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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Famous title comes to consoles.

 
 
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:44 PM
Steiner Steiner is offline
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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Hands-On Preview (Xbox 360)
By: Andy Eddy - "Vidgames"
July 18th, 2009

There are plenty of Xbox 360 games that offer some sort of flying, putting you behind the wheel of planes of all kinds. Most of them, though, are on the arcade side of the scale, with little more to do than throttle up, pilot the craft up and down, and turn left and right—oh, and probably shoot a gun. In fact, the emphasis is probably on the gun, like it was an FPS: flying-plane shooter.

An interesting entry due to come out later this year is IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, a World War II-based flight-combat title that should cater to a wide range of gamers. Those who are into the arcade-style plane battles can enjoy Birds of Prey in its Arcade setting. Those looking for something a little involved on the flight-simulator side will want to crank the game up to Realistic or Simulator, which gives them much more to do in the cockpit.

On a personal level, while I may not be a licensed pilot, I did fly hang gliders when I was younger; and I grew up around flight stuff having a father who was an aeronautical engineer. My hands-on time with Birds of Prey at both ends of the spectrum was enjoyable, though there’s definitely a learning curve when things are set to more realistic control. And, though we didn’t give it a roll down the runway with anything more than a standard Xbox 360 controller, it’s our understanding that the game will support compatible flight sticks.

Whether you’re a veteran of gaming in the clouds or taking your first jaunt, the game starts you off with a detailed tutorial that takes you carefully (though interactively) through the various control elements and offerings. Initially, it’s a trainer on navigating the plane, but it gradually gives you instructions on the various weapon systems—because that’s where the fun is, right? Indeed, the tutorial sections are great because you spend most of your time in the air (and the time you aren’t off the ground is when you’re learning how to take off and land) doing what the instructor tells you before it’ll let you move on. Yes, some of the tutorials are mandatory before you’ll be allowed to go out and shoot at “real” targets in the Campaign.

I took on a few of the early missions, and the game provides a nice ramp up, making sure you fully grasp what’s going on after the tutorials. You get some guns, guns, guns with your plane, but also get to drop a bunch of bombs on foreign ships not long after that. This really rounds out your skill levels at the various aspects of the combat system, which I’m sure will be welcome when things start getting really tough, as I’m sure they’ll do later in the campaign missions.

In fact, it already started picking up when I got on an extended bombing run. My first issue was with a touchy plane that would quickly throw me into an out-of-control stall if I tried to muscle it through a turn too hard. One time I got into a nasty stall spin, but luckily had enough altitude to get out of it before I did my impression of a lawn dart at a Fourth of July picnic. And then the bombing wasn’t a quick dump-and-run affair, but in fact required me to do a number of return passes to dump more bombs on the various targets before all of them were sunk. To top it off, most of the passes brought anti-air flak pinging my plane, urging me to speed up my efforts at completing the tasks.

he bombing was followed up by some air-to-air combat, which also had me wringing performance out of the plane against speedier AI adversaries. Once I cleared those targets out, I had the appearance of a secondary (but optional) objective that required me to fly back inland quite a distance to land at a friendly airfield. There isn’t a lot of margin for error on Realistic to put the bird down on the ground safely.

One of the nice additions is a limited ability to command your wingmen, when they’re available to you. This can be quite helpful when you have a large number of targets to deal with or when you have a particular stubborn or sizable opponent to take out. You can also direct them to protect you from incoming attacks, with all such commanding being quickly executed on the D-Pad. (Yes, there’s a section of the tutorial devoted to those commands also.)

We also had a little time going at the crew from co-publisher 505 Games in the eight-player-max multiplayer portion. They were supposed to be showing us around the landscape, but (as you’d expect…hey, it’s a game) they got competitive and instead kept trying to knock our wings off with gunfire and crafty maneuvers to “get on our six.” The first gameplay mode was a free-for-all deathmatch, which was followed by a similar battle, though this time as a team-vs.-team sortie. The final gameplay mode we tried was one that seemed to require landing on airfields to capture them as the main method of scoring, which seems like it’d be a different experience for a bunch of experienced Birds of Prey players who could be counted on to drop a plane on a dime on the runway, then take off again and head to the next airfield.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the game is its realistic look. Undoubtedly, must of that realism can be credited to actual satellite data, which the publishers announced this past week is being used to “re-create the landscapes of war-torn Europe…in remarkable detail.” It’s easy to get lost in flight, as you pilot over this gorgeous and detailed world. It’s always better to have something that so effectively immerses you in the experience, and the terrain data definitely adds to the gameplay and feel you get when you’re cruising along in search of your next target.

We’re expecting to get another look at the game before it ships—it’s expected to hit stores in mid-September—and when we do, we’ll bring you a fresh look at this winged challenger. Stay tuned to TeamXbox for more information, which we’ll post as we receive it.

http://previews.teamxbox.com/xbox-36...ds-of-Prey/p1/
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