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Jane's WWII Fighters Combat Simulator

Company: Electronic Arts

Suggested Price: $49.95

System Requirements: Windows 95 or 98, Pentium 200 MHz or faster, 200 MB hard drive space for program, 50 MB for Windows swap file, 32 MB RAM, 3D graphic accelerator compatible with Glide 3.0, Direct3D or OpenGL, DirectX 5.0-compatible sound card, 6X CD-ROM drive or faster, mouse and keyboard.

No high-tech radars. No heat-seeking missiles. Just you, a sturdy plane with trusty guns and a sky full of flak over Belgium.

Jane's WWII Fighters Combat Simulator drops you in the pilot's seat of any one of seven famous World War II dogfighters, during the Battle of the Bulge over the Ardennes in December 1944. Choose from the P-51D Mustang, P-47D Thunderbolt, P-38J Lightning, Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, Bf 109G-6, Fw 190A-8 or Me 262A1.

The game includes a military air-combat campaign based on the war and 40 stand-alone missions, but it also allows for quick-start dogfights, player-designed scenarios and Internet multiplay.

WWII Fighters doesn't work without a 3D graphics accelerator, but it takes full advantage of that card for those who have it. The experience is highly engrossing, with exploding flak and realistic physics. Climb too steeply and players risk blacking out. Muzzle flashes explode from attacking fighters. Thick clouds offer concealment for dive attacks.

Sometimes, when the action is particularly fierce, players can hear the thumping throb of a heartbeat coming from the speakers.

Another aspect that sets WWII Fighters apart from so many other air combat games is that it doesn't just seek to entertain, but also to teach history.

The game includes an interactive World War II museum where players can learn about planes involved in the conflict, as well as the battle itself, and they get it from video footage and interviews with real pilots who fought in the war.

_ Wes Platt, Times staff writer

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