Multiplayer scenarios tend to be centered around objectives on the ground with each team attacking or defending a target. This is a straightforward multiplayer experience for most flight simulations. What you don’t see very much of is a bomber formation around which a lot of challenging flying and combat situations evolve – but you do on Combat Box in a couple of sorties I’ve flown recently. I thought it’d be fun to write about and share the experience.
“The bombers are forming up west of Eindhoven”
When my wingman and I took off from an airbase near Eindhoven on Combat Box, we were planning to do a low level interdiction sortie. With clipped wings and 150 octane fuel, we were prepared for chasing enemy fighters at high speeds down low. Our plans changed when we heard about the bomber formation and thought it’d be fun to provide some escort. It was!
When word goes out on Combat Box about one of three waves of bomber formations forming up on their most recently added scenario, players on both sides take note.
On the Luftwaffe side, aircraft with heavy cannons and Me262 jet fighters if any are available start to scramble and prepare to tackle the bombers. On the Allied side other bombers attempt to join the formation (I’ve seen and heard of A-20B’s joining in) while fighters such as Mustangs, Spitfires, Tempests, and the occasional Lightning and Thunderbolt all seek to climb to about 20,000 feet with the goal of punching the bombers through.
Mitchell’s make contact with the enemy
With both sides more or less prepared then it’s just a matter of when contact is made with the enemy. In this case we made contact while over Allied territory and for the next 60 kilometers a pitched battle happening from about 18,000 to 26,000 feet was going on.
Contrails in this case were everywhere as flights of organized, semi-organized, and completely disorganized flights wove their way in and out of the battle. A half dozen Mitchell’s pressed on in the face of this opposition bearing down on a strategic target marked on the map – players can bomb the target themselves or try to allow the Mitchell’s through so they can bomb the target instead.
In this instance, the opposition was too great. Fw190’s and a lone Me262 blasted through the formation picking off a bomber most times while Mustangs and Spitfire’s struggled to keep the fighters at bay.
In reality, it’s likely that the bomber formation would be many times the size, however, the virtual constraints mean that bomber formations need to be kept small. Nonetheless, the effect on the experience on the server was outstanding.
It’s rare that combat gets pushed in such numbers up to higher altitudes and this absolutely was the case here with a dozen or more players all engaged in high altitude combat with contrails in every direction.
A pair of Mitchell’s ultimately made it through the screen of fighters dropping their bombs and causing at least some damage to the target zone before they were ultimately shot down too.
Multiple enemy fighters fell as well with the Allied fighters putting up a concerted effort with burning and damaged aircraft falling away from the fight.
A nice change
Events like this during a multiplayer match can be difficult to stage but when done right they can have a positive and interesting affect on the people flying on the server. The introduction of a half dozen Mitchell’s suddenly changes the tone of the match taking things from low altitude tactical to a high altitude battle against the bomber stream.
Just six or eight AI planes can make the difference together with some smart scripting and good messaging for each side.
I scored only one assist for this flight but it was still one of the more engaging times I’ve had in IL-2 multiplayer. The combination of spontaneous team play, good tactics, and a focused element such as the bomber formation makes for some very interesting flying. If you haven’t had a chance to experience it, be sure to hop on Combat Box and have a look at their “Battle over Eindhoven” scenario sometime.