I’m really sorry that this has been delayed for so long, there has been some massive upheaval in my home life and I’m now split from my wife and living in a new town. I’ve got a new job and loads has been going on. Things are finally beginning to get a bit more settled so hopefully I can get back to writing properly about simming, one way or another!
IL2 Great Battle series has seen some changes in the time since I have been away and I had to make a choice, World War One aviation or World War Two tanks…
So, after much back and forth I decided that I’d stick with World War Two for the time being, although World War One flight sounds fascinating so I will be trying that out too! Where to start?
This is something that bugs me with IL2 Great Battles as a whole really. Setting up the controls is not really straight forward. Compared to DCS World it is overly difficult to find the control that you are looking for and you can have multiple commands assigned to one button. In some instances, such as elevator trim, this is handy as some of the aircraft have different names for what is, essentially, the same thing. As well as this somethings that have been able to be assigned to an Axis for quite some time, in terms of the whole IL2 series, no longer can be assigned to an axis – for example, Elevator Trim!
Initially, when it came to Tank Crew you still had to search through the Aircraft controls to find the odd tank command scattered among the entries. At the time I thought it would make far more sense to have the tank commands in their own section; for ease of access. I hoped that this would come with time and it did, the Tank Controls have their own section and it’s become much easier to sort out.
One last thing on the controls, it would be good if there was a way to control the power with one rudder pedal and the brakes with another, but this does not seem to work; the throttle is also the brake, so if you have your heel on the floor you will be going backwards. I tried using the HOTAS throttle as the control for the power, but this was no better as the centre point was the differentiation between reverse and forward gears.
Once you have the controls set up it’s actually pretty straight forward to control a tank. You do have to get used to the fact the 50% of your aircraft throttle is 0% in the tank, anything behind that is reverse.
So far I have only been able to test out the Tiger Tank. I have to say that it is a big step up over DCS World’s Combined Arms. For one thing, it supports VR and has a full interior in the tank. When driving around ‘buttoned up’ it can be a pretty tight fit. I don’t think that Tank Crew is designed with single player in mind though. Fulfilling all of the roles at once is a challenge. Being the driver and the gunner can get a bit much when in the thick of the action. I tested online with Starfire and we found that having a Commander and a Gunner gave a good workload all around. We decided it was worth the risk of driving from the Commander’s position with the commander looking out of the turret and not locked in. This gave excellent visibility. I was able to give commands and put the tank in a good firing position while Starfire was able to lay the gun on target and blast away with the 88mm. We were in close quarters in a built-up environment, so it was quite tense and finding the slowness of the turret rotation to be quite a drawback!
We were on the Kuban map, so not one optimised for tanks, but it was perfectly acceptable. If the tank specific map is better then it should be excellent. I had no issues running in VR, I had steady frame rates and, if anything, I found that I had better visibility and ability to look through the periscopes and vision slits that with Track IR. I didn’t get the zoom function on the scopes though, I had to use VR Zoom and I don’t think it is the same; maybe I missed a key in the setup (another reason to separate out the tank controls)
I’ve yet to get into a big multiplayer battle with air-support, but that is something that I think we’ll be working on. It will be good to see how well a server copes with both air and ground vehicles taking pieces out of each other, it’ll also add a new dimension to vulching!
Overall my first impression is really good, my only gripe is the controls which IL2 BoX could do with improving full-stop. Gameplay-wise it is excellent, graphically it is very good and the potential that it unlocks in multiplayer is excellent. I think this is the beginning of something very good. Hopefully, we’ll start to see dedicated tankers, and maybe squads, in IL2. If this could be combined with an online campaign there are the makings of some truly great battles here. If DCS Could do something similar with Combined Arms and bring it up to a modern standard there would be something to compare it with. As things stand this is the best tank game play that I have found, and being able to combine it with a proper flight sim is especially good. I just don’t think the more arcadey games, like War Thunder are truly comparable in the experience.