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Two new games envision next-generation warfare.

The recent flight tests of a Chinese stealth fighter lend plausibility to games like Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2 ($50, requires Microsoft Windows  XP/Vista/7, 3 Ghz Pentium 4–class processor or better, 1 GB RAM, 9 GB hard drive space, 128 MB 3-D video card, Ubisoft, As with the original HAWX, HAWX 2 is more action movie than documentary. Players fly current and next-generation fighters. Gamers do have to mind stalls, but recovery’s simply a matter of increasing throttle. The controls are a bit difficult to master, though; HAWX 2 seems more comfortable with a gamepad than a joystick and throttle.

In HAWX 2’s world, multiple countries employ advanced technology. While there’s little fodder here for history fans, the game does manage to muster some diversity. Besides flying fighters, players can command gunship weapon stations and remotely piloted drones.

ARMA II ($40, requires Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7, 3 Ghz Pentium 4–class processor or better, 1 GB RAM, 10 GB hard drive space, 256 MB 3-D video card, Bohemia Interactive, is another sequel that offers added variety over its predecessor. Purchasable add-on content (Combined Operations, British Armed Forces, Operation Arrowhead, Private Military Company) gives it potentially massive scope.

ARMA II’s vision is an extrapolation of today’s landscape, in which American, European and Russian equipment make up most of the fighting tools. All serve in a conventional sense in ARMA II operations, but Western nations keep the technology edge.

The original ARMA was buggy and difficult to play. ARMA II is still challenging. As in the original, players can opt to be an infantryman, tank commander or pilot. Aircraft are beholden to a decent physics model, though virtual pilots have little in terms of avionics other than a heads-up display and simplified radar. Most of the gear is circa 1980 to present, but ARMA II looks to the future via the Lockheed Martin F-35B VTOL. In ARMA II’s reckoning, having the technological edge is not a panacea—but it is a decided plus.


Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here