IL2 Cliffs of Dover Revisited

Since release, the game has received four patches, with the last in October last year, so let’s see if a little over a year after the game’s release, it’s actually worth getting. It still retails for $35 on Steam, but improvements in the performance, particularly with lower-spec machines appear to have been a key goal from the first update. Specifically, the April 2011 patch has apparently added fixes that will drastically improve frame rates, particularly if you have a four or more CPU cores. Another gripe that has apparently been fixed is the momentary freezing, which was apparently caused by trees and other vegetation.

A majority of the pre-release work as far as gameplay goes has gone into the multiplayer aspect of the game – this is fine, but with the series having such a great pedigree in offline play. There are of course numerous third party missions and even a work-in-progress dynamic campaign, however we’re looking at the game as it is out of the box and unfortunately it’s still lacking in these areas.

Thankfully, on the graphics and performance front a lot has improved. Instead of frame rates regularly dropping below 20fps, we were now whizzing around at 30fps+ even at low altitudes and over built up areas. At higher altitudes things got even better with the frame rate hanging around the 50fps mark.

Strangely, the fabulous-looking *****pit really hammers the frame rate. In most situations, it cuts it in half, compared to the other *****pit modes or external views. This certainly didn’t happen in its predecessor but maybe it’s a sacrifice for the superb visuals of sunlight illuminating the controls and dials.

The graphics are greatly improved too – no stuttering as trees and buildings come into view and you’re no longer terrified to drop to low altitudes for fear of everything coming to a stuttering halt either. Much of the scenery looks extremely good indeed but it’s the re-worked sound engine – something that’s been done in a post-release patch – that was the most interesting.

Finally we have the beginnings of a realistic-sounding Merlin engine. It’s not perfect, but the occasional pop and crackle as well as the low growl you get when a Spitfire flies away from you, is by far the best we’ve heard in a flight sim. The characteristic whistle of the BF109 is there too, both of which remind us of scenes in the film Battle Of Britain.

At high altitudes, the game comes into its own. The patchwork of fields and coastlines look superb, if a little generic in places, but it’s immediately obvious what country you’re flying over. The water effects are second to none too and infinitely better than those in its predecessor or FSX.

The depth of color of the water is fantastic with various shades making it seem far more realistic and this didn’t seem to impact on the performance too much either. Rivers still look a little bland, but seeing as you’ll be spending a majority of your time in CoD over the channel, this isn’t a major issue.

The question is whether the game was worth digging out again? The answer is a resounding yes. The main issues with the release game were the graphics performance. It was so bad that it was deemed unplayable at anything above low to medium settings, where it quite frankly looked no better than its predecessor which is a decade old. Combined with the lack of offline content, namely a dynamic campaign engine, despite the efforts the design team had put into the realism and accuracy.

Thankfully, many patches later, the graphics issues have been largely resolved, and we’re left with a flight sim that’s mainly just demanding, rather than entirely badly coded. Our main problem now, for offline play anyway, is that there’s simply a huge lack of content compared to older titles in IL2 series, and despite assurances at the start, very little seems to have been done about this. If you’re mainly in for the online dogfights, then Cliffs of Dover is definitely worth a look, even if you haven’t bought it yet. For fans of offline flying, the game still retails for $40, which is a lot to ask, especially when you consider that IL-2 1946, which includes everything its predecessor had to offer, costs just $10. If,you already own it, but gave up at the first hurdle, then it’s definitely worth a second look. Even if you complete all the missions and campaigns in a few hours.

Published on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:49 PM