Hi all, there’s been some hoo-har over a YouTube video about a month ago reviewing Cliffs of Dover Blitz Edition (see below)
79vRAF and EAF, when they were separate entities, had a good interest in seeing IL2 Cliffs of Dover improve and develop. We were heavily invested in the Storm of War Campaign and had pilots that regularly flew on the ATAG server as well. We were all waiting, expectantly, for the new patch from Team Fusion (as it was known at the time). We were promised a lot, a whole host of new aircraft, the new Tunisia map and it was all met with much fanfare and excitement.
Unfortunately the sheer amount of time that elapsed led to some players, from across the board, switching to other sims – mostly DCS World and the Battle of Stalingrad series. As Storm of War ended and didn’t look like restarting for some time EAF found themselves in a bit of limbo, we could still fly Cliffs but people wanted something a bit more than the option of one 24/7 server and playing the same missions over and over. As a result we also went to DCS World and Battle of Stalingrad. We’d had the announcement that TFS (Team Fusion Simulations) had been granted access to the source code, allowing them to do a lot more with the sim and we sincerely hoped that this would give Cliffs the rebirth we had all been hoping for. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Deadlines were not met, the original promises of aircraft in the next patch were changed and it became – probably rightly – about fixing bugs that could not have been fixed previously. It was announced that the majority of the new, and most anticipated, aircraft would be released in a paid DLC widely called TF5.0. Given that the original deadlines were way over due there was not much optimism for TF5.0 being released anytime soon and interest in Cliffs declined.
There are still members of EAF that play Cliffs of Dover, and enjoy it, but the launch of TF4.5 did not go to plan, with a large number of people complaining that they could no longer launch the game and then when they fixed that multiplayer was so laggy as to be unplayable. Both of these issues were fixed by TFS, but it doesn’t inspire confidence and for those with little spare time you want to go on something that works rather than face the uncertainty about whether or not you are wasting your time as you climb across the Channel and have your PC crash or you get shot down/crash during a massive lag-spike.
As mentioned in Crash Laobi’s YouTube track there are parts of the sim that are dated. I have to say I have always been a fan of the cockpits. They do still stand up well against the competition; they’re certainly better than those in the Battle of Stalingrad series and better than some in DCS and not as good as others. Given the age of sim this is not a bad result. However, I still have the problem of only being able to see the clouds in a ring around me. There are no clouds in the distance. The ground does look dated but at least the rivers no longer make the UK look like it is made up of giant lakes and swamps. Fortunately you’re not looking at the ground too much when you are in intense air combat, of the likes that can be found in multiplayer. The only time you are hoping to see the ground is when you are on approach to land or you’re on a bomb-run. However, compared to the competition it is below par. It’s also getting more and more difficult to fly online and multiplayer servers dwindle and you’re left with one server being on 24/7 and being populated. The online campaigns have finished or are ending. This was one area that Cliffs seemed to be able to do better than anywhere else. I do not claim to understand the workings of it all, but the results of hard work put in to support online campaigns by ACG and SoW spoke for themselves, with dedicated Ground Controllers able to get a view of what was happening in the battles and direct squadrons to intercept as well as the collation of a lot of data.
A problem that was encountered all too often was the AI. It would either chase you to the death or fly home and be completely unresponsive, allowing pilots to shoot aircraft down with no resistance or attempt to evade. Not only this, but it would crash instead of landing and the gunners could be useless or snipers – depending on which aircraft you were approaching and from what direction – for example the Do-17Z had the most amazing nose gunners but practically zero resistance from any other angle. The He-111 was ok from the rear but useless up front and the Ju88 was just mediocre all around. With Blitz edition the AI gunners were changed. As a result a single aircraft was very unlikely to survive approaching a bomber formation, from any angle.
5 x Ju88’s in three minutes – AI gunner behaviour prior to TF4.5 Blitz Edition
AI Bf-110s chasing to the death
All of this made things more difficult for online campaigns and single player missions; both of which rely on an effective AI to keep things interesting. This is meant to be being looked into, but who knows when/if it will be implemented.
However, in the right circumstances, there is nothing to stop IL2 Cliffs of Dover being a very enjoyable sim. It’s not DCS level detailed, but it’s also not Battle of Stalingrad simplified (in terms of cockpits). It’s a good half-way house between the two. The planeset is pretty limited – although the list looks long it is mostly different variants of the same aircraft. This should not be a surprise though, it is a recreation of the Battle of Britain and the major aircraft are represented for players and the rest are AI. The result is that the sim is limited to 1940 operations as there are few options for the RAF to recreate the missions over France in 1941. This should come with the introduction of TF5.0. Also, there is an argument that the Flight Models in Cliffs are the best of the best because they have been signed off by an experienced pilot. Please show me a sim that isn’t – War Thunder isn’t a sim. Each and every one claims that the aircraft models have been tested by real life, experienced, pilots and they all sing the praises of whatever they are testing; so take these claims with a hefty pinch of salt, few people have flown a Hurricane Mk I, Spifire Mk I/II, a Bf109E, Bf110, Ju88 and He-111 to be able to tell you that they all feel as they should. I think one of the few people that may have been able to claim to have flown most of those aircraft is dead.
The question in Crash Laobi’s YouTube clip is a fair one, is it worth buying. I did not have to buy it as I have owned Cliffs from release, seen the dog that it was and experienced the improvements brought about by Team Fusion. The issue is that it is getting pretty dated, I don’t claim to know how much of this can be improved, or even that it can be. There are diehard fans and there are realistic critics that would love to see Cliffs continue but feel that the means to communicate anything critical are closed, with users being branded and banned, posts being deleted and threads being locked. The knock-on effect is that users become completely disillusioned and lose almost all residual interest that may have seen them invest in TF5.0. The storm that blew on for a few days around Crash’s video highlights exactly the divisions in the community and the very polarised views. If all development is carried out in an echo chamber then it’s likely doomed to fail.
If I did not already own Cliffs would I buy Blitz Edition over Battle of Stalingrad or a DCS Module? No; not at this stage. Would I recommend it to someone that is really interested in the Battle of Britain and the early air-war of World War Two? Maybe, it does still have some good elements and it is very playable on older or lower specced systems. It’s a good survey sim. It’s good for an introduction to World War Two flight simming. It’s simple enough to set up, it give access to a number of aircraft and has a campaign that can be flown in single player. If you’re looking for a huge multiplayer community then this probably isn’t the right sim to pick – go to Battle of Stalingrad. If you’re wanting super detailed cockpits with everything clickable and higher levels of detail then go to DCS. If you want something between the two then Cliffs is the place to be; though maybe wait for it to be on sale on Steam as it does seem a bit expensive at just below £20. There are still members of EAF that enjoy flying in Cliffs of Dover, since going over to VR I have found going back to Track IR to be undesirable – VR support may well sway me to look into TF5.0 and re-evaluate it, but there is scepticism as to whether or not this can/will be implemented.
Please feel free to comment below, unlike some forums I won’t be blocking people but I reserve the right moderate comments if they’re out to be insulting.