We’ve nearly made it to the end of 2020 and its time to review the past 12-months of IL-2 Sturmovik. This is a summary some of the highlights of the work coming from 1C Game Studios and Team Fusion Simulations over the last year with the two branches of the IL-2 Sturmovik series. Let’s get into it!
Looking back at Great Battles in 2020
Some years are big banner years for the team at 1C Game Studios while other years seem to be ones where the team work on the fundamentals and build up towards the big year. This year felt a bit smaller when we examine it from a purely content perspective but that ignores some of the big core changes that the sim went through which have proven to be consequential and help to lay the ground work for the future of the sim.
I also don’t want to downplay the fact that we did get quite a bit of new content this year offering plenty of new experiences in the sim. Let’s have a look!
New content this year
The Yak-9 and Yak-9T Collector Planes released in April and were the first two new aircraft to release post Battle of Bodenplatte. Flying them online and reviewing the two new aircraft were some of the most fun that I’ve had in the series to date.
The two aircraft are quite similar overall with the Yak-9T being my favourite thanks to its rapid firing NS-37 cannon. I had some fun dogfights in this aircraft including one very intense fight at low altitude in the Yak-9T that I captured in this video.
In early July, we got our first aircraft for IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Normandy. The P-47D-22 Thunderbolt release was much more than just about D-22 model because the update also brought with it a more refined flight model for both versions of the P-47. It also added 150 octane boost options for both giving the Thunderbolt added speed and capability.
In my review I suggested that the P-47D-22 was ascendant and that once the rest of the Battle of Normandy was out, that we’d see the full potential of the P-47 in its prime fighting form. That day is still coming!
On November 5th, 1CGS released the long awaited Hurricane Mark II. Released almost a year after it was initially offered, the Hurricane Mark II took a while for the team to finalize but the wait was worth it. 1CGS has offered one of the most complete representations of the Mark II Hurricane in any simulation anywhere. In my review, I noted that the five variants and available +14lb boost engine modification, offer tremendous flexibility both historically and tactically.
With the Mark IIA, B, C, D and Russian field modified variants available there is a lot to like with this Collector Plane. Its popularity on the Finnish Virtual Pilots server leads me to suspect that this Collector Plane sold extremely well. It was certainly worth the wait!
Also released during this time was the the AI-only C-47A Skytrain. Although not a flyable (yet…), the iconic C-47 is a key type for Battle of Normandy and we’ll be thankful to have it as scenarios are generated for the new battle in 2021. It may even become a flyable type sometime adding a much needed transport for the Allied side.
Not long after the C-47, another Battle of Normandy aircraft was released. The Bf109G-6 Late fills in a niche in the Bf109 line-up that is historically relevant to the Normandy battle while also offering enough variations and modifications to fit a wide variety of scenarios.
The Bf109G-6 Late also occupies a sweet spot for Bf109 performance which should make it popular over the next few years.
The release of Tank Crew
In 2020 we also saw the Su-152, Pz.Kpfw.V Ausf. D “Panther”, and Sd.Kfz.184 “Ferdinand” tanks released for Tank Crew. Their release in helped complete the array of tanks slated for Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka together with a huge number of updates for the series. We saw effects added into the series including smoke and fire on the inside of the tanks appear and muzzle flash effects are now tuned to the type of barrel and configuration of the muzzle.
Together with the three final tanks, Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka was also officially released in the fall. This expansion of the Great Battles series into tank warfare came about thanks to a partnership with Digital Forms who have been building the 3D models for the series with impressive attention to detail.
I’m still working on my review of the Tank Crew but I can say that I’ve been having fun with the single player and even more fun with driving tanks in multiplayer.
Core sim updates
The core of the sim saw some big changes too. The damage model was given a thorough overhaul which has solved quite a few problems on the WWII aircraft side of things while causing some issues with the WWI aircraft. The overall effect was a net positive with some aircraft, particularly the P-47, benefiting from much improved damage resistance.
Another major change was an engine update that saw the old lighting system tossed out in favour of a deferred shading method. The result were visuals that matched or were better than before while also improving some effects like reflections on the canopy and cockpit gauges. In most cases, there were no performance losses either which was seriously impressive. The new technique was then used to resolve some long standing issues including aircraft appearing blurry in-front of clouds.
In August, 1CGS released an upgraded version of the Velikie Luki map which improved on the original winter map and added a summer variant too. Although tricky to visually navigate because of the thousands of small lakes, the map itself is a visual masterpiece for the series and has begun to be well used on multiplayer servers recently which makes me very happy to see.
To finish off the year, the developers have also made some changes to the ground rendering at close distances to show more terrain variation and to help visualize the roughness of some areas on the ground. It looks great around airfields and really helps tank drivers visualize the ground they are driving over.
Finally, to put a cherry on top, the developers at 1CGS released a new patch to send off 2020 that included, among other things, 4K textures for every released aircraft in the series. Not a bad way to end things!
New single player content
Also released this year were a couple of very good scripted campaigns. Ice Ring by 1CGS’ own BlackSix is an incredibly fun and varied IL-2 campaign set during the siege of Stalingrad in the bleak skies of the winter part of that campaign.
Hellhawks over the Bulge by Gambit21, an IL-2 community member, was another fun, albeit different campaign with long form missions and voice acted recordings that helped tell the story of each mission. Read my review if you want to know more about the campaign.
Q&A with Jason Williams and the Sturmovik podcast
Another bonus for me this year was getting a chance to do a Q&A with Jason Williams on the state of the sim in 2020. I hope to be able to do more podcasts together with Jason and the 1CGS team in the future!
The first Sturmovikfest
In order to pick-up spirits in April and celebrate all things Sturmovik, I proposed and received tremendous support from the community for the first Sturmovikfest in what I hope will be a community event long into the future.
The festival exceeded all of my expectations and it featured nightly multiplayer battles, organized formation fly-overs, and the launch of Project R racing by the Combat Box team. There were special skins contributed in the event them as well! It saw some servers such as Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War server (read my Q&A with the group) leap to new heights in popularity too.
If all goes well, I hope to plan a similar event this coming year!
The release of Desert Wings
The long awaited Desert Wings – Tobruk release by Team Fusion Simulations was another big highlight of the year. Although its development was well known about, it wasn’t until July 1st that the sim gained a formal title for this DLC add-on to the original IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover.
Team Fusion, originally a mod team that built itself up around Cliffs of Dover, eventually became an officially recognized developer and worked to use their expertise to build the Desert Wings – Tobruk update for Cliffs of Dover.
The big appeal for fans has been the shift away from Battle of Britain (although still a fan favourite) and on to the desert battles of North Africa. With a unique aircraft set including a few dozen aircraft and several dozen variants, Desert Wings distinguishes itself through its vast array of content including several single player campaigns and lots of new quick missions. Read my full review here.
Team Fusion has plans to revamp their terrain technology in the future and upgrade their weather system with the new trueSKY weather engine which says good things about how this sim will evolve in 2021.
Looking ahead to 2021
The future of the IL-2 series in 2021 and beyond looks as assured as anything can be in these uncertain times. The series has had a strong showing in 2020, despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19 (of which several members of the 1CGS team in particular were directly affected), with all of the updates and content additions that we did see.
Next year should see the release of the bulk of new content for IL-2: Battle of Normandy and features an ambitious launch plan for new content for the new Flying Circus Vol 2 release as well. We start that list with the Spitfire XIV which is the first Battle of Normandy aircraft that we’re expecting to see in 2021. This is the last major production model of Spitfire to enter service during WWII and will be great to have in the series as a foil to the late model Bf109K-4. I look forward to flying and mastering this 2,000-horsepower beast!
Coming soon after that are the Fw190A-6 and the Typhoon Mark IB. While the Fw190A-6 is an interesting in-between aircraft between A-5 and A-8, the Typhoon represents a type that only rarely appears in flight sims. Its role as both fighter and ground attack/tank buster will be key to have in the Normandy and Bodenplatte careers.
Later in the year we’re expecting types like the P-51B/C Mustang, Ju88C-6, B-26 (AI), Ar-234, Mosquito FB.VI (along with its 57mm cannon modification), and Me410. It’s an ambitious schedule and I don’t know if we’ll see everything release by the end of the year but it should be an exciting time to see this content come together.
At the same time, 1CGS is planning to release new aircraft for Flying Circus Vol 2 starting with the Fokker D.VIII, Spad 7 150hp and 180hp, and Nieuport 28.C1 all during the first part of the year. I’ve been keeping the full release order for quick reference right here and will be updating the list as things change.
Team Fusion Simulations, as I mentioned above, have plans for VR, new weather and terrain updates going into the new year. They show no signs of slowing down their pace of small but effective patches so I fully expect to see IL-2 Sturmovik: Desert Wings – Tobruk to keep making headlines into the new year.
2020 was an awful year on the whole, however, for the IL-2 series it was a good one where the teams did some major work on some core features and functionalities – despite the issues that we were all facing. They fixed long standing issues and they still managed to add new content and release Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka. 2021 looks like it will be another banner year with tons of new content planned for Battle of Normandy and Flying Circus Vol 2 and that should make it an exciting year indeed.
Those were my highlights for 2020! How about you? What stood out to you this year and what are you looking forward to next year?