Even though 1C GS claims BoS to be "The next generation of the legendary IL-2 Sturmovik series", the game has very little to offer for its hefty 50€ price tag.
In every aspect that the game seems to have something good going for it, the flaws set it back atleast two steps and severely hamper an enjoyable experience.
The focus on a single, major event of the war had promise for an immersive, story-driven campaign, but instead, the game is broken into five chapters of the same copy-pasted, "random" generated quick missions, of which there are five to choose from (Intercept, Escort, Ground Attack, Ground Support and Bombing).
These chapters all include a short intro cinematic, giving you a brief history lesson by recapping the most crucial moments of any operation or such at the time, but these are rather easily forgotten because everything is thrown at you in the 30 or so seconds these clips last.
But in the end, you'll just be flying the same missions, over and over again, while the tactical map looks a bit different each chapter.
Even worse is that since the campaign has nothing to offer on top of what the other gamemodes already don't (Quick mission builder and pre-made missions, no difference to the campaign), in a desperate attempt to draw you in or give you some sense of accomplishment, they opted for unlocks.
Yes, you actually have to grind the same scenarios over and over again in order to use some of the available weapons or mods, some of which were even the standard factory setup for the planes. Not very... simulationy.. is it?
This is excellent way of 1C telling you that they did not have anything to offer for a proper campaign, and instead force you to take the free-to-play design of slow grind for small progress.
With that said, the campaign atleast works in its own way and AI behavior is not outright ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, although your flight will often take the route of attacking a bomber directly from behind, and you'll most likely be dive-racing PE-2's at +600km/h in order to even have a chance to shoot them down.
Other gamemodes are similar to the campaign, though quick mission builder allows for more customization. Do note that you cannot "grind your unlocks" in any mode except campaign.
Plane selection is pretty much what you'd expect from such a title, Luftwaffe sports the ever-iconic Bf 109's, models F-4 and G-2, the Ju-87 "Stuka" divebomber, He-111 medium bomber. Soviet airforce has the less enticing selection consisting of the LaGG-3 and Yak-1 fighters, iconic IL-2 Sturmovik ground attacker and Pe-2 light bomber.
Both sides also have a special DLC fighter plane available, Fw 190 A-3 for the Luftwaffe and La-5 series 8 for the Soviets. And no, the premium DLC planes do not come fully unlocked, you still have to "grind the unlocks".
Each plane has it's unique characteristics; the 109's are fast and easy to handle, with cockpit layouts simple enough to learn fast, while the LaGG-3 is a tumbling mess, most dedicated into driving you to the ground while you try to make sense of the gauges, with the Yak staying far more competetive with the superior German fighters.
The Stuka and Sturmovik attack planes are both slow and steady, with very different methods of attack. The Stuka will mostly dive from above with its nose pointed almost directly down to bomb accurately, only airbrakes to slow the descent, while the IL-2 will attack almost level with rockets, bombs and big cannons for widespread destruction.
The bombers fly level, and bomb, when they're not just for target practice. Really, what else is there to say?
Commenting on flight or damage models is the hardest thing, but while the planes fly and get shot down like planes do (I guess), one can definitely say a lot of the arcade-like simplicity the mechanics and maintaining have.
All of the planes do their start-up routine with a push of a single button, with crucial actions remaining automated, or optionally, under manual control in a very simple way. This takes away a lot from the potential immersion, with "detailed aircraft systems modeling" being mostly text on the screen and few animations.
Multiplayer works well, with no larger bugs around, although the lack of servers and even the amount of max players per server is disappointing.
While the gameplay is definitely lacking, is there anything the AV department can salvage?
BoS does have decent lighting to complement the snow-covered potato fields and the clouds aren't low-resolution mush, gun and engine sounds are enjoyably powerful with models representing accurately their real-life counterparts.
But besides that, what can a game of such limited sensual experience give?
Sadly, this is again where the game falls short. Planes otherwise being well-detailed, their textures are low resolution, with blurry and blocky normal maps reflecting the sun off your wing in a gringeworthy glare, and jagged, low resolution shadow maps looking like they're about to cut your cockpit into half as they pass.
Sounds are incredibly bugged as well, with sound latency up to the level of you hearing your gunfire hits on the enemy plane, and it being impossible to hear your plane being hit.
Despite the seemingly low amount of graphical detail at any given time, the game has issues with low framerates, suttering and overall poor performance even on a modern, mid-end PC (i5-4690k, R9 270).
This is most likely due to the ancient DirectX 9 renderer the game uses, and very limited graphical customization, being limited to resolution, four presets of Low, Balanced, High and Ultra, with an added MSAA option.
Not even the v-sync is properly implemented with triple-buffering, so you'll most likely have to choose between massive tearing, or being locked to 30FPS on the slightest framedrop.
After all this, who is this game really for?
With its simplified systems and gameplay, I wouldn't recommend it for people looking for the most authentic simulation experience, it offers too little for the price.
But the same thing is true for the more casual player or enthusiast, it offers too little for the price and there are games out there that do most of what BoS offers, better and for less.
I can't help but feel this game was released crippled and is simply trying to ride the IL-2 name to simply break even. There's potential to this, but as it is currently, I can't recommend it to anyone.
Rating: 5/10 at the time this is written. Mostly for the working multiplayer, although many of the issues creep into there as well.