Hi folks! I wanted to write up a personal look and comparison on modern combat flight sim options featuring WW II warbirds. I’ll do my best to approach merits and vices of each objectively, but will also state my personal preference towards the end. These old propbirds have always had a special following in aviation fans hearts, and WW II games / sims have always been in vogue. Aside from being the biggest, worldwide civilization shaking, and most dramatic event in near history, another selling point was that it was a period when airpower, tanks, automatic weapons, in other words most of the staples of modern warfare, have came to spotlight during this period, and were advancing with a rapid pace. Largest air battles ever were fought during these dark years. Heroes rose and fell among clouds. Air combat of period is very interesting for many, minute differences in aircraft performance require different tactics against different opponents. Dogfights are usually fast paced, and intense. But when against a slower but more agile opponent, they can become calculated, disciplined, almost scientific. Aircraft tend to be maneuvrable, but also requires care when handling. And it’s all with guns. Almost like sword duels of skies. Aaaand… these classic fighters tend to have a special kind of prettiness to them :). Therefore desire to relieve aerial battles of those days, or pitting unlikely opponents on one another for intriguing what-ifs, will keep on living for years to come. So, we still have flight sims that are in current development, today, which will keep being so for forseeble time.
For this article’s purpose though, I will limit the options I will look to be current, modern WW II sims. And I would like to emphasize the word “sim” here. While they are exceedingly popular, accessible, and obviously fun, I will not include MMO titles such as War Thunder. Also, while it still has a wide following and even online communities, as well as continued mod development, I will not include IL-2 1946 and it’s mods either. Even with all efforts, it got left behind by more modern options in regards to flight models, systems fidelity and graphics. Same goes for titles like Aces High, which are mainly multiplayer only anyway.
There are three titles I will look here, which are DCS World, IL-2 Cliffs of Dover + Team Fusion mod (CloD+TF from now on) and IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad & Battle of Moscow (BoS from now on). Besides being most recent, and still continously improved titles, these three represent the state of art in fidelity. Be it visual fidelity, or the physics side of things.
Without further ado, let us start with DCS :
P-51D has been one of the earliest modules in DCS, though it had to remain only WW II related asset in the sim for a long while. Since then, it has been followed by two other modules, namely Fw-190D9 and Bf-109K4. Many more are coming.
It would be fair to say, DCS has the greatest modularity and “what if” options among three. Because everything added to DCS can coexist in the same scene. Though, that also brings us to first negative point regarding WW II in DCS : currently, there are only aircraft in DCS as far as WW II goes. These aircraft needs to operate over terrain which are representations of modern day Caucasus or Nevada. That said, DCS : Normandy map with period cities, runways and AI units is in development, and recently shared screenshot showed a nicely fleshed out city environment. Also, according to Steam info leak, which is approved by Leatherneck staff, they are making a Iwo Jima map too, also along with AI assets like ships, aircraft etc. So, DCS is catchin up in strength as far as representing a WWII environment go, however, currently WW II aircraft flies on modern terrain, killing and being killed by Cold War or modern era armored fighting vehicles. This is an immersion breaker for many people. Personally, I do not have problems fighting BTRs over multistory apartments and skyscrapers. It may not be ideal, but for me it works as a what-if in the interim. But it is understandable that will not be so for a WWII immersion purist. Hopefuly, that will be an issue of past in “two more weeks” :).
Setting that aside, DCS is seperated from others significantly where fidelity is concerned. Flight models, weapon ballistics and characteristics, aircraft systems and their operation, down to individual electrical bus or hydraulic pump, is modeled painstakingly in DCS. Highly detailed and awesome looking cockpits are fully mouse interactive, down to almost every single switch and button. External telemetry, VR devices, force feedback sticks are all inherently supported / being developed further. Quite easily, as far as flight models and aircraft systems are concerned, DCS is the most realistic, and the best of the bunch. It is the closes we will ever get to actually flying those aircraft and fighting their virtual representations.
DCS is seperated from others significantly where fidelity is concerned. Flight models, weapon ballistics and characteristics, aircraft systems and their operation, down to individual electrical bus or hydraulic pump, is modeled painstakingly in DCS.
Since we got EDGE graphics engine in 1.5 update late last year, DCS is one of the prettiest looking flight sims ever. Both external, and cockpit models, as well as textures of aircraft in DCS tend to be done to a very, very high standart. Same goes for latest and upcoming terrains. Even decade old and free Caucasus map is looking rather nice since EDGE has arrived, and that map itself will get a further free upgrade from Eagle Dynamics as per 2.5 update which will unify 1.5 and 2.0 into a single release version again. Also, recently and optional high quality improved texture pack DLC for Caucasus map by Starway is announced, and map look very good with it from what we have seen on streams and teasers so far. Similarly improving free mods are also available from various forum users, and ED stated introduction DLC texture packs will not impede free modding on map textures. Time of day and weather graphics are also getting improved. Especially sunrise and sunset hours look best by far in DCS among 3 in my opinion.
Although currently aircraft modules are mostly targeting a late war timeframe, more mid-war and early war modules are also lined up for, or already in development. So being the timeless, all encompassing sandbox it is, DCS will include a variety of periods in WW II birds eventually.
One bonus plus provided by DCS’ modular structure is that, with multiple development studios as well ED themselves are working for it, very high fidelity content can be churned out for it in a relatively decent pace. Otherwise, either fidelity, or frequency and diversity of available new content would have to get hurt. WW II modules announced to be in works for DCS include :
- Normandy ’44 as well as period units, and ability to place expeditional runways for warbirds on map by Eagle Dynamics.
- Iwo Jima map, as well as additional period units by Leatherneck Simulations of MiG-21Bis fame.
- VEAO expressed interest in a few map areas including WW II ones, however latest information we have on subject stated actual development on them is not in full speed yet.
- Spitfire LF Mk IXc by Eagle Dynamics. This one is in line for next WW II aircraft release by ED. It will have full wings. Recent updates by ED has shown quite the pretty bird indeed.
- P-40F by VEAO. In late development phases, suffered quite a few delays but current estimation would be towards second half of this year.
- Spitfire Mk XIV by VEAO. Clipped wings, bubble canopy, Griffon engine. This very late monster bird will be sort of an apex predator probably with it’s speed. Seems to be proceeding nicely, and VEAO has been sharing some external model screenshots, as well as cockpit model renders here on twomoreweeks.net.
- P-47D30 by Eagle Dynamics. Although this was originally slated to release before the Spitfire, it had to be postponed while better data is being acquired for it. Show how much is realism emphasized for DCS products in my opinion. Considerable development seems already have been done on it, and after Spitfire is released, efforts will be back on the Jug.
- F4U-1 Corsair by Leatherneck Simulations. Their Iwo Jima map is a tie in for this bird. One of the most iconic naval fighters ever, if Leatherneck at least matches the quality and attention MiG-21Bis had shown, this will probably sell like hot cakes among WW II enthusiasts in DCS. This also marks DCS’ entry into Pacific Theater, which had last combat flight sim like a decade ago or so. LN staff, most prominently Rudel, has also shown some teasing material hinting at a Japanese warbird as well, however, it is unclear whether it will be an AI asset or an actual module. Cobra stated multiple times they do not intent to release modules like what is termed as “orphan modules” by community, and they will be fleshing out Pacific scene by maps, AI assets and modules, as Corsair module being “part of a bigger project”.
- Ju-87D-5 & G-2 Stuka by Polychop Simulations. Polychop already is getting acclaim from ED’s Matt Wagner (Wags in forums) and community themselves for their soon to release Gazelle. They have announced they have in development the iconic dive bomber and ground attack aircraft, the Stuka. Including both iconic dive bomber as well as also iconic pair of 37mm tank buster version, this is something I personaly look forward to a lot.
- Hispano HA-1112 Buchon by VEAO. Stepchild of Messerschmitt 109 family, she is a product of a forbidden love between a 109 body and Merlin engine! Should be interesting to see how the two gets along.
- Grumman Wildcat (well, rather Martlet) by VEAO. Chubby stubby classic naval fighter, with shotgun start included. Further in line, and under active development by VEAO. It should also tie-in nicely to Pacific, even though this depiction is mainly the one used by Great Britain over both Atlantic and Pacific.
- Polikarpov I-16 Type 24 by OctopusG. Bit of an oddball, but nevertheless with very interesting flight charactersitics. Seems progressing nicely.
These are the relatively near-term ones anyway. Further down the road, ED will also do a Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe jet. VEAO has a whole slew of planned warbirds, ranging from early-birds like Bf-109E4 and Battle of Britain era Hurricane & Spitfire I / IIs, to Fw-190A and F radial birds, Me-410 or 110 and Mosquitos, to very late, even postwar propbirds like Bearcat and Sea Fury. They also have in plans early jets like Meteor and Vampire. Polychop also intents to do a Horten 229, if they decide it is feasible. VEAO’s later plans include even a flyable Lancaster heavy bomber. ED have a B-17 in works but only as an AI asset for now. Multicrew for DCS World is currently a work in progress, and early version of feature arrived only recently for ED’s L-39 module.
While the content is ever improving, DCS has a few vices in WW II combat, even with it’s top realism priority. First off, since WW II air combat is mainly up close, completely visual fighting, epitome of “lose the sight, lose the fight”, close range visibility issues in DCS can cause serious issues for many people. ED is working on the issue, with an enhanced visiblity option, that display an enlarged impostor of the objects, that depending on distance and lighting, change it’s transparency and size for a theoretically realistic and seamless transition. In practice though, it is currently far from perfect, and at big settings unrealistic, yet in other settings still can not remedy the visibility issues completely. While it can make distant objects unrealistically visible at times, at certain angles and ranges, close objects, in dofgfight distances, can still just vanish from before your eyes, as if magically. Also, a mechanism needs to be implemented to ensure a fair usability of the feature, a potential unscrupulous virtual pilot may fiddle with game files to abuse this feature. All that said, these are surely temporary growth pains, as Eagle Dynamics are still working on the feature, tweaking it.
Another issue would be the damage model. Not necessarily the visual representation but rather actual pyhsics behind weapons and objects interaction, and damage resulting from it. While DCS damage model is such that many individual parts of an airframe may get damaged with usually appropriate effect on flight characterisrics, as well as individual and/or cascade failiure of aircraft systems, this impressive sounding system unfortunately is rather imperfectly performing currently. Simply put, aircraft appear “tanky”. For all it’s strides in flight modeling and systems modeling, as well as visual fidelity, DCS’ damage system lags behind even some older simulations, as well as it’s principal alternatives in WW II area. Thankfuly, this is also being worked on, and a wholesome rewriting of damage physics seem to be underway. According to a recent forum post by Raccoon, one of ED staff, improvement of damage system is being handled by the very person who did it for IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, which many consider the best as far as damage models go, and I am included among those think so. So again, there is much to look forward to.
A final issue is, if you are inclined towards single player only, AI aircraft’s behaviour in DCS is, well… lets say it can be strange. They all fly a simplified flight model to boot, as well as a simplified systems model, which itself leads a simplified damage system too. They are either brain-dead easy, or fly perfectly inhuman, calculated maneuvers, that sometimes may even look UFO-ish. When they are difficult, they are not challenging kind of difficult, but rather annoying kind of difficult. When they are easy, well it is almost like baby seals… However, this is not an issue when flying against actual human beings obviously. DCS has a stable base of a few WW II focused online servers and people who frequent them. Although number is not very large, it is probably going to get bigger as WW II content gets released. Another issue regarding this would be the ground units, specifically AAA. Anti aircraft fire in DCS, can often resemble that guns are being operated by force sensitive snipers. Whether this will be different for WW II ground units remains to be seen.
Finally, a point I have missed while speaking of positive points about top notch realism, ground handling of these old taildraggers in DCS is unlike sims of old. Taxiing, taking off, landing are all serious challenges in these twitchy birds, more so with German planes like narrow track geared Bf-109. To be honest, starting up, taxiing, taking off and then landing in 109 is among the most tense, challenging and rewarding experiences I have had in flightsims, more so than some combat situations. Successfuly completing switch by switch manual start up true to real life in a 109, taxiing with finicky differential braking, all the while barely seeing infront of the aircraft, or around it for that matter, then when on runway, roll a bit forward slowly until you are sure you finally are going straight enough to lock the free castoring tail wheel, giving power gradually, fighting torque and plane wanting to go sideways, taking off, fighting the stick to keep plane more behaving and less trying to kill you, flying a circuit, line up and approach again, keeping speed and plane’s attitude good, making a 3 point tocuhdown, try not to bounce back up or at least keep the bounce to a minimum, brake gently without nosing over or veering off course, and coming to a full stop. Strangely, that is a more intense experience than even some combat moments as far as flight simming goes!
To sum up :
DCS strong points :
- Potentially many eras of WW II represented
- Unrelenting focus on realism, flight modeling, and systems modeling, best in all of this fields.
- Very good visuals
- Best cockpits, clickability included
- Exporting of telemetry is fully supported for pit builders
- New VR peripherals are supported, upgrades are being made to the sim for better VR experience
DCS vices :
- Damage modeling leaves quite a bit to be desired (fixes however, are in progress)
- Visual spotting, can get spotty… (also being fixed)
- Period maps and AI units are currently nonexistant (again, being fixed)
- Currently multicrew is not entirely available in sim, but it is coming along
- AI… well the AI…
Long in short, as far as DCS and WW II go, there is a lot to look forward to, but all the goodies aren’t currently in place. However, the stuff currently available is top notch as far as flight and systems modeling realism go. Improvement and introduction of features in sim is continous with hopefuly a very long future ahead.
Having took a short but conscise look on DCS, let us now look at our second sim to include in the list.
IL-2 Cliffs of Dover + Team Fusion patches :
Released in 2011, then highly anticipated Cliffs of Dover had a very rough start. Sim had both serious and numerous issues, felt unfinished, and was generally so buggy, and performed so terribly, community cried foul with the loudest notes. Patches were coming at first, but, they sort of stopped. Commuinty though, refused to give up, and decided to take things to their hands. Team Fusion, started to patch the sim, fix issues and add features. Basically, Team Fusion is to IL-2 and WW II sims, what Benchmark Sims are to modern combat sims and Falcon world. TF Mod is currently in 4.312 version.
Available for a fairly meager price, IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, is still quite easily accessible. However, unless you apply the Team Fusion’s patches, it will not even run at all on Windows 8 or 10. With patches though, it will work perfectly fine on all operating systems.
Basically, Team Fusion is to IL-2 and WW II sims, what Benchmark Sims are to modern combat sims and Falcon world.
Cliffs of Dover, as you can guess from the name, has a specific focus : Battle of Britain. So it is mostly a 1940-41 affair, and opposing forces include RAF and Luftwaffe, with a bit of Italian Regia Aeronautica included as well. Main map is British Channel, where shores of Britain and France oppose each other, with German Luftwaffe being based over France. Although other smaller fictional maps are available for online play for user made missions, including variants for different seasons. Also, Team Fusion are working on a Mediterranean map for the next version. Cities and shores, the eponymous cliffs of Dover themselves look pretty nice. Even though this is the most dated among the 3 graphic engines of 3 sims, terrain can look very nice at it’s best, and rest is still convincing.
A fairly decent number of aircraft from each airforce are included, and almost all of them are flyable. They have very, very nice cockpits. Cockpits are sometimes almost as good as DCS ones. And funnily, at least in my opinion, they are better than BoS ones. Also, while it isn’t exacting systems modeling as is in DCS, CloD + TF cockpits are still, infact, mouse clickable. Another feature which newer BoS lacks. One nice, and unique to CloD TF feature of cockpits is that, when mousing over instruments and gauges, a tooltip can display name of instrument, as well the current value it displays. This can be pretty helpful for VR users with lower res displays for reading the gauges, or getting precise readings which can be difficult from a small computer screen. Oh speaking of VR, Team Fusion are working on it’s implementation already.
While may not entirely be to DCS level, CloD + TF has quite convincing and challenging flight models. Aircraft give pretty good feedback regarding their reactions to angle of attack, speed etc, as well as to being hit. Since sim is depicting an earlier period of WW II, aircraft are, while slower than later cousins, are also lighter and usualy somewhat more agile / carefree handling. Bombsight systems of bomber aircraft are very nicely modeled and are challenging but fun to use. As was in the older IL-2 series, multicrew functionality is right there, available and working. Fun to fly a bomber while a friend of yours is fiddling with bombsight, yelling at you “fly this way, no that way!”, or vice-versa :).
Being a purpose built WW II simulation, there is a wealth of content readily available in it. Aircraft, map objects, ground vehicles, you name it. Ships, funnily, are a bit harder to come by, but there still are a few, and Team Fusion are intenting to add more with oncoming patches.
Two things set CloD TF apart from it’s rivals. And two can be considered related. First off, complete and very detailed customization of aircraft weaponry. Ammo belts can be set for each type of cannon / machine gun on aircraft, any one can be chosen from among a very wide and historical variety of ammunition types for each gun type, and each correctly named. They will have different effects on targets they hit. Same way, convergence distance can be set to your hearts content for weaponry your aircraft have. Bombs have sub variants of variants, and have a wide variety of possible fusing options.
Other thing that sets CloD TF apart is damage model. While no entertainment sim damage model is perfect, many, including myself, consider CloD TF to currently have the best handling of aircraft damage. Although sometimes aircraft may appear too tanky, or alternatively catch fire with a split second hit of rifle caliber bullets, still I believe CloD TF has overall the most realistic damage model for aircraft, and by a considerable margin. Concentrated hits with rifle caliber machine guns at critical points can take down even large bombers, and certainly work on fighters. Cannons, especially explosive shells, do good structural damage in relatively few hits, and even with a single hit has a good chance of killing the pilot if lands around cockpit. Hits on radiators or engine parts will degrade performance quickly and in a short time lead recipient being combat ineffective, or dead with a seized engine. Fuel lines catch fire, and this in turn lead either to a dead pilot, dead engine or structural failiure. However, damage model on ground targets seem much more simplistic, even tanks seem to succumb pretty easily to a snapshot of strafing. Also, as stated, while arguably the best, no PC flight sim damage model is perfect, and you can see instances of at least 5-8ish cannon shells hitting a plane and doing superficial damage or contrarily, less than half a second of .303s blowing a plane up to bits. But these are more exceptions than rule compared to other two, and overall as stated CloD TF’s damage system appear the best and most realistic.
Visual spotting, is not unrealistically easy, but also has none of the “spontaneously materializing in and out of existance” experience here.
Graphics and effects, well… as stated before, CloD TF has the oldest graphic engine among three, and hence, overall it will rank last in eye candy department. However, aircraft, cities, ships, ground targets are all modeled fairly detailed, and some of them look just gorgeous, and others look more along the lines of “just fine”. Textures tend to be lower res than DCS or BoS but, some of them are again gorgeous, especially Spitfires and Hurricances. Speaking of aircraft textures, uniquely among 3, in CloD TF you can choose a variable degree of weathering on every skin, adjusted by a slider. More you increase, more blackening from exhaust or gun barrels, more flaked off paint or bits of rust will be visible on your aircraft, or you can leave it as clean as possible. Team Fusion are making new models and cockpits and majority of these newer inclusions can be expected to look great when TF 5.0 is released. Effects such as oil / smoke trails or coolant leaks etc look pretty good, sometimes better in my opinion than even what DCS currently have. Rendering of fires however, look rather dated, and somewhat similar to earlier IL-2 series, though not as cheesy. Smoke trails generated by tracer rounds is, the nicest looking and most convincing among three sims. They just look great, yet still do not hog the framerate or distract the eye. Sunset and sunset hours are may be not as striking as in DCS, but morning mist on ground and long shadows from trees lit by morning sun sure looks quite nice and atmospheric, can be very screen shot friendly :). Aircraft spotting is best. Not unrealistically easy but none of the “spontaneously materializing in and out of existance” experience here. Sun will glint off aircraft surfaces and shine momentarily to aid spotting. All said and done though, CloD TF probably takes the last place among the three as far as graphics go, but not by a huge difference, and even has a few tricks where it one ups the other two in this area.
However, performance, especially with large number of objects can sometimes get a bit spotty, and stutters can occur.
AI aircraft, and their behaviour is in stark contrast with DCS. They share the same damage and flight model as player aircraft. And unlike DCS counterparts, they also seem to fly more “human” too. They roll, jink, suddenly do break turns etc to shake you off their six. They take more believable shots at you. Overall, they lead to a more enjoyable fight. However, they are still AI and human opponents are always better.
Online events and servers are still up and running, and it seems to have a pretty good and active community.
Currently flyable aircraft include :
- Bf-109 series : E-1,E-1/B,E-3,E-3/B,E-4,E-4/B and E-4N.
- Bf-110 series : C-2, C-3, C-4 and C-4 Late, as well as de-rated versions of C-4
- Ju-87B2 Stuka
- Ju-88A1 which can be used either as a sophisticated level bomber, or a heavily armed dive bomber
- He-111H2 & P2 classic medium bomber
Regia Aeronautica :
- BR 20M
- Spifire I, II, IIa
- Hurricane I, with various engine and fuel versions
- Bristol Blenheim of various versions
- Tigermoth biplane trainer
- Su-26M yes, easter egg of sorts, mainstay of aerobatic flying, this anacronistic piece is a hoot to fly around for some aerobatics. Between crazy roll rate, ridiculous turning and high alpha capabilities, it is a nice opportunity to try this in a sim.
There are also AI only aircrat such as Bf-108, Do-17, Anson, Defiant, Sunderland, Wellington etc. Some of these are being made flyable with their cockpits and flight models in upcoming TF patches, such as Wellington. Other aircraft to be added as flyable down the road include Martlet I (Wildcat), P-40, Bf-109E7, Bf-109F2 & F4 series, Spitfire V, Hurricane II, Bristol Beaufighter, and even an eventual Fw-190A is hinted.
To summarize, CloD TF offers a lot, and is at least currently only option for Battle of Britain scenario, or aircraft of 40-41 period. It also arguably sits at a nice medium between DCS realism and BoS WW II content. Team Fusion are still adding new features and fixing issues, they even seem to be implementing VR / Oculus support.
IL-2 CloD TF virtues include :
- A very solid, arguably the best weaponry / aircraft damage implementation
- Good flight models
- Very good cockpits, some of them almost as good as DCS ones, while not to DCS level of completeness, cockpits are still clickable.
- For economic minded, cheapest to get up and running by a considerable margin.
- Multi seat multi player functionality right out of box.
- Best aircraft spotting experience.
Aaand it’s vices are :
- Graphics are, while nice, when compared to other two show they are from an older engine.
- If you are not into 1939-1941 period, and Battle of Britain theater in general, planeset may not be to your taste. Following TF patches intent to add aircraft from up to 1942.
- Installation can be trickier compared to more modern commercially developed titles. While buying and installing from Steam is very straightforward, downloading and installing the free Team Fusion patches have a certain way of doing them, which may arguably require a bit more computer literacy than other two. Hasn’t been a problem for myself.
Finally, latest installment of IL-2 series, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Battle of Moscow :
Flag bearer of Eastern Front, this is the latest of the IL-2 series, currently in continous development, Battle of Moscow map and aircraft are just recently released as early access, in addition to Battle of Stalingrad content which has been available for a while.
BoS, is focused on Eastern front as stated above. Therefore, aircraft available are mainly Soviet and German ones, with recent addition of an Italian fighter in BoM premium content (yeah, “premium” content, more on that later). Focus of era is almost exactly where CloD leaves : from ’41 to ’42. Although Battle of Stalingrad lasted until 1943, there aren’t really much 1943 types in sim. Personally though, 41-42 is probably my favorite era of WW II fighter aircraft. For me, they seem to have the sweetest balance between maneuvrability and speed performance. Also, from a competitive point of view, Axis and Allies fighters arguably match closest in this period. Like CloD, being a dedicated WW II sim, there is a wealth of era specific content available in BoS.
Maps are Stalingrad and Moscow for eponymous packages, as well as two smaller additional maps. They are almost universally flat with few in terms of mountains, and they lack seas. Also, maps are not really big. One interesting plus though, is that trees are collidable. Sounds “duh?! Of course they should be” right? Well, newer DCS maps have collidable trees but free Caucasus map does not, and it is unknown whether it will ever get the feature or not. That said, upcoming WW II map will certainly have that feature. As for the CloD, it has many, and rather pretty trees but, like DCS Caucasus trees, you can usually fly right through them :). So, I guess score one for team BoS here.
Graphics are certainly pretty, very pretty indeed. Aircraft 3d models and textures themselves, are probably the best among 3 sims. They just look gorgeous, pretty much all of them. Same goes for ground objects and ships. Terrain is also pretty, but not outstanding, I would say terrain rendering of DCS is overall nicer, and with newer maps I am expect that the gap will further increase in DCS’ favor. But nevertheless, terrain is still pretty. At times, too pretty perhaps, graphics in BoS, to my eyes at least, tend a bit to look like a painting with warm colors and almost cartoonishly accentuated highlights. In morning hours though, it takes looking a painting a bit further, and sunsets look not just like paintings, but impressionist paintings with harshly contrasting lines of colors and a distinctly over saturated palette… Tastes can vary, but I found rendering of those hours in BoS to be frankly a bit bad and overdone. Another bit that starkly contrast with otherwise excellently pretty graphics is the top cloud layer of sky. It looks pixelated, and just looks out of place compared to very polished nature of everything else. As for the graphical effects, fire, smoke trails etc look simply excellent. Best among three by a considerable margin. However, tracers, smoke trails of cannon rounds, hit effects on aircraft are, strangely, worst looking among three. Those are not just “pretty but not as much as others” kind of affair, they just flat out look bad to my eyes. Another funny bith about hit effects are the sounds. Sometimes if I hit a relatively close bandit with guns, it sounds like I am getting hit myself…
Speaking of tracers, ballistics feel quite different compared to to other two. Experience of aerial gunnery and strafing more or less translate directly between DCS and CloD TF. In BoM & BoS though, it feels decidedly different, and reminds me more of the gunnery & ballistics of IL-2:1946 and before. Also, customization of weaponry is not as deep as it is in CloD TF. That said, it can be considered more than DCS, since most aircraft have multiple armament options available to unlock. Yeah… unlock… more that later too.
Experience of aerial gunnery and strafing more or less translate directly between DCS and CloD TF. In BoM & BoS though, it feels decidedly different, and reminds me more of the gunnery & ballistics of IL-2:1946 and before.
Naturally, ballistics lead us to damage model. There are things here so well done that other sims might want to take some notes. Individual parts of ships can be damaged and taken out, and grants relevant kills to pilot who destroy them. Also, another neat feature is that, a wing damaged enough, may fail later on when subjected to aerodynamic forces. However, I don’t have much else to say about damage model when it comes to strong sides. While it feels arguably better than DCS’ damage model, I can’t honestly say that I have been impressed with it. Cases of smoking aircraft flying as if nothing has happened, or aircraft soaking up a ton of lead and still going their merry way seem not to be uncommon in my experience. External depiction of damage is, while impressive, does not seem to appear before a certain number hits, though to be fair, that is so in most sims, including DCS or CloD, but here it seemed to me threshold is higher. May be it’s just me though… Things just does not seem too consistent. I have cases where I have killed the pilot or engine in a short snapshot, and other cases I have hit aircraft with many shells and bullets without terminal, or even debilitating effect. Up to a certain degree, it should chalk up to shot placement, but 4-5 20mm shells on a fighter, even if hitting disparate locations, should do a number on target aircraft usually. That said, I still think damage modeling in BoS is better than what DCS currently have.
Lets get back to looks department for one last item, the cockpits. Cockpits are probably the most important graphical aspect of flight sims since, we spend great majority of our time in them. Accuracy and graphical quality of aircraft cockpits in BoS is pretty good. BoM might be better yet, but I only have flown BoS so can not comment on that. Now, yes, they are good, but, sadly, they do not seem great to me. Cockpits of both DCS and CloD TF are considerably better looking than the ones in BoS. In CloD, this may be considered especially surprising since, it is the previous game of the same series, at least in name. Oh, by the way none of the cockpits are clickable. More on that on systems modeling section.
Flight models does not feel arcadey, but, I did not feel the challenge CloD TF and better yet DCS flight models present in BoS. That said, main characteristics of flying a 109 or a 190 seem mostly consistent between 3 sims. Reason I explicitly use Bf-109 and Fw-190 is that, even though across different marks, these are the aircraft that are available across the sims currently (apart from Focke Wulf not being currently present in CloD, each of them have at least one 109, and both DCS and BoS have a 190, though they are quite different, one being a Dora, other an Anton, their control and maneuvrability characteristics remain mostly similar). Yet, so far I can not feel entirely convinced by feeling of flight models in BoS, though this is nothing more than a personal gut feeling to be honest. Flight models are stated to be built according to Soviet flight test data for both Soviet types and (captured) Axis types. We know this sentence from earlier IL-2 series, and this reference does not paint a pretty picture in most minds. But, my impression so far did not give a feeling of any favoring of one side or another, relative performance of Allies and Axis birds seem to mostly agree with available written material and test data on the birds depicted.
If we get to AI characteristics, it seems a mix of calculated androids of DCS and hectic AI of CloD trying to impersonate humans. It is usually challenging and fun to fight them, but not that challenging that they pose a real threat unless you are outnumbered by them. Head and shoulders ahead DCS AI foes though.
Systems modeling. Weeell… not much to speak about here really… while there is complex engine management, overall systems modeling in BoS is much more simplistic than DCS, and arguably CloD TF too. A good analogy of IL-2 BoM & BoS aircraft would be Flaming Cliffs 3 aircraft in DCS World. Flight model is there and even good mostly, so are the weaponry. But the systems modeling is simplistic and abstracted with only a few of the systems are really modeled, and interaction with them are solely though keyboard, no cockpit intertaction is available. On the flipside though, like entire IL-2 series, BoS also have the built in multi crew support that just works. Although, in BoS & BoM, feature only works for gunner positions, and bombsight only available to “pilot”. One bit of interesting feature that can be considered among systems modeling is addition / removal of various equipment on some aircraft. Additional armour plating, or removal of such if available by default on the aircraft, have appropriate effects on cockpit visibility, aircraft protection and maximum speed. Provided you have earned access to those modifications by unlocking them (yeah, again, more on that later).
Aircraft visibility is, simply better than DCS, but I seem to have had one or two of those “aircraft suddenly going all Bermuda triangle before my eyes” moments in BoS too. Spotting ground targets seem notoriously difficult, but this isn’t necessarily unrealistic.
Online servers seem to be numerous enough, with some flying relaxed settings as far as realism concerned, including labels, and others are more full realism ones.
Business model of BoS is… well there is whole can of worms here. It is not as expensive as DCS can be, but is more expensive than CloD. Two main packages are being offered : Battle of Stalingrad and Battle of Moscow. Each include their eponymous map, and 8 flyable aircraft each, divided equally between Axis and Allies birds. Then there is “Premium Edition” versions of both, which include two additional aircraft, one per side. Also, said “premium aircraft” are available for seperate purchase for those with standart edition. So far so good eh? Although aircraft are only “Flaming Cliffs” fidelity by DCS standarts, it may still be considered decent value.
Well the funnier bit starts here, “Premium Editions” have one more thing going for them, if owner of a premium edition package opts doing so, they may instantly unlock all the modifications and weaponry for content that come with that premium title. Yeah, unlock… If you decide not to get premium edition which twice the price of standart edition, you have to unlock those stuff by playing the single player campaigns and leveling up by getting experience points there. Yeah, leveling up to unlock stuff in a sim… And, from my experience, single player campaign is not much beyond a drudgery, nothing exciting there. Oh, also, even if you have bought a premium version, and decided to “unlock the stuff dammit!”, aircraft skins will still not unlock, those simply require you to do the campaign leveling up drudgery. That raises a whole slew of red flags as far as sims go for me. It may not be so irritating for everybody of course. But for others, including myself, this is a pretty big no-go. Unlocks themselves are pretty funny. Bombs, rockets etc that aircraft can carry, may be unavailable to you purely because you have not leveled up enough to be allowed their use. Seriously, are we talking about an MMO or a multiplayer FPS rather than a flight simulation? Same goes for guns. And guns create funnier cases, you can add 23mm VYa guns to a 1942 model IL-2, you have to unlock and add outer 20mm MG FF/M cannons if you want to have them on your Fw-190A-3. By default, it has 2x 7.92mm MG-17 and 2x 20mm MG-151/20. In reality, it should have 4 cannon set up by deafult, and removal of outer MG FF/M guns were sometimes done on later models as a field modification. This whole unlock and add stuff to your plane scheme tosses hardcore realism out of window, and indeed, such does not seem to be BoS & BoM’s focus. First time running the sim, it asked me whether I would prefer a joystick or mouse control for aircraft, and this was a herald of what’s to come. IL-2 BoS & BoM, while having fairly decent flight and damage modeling, seem to target an audience more interested in competitive online air-quake and more accessible offline gaming experiences than harcore flight sim community. So, in a sense, it is better than DCS and CloD if you are looking for these features, and flavor is a very good thing to have in flight simulation world. But if you are more accuracy and free sandbox oriented, BoM & BoS may not work for you.
Currently flyable aircraft for Battle of Stalingrad package are :
- Bf-109F4 & G2
- LaGG-3 (Series 29)
- Yak-1 (Series 69)
- IL-2 AM-38
- Pe-2 (Series 87)
The premium aircraft of this package are :
- La-5 (Series 8)
Battle of Moscow package offers :
- Bf-109E7 & F2
- I-16 Type 24
- IL-2 Model 41
- Pe-2 (Series 35)
Premium aircraft of the pack goes like :
- MC.202 Series VIII
In conclusion about BoS, I would say a modern, very good looking and content rich option for WW II Eastern front, and more “lets get into action” line of thinking. However, some design decisions may feel a bit cold for more hardcore simmers.
It’s strengths goes like :
- Arguably the best graphics of three, though, not without some strange quirks. However, certainly the prettiest external models for aircraft so far, although DCS birds are close or sometimes a bit better.
- A fairly well fleshed out Eastern front 41-42 scenario.
- Decent number of distinct flyable airframes.
- Fun to fly, relatively quick to get into action.
Yet the weaknesses are :
- Lowest system fidelity
- Pretty graphics can get a bit too pretty at times, borderline painting-ish
- Unlocks?! Seriously, u…unlocks!?
TL; DR; version and my personal verdict :
Thankfuly, there are many options to choose from, with fairly distinct flavors for WW II flight simmers these days. Currently, there seems a bit of era / theater specialization among them too : CloD for 40-41 Battle of Britain, BoS for 41-42 Eastern Front and DCS for Europe 44-45. Though, this is likely to change soon. They also each offer varying strengths and weaknesses compared to one another, as well as various degrees of fidelity / hardcore realism or more accesibility / competitiveness.
DCS has a lot to look forward to, and the most potential. But also it is the one to iron out most numerous issues down the road. CloD TF is fairly easy to get in to but has a lot to master. It is a nice medium between DCS fidelity and BoS. Team Fusion is doing awesome things still. BoS has a nicely fleshed out theater and strikingly nice graphics, yet it does not give the feeling of authenticity other two gives me personally.
Playing all 3, if anything, has shown me what I always thought : the argument that “DCS does not need WW II aircraft, there are already many good WW II sims” is just plain wrong. I love CloD, but it is focused to one era and theater, therefore there is much more to WW II birds. Also, even CloD isn’t up to DCS level regarding flight and systems modeling. But it still does provide a very nice alternative and a more complete WW II package at least currently. I always believe options and diverstiy is a very good thing. But, fidelity, and potentially variety both declares DCS special for any flight sim enthusiast, and WW II is no different, even with DCS’ numerous current shortcomings regarding WWII. BoS, well horses for courses, it is another great option many people immensely enjoy, and certainly a weldone piece of software mostly. However, it just doesn’t do it for me compared to other two. It can not seem to decide it’s target audience between more hardcore and more entry level simmers.
For me personally, DCS and CloD TF share a close 1-2, changing places according to what I want that day. Those two are the ones I enjoy. BoS is enjoyable and fun too, but ranks as a fairly distant runner up to other two for me personally.
Wow that has been a long wall of text, or even a forest of words may be! Thanks to those who bear with me all the way down here, and I hope this can serve as a primer for people who are looking into getting started with a new WW II flight sim, or move up from a MMO / sim-lite.
Best regards and happy flying!