The IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles Series has a small but growing collection of paid Scripted Campaigns covering a variety of aircraft and battles. One major aircraft type has been left out so far and that’s the Fw190. But that is no more! Alexander =BlackSix= Timoshkov’s latest ‘Steel Birds’ campaign puts us into the thick of the action on the eastern front in the cockpit of the Fw190A-5 and this is my full review.
I worked with IL-2 Executive Producer Jason Williams as well as Alexander Timoshkov to build a promotional trailer for the Steel Birds campaign. It was great working with them and it did give me an early look at the campaign. As always, I like to disclose any potential or perceived conflict of interest. I can assure everyone that my thoughts on this campaign are purely my own.
The story so far
Steel Birds covers a short timeframe of April 14th to May 16th, 1943 on the eastern front in the Kuban region. It puts you as a flight lead for II./Sch.G 1, a fighter-bomber squadron that has recently converted onto Fw190A-5’s as a ground attack platform.
Many know the Fw190’s strengths as a fighter, however, on the eastern front the 190 was often used by the Schlachtgeschwader or fighter-bomber groups. Many of these converted from the Bf109E, Hs123 or Hs129 and their pilots were less trained as fighters as they were as attack pilots.
That’s exactly the role that you fill in Steel Birds and the diary of the pilot that BlackSix so expertly weaves into the fabric of each mission tells a story of a combat pilot who is coming to grips with his fighter vs fighter skills while having considerable experience with ground attack. I like the story and the divergence from the more typical ace pilot narrative.
Into the action
Steel Birds draws a lot on BlackSix’s past work and mission design philosophy. The campaign’s 15-missions are intended to be played out relatively quickly. There are short travel times to target, relatively fast action, and enough going on that you never really feel bored or like you’re waiting for something to happen. It’s also worth noting that at no point did I run into a broken trigger or a scenario where the mission couldn’t be completed.
The campaign’s fast action mirror’s the historical scenario on display. Historically, the Luftwaffe contingent at Anapa was kept very busy often flying several combat sorties a day supporting troops on the frontlines. That’s exactly how this campaign is setup and how it plays out.
Action is thick as BlackSix layers in plenty of aircraft, ground fire, artillery, and vehicles into each mission. If you’ve played Ice Ring, his previous campaign release, you should have a good sense of just how much detail is put into each mission.
There are friendly and enemy flights of aircraft featuring fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. Sometimes they are just dots in the distance doing battle with each other and sometimes they directly affect your mission. There’s plenty of opportunity to fly the Fw190 in the fighter role even if the mission briefing says ground-attack.
Of course you will be doing ground attack and the missions vary from destroying artillery along the coast to blunting an armored offensive to strafing vehicle convoys on the backroads to airfield attack at the crack of dawn. You’ll also use a mix of armaments including the standard single SC250 loadout as well as four SC50 bombs on a rack slung under the aircraft.
A bit heavy on the ole PC
My only complaint with all of this action going on is that I’m starting to feel the age of my six year old PC. A little bit anyways.
BlackSix has done exemplary work to streamline the missions and make them run smoothly despite the intense amount of action going on within each mission. To be fair to the work he’s done, the missions run well considering all of that.
That said, I do occasionally see that “time dilation” effect where things start to happen in slow motion during the most hectic of battles. Recording track files during your campaign missions exacerbate this so I’d avoid recording tracks unless you have the CPU overhead to spare.
In most cases, however, these issues happened only rarely. It’s worth noting if your PC is older that some of the action may prove a little too intense but I know most newer systems should handle it just fine.
Steel Birds offers another fantastic set of missions under the steady hand of mission maker Alexander =BlackSix= Timoshkov. The campaigns 15-missions are well researched, work flawlessly, and are fun to fly with each offering its own unique flavour.
For many who don’t always have a long time available to them to invest in a single mission, Steel Birds offers a really good experience that keeps you going and getting into action without it feeling overly contrived. The missions are just as historically based as they are fast and fun. While some may prefer a long range mission and the ability to really sink your teeth into a single objective, I suspect others will enjoy this style of faster paced action. I certainly did!
With a good combination of attack and air-combat mixed together, Steel Birds features the Fw190 in a unique light and in an interesting set of scenarios over the Great Battles series’ best map. This campaign is once again an easy recommendation for people looking for a fun single player scripted campaign experience.
As I mentioned at the top, I was happy to once again feature the excellent work of Alexander =BlackSix= Timoshkov mission making in a promotional campaign trailer. The trailer itself involved capturing hundreds of clips and dozens of hours of creative process to bring it together. Just as the campaign itself features short and sharp missions with plenty of action, I also tried to do the same with the trailer conveying the action across the campaign’s missions.
Who doesn’t love some screenshots? Here are just over a dozen screenshots captured during some of the more dramatic moments flying through the Steel Birds campaign.