Oleg Maddox’ IL2 Sturmovik Series of World War II flight simulations has proved to be a major success in the simulation gaming community, becoming one of the most successful flight-sim franchises ever and hopefully someday rivaling the popularity of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator Series. Its acclaim is apparent through the continued success of two additional titles in the series: IL2 Forgotten Battles and IL2 Forgotten Battles — Ace Expansion Pack (AEP), the latter of which will be reviewed in this article.
The Ace Expansion Pack in itself is no lightweight addon. It comes packed with new aircraft, both flyable and non-flyable, as well as beautifully rendered environments and a new collection of missions and campaigns. Please note, however, AEP requires a copy of IL2 Forgotten Battles. Here’s the run-down on the features:
- 20 new flyable aircraft
- 7 new non-flyable aircraft
- 3 new environments: Ardennes, Normandy and a Pacific Theater map (online)
- 7 new dynamic campaigns
- An innovative ranking and award campaign system
- 20 new single-player missions
- 10 new cooperative missions
The most exciting part of AEP has to be the new aircraft it includes, all of which live up to the same standards as we have seen before from Oleg Maddox, including damage modeling, beautiful aircraft skins, weapon effects, 3D-cockpits and avionics. Moving away from providing a handful of realistically modeled variants of a few core aircraft, AEP features quite a number of new fighters and bombers and less variants of each. There is also a move away from a strict focus on the Eastern European Front and the Germans versus the Russians to provide the opportunity to try out some of the other great aircraft of the war, such as the American P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt, and the Japanese A6 Zero, just to name a few.
With the recent release of the version 2.01 patch for AEP, there are now quite a few more aircraft in the sim, such as a handful of new Yak aircraft and five Spitfire variants, all of which are flyable, plus four non-flyable B-25 variants. Included in the patch is also a very lengthy list of bug fixes, showing Oleg Maddox’ continued dedication to this franchise and the simulation gaming community, which is definitely much appreciated.
As everyone who has flown IL2 before already knows, this series is clearly geared towards the hardcore simulation gaming fan, however, I believe it is still accessible to newcomers of the genre. Still available is the ability to turn off many of the major realism items in order to soften the title somewhat. But, that said, this title definitely attempts to model World War II aerial combat as realistically as possible and it does a damn good job in doing so.
I’ve seen various complaints about the training missions in the sim, regarding their lack of voice-overs which force the beginner to draw his or her attention away from the action and read subtitles. This may not be much of an issue for some, but I believe some work is still to be done here in order to make the learning process easier for those just picking up this title.
That said, the AEP box does include a very detailed and handy card with pretty much all of the key commands listed on it for quick reference. Lately, it seems to be the trend to include this valuable item as a printable PDF instead of being already in the box, so points for Ubisoft for going this route.
Graphics and Sound
Just as we saw with its predecessors, AEP packs a cornucopia of visual beauty. Personally, I believe this series has the most stunning graphics of any flight simulation on the market today. From the clouds to the aircraft and the 3D-cockpit modeling, it’s hard to beat the near perfection of this title.
The sounds in the IL2 Series have always impressed me, especially the feeling you get when the engines of your Bf109 turn over and fire up with a grumble that your neighbors can feel. However, with AEP I have experienced some oddities in the sound department, ranging from problems with no sounds in the external views to intermittent weapon and engine effects inside the cockpit. I have been able to remedy some of this with some tweaking to the sound options within the title, namely turning down the sampling rate a notch, but it is still not perfect. Browsing the AEP forums, I found some other ideas which have worked for some and not for others, but it is clear that numerous people are experiencing sound problems.
For owners of NaturalPoint’s trackIR, you’re definitely in for a wonderful experience. The support for NaturalPoint’s product is near perfect in this title and it has worked for me extensively with no problems at all and greatly improves the overall experience and ease of flying. I do, however, recommend setting up a dead-spot within the trackIR software so that you’re not seasick after every dogfight.
The Ace Expansion Pack for Oleg Maddox’ IL2 Forgotten Battles is definitely worth its USD $29.99 price tag, but if you do not already own Forgotten Battles, the “Gold Pack,” which includes both Forgotten Battles and the Ace Expansion Pack is a steal at USD $39.99. Any fan of the IL2 Series should have a copy of this expansion.
IL2 Forgotten Battles — Ace Expansion Pack was reviewed on the following system:
|CPU:||Intel Pentium 4 1.8A @2610MHz|
|RAM:||512MB Samsung Original PC2700|
|Video Card:||ATI Radeon 9600 Pro 128MB|
|CD-ROM:||Toshiba SD-M1402 DVD-ROM|
|Hard Drive:||Maxtor 40GB ATA133|
|Sound Card:||Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! Value|
|Operating System:||Windows XP Professional, Debian GNU/Linux|