The Campaign should be where this game shines. I mean, this is the Battle of Britain, right? When you look at A2A’s remake of Rowan’sBattle of Britain classic you can see how a real campaign can make a title. 1C saw the skewering that the RoF developers got when they put out a less than adequate campaign with Rise of Flight. You would expect that the developers of CoD would notice this and create a campaign that is worthy of what has been a lot of work, right?
Uh, no. The weakest part of this game in my opinion, is the campaign setup. The campaign is really nothing more than a bunch of single missions that are thrown in to make a linear game for the player. While a fully dynamic campaign isn’t a total necessity, you still need a campaign that will highlight the actual battle that was fought. The British campaign is something of a cheese sandwich with a little bit of Spam thrown in to give it a British feel. You play some commoner who ends up flying for the RAF during the war. While the missions aren’t intrinsically bad and help get the flier into the game, it does little to actually make you feel like you are flying in the game.
The British campaign reminds me of the campaign that was released with CFS2 years ago. Another linear campaign with a “story” element, it never really immersed the player in the game. As hard as it tries, the British campaign does not really make you feel like a member of the squadron.
The German campaign is marginally better, but it also has no continuity to it. You first fly Bf109s, then 110s, then Stukas. What the hell is that? This, in all honesty, should have been three separate campaigns and not a big conglomeration of single missions. The campaign feels like an afterthought, and it shows.
The list of aircraft used in the game is actually pretty impressive. Any Battle of Britain game of course has to have the mandatory Hurricane / Spitfire / Bf109 / Bf110 setup, but IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover includes the Italian Fiat G 50 fighter, a single seat aircraft that actually saw limited action during the Battle of Britain. It was hampered by poor speed, range and an open cockpit. A fun aircraft to fly, it makes for a real challenge when you take it up against the faster Hurricanes and Spitfires. In addition, the Italian BR20M, a medium bomber that also saw limited action in the Battle of Britain, was no less effective than the Do17 or He111s that were designed and built during the same time period. Again, it is a nice change of pace for those players wanting an axis plane of a different flavor.
Three versions of the Bf109E3 ship with the game. There has been some controversy over using the E3 and not the E4 that most people associate with the Battle of Britain. The biggest difference between the E3 and E4 was the wing mounted cannons. The E3 used the 20mm MG-FF machine cannon while the E4 utilized the MG 151/20 cannon. The MG-FF had a lower muzzle velocity and lower rate of fire and was considered inferior to the MG 151/20, but most fliers in the game won’t see much difference. 1C (notably Luthier) have said that the E4 will be coming to the game, and it will be a welcome addition.
The other major German fighter in the game is the Bf110C4, the mainstay of the Zestorer force in 1940. This twin engine aircraft was flown by the elite in the Luftwaffe fighter service during Poland and France and the shortcoming of the aircraft were only noted when the plane was put into escort duties over England. Fast and relatively maneuverable for a large, twin engine plane, the Bf110C4 was still more sluggish than the Hurricanes and Spitfires it faced. Tasked with close escort, the Bf110s often found themselves at a significant disadvantage against more agile aircraft. Acceleration was slow, which meant that these aircraft were behind the curve once they found themselves up against British planes. If used as a BnZ fighter, the 110 can be effective, but in close escort duties the aircraft was at a disadvantage. I would like to see some Jabo missions made for the Bf110, it shines in those duties.
The two German medium bombers in the game are the Heinkel He 111H2 and P2 as well as the Ju88A1. The He111 was the backbone of the German bomber forces in 1940 and continued on until the end of the war. Revolutionary when she first flew in 1935, by 1940 the aircraft was already considered outmoded. Although she isn’t well armed and doesn’t carry a huge bomb load, the aircraft was still effective throughout the war. The biggest difference between the P2 and H2 was in the engines. The P2 used the Daimler Benz DB 601 engines while the H2 used the more available Junkers Jumo 211 engine. Performance is relatively similar between subtypes.
The JU88A1 was the “wunderbomber” of the Luftwaffe and as designed was a serious problem for the Allies. Unfortunately, by the time the aircraft entered service it had been messed with by the design bureau and by Hitler’s influence and the addition of things like dive brakes added enough weight to make this very fast bomber able to be caught by British fighters of the era. Still, she is fast, relatively well-armed and carries a decent bomb load. Axis fliers will love this plane.
The JU87B2 is the only dive bomber in the game. The infamous Stuka is a fun plane to fly. I have flown the Stuka in the IL-2 Series and in games like Aces High, but the Stuka in CoD is my favorite. As long as there aren’t any fighters around, the plane is flat out deadly. Ships, troops, tanks, whatever — are no match for a pinpoint dive from the JU87. But she is slow and will go down so you can’t just go out there without good escort.
The Brits have three versions of the Spitfire, the I, Ia, and IIa. The Spitfire, an aircraft that almost never was, is just as advertised. She is fast, maneuverable, and fun to fly. She is much more forgiving of mistakes over her Hurricane cousin and is like riding a racehorse.
There are two versions of the Hurricane in the game and these made up the backbone of British fighter forces in the Battle of Britain. Slower and less maneuverable than her more glamorous stable mate, she still was a steady gun platform and fun to fly. I have found that she has some horrific characteristics when she is flown outside her envelope and flat spins are deadly in her. But she isn’t much slower than the Bf109 and can hold her own with most fighters. Still, she scares me more than any other fighter out there because she seems to be the least forgiving of all the fighters.
The Brits also get the Blenheim Mk IV for bombing missions of their own. The Blenheim was a lot like the He111; she was considered a wonder plane when first fielded but by the time the war started she was hopelessly outclassed by modern fighters. The first attacks against the Germans in France were disastrous. Slow, poorly armed, and unable to fight off attacks from the Luftwaffe, the aircraft quickly was adapted for night fighter use and eventually evolved into the Beaufighter.
There are games and then there are simulations. IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover definitely falls into the simulation category. Few sims, even some that claim to be “hard core” have an engine management system as detailed as CoD does. Virtual pilots will be thrilled with the buttons and switches that need to be thrown to simply start up and get ready to fly. Definitely an option in the game, but those that like this kind of stuff will certainly enjoy waiting for your engine to get up to temp, opening and closing radiators, adjusting prop pitch and setting-up all of the features that this game offers. Firing-up a Spitfire isn’t as complicated as the engine start procedures in A10C, but it is nothing like EAW where you just hit the start button and take off. This has been the tendency lately, RoF and the DCS Series have offered this feature (along with the MSFS Series, of course) and these days complex engine management is more of a must rather than an option to be considered a true flight simulator.
Likewise, a change for a 1C game was a fully interactive, clickable cockpit. Again, this is becoming the norm in flight simulations, but CoDhas done a really admirable job with setting up a fully virtual cockpit. All features are capable of being mapped to a HOTAS system but the ability to use a mouse and a TrackIR means you can get away with flying with a simple throttle and stick and leaving almost everything else up to cockpit clicks.
Flight models in the game are relatively tight in my opinion. Granted, I am not a fighter pilot and I have never flown a Bf110 or a Hurri, but each aircraft seems to perform in a correct manner. The Spitfire is a flat out joy to fly. I have been a dedicated Luftwaffe junkie since my days flying Air Warrior, but I absolutely love the Spitfire in CoD. I guess I can start calling myself a Spitdweeb now because it is my favorite ride in this game. The Spit accelerates well, is fast, and has outstanding handling characteristics. Spins are relatively easy to get out of and the aircraft bleeds energy well.
The Hurricane, on the other hand, is my least favorite plane. Maybe it is my flying style, but I don’t find it to be the stable gun platform as advertised. I probably need more time in it, I’ve only spend a few hours in her, but the spin characteristics are horrible. I feel like Maverick in Top Gun when I spin the thing; I have no hope of getting the thing out of the flat spin. She is relatively maneuverable but she will go from the edge to out-of-it pretty quickly.
The Bf109 in CoD is not a bad plane but seems relatively outclassed a lot of times. Part of this is the design of the aircraft. The 109 was an energy fighter and close escort missions were not really its forte, and it shows. The Bf109 is an excellent climber in the game but her acceleration is only fair, and she isn’t nearly as maneuverable as the Spitfire or Hurricane. Still, from what I have read over the years theCoD Bf109 is pretty close to its historic description so I can’t complain. She is a sweet plane to just fly around, she does have some pretty docile handling characteristics (especially at low speed) and she is the only cannon equipped single engine fighter in the game. Ground handling is a bitch. I have scraped a few wingtips with the aircraft but I haven’t had the ground loop problem that the aircraft was notorious for displaying. I should take some more time with her though.
The 110 is a pooch. She doesn’t accelerate well at all but she is fast and dives well. Again, if used as an energy fighter she is pretty good, but if you are bounced you won’t have much fun. Flight models seem fairly realistic and she is the deadliest fighter when you get the crosshairs on an enemy plane. But in all honesty, I haven’t flown her much. There are a lot of opinions concerning the aircraft and I will defer to them.
The AI is another confusing portion of this game. I have seen the AI do some amazing things, fly very well and be out-and-out deadly at times. Other times I have been able to fly around lazily with no risk of being attacked. I understand that not all pilots are equal in real life but sometimes the enemy is flat out brain dead. I’ve seen some level flying while unloading my machine guns with the AI demonstrating little effort to resist. Likewise I’ve seen enemy bombers all of sudden outrun my Hurricane. I know that some aircraft, like the JU88 are pretty fast, but a He111s should never be able to outrun a cleaned up Hurricane. Planes sometimes dive into the ground for no reason. It’s not that the AI is out and out horrible. It’s just that it can be somewhat unreliable. You can’t rely on your AI teammates because they seem to ignore orders or requests. Yet at other times you can get a real fight out of them. There is an AI in there and I think it might be pretty good. But like other components of CoD, it needs fixing.
Damage modeling is pretty good and visually attractive. You can see exactly where you are hit and everything seems to correspond with what is happening to your plane. The .303 Brownings in the Hurricane and Spitfire were notoriously weak and are realistic in the game. I fully understand why the Brits worked hard getting the 20mm Hispanos in the aircraft as soon as they could. The 20mm FF in the 109s and 110’s are much more effective, but the rate of fire and bullet drop mean you need to get close. Ballistics seem pretty accurate. Bullet drop is accurate. I have heard few complaints about the weapons in the game, a relative surprise considering the arguing over the weapons in the first IL-2 Series game.