In the trio of titles announced in late 2017, Tank Crew was the first to get its new map and it gives us an area of the Eastern Front that has been well explored in multiple previous titles including the original IL-2 series. What’s the new map like and how does it fit into the rest of the series? Read on!
New tech on a small map
The Prokhorovka map is intentionally small at approximately 106×106 kilometers of usable area. This is huge for a tank sim but just average for a combat flight sim. The developers of IL-2, with their flight sim background and intention to bring a viable combined arms sim to life, rightly decided to make this big enough to be interesting for pilots as well as tankers.
There’s some new types of technology at play here. A smaller 19х23 km zone centered around Prokhorovka is where the terrain mesh is 16 times more detailed than the typical IL-2: Great Battles Series map. Villages in this area user higher detailed objects with more detail and have more destructible details – especially impressive when you drive through them with a tank.
At the moment cannon fire doesn’t seem to cause the same kind of damage but that may change later on in the project.
Prokhorovka and surrounding region is where one of the biggest tank battles in history was fought and the limited scope of this higher resolution mesh is still massively larger than anything I’ve seen in a title like War Thunder with its very small tank arenas.
Continuing the comparison with War Thunder, this area may be far more detailed than anything else in an IL-2 map, but it isn’t on the same level as War Thunder’s so there are trade offs too. That said, 1CGS didn’t skimp on details here and the team is still working on improving the technology that supports Tank Crew so this is an early impression rather than a final one.
The thing that I remain so excited about for the future of IL-2 and for Tank Crew specifically is combined arms. The act of coordinated ground/air assault on targets coordinated in multiplayer is already something with limited possibility in the IL-2 series and Tank Crew takes that to the next level.
The map needs to be able to support that and very fortunately it does. There’s a dozen or more airfields spread out in historical spots around the map which work just as regular airfields do for the rest of the series. That makes it easy getting IL-2s, Bf109s, Yaks and Hs129s among other types of aircraft up in the air and doing what they normally do. From a pilots perspective the Kursk map is every bit as good as Stalingrad, Moscow or Kuban from a quality point of view – actually its extremely good with the natural flowing roads and villages (compared to some of Kuban’s planned towns that the map team recreated faithfully).
Something to be appreciated on each of the maps in the IL-2 series is the map team’s commitment to making sure that the map has some beautiful art design attached to it and that is something that the 1CGS team has done wonderfully.
The original IL-2, with its more limited technology, had difficulty giving maps any real personality but that is no issue here as this map feels distinct from Moscow and Stalingrad despite their inherently similar geographies.
The Kursk battle and the area around Prokhorovka is relatively flat on average but features detailed undulations, ravines, and small hilly areas with a mix of grasslands and forested regions which are all represented on the map.
A few issues are there too
I’ve had a few issues with the map and most of them are not new to the series. Some higher detailed hillsides and ravines have ‘popped’ into a more detailed shape even as I was fairly close to them. More of an issue for aircraft than tanks this is still a tech limitation of the current engine and so it is what it is.
I experienced one or two unusual but short pauses during my testing and exploring of the map. I don’t get those on my system on the Kuban map (the next map that I consider to be fairly heavy) so that was new. It happened over Prokhorovka where the greatest concentration of higher detail buildings are located once or twice but has since stopped happening so I don’t know what the situation is there.
Others have had lower average frame rates and stutters in multiplayer matches (something I haven’t tried) and a few have said that they have issues with trees on the map becoming blocky. I haven’t seen any of that myself so its hard to say what the cause of that is.
It’s a really good map
The combination of technology, historical locale, and the really good art work that the team has done for this map is pretty impressive to me. Though smaller than most maps in the series, its large enough to support some serious medium scale aerial battles and more than large enough for bomber formations and attack planes to gain distance and be able to operate with room to breath.
The detailed tank area is maybe not quite as good as War Thunder’s tank arenas but then War Thunder typically doesn’t operate at this scale either.
It’s still early days but my biggest complaint is that we probably won’t have a pilot career for the map. It’s so good that I’d love to load up a Yak or IL-2 or Hs129 or FW190 and fly as part of the titanic map that is the Battle of Kursk. Also, this map is crying out for a Yak-9T. Just saying!