Ground combat is without doubt the most well-represented and oft-simulated form of warfare you’re going to find on any gaming platform, including the PC. Aerial combat takes warfare simulation to the next level however, and this article is concerned with taking a look at our picks of the very best aerial warfare games out there. After all, some of the most detailed and advanced aerial combat situations are to be found in the throes of combat simulators like DCS World, yet those looking for a more accessible, multiplayer experience will find joy in War Thunder. Both these games feature on this list, as well as two more advanced aerial warfare titles to whet your aerial warfare whistle.
To call DCS World the kind of flight simulators in general would be a bold statement, but we at warmaster.co.uk are confident that DCS World is the most detailed, advanced, and supremely impressive combat flight simulator to date. Not only does it have an outrageously impressive selection of airborne vehicle modules for you to pilot, but its high-fidelity controls and interface are as close to flying the real thing as you could possibly get without actually becoming a pilot. The flight models are so realistic and the physics so accurate, that some DCS modules can actually be used by trainee pilots to advance their knowledge and practice their skills.
DCS World isn’t for the casual gamer looking for some fast-paced, high-octane aerial action however. You must remember that the base DCS World framework comes with only a few planes; additional models of aircraft must be purchased separately or in packs from the DCS World web page. Make no mistake however: if you enjoy realistic combat simulation, you’re going to adore DCS World. You’ll get to pilot vehicles from the Su-27 to the M-2000c and helicopters such as the Black Shark and the UH-1H Huey. Each module has supremely realistic physics, flight models, and graphics, and the number of combat scenarios that come in addition to Free Flight modes are substantial.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX 2
The pedigree of the Tom Clancy series is a long list to read, and H.A.W.X 2 is a branch of the Tom Clancy tree that takes you to the skies. You won’t find the realism of DCS World here, but this can still be classed as a flight simulator. In the usual Tom Clancy style, you’ll be piloting various aircraft, watching for red diamond markers denoting objects of threat/interest as well as manoeuvring through the air, taking off, landing, and firing various projectiles and other dangerous things at your enemy.
Realism isn’t the first item on the agenda here however. You can pull off some outrageous moves such as barrel rolls, dangerously swift dives, and full-on somersaults, the likes of which would likely kill the pilot if it were attempted in real life. H.A.W.X. 2 therefore is, in all, very enjoyable, offering more variety than its predecessors whilst maintaining the Tom Clancy style and permitting some less-than-realistic aerial antics. It truly is one of the best arcade fighter aircraft games for Xbox, Playstation and PC computers.
Apache Air Assault
The action of Apache Air Assault is dedicated solely to the helicopter lovers out there. This is probably one of the most realistic aerial warfare games you’ll find out there, and the developers’ choice to focus solely on helicopters, and specifically the Apache kind, means that its comprehensive control system is something to behold.
On the one hand you’ve got some very realistic helicopter mechanics. All the dials, knobs, and indicators give the helicopter models a realistic look, and from here you can perform manoeuvres and also perform various attacks on your enemies. On the other hand, the detailed control system is stupendously difficult to master. The missions could also be a little more entertaining, and the absence of a storyline may annoy some people looking for a narrative experience. In spite of some of its flaws however, Apache Air Assault is still one of the most detailed and complex (perhaps overly so) helicopter warfare games out there, and you can find its website here: http://apache-game.com/.
War Thunder is an MMO with a serious load of content to offer its prospective players. Not just focused on aerial warfare, Gaijin’s World War air-and-ground MMO combat epic is thoroughly enjoyable from an instant-action point of view. Cinematic scenes abound as you soar through the air in one of the game’s many planes. The tank combat is woefully underdeveloped however – this isn’t going to hurt anyone looking for aerial action however.
Some technical hitches early in the game’s development annoyed some people, but these have been largely ironed out by now. The three difficulty settings allow players of varying levels of experience get to grips with the controls, and its roster of aircraft (which creeps easily into the hundreds) is something to behold. Though it’s not the most realistic of sims even on the highest difficulty level, it is still massively enjoyable and offers a multitude of modes including arcade-style dogfighting and epic 32-person multiplayer.