Wow, so many games, so much to write about and so little time to cover absolutely everything. It's fair to say that the office is almost literally dripping with code, and there's simply not enough manpower to dissect it all while maintaining regular Digital Foundry duties. So, with this month's mammoth 22nd Face-Off, we're covering six of the best and the most interesting of the recent releases, with the aim being to take a look at the rest over a series of smaller-scale DF blog updates as and when time permits.
As usual, the words are backed up with a battery of comparison shots, and pristine quality h264 videos too - all derived losslessly from the HDMI ports of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In a slight departure from the presentations of past, the cropped 632x500 vids are now history. They did the job admirably before Eurogamer TV transitioned to HD, but with full 720p at our disposal, the old-school videos seemed somewhat superfluous to requirements.
The full 720p presentations are now embedded into the article itself in a similar manner to the DF Bayonetta demo showdown: simply press the full-screen button in the player to get the full effect, or click through using the EGTV link to get a larger window.
Ah, the console version of the classic PC simulation. What a palaver this always is. The simulation series has built up a devoted and loyal fanbase on the PC, and they'll want reassurance that the unforgiving realism of the game they know and love hasn't been simplified into mush for its console debut. On the other hand, there's an even larger audience of console owners for whom this will be their first exposure. They'll probably be a little bit daunted by the ruthless reputation of the PC original, and looking for reassurance that it isn't too complex.
Of course, balancing these seemingly conflicting audiences is what developer Gaijin Entertainment has had to do with IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, and perhaps inevitably the studio's taken the middle path, creating a game that can be played at both ends of the spectrum, but defaults to its easiest setting, the fairly self-explanatory Arcade mode. You can't stall the plane, and you also benefit from numerous other assists. Both aiming and flight control get an invisible helping hand, while enemy and allied units are highlighted on your HUD. There's even a floating crosshair that works out the optimum deflection angle for your bullets, making it easy to place your fire where the enemy is going to be.
It's a generous game as well, with a single-player campaign that offers 20 missions across six European theatres, from the Battle of Britain through to a climactic assault on Berlin that sees you bombing the Reichstag. Success in these missions unlocks new planes and pilots, as well as additional standalone missions that can be accessed separately at any time. There are 50 of these, and they're a real mixture of objective types. From reconnaissance sorties into enemy territory to testing allied landing strips in a storm, these bonus stages are also more flexible than the story missions, allowing you to alter the amount of fuel and ammo you can carry.
New details of the handheld versions of IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey have been revealed,
The DS game will let you draw notes on the touch screen, recording information such as enemy positions and bombing co-ordinates. The rest of the time the bottom screen will display flight instruments, while the action takes place on the top screen.
More than 40 missions and 25 planes have been crammed onto the cartridge, along with maps that can be as big as 100km square.
15th July, 1940. In a bunker, 10 feet below the bustling pavements of Whitehall, a pudgy, cigar-chewing, bulldog of a man sits lost in thought as the Battle of Britain rages overhead. 15th July, 2009. In that same bunker, 10 feet below the bustling streets of Whitehall, a pudgy, biro-chewing, poodle of a man sits lost in thought as the Battle of Britain rages on a huge plasma screen in front of him. 505 Games couldn't have picked a more appropriate location for demonstrating its imminent (4th September) combat flight sim. The dusty catacombs of the Cabinet War Rooms ooze WW2 authenticity, and, happily, it looks like IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey does too.