Well over a year ago the developers of IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad, 1C Games Studios, released a patch that enabled access to two player controllable tanks. The T-34 and the Panzer III. Having two tanks is nice but could we use a few more?
For a sim that focuses on flight, IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad and Battle of Moscow have great maps that actually look pretty good at ground level. That’s not just at the airfields either. You can go across the maps almost universally and there is a base level of detail to the ground that makes the whole thing fairly believable.
Let’s not think that these graphics are as detailed as Call of Duty/Battlefield or even ARMA level of detail. They are just good enough to be believable.
Physics are there mostly
The developers did a lot of work here to make sure that the vehicle physics were believable.
Tanks, trucks, and cars are all believably modeled and when you see a truck convoy driving along the road they have obvious suspension travel and when their wheels turn they turn believably with them. Its a level of detail we have only more recently seen in sims – the original IL-2 definitely did not have any of this.
What is remarkable is that all of these effects are for objects that are frequently little more than dots on the screen as we fly far above them. Even during a low level attack you may be hard pressed to know the difference, yet, it is there and sometimes you will notice just how nice the work done here is.
What is currently lacking are any real interactions with the foliage, trees, and anything beyond a passing interaction with objects like buildings and fences. Not a deal breaker but something that separates IL-2 as a flight sim with a couple of driveable tanks from something like War Thunder’s tank mode which has physics interactions with fences, trees, bushes, etc.
Gameplay is also pretty important. I’ve played around with the tanks a bit and they are actually quite a bit of fun to drive around. They have all of the benefits of that vehicle and aircraft physics model that permeates the entire world of IL-2. The tanks have real weight to their handling and its obvious that work was done to the corresponding sounds.
Both AT and HE rounds are modeled although there is a lack of depth here in terms of the specific types of rounds. While War Thunder’s tank mode offers a variety of rounds, IL-2 has just a basic distinction. They likely model some specifics here but they are largely invisible to the player and not something that you have a lot of choice or awareness of.
One thing missing is how tanks and the AI handle trees. They can see through trees and foliage which makes hiding in cover pointless. This is obviously a concession to IL-2 being a flight sim first and the tank feature being more of an afterthought. Multiplayer with human controlled tanks does not have this issue.
What we need are more tanks
For a believable ground war to be setup with IL-2, we need more tanks to make it work. Light, medium and heavy tanks are all possibilities. Mobile and fixed anti-aircraft artillery would be useful as would assault guns. Some of these vehicles are already in IL-2 but of course none of them except for the T-34 XXX and Pz.III XXX are available to drive.
The Pz.IV, KV-1, T-50 and StuG III are all vehicles I’d love to see.
Unlikely to happen in the current climate
While an armored addition might be a nice thing to have, I also think the chances of it happening right now are slim. The developers have announced their plan for the next 3-4 years already with a focus currently on finishing up the third Eastern front installment followed by a dramatic shift to the Pacific theatre and the Battle of Midway.
While Kuban will feature plenty of ground vehicles, Midway is entirely different with the two opposing fleets stealing the limelight from ground vehicles. Any ground vehicles would be limited to the Midway island anyways (unless 1CGS gives us some other Pacific location) and the Pacific conflict wasn’t known for any large scale tank battles – certainly none like the battle at Kursk for example. Japanese tanks were rarely equals of their European and American counterparts and designed according to a different set of circumstances and situations.
Time and resources are a huge factor here as well. A small developer team like 1C Game Studios has a lot to do and not enough people to make it happen. Focusing on the core product, a flight simulator, is more important than trying to shoehorn a tank sim into a flight sim. What they have done so far is incredibly cool but its not necessary.
A return to Europe or North Africa in a few years time would be the next chance for any sort of additions to the ground war. Until then, tankers will have to be satisfied with what we already have. And really, it’s pretty good for what ultimately is a flight sim!
EDIT: Blog updated for grammar and missing images (I didn’t mean to post this right away. Ooops!)