I’m doing something a little different with this review. This is a combined review of the GAZ-MM 72-K and Sd.Kfz. 10/5 Flak 38 as the two Collector Vehicles on sale for IL-2 Sturmovik Great Battles Series are very similar in their overall experience and what I have to say about one mostly applies to the other. There are of course a few notable differences between the two. As always, I will try and answer the questions of are they worth it and should you buy them? So, let’s get to it!
What are they?
Both GAZ-MM 72-K and Sd.Kfz. 10/5 Flak 38 are the first two Collector Vehicles for the IL-2 Great Battles Series. They are companion pieces to the Tank Crew series offering a pair of dedicated AAA vehicles for the sim. One of the vehicles is German and the other Russian giving both sides of the conflict an AAA platform. Both were released earlier in 2021 and have been available for some time now.
First let’s look at the GAZ-AA. This truck was produced at the Gorki Auto Plant from 1938 to 1948. It was was produced originally for civilian life but became an essential part of the Soviet war machine during WWII serving as supply truck, troop transport, ambulance and medical transport and, of course, a mobile AA vehicle. The mobile AAA truck mounted the 72-K 25mm automatic cannon. The 72-K was a medium calibre gun offering more power than the smaller DShk light machine gun while being more mobile and flexible than the 37mm 61-K.
The second vehicle is the Sd.Kfz. 10/5 which was a German half-track that started life during the Wiemar Republic but was finished and perfected during the 1930s after Hitler’s takeover. It was used for a variety of military purposes including transport. Purpose designed to be used in the field, this half track was highly mobile and relatively fast. And of course the version that we have available to operate is the Sd.Kfz. 10/5 with a Flak 38 gun mounted on the back. The Flak 38 is a powerful 20mm cannon with high muzzle velocity and a reasonable fire rate.
Visuals and features
1CGS and Digital Forms did a great job with these vehicles. From a visual standpoint, the textures, 3D detailing, and systems are just as good as any of the tanks that we have in Tank Crew. There are a surprising number of animations required and they are all very good – that includes the hand crank for the turret and some of the reloading animations for the gun as you fire a clip and need a quick reload.
There are all kinds of little things too like windows that can be rolled down, the stabilizers that can dig into the ground on the GAZ-AA to steady the gun, and even the windows being pushed down to give the gun full traverse on the Sd.Kfz. 10/5.
Of everything that I’ve seen with these vehicles, my singular complaint is on the visual for the GAZ-AA at night. When you turn on the forward lights there’s just a single point of light and the visual of the light being on is not very good looking. It’s not a big deal.
Driving the two vehicles is very similar to the tanks, albeit with some different mobility traits. The GAZ drives best on roads and really suffers over rougher terrain. The Sd.Kfz. 10/5 is more mobile thanks to the half-track design and 1CGS have really nailed the differences in feel between the two vehicles. Both use the same basic control scheme as the tanks which makes getting started in them fairly quick.
Mobile AAA in use
I’ve used both vehicles in a couple of different roles both in online and offline scenarios and I want to detail the experience as I think that’s going to make or break these vehicles for everyone reading this.
The first scenario in the single player experience. You can use either vehicle in the QMB with a setup that lets you shoot at aircraft in a shooting gallery type arrangement. There are also a series of missions that involve both vehicles.
To give you a sense of the scenarios available in single player there are some nice variety. In one, you’re involved in a winter offensive covering a group of tanks shelling a target. Your job is to shoot down waves of enemy aircraft overhead. In another scenario, you’re on the summer version of the Veliki Luki map running defense of an airfield that has suddenly come under attack. There are 10 missions available in all.
And then there is multiplayer. Here, I’ve used both vehicles on the two most popular vehicle servers. The first, Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War, has several uses for these vehicles. So does the Advance and Secure server and my overall experience similar on both.
The first role I’ve used these vehicles in has been relatively fun. When an airbase comes under attack on Finnish Virtual Pilots, there’s a spawn point nearby where you can hop into a mobile AAA and start blasting away at the attackers. My success here has been limited but the appearance of AAA fire can sometimes scare away attackers which usually opens the base up and lets you get in an airplane to fly.
The second role is very similar to the first where you can aid in the defense of target areas. I’ve done this a little myself and I’ve also come under fire while flying an aircraft. I can say right now that a human aimed AAA can be quite dangerous and deadly although highly vulnerable too as I’ll get to in a moment.
Finally, the third role I’ve used it in is to cover friends driving tanks. While they attempt to engage targets on the ground, my head has been on a swivel trying to keep them clear of air attacks. It’s a useful and valuable role although I’ve had only limited success in performing that duty.
You are so very vulnerable
When operating in a group of AAA vehicles or in a position where you can ambush aircraft with some degree of protection, you can definitely do damage and hurt or even destroy aircraft. Aim is a challenge but with a little luck and some good aiming skills you can definitely hit low flying aircraft.
In ideal circumstances you can feel like you’ve accomplished your mission, however, in many other scenarios you’re definitely vulnerable to a near instant death. Nearly all of my AAA vehicle scenarios online has seen me either destroyed or looking at an empty sky. Aircraft definitely have the upper hand and these early war AAA vehicles are highly vulnerable to cannon fire, rockets and bombs.
This is mostly a multiplayer concern. Single player scenarios are definitely challenging but they are usually more consistently survivable than multiplayer where just about anything can happen.
If you are able to operate with some cover, say from the edge of a forest, your survivability goes up considerably. So, good tactics and operating in a group can give you a better chance but beware the smart attack pilot.
Both GAZ-MM 72-K and Sd.Kfz. 10/5 Flak 38 offer very similar experiences and so the first comparison point, which of these two vehicles is “better,” is somewhat moot. Both have been done to the same level of quality and offer similar experiences with just the Sd.Kfz’s half-track offering a bit more rough field mobility. Obviously, the point of offering both is to ensure that both Allied and Axis side have an equivalent vehicle. Something I fully support and applaud!
These are a high quality product in every respect from sound, systems, 3D modeling, texture work and animations. 1CGS and Digital Forms have done a great job on that. Being a mobile AAA gunner, however, is a challenge and one that is a bit of an acquired taste. I find these vehicles fun and useful in short bursts but I do prefer being in an airplane most of the time.
There are no technical issues that I spotted with either of these products. If you find the idea of operating a mobile AAA vehicle interesting or you want to make sure that you have the complete vehicle collection, I still can easily recommend these vehicles. But do so knowing they are a niche of their own that you may find engaging or not engaging depending on your interests.
Both of these vehicles are something new for the IL-2 series and I applaud the new type of experience. I also want to acknowledge the risk taking from the developers in building something like these. Expanding the experiences of the IL-2 series is always worthwhile and these do that. As niche experiences go, this is one of those niches that won’t appeal to everyone but it may appeal to you!
As always, know what you’re getting into and I think you’ll have a good time with these vehicles. If you want an authentic mobile AAA gunner experience in one of the best combat flight sims around, the GAZ-MM 72-K and Sd.Kfz. 10/5 Flak 38 are your ticket to that.
If you do decide to pick up the GAZ-MM 72-K and/or Sd.Kfz. 10/5 Flak 38, I highly recommend the Air Combat Tutorial Library’s videos on these vehicles. There’s more complexity to these mobile AAA vehicles than some give them credit for so a little training doesn’t hurt and may even improve your aim.