Quality of the Missions
Since you can download quality missions and even campaigns for free companies like Combat Planes need to make sure that what they sell is worth the cash you shell out.
In general the missions are well made and show that someone had put some serious time in with the mission editor to get this pack together. The number of missions (close to 450) is certainly in the norm for most add-on packs like Aces Campaigns.
The biggest problem I see with the mission pack is the need to suspend reality on several different fronts. The need arises from the intrinsic setup of the IL-2 game and not really from anything that CPI has done in the creation of the missions.
The first suspension of belief I stated earlier is the fact that in this game the Battle of Britain started in 1941. This isn’t a major gripe on my part; I honestly think that the 1940 campaign probably would have occurred if the Spitfire I was in IL-2:FB but they could have created a Hurricane campaign in 1940 so some criticism is valid. On the other hand, there is no Do 17 in IL-2:FB so any campaign would have been skewed with excess JU88s and He 111s. It wouldn’t have been a killer for a 1940 campaign in my opinion.
The other problem with the BOB campaign is the need to use the Gulf of Finland to render the battlefield. While you have to make due with what you have, it does tend to detract from the overall effect. The Gulf does not like the English Channel despite the best you can do to simulate it. Still, it is the closest you will get to the channel and it at least does the job.
The only problem with the RAF and US missions over Normandy is the lack of airfields in England to start the missions. This means air starts for the most part although this changes later on as the allied forces move inland. This again is a minor problem and is caused by Oleg’s map. I can’t see how they could have changed this into something that would have worked any easier.
Ok, these are noted and should be considered when purchasing this title. I do honestly believe that there is no way you could make a western front add-on without some serious compromises. This is probably the reason why you haven’t seen much by way of Western Front add-ons. In fact, this is (as far as I know) the only Western Front add-on pack currently out for IL-2:FB.
In general I found the missions to have a decent number of objects while maintaining a decent frame rate on most machines. In general you will not find super large formations of bombers or fighters in most missions but this is common of the IL-2 engine. The game cannot render large formations without massive slowdowns so any BOB or Berlin Battle will have to compromise on the large formations that were found in the historic battles.
Essentially the missions run very well on moderately powerful machines. I was running the missions on a PIV 2.8 (ht) with a GF6600 and 1 gig of RAM with no slowdowns (other than the initial loads). I take that back, on some of the ground attack missions I would of course get some hesitations but they were fairly minimal.
This really needs to be taken into consideration when you plan on purchasing one of these add-ons. Some of the add-ons I have played have been things of beauty, amazing collections of planes, trains and ground objects. While lovely to look at you look at it as a sideshow.
In general I have found a fairly decent concentration of ground vehicles (on the attack missions) but there isn’t an overwhelming number of them. This means that you get a good number of things to shoot at but you don’t have the massive numbers on non essential things in your game. As a result there is a decent frame rate in the game while at the same time you can generally get into some decent action.
Actually, there is something to find over the battlefields in general. For the most part there are items placed around the map so if you get off the beaten track you can still find something to shoot at. There are some secondary things going on that try to make for a ‘living’ battlefield. This is an attempt to add life to an essentially static campaign.
One overall negative concerning the pack is the fact that there are no online campaigns or missions. This is something that can be converted but to be honest, IL-2 is by far the best WW2 box simulation for multiplay and any add-on pack should concentrate heavily on multiplayer aspects. I do give a pretty big ding for the lack of multiplayer missions.