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Air Warrior III, Kesmai and Interactive Magic, Research Triangle Park, N.C., $49.95.

Air Warrior III overcomes a common problem of combat flight simulators. Skirmishes in the virtual skies are often short on personality and limited to exchanges between paltry numbers of aircraft, often due to technical limitations. But if you have a modem, Air Warrior III welcomes you to a world filled with more than 100 World War II aircraft that can be controlled by human players in online play. If you long to see a sky filled with a box of heavy bombers cruising alongside your escorting fighter squadron, Air Warrior III is your ticket.

The third version of this classic online game adds new aircraft (for a total of 49), voice communication and 3-D graphics to an already fine product.

Players with the right equipment will see nicely illustrated planes if they have a 3-D video card. Air Warrior will still allow play for those without the special video hardware, albeit with graphics that are not quite as exciting.

The inclusion of voice communication by microphone with wingmen makes the package even more intriguing. Use of this feature requires a microphone and sound card, and while the sound quality is not high, it provides remarkable communication efficiency over the traditional use of a keyboard. The keyboard is also the default device for vehicle control, but a joystick is highly recommended for use with this product.

The sheer variety of flyable aircraft is another strength of this simulation. In reality, fighters alone do not win wars, and countries in the online arena need bomber pilots, tail gunners, troop transport and cargo plane pilots, and even tank commanders. There is a role for almost everyone.

The skies of Air Warrior are deadly, as many experienced players have mastered the art of the virtual dogfight. New players may find online play a little too challenging. Still, the thrill of flying and interacting beside and against online human pilots is wonderful. Performance in online Air Warrior is good with a 28.8Kbps connection and costs a reasonable $9.95 a month. Players access online play via the Internet at

Air Warrior III has competitors, but this package differentiates itself from the others by virtue of the more than 450 offline missions you can fly for practice. These missions span theaters and aircraft from World War I to Korea, and some of the theaters include historical campaigns. Aviation History readers will appreciate the historical notes for missions in the campaigns and the aircraft notes in the reference section. There are, however, better offline alternatives to Air Warrior III if players are more interested in documentation, are not interested in online play, or prefer the jet age.

Those looking for both online and offline play in a single shot, however, will likely find Air Warrior III the most satisfactory of the online offerings. A capable system is required to run this Windows 95 game at its best–preferably a Pentium 200 with a 3-D video card–but you can get by on a Pentium 133. Good online performance and plenty of variety make Air Warrior III a real value.

Bernard Dy