Birds of Prey brings Il-2 Sturmovik to the console systems as well as the PC and the game has never looked better for one of the best combat flight simulator games to hit the gaming scene.
Graphics & Audio: 22/25,
IL-2 Sturmovik is a great combat flight simulator and now 1C Company brings the highly rated game to the console systems for another great game that will be a classic. Birds of Prey takes the same concept of the popular IL-2 Sturmovik game and adds a new arena of combat in the European and Russian theatre including some fights over Britain and Russia as well as Berlin.
The game has the same feel and quality as the original and the creators did a fantastic job of taking the same combat flight simulator and making it work for the PlayStation 3. I received the PS3 version for review and have been pleased with the results of the game being ported to a console system.
The game plays a much tighter and well designed setup than the previous IL-2 game on the PC starting with a required tutorial to start players off with a little training. Once you step through some basic flying and fighting you can unlock the arcade mode and play through the campaign in that difficulty.
You can also unlock the Simulator and Realistic modes by playing some other tutorial missions and play through the campaign or single missions using those difficulty settings. Realistic mode allows for more realistic fighting and flying but takes some of the harder aspects out of the equation but leaving much of the fun in the game.
Simulator is as real as it gets without hopping into an actual cockpit with only cockpit or virtual cockpit view and realistic flight physics to separate the men from the flyboys. The virtual cockpit view is a wide open view in front of your airplane with only a few digital readouts like altitude and speed as well as a gunsight on your monitor.
Each difficulty setting offers more increasing challenges but you can always just stick to the arcade if you only want a fun trip without the hassles real flight introduces. The other two difficulties introduce the realism of flight and combat for added fun and all three really give a good variety as well as value to the package.
Playing through the campaign will unlock not only further missions but more airplanes and weapon loadouts for further missions. Once you have played through missions you can play the single player games with your choice of game type, plane and other settings and have fun playing the campaign missions over again.
The campaign plays through in story line voiced by Joss Ackland, a heavily accented actor from Lethal Weapon II and many other parts that really give the narration portions style. Each mission has a before and after tale they walk through as you play but you can also skip these with your escape button.
Before each mission aside from the story you get a mission brief and a good idea of the weather, terrain and other factors for the mission. For Arcade mode this is not really necessary as they will highlight targets as well as friends and foes but to play through the realistic and simulator you definitely need to pay attention to the briefing.
In the harder difficulty settings you get less information and help during missions like friend and foe tags as well as more realism so when fighting on the highest difficulty you need to really study the mission briefing. When flying the Simulator setting you get no tags or any help other than the mission briefing and fighting without any tags on any of the planes is a real challenge.
Just finding the mission objectives can be difficult other than having the help of others going to the same objective so these higher difficulties do make things more interesting and definitely gives a lot more value to the game. The game does have plenty of replay value in the three difficulty settings, a good campaign as well as the single player and multi player gaming.
The graphics and sound are very well done with very realistic graphics, great plane models and realistic effects that are up to par for the Il-2 Sturmovik series. The effects are very realistic and well done without very many problems but during the campaign I did have few frame rate drops during very intense gaming.
In the multiplayer gaming I also experienced frame rate drops and stuttering at times that did not all come from players with bad ping rates. Some servers may have more problems than others but I found I would have some kind of stuttering or frame rate problems on all the servers to at least some extent.
The game is more than playable for the worst of the stuttering on multiplayer but you may at times have a hard time finding many people playing online. I found few people online playing Il-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey which is kind of a surprise, you should be able to find someone to play just not on the game type or difficulty settings you had your heart set on.
An interesting side note to the online servers, they only show the games that are ready for people to jump in so if you do go online and do not see many games available that does not mean there is no one playing. There are games running but because you cannot join they did not show these servers but there are some people playing, you just may have to wait till the game type you want opens or people join one you start.
The game includes some great audio as well and of course the great narration from Joss Ackland to give the game a well made and overall good rating. The sound effects from engine and airplane are well done and hearing planes buzz by and bullets going past and through your plane in surround sound is great.
You really do get a great sense of flying and combat with the audio that really adds to the fun and action as well as the great effects for an overall well made game. In addition to playing the campaign, single missions or multiplayer you have a training missions choice which is really another single player gaming type that allows you to fight with all variables open to your choice.
In the single player gaming you have particular missions from the campaign but in the training you can pick your airplanes, the location, type of missions, time of day or night, weather and enemies for a really open game type. The training missions add a lot to the gameplay and value as well as a few of the extras like historical battle synopsis and airplane histories that are unlocked during the campaign.
Il-2 Sturmovik Birds of Prey is really a well made game and a great addition to the series with its well done port to the consoles, at least the PlayStation 3 version I tested. Birds of Prey continues the great series and will be a classic of flight sim games for years to come for a highly recommended game.