F19 Stealth Fighter (Second Review)

Title		F19 Stealth Fighter (Second Review)
Game Type	Flight Sim
Company		Microprose
Players		1
Compatibility	All (With Patch)
HD Installable  Yes (With Patch)
Submission      Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Microprose established themselves as the premier simulation software
company during the days of the C64 with titles like F15, Silent Service
and Gunship. Their titles were early arrivals on the still emerging
Amiga, and its fair to say that initially the company's 8-bit roots were
not hard to see in their 16-bit conversions. F-19 was different though
because it had not appeared previously; indeed the Stealth Fighter that it
purported to simulate was not in active service nor did the public even
know what it would look like at the time of the game's original
development on the PC. By the time of the Amiga version however, more
information on the so called Stealth Fighter was available, allowing the
game to now comprise two planes, the fictitious F19, and the supposedly
more accurately simulated F117A.

As you would expect with a Microprose title the packaging is excellent,
and an impressive manual with attractive graphics and detailed
descriptions of tactics, aircraft and ordnance is included. The game
itself has a wealth of options that you can tweak and tinker with to
create a level of difficulty almost exactly according to your taste. Four
theatres of war are on offer, namely, the North Cape, Central Europe, the
Persian Gulf and Libya, with three levels of conflict; cold war, limited
war and conventional war. There is also a Training mode available.

The remaining pre-flight screens are similar to other Microprose
simulations, with a variety of missions you can accept or reject, each
with a primary and secondary target. There are the maps with their threat
assessments and waypoints, followed by the arming screen where various
weapons can be loaded, as well as a camera for photographic missions and
extra fuel for those deep penetration jobs.

Finally, although it doesn't have to take very long really, you are
sitting in the cockpit ready to take off on your mission. The 3D world is
quite complex with plenty of ground objects, although the resolution is
not very high. As you might expect, the level of detail is selectable,
although I didn't notice much difference personally. Taking off is
relatively straightforward, and a tap on the autopilot key will have you
cruising away to your first waypoint. By now it may have become apparent
that F19 is quite unusual for a flight sim in that the plane is a pig to
fly. You can bank quite steeply and the plane still only turns very
slowly. Banking more dramatically is likely to cause a stall. Not exactly
a dogfighter then, but neither is the real aircraft, nicknamed the Wobbly
Goblin, so that's fair enough then. Although when you consider that the
game plays up the air-to-air missions just as much as the more plausible
air-to-ground role, which for an aircraft designed for ground attack
rather than air combat seems a bit daft (albeit with hindsight).

Probably your most important instrument is the cunningly designed Stealth
indicator. This is basically a vertical column, situated in the centre of
your instrument panel, which displays your level of stealth. This is a
fluctuating level, rising and falling from the bottom of the column, and
you'll also see your opponent's level of surveilance which fluctuates
downwards from the top of the column. You guessed, if the two levels
overlap, then your aircraft has been illuminated by enemy radar and you
are no longer 'invisible'. You must therefore fly in as stealthy a manner
as possible, and it is this discipline that is probably the game's most
notable feature. Banking decreases your stealth, flying fast decreases it
too, even opening the bay door to deliver a weapon has a drastic effect.
The game actually becomes rather like Microprose's earlier Silent Service,
a submarine simulation, which as the title implies is all about silently
and invisibly stalking your opponent, destroying him, and then sneaking
away. This game is not for the brazen Top Gun warrior or gung-ho mind-set,
it is for the highly disciplined assassin. An aerodynamic Ninja if you
will. Yes, its a challenging game but the word "Fighter" is misleading,
and in this case inappropriate. People seeking credible air combat would
do better with Falcon. You can certainly shoot down aircraft in F19, but
given the aircraft's handling, and its true capabilities, Microprose were
not really as close to the mark as a company renowned for its authenticity
and realism should have been.

Landing is quite tricky, largely because of the plane's tendency to stall,
but by lining up your approach, and making good use of the tracking
camera, it should not present too many problems. It is actually balanced
just about right as far as being a challenge without being too frustrating
goes. I do a have something of a problem with the game world that is
difficult for me to define. While the cities and various ground objects
are quite detailed and numerous, the overall feeling of being there lacks
a certain conviction, for me at least. Often on take-off you'll narrowly
miss a 747 or some other aircraft that has decided to use the runway at
that time, and while its good to have a game world that is going on with
its own business, its not good to feel that parts of it are incapable of
responding to you. Stealth or not, if you came that close to ripping the
undercarriage off a passenger airliner at a crowded airport I suspect
somebody would notice. The graphics are generally not bad, but not
particuarly good, and although the various cockpit displays are highly
functional, there's something slightly '8-bitty' about them, and they have
no particular aesthetic appeal.

Okay, so given that F19 is not a true 'Fighter' simulation, it doesn't
look fantastic, and the authenticity is way off, does it hold together as
a reasonable game? Yes it does. Its not really my thing, but I can't deny
the challenge or the depth of the missions, with their various buildings,
vessels and aircraft, creating situations that are often atmospheric and
taxing. F19 uses the Stealth principle within the game to great effect,
and as long as it is recognsed for the type of game that it actually is,
it should be a welcome addition to most flight sim fan's collections.

Category list.

Alphabetical list.