Personally speaking, my fear of confused incompetence ranks way higher than burning to death in a massive fireball in the sky.
So the most startling thing about this World War II cloud-fighter is that once the simulation sliders have been slid to their extremes, the thing is so realistic that it doesn't tell you which planes belong to the enemy. You're supposed to figure that out yourself, like a real WWII pilot or something.
Persevere with IL-2's simulation mode and you'll also have every form of aerodynamic physics attempting to pull your plane apart, and every movement of the analogue stick threatening to throw you into a screaming death-spiral.
The realism here is relentless, punishing and astonishingly difficult to get to grips with, but ultimately it creates dogfights which are gratifying in a way no other flying game could ever hope to match.
Lining up a sky-Nazi in your crosshairs and shredding through his wings is invariably the result of arduous minutes of out-manoeuvring and out-flying an opponent. These small victories are unendingly spectacular, whether your victim goes down in a ball of flame or loses a chunk of his fuselage and is forced to "hit the silk" (pilot-talk for parachutes).
In its arcade mode, however, IL-2 becomes a different game entirely - something much closer to the likes of Blazing Angels. Top speeds are increased, stalling is impossible, and things become far more light-hearted and helpfully signposted.
Crucially, the game remains just as engaging as in its simulation guise, if not as pant-dampeningly terrifying.
The fear was that, as this is 1C's first attempt to bring IL-2 to Xbox 360 (it's been a genre staple on PC for yonks), there'd be some unfortunate compromises made, but IL-2 doesn't concede an inch.
The wealth of campaigns, from the Battle of Britain to Stalingrad, Berlin and Sicily are sided by a raft of individual missions - every one of which allows you to choose your preferred level of realism before setting off.
To this end, IL-2 feels like two separate games: one a solid, fun arcade flyer, the other a testing simulation of true aerial combat circa Hitler-times. It's inevitable then, that if you're at all interested in planes, or just want to embarrass yourself at a different altitude, IL-2 can hardly come more recommended.
It's almost like the real thing, we think
- Refreshingly realistic
- Looks and sounds stunning
- Infallible controls and physics
- Arcade mode for daunted players
- Gibbery Stephen Fry-esque narration