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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds Of Prey Review

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World War 2 console game reaches for the skies

★★★★

By fearlessly tackling the age-old problem of how to make a PC game appeal to fickle console players – and by successfully finding the middle ground between hardcore simulation and arcade blaster – Birds Of Prey is one of the few titles to migrate from home computers to the lounge TV without bamboozling players with an avalanche of complicated controls.

Hurling players into a variety of dramatic World War II aerial skirmishes across Europe, Birds Of Prey is potentially all things to all players; for those seduced by classic air combat console games such as Tom Clancy’s HAWX or the Ace Combat series, the game’s ‘arcade’ setting is just the ticket, gifting players with forgiving controls, targeting crosshairs and maps that show enemy positions, making it easy to bomb through the single-player campaign and unlock the game’s wealth of secrets. But for PC veterans searching for a genuine challenge, Birds Of Prey’s fierce ‘simulation’ mode perfectly captures the perpetual terror of flying a WWII fighter, with your view restricted to what you can see through the grubby cockpit window and the removal of all targeting devices, meaning you have to live by your wits and use sight and sound to get a clear shot at the bogey on your tail.

Difficulty settings aside, Birds Of Prey does a stunning job of creating a convincing atmosphere for habitual fly boys, with finely detailed landscapes and cities whizzing past far below you, realistic damage to your plane and those of your rivals, and carefully considered sound effects that make the missions feel even more perilous as your ancient craft whirrs and clicks as it cuts through the clouds. A smattering of boring missions where you keep an eye on friendly targets and a distinct lack of the shiny surface gloss that console players expect means Birds Of Prey narrowly misses a top score, but it’s still one of the most convincing and exhilarating flight simulations on the console market.