A Quick History on Cliffs of Dover (the Game)
Originally released back in 2011, IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover (CloD from here on out) did not have the smoothest of launches. Some rather serious bugs and issues with performance plagued the title from the onset. While efforts were made to correct these problems, eventually official support was discontinued nearly a year and a half later. In an effort to further stabilize and enhance the title, Team Fusion released several community patches. The then mod team made great progress with it and the game developed a devoted following.
Team Fusion had plans in the works to release their biggest effort to date, including a new theater of war, among many, many more additions, when in December 2016 1C Games Studios announced an agreement on cooperation for future releases. This understandably pushed the timeline for release back, but in the meantime previous Team Fusion patches became official and were released on Steam. This past December — a year after the initial announcement — CloD was repackaged into the Blitz edition. Along with the re-release came a new update as well. Although it’s not the planned new theater (TF 5.0) it does add some new content in the meantime to tide fans over.
So What’s New?
There is a long list of improvements and additions, so let’s take a peek at what’s new before diving any deeper into discussions:
Additional New Aircraft Variants:
Bf-109 E-1B (Early Fighter-Bomber)
Bf-109 E-4N (DB601N engine and 100 octane fuel)
Bf-109 E-4/E-4B and E-4N versions with added armor for fuel tank and pilot
Bf-110 C-4B (Early Fighter-Bomber)
Bf-110 C-4N (DB601P engines with 100 octane fuel)
Bf-110 C-4NJG (Night-Fighter)
Bf-110 C-6 (Heavy 30mm Cannon armed version)
Blenheim Mk.IV_Late (twin gun rear turret and extra bomb-load)
Blenheim Mk.IV F (Heavy Day-Fighter)
Blenheim Mk.IV F_Late (Twin-gun rear turret and extra bomb-load)
Blenheim Mk.IV NF (Night-Fighter)
Blenheim Mk.IV NF_Late (Twin-gun rear turret and extra bomb-load)
Spitfire Mk.I 100 octane
Hurricane DH-520-100 octane
Hurricane Mk.I NF (Night-Fighter)
Hurricane Mk.I FB (Fighter-Bomber)
Beaufighter Mk.I F
Beaufighter Mk.I NF (Night-Fighter)
DH-82A-1 (Field Mod armed Tiger Moth)
DH-82A-2 (Czechoslovakian armed Tiger Moth)
DH-82A (Battle of Britain Tiger Moth version with bomb carrying capacity)
Sunderland added bomb capacity
Blenheim Mk.IF (Heavy Day-Fighter)
Blenheim Mk.INF (Night-Fighter)
– New Autumn and Winter Maps
– New Textures, trees, hedges, runways and terrain for all maps
– Perspective from altitude corrected to provide accurate views of rivers and terrain
– Additional historical landmarks
– Additional spline road types & more cow types for Full Mission Builder
– Elimination of original map bugs including:
– “Swimming Pools” in France
– Non- historical golf courses changed to farming.
– Dull water off Querqueville, dry rivers at Le Havre, Bradwell, and Barneville
– Airfield ‘holes’ at Hawkinge, Melville, Coquelles, Westhampnett, and Lympne flattened
– Added missing hangers to various French Airdromes
– Game upgraded to 64 bits and DX11
– Tree collisions enabled
– Distant Clouds enabled, ‘Popup’ effects reduced
– Contrails enabled
– Target dot view through cloud bug eliminated
– Game controllers naming change to address the Windows 10 re-ordering issue
– Rendering optimizations to increase FPS
– Reduced crash generating bugs.
– Updated existing aircraft engine sounds to historically accurate sound SFX
– Added Hercules engine SFX
– Added DB601N engine SFX
– Updated MG and cannon SFX including new Hispano and Mk-101
– Updated Explosion and hit SFX
– Added new flak sounds
– Added new day/night environmental ambience
– New Corvette, Tanker and Hospital ship types
– More accurate ship damage modeling
– Close and Distant aircraft visibility improved to provide more realistic combat environment
– Elimination of the ‘Disappearing Aircraft’ bug
– Added reflections from the sky and clouds to all aircraft surfaces
– Added reflections to canopy glass surfaces.
– Lowered the whitening effect from sun reflections in the propeller.
– Increased reflectiveness for distant glass surfaces to improve spotting
– Countless historically accurate improvements and additions to aircraft cockpit graphics
-Hi-G Blackout effects revised to reflect actual pilot experience
– New historically accurate skins for all aircraft types
– Updated smoke/explosion particle effects
– Updated weapon particle effects
– Updated engine/vehicle particle effects
– Updated environmental particle effects
Flight Modeling and Aerodynamics:
– All aircraft types have historically more accurate aerodynamics including:
– Aerofoil characteristics corrected to historical
– More accurate aircraft dimensions and control surface operation
– Lift, Drag and Stall behavior improved
– Hi-speed Compressibility effects on maneuver introduced
Engine and Overheat modeling:
– Engine physics revised to give accurate horsepower generation throughout the altitude range
– Overheat and engine wear provide full range of engine damage from player misuse
– All weapons types checked for accuracy and historical effectiveness
– AI gunner bugs eliminated
– Comprehensive damage revision of all aircraft types to reflect their construction and to provide more realistic combat results
– Maximum Aircraft G loading introduced
AI Aircraft Behavior:
– All AI aircraft types Flight/Damage and Engine modeling upgraded to Flyable standards
– AI Landing and Takeoff bugs eliminated
Player controlled Vehicles and AAA Artillery:
– Many Vehicles and Artillery now can be player controlled
Game loading Screens:
– New Hi definition game loading screens
As I said, it is a pretty big list, so let’s start at the top with the new aircraft.
New Aircraft and Variants
Now the Beaufighter and Tiger Moth aren’t technically to the game; the Beaufighter previously wasn’t flyable and the Tiger Moth was, but without any armament. I’m going to focus on these two aircraft due to the newness of them being combat ready. This isn’t meant to dismiss the many other variants included — the extended bomb load on a Blenheim and ability to carry bombs on a Hurricane are welcomed additions — however it can be like splitting hair comparing several different variants of the same plane. If you are familiar with any of the previous version’s variants, there won’t be too many major differences between them, although coming face to face with a 30 mm armed Bf-110 might seem a major difference. With all respects to the Bleheim fighter variant of old, let’s start with the first proper heavy fighter on the British side, the Beaufighter Mk. I.
Some things to note: it still needs a little bit of work, particularly the animation of the cowl flaps and possibly the gas gauges, but it is ready to fly. Start-up is relatively painless (there is one troublesome part I will touch on later involving all the aircraft). Taxiing the behemoth was fairly smooth as well, and with a full fuel load you won’t expect to get off the ground with some flap usage. In the air its immense weight is very evident by the particularly slow speeds at which it operates, but that is somewhat mitigated by the sheer punch it packs. You certainly won’t maneuver out of an engagement with enemy fighters, but blasting them out of the sky should be no issue.
Unable to find other big, slow targets, I settled on some 109s. While I bit off more than I could chew, I did manage to lay some rounds down on an enemy a good 800–1000 yards away and get it smoking with some well placed radiator hits — not bad at all considering the distance. Overall it is a welcome addition and finally a real counter to the Bf-110s. One interesting note on the plane: I’m fairly certain that the props are constant speed, yet the prop pitch axis allowed for a full range of motion. No actual change seemed to occur in any position, though, and RPM seemed firmly linked to the throttle, but I will concede that I may be missing something.
Next up is the Tiger Moth. Flying a bi-plane with an over-wing gun mounted atop it up against more “modern” aircraft seems like a daft proposition. It is, however, better than flying one without any weapons at all, which you were welcome to do for some reason previously. Start-up and taxiing is a relative breeze and operation only requires managing the throttle and mixture. There really isn’t much throttle management as it flies at the speed of molasses in January even with the throttle pinned to the firewall the entire time.
After what felt like every bit of half an hour or more I made my way from base in Canterbury to the coast. An incoming raid and possibly another hour of flight time across the channel diverted me back to home base. It was time to put its combat readiness to the test. A plane had broken off and came circling in my direction. It looked like a friendly, so I headed in its direction and got a good taste of my plane’s best asset — maneuverability. I easily turned inside the plane trying to sneak up on me, but I could not get a 100% confirmation of its identity, so I crept closer. The steel bird on the other side, however, was not interested in identifying the plane and rather decided its best course of action was to slice their wing through my struts and send me plummeting to the earth. Yet I did have time to get confirmation that it was indeed a “friendly” plane as the RAF roundel was fairly easy to see when you’re door to door. It was a fun diversion from the normal types of planes to fly, but ultimately my fate showed the pointlessness of flying it, as you can be down by much faster aircraft without expending a single round of ammo and taking no damage to their own plane.
Sound and Vision
A lot of work in this update further boosts visual and audio aspects of Cliffs of Dover. Settings over the years of Team Fusion’s updates have become more and more gorgeous and this may be some of their finest work to date in that regard. It looks better than ever and that includes the planes as well as the landscape. New skins, reflections from cockpit glass and improved water reflections are hard to miss. The terrain all around has received lots of work. But it’s not just the looks with a tune-up — there have been several additions to the sound. I’m not much of an audiophile and when it comes to engine sounds, I’m not too picky. I don’t have the best ear for that stuff so take this with a grain of salt if you must, but everything sounds good to me in-game. There some occasions however where engine sounds do cut out while on the ground; hopefully that can get sorted in short order.
Upgrades and beyond
Now there is a good amount of improvements, which can easily be seen, but the update also sets the stage for what’s to come. The biggest of which is the upgrade to 64 bits and DX 11. That might not be a big deal to you and for some playing on older PCs it may not even be welcome, but it does open the door in the future for VR, which is an exciting prospect. The code work isn’t alone in the upgrade — engine, heat and damage models have all been expanded or improved. All told, the level of realism increases the more these things are expanded upon. TF 5.0 was planned to be a game changer and the 4.5 update that accompanies the Blitz Edition gets an early start of some of the work. A lot of this work was needed, and the future does seem brighter.
While CloD Blitz Edition is the direction the game needs to head for the future, the present is somewhat of a mixed bag. Yes, there is lot of good stuff, but there are a few small things that could use some work in the interim. I mentioned the engine sounds cutting out on the ground, but there is another far more tricky issue and that is start-ups. The start-up procedures are as involved as one would find in Dynamic Combat Simulator but do require some very specific settings to get a plane rolling. That’s nothing new, but in particular the throttle position while starting feels extremely sensitive. Cracking a throttle open just a hair, or at 5% for instance is ok, and previously there seemed to be more wiggle room for error above and below. That window now appears to be much smaller, which while accurate can be difficult to achieve depending on one’s sim equipment. Heaven forbid someone might have a slight spike in their throttle pot — they may never start. It wasn’t just me, as my entire virtual squadron had similar issues and we’ve each had several hundred hours of game time previously. Of course some adjustment is needed on players’ parts, but right now the game does seem to be extremely picky about having exact throttle settings.
Stepping back from having so many hours put into the game can be hard to do. Over the years there have been ample tweaks and “best practices” put forward and followed by the community and they have served everyone well. I had no idea just how much tinkering I had done on my own until I installed the new version and started from scratch again. The game can be rather obtuse to any newcomer. Selecting a plane and getting it to spawn on the ground where you want it isn’t exactly intuitive. Mapping controls is a cluster of keys and axis to map and a good deal on the list don’t actually serve any useful function to any flyable aircraft. For instance there are three separate keys/buttons you can bind for each magneto for up to eight engines (on, off, toggle). There are of course no eight-engine flyable aircraft in the game, but two magnetos per engine, times three possible button bindings, times eight engines adds up to a lot of possible space used, half of which isn’t possible to use. That’s just one example; there are more as there were initially some pretty lofty ambitions for the title which can be seen by some of those “empty” key binds.
These things don’t affect how planes in game fly of course, but the rebranding/repackaging of the game seemed like a good opportunity to clean up some of these things and make the game a little more user friendly. The community around the game is more than happy to help newcomers, though. The good folks at ATAG have been helping virtual pilots enjoy the game and get set up for years, but new folks have to know they are there, otherwise it is easy to see how some might get turned off before they ever start. Again, for those already accustomed to Cliffs of Dover, this is not an issue, but conceivably getting new players and keeping them is a goal of the repackaging and this is one area where improvements can go a long way. I’m sure I’ll get some blow back from ardent virtual vets, just as I did for simply liking how easy X-Plane 11 made binding keys and controllers, but they are little things that ease new players, not steeped in old ways, into the game. It’s also welcome by those of us who like to switch up their equipment often.
Overall, it was a bit hard for me to try to be impartial with so much time already logged. The game has its warts and quirks that many of us have grown so accustomed to over the years that they go virtually unnoticed. This might lead to a tale of two very different takes on the latest in the game. Once you know all the tricks of the trade, it really is a great WWII combat simulator. The update that accompanied the “new” version may be slightly rougher around the edges than previous Team Fusion patches, but there is little reason to expect them to stay that way for very long with such a dedicated team. For new pilots, though, things will most likely be harder to get started than other titles released more recently. It’s a hurdle to overcome and one I really do recommend visiting the forums at ATAG for for some friendly assistance. Hopefully in the push to release more content, this is an area that sees some work . It had been/is/will continue to be a great combat flight sim, but one which does require you knowing what you’re getting into, as well.