its genre. They are outstanding — each of the environments look excellent and the game plays like one is watching an air combat movie. There are details for damage and the developer also added a sort of picture in picture that pops up when a rocket is fired or a bomb is dropped. The only difficulty in terms of the visuals is trying to locate a landing strip (perhaps that is because this is a more realistic experience).  Even so, the level of detail remains impressive throughout — if you play on arcade difficulty you can zoom in to see the enemies' wings ripping off and the plane exploding.

Though the game contains online play, there is only a small online community and it is hard to find a ranked match. However, setting up a match is pretty simple and there is some variation between the different match types. In order to unlock planes in the multiplayer, planes must be unlocked in the campaign by completed certain goals. The greatest advantage you can get playing an online match is when going up against someone who does not have a plane or a weapon layout.  

The game has excellent replay value.  There is so a lot to do if one wants to unlock everything, and progress continues swiftly as achievements are not too difficult to obtain. Multiplayer achievements are harder though because of the lack of online players. The different offline modes; training, single mission, and campaign should keep any player very busy even if finding an online game is hard. There is also the ability to watch campaign videos and read about the different planes, historical battles, and pilots’ backgrounds. In training mode you can use any plane that has been unlocked and go up against multiple types (and numbers) of enemies. They come in waves, giving you brief breaks to practice landing or enjoy the scenery.

IL-2 Sturmovik is my number one choice for flight games at this point. It is an excellent historical game as well as a brilliant flight simulator with plenty of hours of gameplay. There are plenty of different modes to play and different items to unlock. Online may not be around for long, but there are tons of other things that will keep players busy.

IL-2 Sturmovik – Birds of Prey is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language and Violence. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PS3, and PSP.

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