I’m playing IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad Blazing Steppe campaign by Black Six and its simply superb. But its also much harder than Ten Days of Autumn. I don’t think that was on purpose but I’ve fought some seriously tough missions in this campaign and Mission 7: Business As Usual is seriously tough!
Warning: Spoilers ahead for folks playing the campaign.
If at first you don’t succeed…
…die, die, die … again. This mission sets you out with a pair of Yak-1s as wingmates and a trio of LaGG-3 fighters for backup. The mission? Fly over Stalingrad and establish a combat air patrol over the beleaguered city.
The amazing part of Black Six’s mission design is that you never enter into these missions without seeing all kinds of enemy and friendly activity. At various points I noted Ju88s flying over the city dropping bombs, swarms of Bf109s on different missions, and a large group of Ju87s dive bomb targets in the city centre right in the middle of your pitched dogfights. LaGG-3s back you up and La-5s are fully engaged in a hopeless fight when you arrive on the scene. You are never alone but you are in trouble!
You can’t intercept all of them. Really, you don’t have the ammunition to shoot that many planes down anyways!
Its not all failure on my part either. The mission played out three different ways each time and it was challenging each way. The Bf109s were a swarming over the area each time in slightly different configurations and that made trying to make this mission a success even more challenging.
Arriving over the city we were quickly engulfed in a fight in progress. La-5s on patrol had engaged Bf109G-2s just to the south-east of Stalingrad – right over the Volga!
It took me a while but I eventually picked out a G-2 and got in behind him. Peppering him with my poor aim I managed to eventually get some rounds on him with my ShVAK cannon.
Smoking but not out of the fight I had to dodge two separate attacks by his wingmates in the swirling melee.
Eventually I managed to close in and get a solid shot on his wing. It quickly crumpled and fell away. One Bf109 down!
The fight wasn’t over. Bf109F-4s from another flight had arrived just to the north and they, along with some Stukas, were filling the skies. I counted at least 6 Bf109s arriving as escort but I’m not sure how many there were.
These Bf109s dispatched two LaGG-3s from my backup flight before I count intervene. My fellow Yak pilots fell in behind me as we pushed into this second fight. A Yak was also quickly shot down while I managed to get a few rounds into a Bf109F-4 before being forced to break away.
A second Bf109F-4 got into my gunsights a few minutes later and I again peppered him with machine gun rounds as we flew low over Stalingrad. My cannon ammo supply was out!
With the LaGG-3s and La-5s either gone or disengaged and with just myself and one of my fellow wingmen left along with a seriously diminished ammo supply – I learned that we made for a hasty retreat out of the Stalingrad area.
Two Bf109F-4s were trailing fuel and coolant and they too disengaged along with the rest of their flight and the Stukas. Those guys managed to drop on target without me so much as making a single machine gun pass on them!
Flying at low altitude and at maximum throttle… I managed to make it back to base unscathed. I performed a bit of a messy but still acceptable landing, parked the aircraft on the apron and shut off the engine.
I also breathed a sigh of relief. That was a hard mission and after playing it a couple of times already I was pleased to come out of it without so much as a scratch on my Yak.
Scripted campaigns add a lot to the series
IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad has been accused of being sterile and not very interesting to play in single player but with the advent of the Scripted Campaign a whole new avenue has opened up.
Black Six’s missions for both of these campaigns have been simply superb. They are always fun, sometimes challenging and sometimes they are just dripping with atmosphere. Actually… they are always dripping with atmosphere. For a flight sim anyways. Just having all of the ground activity, the machine gunners on the ground shooting each other while you fly over the burning city and confront dozens of friendly and enemy aircraft – each on their own mission is spectacular.
This is what a World War II flight sim can offer. It took a while but IL-2 is finally offering!