First released in 2006 by Russian developer 1C: Maddox Games, IL-2 Sturmovik 1946 is a compilation of all the expansions and updates released for IL-2 Sturmovik (2001). This game has proven that even while being limited in graphics and technologically, it can still offer incredible flexibility in terms of gameplay options. Modders of this game have created amazing things with the limited resources they have at hand. Today we will take a look at some of their creations.
To start let’s talk a little about IL-2 1946 and what it originally was. It was released as a World War 2 flight game with simulator like characteristics. Though limited to the Eastern front in the original IL-2 Sturmovik, the game received several expansions that took the action to the Pacific, the Western Front and into forgotten battlefields. After these expansions, 1C: Maddox Games released Il-2 1946; an expansion that included prototypes and “paper planes” that were not available before. It contained over 220 aircraft. Not all were playable until some modders decided to delve into the game files and made them available. The 1946 expansion is now the only way to obtain IL-2 Sturmovik through Steam, as it is a compilation of the base game and the previous expansions.
Before we get to the main topic, I would like to introduce the modding community responsible for all the creations that we will see in this article: Special Air Service 1946 or SAS 1946 for short. This forum based community has been active since 2009 making mods for IL-2 which change the very foundation of the game in the process. Their changes to the game stretch from graphics and audio improvements, fixing broken mechanics on the ‘vanilla’ (standard) version of the game, improving the flight model of several aircraft and more. The creation of new playable models of aircraft such as the F/A-18C/D, F-16A/B/C, A-10, B-52, and other aircraft beyond the World War 2 time frame.
These user made aircraft models don't only include functional cockpits, but also functioning systems like radar, RWR, in-flight refueling and countermeasures. They also include multiple weapons loadouts that are completely recreated from their real world counterparts. The recreation includes functionality. i.e: when you want to drop a GBU-12 from the F/A-18D, you first have to lock onto your target with a laser designator located in the TGP.
Most of the mods are simpler, implementing reused assets from either the vanilla release or previous mods using new 3D models, flight physics and weaponry. The most reused assets in fighter jets belong to the famous “Jet-Era” mod. Jet-Era is one of the biggest modding efforts done within the community, launched by SAS~Anto and his collaborators. This mod contains a variety of Korean War-era planes, such as the F-86 Saber in a selection of variants and the MiG-15 and MiG-17 with their own variants available for use.
The damage model on a great majority of modded aircraft is pretty good. At least as good as the original aircraft damage model provided by the developers. In some cases the modded damage models can be even more accurate to the real life counterpart. You can have plenty of fun shooting down any aircraft in several ways. From wing damage to engine destruction or killing the pilot inside the cockpit with a very accurate gun pass.
Large aircraft like the TU-95 “Bear” and the B-52 “Stratofortress” are available as flyable aircraft with their cockpits and crew positions mannable. These, alongside other modded aircraft like the F-4 and MiG-21, are pretty entertaining to use. Other features that make IL-2 1946 so enjoyable - even in 2018 - are the mission creator and the implementation of custom missions and campaigns through mods. The mission creator can be somewhat hard to learn at the beginning. When you get the hang of it, it can prove to be one of the most enjoyable features of the game by allowing the creation of combat scenarios of varying difficulties with modded planes and modded maps
What amazes me about the IL-2 1946 modding community in general is the dedication and passion that they put into their creations. How they have worked within the limitations of a now 12 year old game, taking it far beyond what it once was; from 220~aircraft on the standard release to now over 310 playable models. All created through dedication by the community.
There is one thing you should consider if you want to mod this game for yourself: it is not very easy. Many things have to be done by hand, there’s not an automatic installation program available to assist. Usually mods come with their instructions but the majority rely on someone already having knowledge about the modding process. Because of this getting into adding mods to the base game can prove troublesome. Do not be frustrated if you fail an installation, the people over on the SAS 1946 forum can help you. Believe me, it is worth the effort.
To conclude, the community that surrounds IL-2 1946 is a demonstration of what a dedicated fanbase can provide to a game in terms of support, creativity and talent. Crossing barriers that even the developers over at 1C:Maddox Games didn’t think about when they launched the game.