Il-2 Birds of Prey PSP Review

By Mike on 4:12 pm

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Ace Combat X was a perfect example of how to do arcade flight sims right on the PSP. Il-2 has also made it to the portable system. The game is born from one of the most revered combat flight simulator series out there. It's been some five years since the last full Il-2 game came out. Birds of Prey represented a triumphant return of the hard simulation genre not only to consoles but to gaming in general. The console versions are excellent, but does the portable outing soar or stall?

While the PS3 version is vary well done, the PSP version is not. The biggest problem is the controls, they're just awful. Take everything you know about flight sims, arcade or hard sim, and throw them out the window. Controls have been dumbed down so much that they actually fight your instincts. You cannot roll the plane more than 90 degrees in either direction, making even basic aerobatic manoeuvres impossible. Forget doing Immlemans, split-S, or barrel rolls. You can't even do a basic loop because the game self rights you if you try. Pitching while turning is also impossible. I thought I was flying a plane, not a car.

Due to these limitations, you'll often find yourself being pounded by the enemy and not being able to escape. I figured there must be at least some way to turn this off, but all the options menu lets you do is reverse the pitch control. That's another thing that irritates me about this game. Like so many bad flight games, pitch control is reversed by default. Pulling back on the nub makes your plane go down and vice versa. This is counter to how an actual plane is controlled and how most other decent flight sims function. It is possible to get used to the controls. However, it's a vary steep learning curve that is completely unnecessary. Ace Combat used fairly advanced controls for the PSP, so why couldn't Birds of Prey?

Getting past my original disgust with the fubar control scheme, I at least tried some missions. The mission structure is pretty basic. You get a target, you shoot it down. It's similar to its bigger brother. The PSP does include briefings, which the PS3 and 360 version do not, which is a nice touch. The actual missions themselves though are pretty bland, and the campaign is vary short. Another flaw is lack of a fight group of any sort. You're the only plane in the air besides your enemies. Ace Combat lacked a wingman system but at least you had your allies there with you to help you along.

For visuals, the graphics look considerably subpar compared to a lot of other PSP flight games and PSP games in general. The player aircraft look good but the environment relies a little too heavily on fogging. Ground textures look bad. It's not the worst I've seen but it's far from being acceptable. I've also noticed some slight tearing at the top of the screen. The audio is vary well done though, as it usually is with PSP titles. The music was lifted from the console versions and the quality is pretty good.

There's really no excuse for a game this sloppy. You cannot blame the hardware limitations of the portable since Ace Combat X stands as the benchmark glaring at Birds of Prey. I expected a lot more from 1C Games given the reputation the Il-2 series has. Unfortunately, there aren't too many reviews up making the purchasing decision a gamble for me. To pour salt in the wound, I bought the digital copy of the PSN store meaning I can't even sell it. It's also worth noting that the digital download version doesn't even come with a manual. Really, this game is an awful broken mess and I'm extremely disappointed. I'm being vary generous with my final score here.

Score: 4 out of 10

What Works:
-Mission briefings
-Player aircraft look good
-Music is well done

What Doesn't Work:
-Severely broken controls make the game nearly unplayable
-Limited freedom of movement, I can't roll my plane 360 degrees?!
-No wingmen in the air, you're alone
-Short campaign
-Digital download copy doesn't even include a manual
-Mediocre graphics fall far short of what the PSP is capable of

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