Whether you entered into the early days IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad as a founding member a few years ago or whether this is the first you're hearing of the legendary World War II flight simulator series, this game is has something to offer flight sim and war-game buffs alike. While many flight sims like DCS World and Microsoft's offerings do an excellent job, none are as immersive or historically adventurous as Il-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, and neither offer the chance to be one of the pilots that fought what is seen today as one of the pivotal battles of the second World War.
The entirety of this game is set in a very specific part of history - the winter of later 1942/early 1943 - and offers you the chance to enjoy piloting up to ten historical aircraft. Flight simulator fans will greatly enjoy the selection that is on offer, which includes the He-111, the LaGG-3, and the Ju-87.
The above aircraft form part of the collection of 8 you receive with the standard version of the game, with the premium version offering two more aircraft: the La-5, and - a plane that didn't actually fly in the battle - the Fw 190 A3. The selection should please history fans, and the highly detailed cockpits should be detailed enough for the hardcore simulation veterans (though the lack of clickable/interactive cockpits shows the game's limitations when compared to the likes of DCS World's Black Shark Ka-50 simulation.
What flight simulation fans will be mainly interested in here are the flight models that lay beneath the action of IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad. Much like the game Rise of Flight did for the aircraft of World War One, Sturmovik possesses at least the same, if not a superior level of detail in its flight models, aircraft models, and highly-detailed cockpits.
Though there are two difficulty modes (Normal or Difficult), neither dare to present players with an arcade-level of gameplay with any of the game's 10 aircraft. Each individual aircraft has its own unique feel, dictated by a mixture of the flight model and the game's excellent physics framework. The most important difference between difficulties is that Normal difficulty allows the engine management portion of the simulation to be handled by the computer whereas Expert difficulty requires that you take care of all of the aircraft's hardware and flight systems, removing the Normal-difficulty crutch if you will.
The damage model is also of interest here since it has progressed over time in the IL-2 Sturmovik series. If you've played Cliffs of Dover, then you may notice that the damage model in Battle of Stalingrad doesn't feel quite as comprehensive, but remember that damage can be progressive in Battle of Stalingrad. You can sustain damage to individual parts such as the landing gear, but it may not become apparent until you put said parts under particular strain. If you sustain damage to the wing, you may be able to fly nearly as normal using a bit of skill, but apply too much G-Force during turns and the wing may unexpectedly break off or fail very suddenly. In all, the damage modelling is extremely satisfying with minimal potential for disappointment.
Though graphics should always be a factor that is secondary behind gameplay in flight simulations like these, there is no denying that the look of Battle of Stalingrad stands out. Far from the relative monotony of many landscapes in some flight simulators, the environments here are detailed to an impressive degree, and the aircraft models themselves are absolutely top-notch and of course accurate to their real-life counterparts.
The finer details are what really make the look of this game stand out so much. Things like the aesthetic effect of damage on your plane through to the wheels making marks on the ground. Special mention simply has to go to the night-based missions where spotlights illuminate the sky for miles and with incredible detail. The graphics of this game almost definitely won't disappoint.
As a WWII combat simulator, IL-2 Sturmovik will tick multiple boxes for its potential owners. Not only is it an incredibly detailed flight simulation (as we've come to expect from the Sturmovik series) but it is a combat simulator down to its very core and therefore has the realistic aviation and damage mechanics that make it a thrill to play. Its multiplayer adds a new dimension (not to mention longevity) to the game and its multiple game modes and vast array of both German and Russian aircraft seal the deal to make this a flight simulator as loyal to realistic flight simulation as it is to explosive entertainment. The only annoying drawback is the lack of interactive cockpits, a feature that 1C Game Studios should consider including in the future.