IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey

The Killzone 2 of WWII flight sims

So why are did we devote two precious pages to a beardy WW2 flight simulator in issue 117 of the magazine? Because it's brilliant, that's why.

The beauty of Sturmovik is that it can be as hardcore or as simplistic as you like. If you want to go for full realism and control every part of your plane, you can. If you want to tumble around in the clouds shooting Nazis and doing barrel rolls, you can.

And it looks incredible. Honest to goodness, jaw on the floor incredible. Unlike most flight sims (including Clancy's H.A.W.X) that see the ground disintegrate into a blurry, pixelated mess when you fly near it, Sturmovik retains its high-res visual fidelity whether you're miles above sea level or buzzing across city rooftops.


Air superiority
Then there's the clouds. Oh, the clouds. They're fully 3D and you can go above and below the cloudline. In the Bastogne level it's grim and grey below the cloudline, while above there are blue skies and piercing sunlight.

It's an awesome effect, and also of use tactically. You can actually hide in the clouds and lure enemies into the haze to pick them off. It takes a special game to get us excited about clouds, and IL-2 Sturmovik is that game.

The game has three modes of play: arcade, realistic and simulator. In arcade most of the plane's intricacies are handled for you and enemies have markers over them. Realistic makes flying a bit more complex, but it's simulation that's really insane.

Enemy planes aren't flagged so you have to learn their shapes to avoid shooting down your allies in the busy skies. And as well as going forward you have to constantly keep the plane straight, all from the cockpit view.

We prefer arcade mode (it's more fun), but simulation is definitely worth a try. It's the closest you'll ever get to being a WW2 ace.