For over a decade, Kesmai Corporation's Air Warrior has been the most popular online multiplayer flight sim, available on commercial online services such as Delphi and GEnie. It comes as no surprise, then, that we should see a boxed version - and see one with enough new missions and features to make any aerial combat enthusiast salivate.
Published by Interactive Magic, Air Warrior II is more than front-end software to facilitate online dogfights. Pilots can climb into over 35 aircraft and tackle over 300 single-player missions against some pretty sober AI, or battle one-on-one via modem play. To ensure high replayability, other additions have been included - such as an editor to create your own missions and the ability to record and replay your flights.
Air Warrior II's interface is a snap to use, with many customizable options. First time players may want to select an "Instant Action" game to get started: No take-off, landing, or missions - you're simply dropped in the middle of a battle. Air Warrior II is easy to learn, and the designers have balanced aerodynamic authenticity without sacrificing the fun factor. With the help of a well put-together 140-page booklet and a handy reference card, command over your weapons, in-flight aircraft controls, and multiplayer navigation takes little time to master. Don't misunderstand - the controls may be easy to learn, but the missions get increasingly difficult (the long range, unescorted strikes into Germany are one of the tougher sets of missions).
The major problem with the game lies in its visuals. Although you can pump up the screen resolution up to 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 (if you're running more than 16MB RAM), the scenery in AWII seems terribly bland and outdated, and little or no effort has been made to add texture to the original Air Warrior terrain. The landscape looks like a green tarp, and if you get close enough, you'll be treated to a few isolated trees, gray square buildings, or a mountaintop. While graphics aren't the "be-all end-all" of air combat sims, it's the serious lack of detail that takes away from some of the realism.
Despite its minor shortcomings, Air Warrior II is a worthwhile investment if you're a fan of WWI or WWII flight and fight sims. Although the terrain is dull to look at, the frame rate is very good (even on a 486/100), so there's definitely a trade-off factor here. The realistic cockpit views coupled with the extensive single-player and custom missions make AWII a must for heated aerial gameplay, and it will probably remain a resident on your hard drive for some time. For a real thrill, launch an Internet game from the Web (Kesmai/Aries Games), and discover why the original Air Warrior has ruled the online skies for the past ten years.