IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad first look

With flak, flying debris, detonating magazines, descending parachutists, airframe stress and wake turbulence all potential hazards, demises promise to be as spectacular as they are varied. Those lucky enough to escape stricken crates and not get riddled or prop-minced on their way down will alight on a 360 x 260km slab of steppe, centrepieced by a landmarklittered recreation of the titular city. Deserted except for vehicles (777 don't plan to model infantry), hopefully this battlespace won't end up feeling quite as lifeless and empty as the trenchlines in RoF. A flicker of coloured tracer here, a newly RELEASE SPRING 2014 As usual, landing Bf 109s should be tricky. Parachute failed? Start scanning the ground for unusually deep drifts or plump peasants. Ambitious bombing or the consequence of a particularly violent sneeze? kindled building fire there... there are ways of suggesting the seething savagery on the ground without simulating every stormtrooper and, fingers crossed, the devs will explore a few of these.

On the campaign front there's both good and not-so-good news. An inherited career system means, illogically, you'll need to be online to enjoy singleplayer campaigns. Phoneline severed by an expiring oak or a careless crane operator? You're grounded, old chap. More positively, when you crawl into bed after a hard day's bandit bothering or tank trashing, you won't have a clue what the next day will bring. The campaign is divided into five phases with frontlines, weather, aircraft types and sortie flavours adjusted in each phase to echo history. Individual sorties, however, are randomly generated based on choice of squadron – meaning the mix of patrols, escort missions and ground attack duties will be different every time.

With survival and success come gongs and promotions. The latter unlock optional aircraft mods such as gun pods Ramming attacks, a Soviet tactic early in the war, will be practical if perilous DECEMBER and armour. 777 are keen to stress that all augmentations will be historically based, and bring disadvantages as well as advantages. A single-seat Sturmovik may be vulnerable to six-o'clock surprises but, unburdened by that extra crewman, should be able to show a cleaner pair of heels than its sibling.

An IL-2 sequel without excellent multiplayer facilities would be like a Stuka without a dive siren or an 'Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here' canopy sticker. Well aware of this, the devs are promising dedicated servers with 100-player capability, optional global stat tracking, and bomber sharing. If Rise of Flight is any guide, they'll deliver on these and their other promises, and IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad will prove to be one of the simulation highlights of 2014. If you have any interest in accurately modelled WWII aviation or simply want to find out what happens when an 11ft propellor spinning at 1300rpm strikes a swastika-daubed tail, set aside £32 for wintry recon.