A minority of vocal hard-core flight sim fanatics will try to convince you that anything prior to Falcon 3.0 is closer to a jazzed-up arcade experience than a true simulation. How ironic it is, then, that MicroProse's later F-117A flight sim hasn't held up nearly as well as F-19 Stealth Fighter, which was published before the government's announcement of the real-life F-117 stealth fighter. As with his later Red Storm Rising, Sid Meier showed in F-19 Stealth Fighter that he could make a simulation -- using declassified data augmented with a sound physics model and some shrewd guesswork -- that was accurate enough to please the enthusiast and a great enough game to make flight sim fans out of everyone else.
F-19 Stealth Fighter hearkens to an earlier age when a 1MB PC (notably the Amiga) was the hottest gaming machine on the market, and though its gloss is somewhat faded now when compared with more recent Gouraud-shaded simulators, F-19 Stealth Fighter still offers one thrilling ride. Without the multifunction joysticks and throttles of today, pilots of the mythical F-19 had to manage with keyboard overlays and hot keys; yet the game still provided challenges unique to flight simulations of the day. Although the F-19 was adequately armed (free-fall and guided bombs, a Vulcan 20mm cannon, and over a half-dozen missile types for land, sea, and/or air), the electronic profile and stealth elements were so well done that it was often more fun to avoid a dogfight than to engage in one. So, even considering the holes in the simulation -- keep in mind that the real stealth fighter wasn't yet built -- the game took on the nature of a "thinking man's sim", a real departure from the reflex-heavy simulators of the time. The missions in particular were especially well-designed, as they involved sneaking around through a variety of enemy defenses. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the game was how surprisingly similar it was to actual Desert Storm sorties years later. Definitely a must-play for all fans of serious flight sims -- two thumbs up!Reviewed by: Rob