The recent flash sale for IL-2: Great Battles included a substantial discount on Tank Crew and that prompted a few more friends to hop in and start playing the sim. And of course we decided we wanted to take that experience online as quickly as possible and on to the Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War server to check out their updated frontline system and engage in some serious tank vs tank warfare. We got more than we bargained for and it was a good time!
The first push
Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War server has made several changes to their server in recent months with much of the focus being on tank warfare. Although the overall frontlines stay relatively similar while a 5-hour cycle is underway, the server now has a more dynamic frontline around the significant points of conflict on the map. The frontline can be influenced by a control point, a capture the flag style experience that you might find in a game like Battlefield. Raise the flag and take the control point to influence the local frontline setup.
Of course the usual objectives involving enemy fortifications along the frontline are also part of the experience. Nothing, however, is more satisfying than duking it out with enemy tanks commanded by other humans.
So with that in mind, three of us loaded up into 3 M4A2 Sherman tanks and selected the southern sector of the server’s new Moscow map scenario. We pushed forward out of our base and along a long road to the enemy objective.
The first part of the road has ample tree cover on either side before it clears in the middle part of the journey where it opens up near a village. Then it closes in again as you get close to the enemy objective. That middle part is where things first got interesting.
Although enemy aircraft were constantly in the sky above, the distinctive gull wing shape of a Ju87 Stuka with its 37mm gun pods hanging beneath the wings illicited a lot of attention. Our three Sherman’s were joined by another friendly T-34 and one or two more M4A2’s. We were all grouped together when the Stuka attacked and while the T-34’s continued to press forward… the Shermans were prepared to fight.
Jumping into our commander positions M2 Browning .50cal machine gun position, we aimed our guns high and started blasting away with the distinctive clatter of the iconic machine gun. The Ju87 took a few hits to the wing root but seemed un-phased during the first pass. Soon the attacking aircraft was turning towards us again and we kept on firing.
Be it the result of our fire causing damage or poor piloting, the Ju87 didn’t survive the second pass as the aircraft hit a tree during the firing run and crashed into the forest. Phew! None of our tanks sustained any serious damage and we continued on.
Tank duel in the forest
By this point our group of three coordinated M4A2’s had regrouped while the other T-34 and Sherman group had pressed forward past the control point and on to the enemy target area.
Before long we were in dense bush again and yet another enemy Stuka attacked us. This time we drove for cover into the forest which stymied the enemy’s efforts to attack us from the air. Now a new threat emerged on the ground.
Pressing ever closer to the frontline position (made up of half tracks, concrete dugouts, and more), we were about to face our first enemy tanks of the night. The charging T-34 ahead suddenly exploded and it was clear that we were facing off against a Panzer.
From my location I was able only to fire blindly towards the enemy tank while another in our group found the enemy directly in their sights. A couple of tense moments later and the Sherman’s 75mm gun landed a critical shot on the Panzer IV knocking its cupola off and then another shot caused an ammunition explosion. That tank was dead.
We pressed forward again and rendezvoused deep in the forest. A shot through the trees warned us of another enemy tank (there were two) and a tense firefight began at range. One tank appeared in a clearing ahead and I fired twice. The second shot caused an magnificent explosion!
Cannon and machine gun fire arced through the trees with shells ricocheting off different objects as another tank engaged us. This Panzer was obscured by a tree from my vantage point but I fired blindly. In reviewing the track later I saw that my shots were close… but none landed. Fortunately, another in our group engaged and hit the enemy tank a few times before it too was on fire and out of action.
Then disaster as two of our group took fire. One Sherman exploded next to me while mine became irreparably damaged and my crew bailed out. Others in the group were functional but had broken tracks (a 10 minute repair job) so they held their position in the trees while we raced forward again.
Several minutes later and a tank type change over to the T-34, I was back with the team in the forest and engaging the enemy. We had more reinforcements with several Allied tanks all pressing the targets.
We engaged in another tense standoff with an enemy tank destroying it. Then another tank appeared before us cluing us in to our location just next to the enemy tank spawn. That tank was quickly destroyed before we sought a new location and attempted to take out the enemy frontline position.
I destroyed several halftracks and a bunker before we came under sustained aircraft attack. My track was damaged and I was unable to move the tank. Several minutes later the track was moments from repair when yet another airstrike crippled my tank. Finally a Fw190 and a Bf110 attacked simultaneously firing rockets and dropping a bomb. It killed the T-34 next to me and once again caused critical damage causing my crew to bail out.
And that’s the story! Tank Crew remains as interesting as ever and the combined arms aspect remains one of the coolest experiences that I’ve seen in a combat flight sim. With aircraft flying overhead, AAA shells arcing upwards, planes crashing into trees and tense shootouts with enemy armor in dense forest and on open plains, the multiplayer experience is second to none. It’s once again on sale if you’re looking for something a bit different with you multiplayer experience in IL-2.
Want to learn more? Read my full review of Tank Crew.