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Armored Fist 3, NovaLogic, Windows 95/98/NT/2000 ($19.95).

Since 1916, the armored tank has been overhauled, redesigned and updated into a computerized monster. More recently, in computer simulations such as NovaLogic’s Armored Fist 3 ($19.95; requires Pentium 233 MMX [PII recommended] with Windows 95/98/NT/2000, 64 MB RAM, quad-speed CD-ROM, a minimum of 115 MB hard drive space; PCI or AGP recommended), software engineers have given computer-literate military historians the opportunity to experience the thrill and the terror of commanding these behemoths in realistic combat situations.

Armored Fist 3, the newest computer simulation from NovaLogic, simulates the use of the most modern incarnation of the tank, the M1A2 Abrams. While previous attempts to model the Abrams have proved less than satisfying, Armored Fist 3 does an excellent job of re-creating all four crew positions of the Abrams as well as the M1A2’s upgraded commander’s independent thermal viewer, inter-vehicular information system and improved commander’s weapon station.

While Armored Fist 3 doesn’t replicate historical battles or campaigns, it does present hypothetically accurate confrontations, such as armored conflict in Somalia, Thailand, Myanmar, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Also, it offers a powerful mission editor that can be used to configure recent true-to-life battles.

The simulation also allows users to participate in battles with up to 32 simultaneous users over NovaWorld, NovaLogic’s free on-line gaming service. The software even supports real-time, real-voice communications over the Internet so that virtual commanders can issue orders and coordinate attacks using headsets.

With the sharp report of its M256 120mm Rheinmetall cannon and the resulting explosion of an Iraqi T-72, Armored Fist 3 effectively brings the 70-ton Abrams into the historian’s living room.

David Christopher Baker