Much has recently been made of in the news about the revolutionary bat-winged Stealth Fighter, and now Microprose, lovers of flying matter, take you behind the scenes of America's most hush, hush airborne wings.
The game starts with an aircraft identification quiz.
Don't worry, of you get it wrong though: all that happens is you aren't provided with the full menus (which may be a blessing - only kidding guys). Ranking is of course very important in the USAF, and you begin as a 2nd Lieutenant with plenty of options to keep you busy for the next few minutes. You can name your character or save and recall a pilot who has done very well for himself (promotion is rapid for good fliers).
Next comes the choice of missions: Libya Training (enemy can't damage you), Libya, Persian Gulf, North Cape and Central Europe (the last four are actual combat situations, so watch your tail). Then choose Cold War, Limited War or Conventional War, the aggressive potential of the opponents, whether you want to crash or not upon landing, and finally arm your plane. A 20mm cannon, a range of Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground missiles and bombs are available, taking the mission type into consideration. Choice made it's into the wide blue yonder to destroy the enemy.
A good read of the 120 page manual is essential because the game is as difficult to play as it is to explain. Graphics are wire framed and move quite nicely, though sound is limited to the occasional effect, such as the chatter of machine gun fire and the whoosh of a released missile. We received the tape version for review and found the multi-load to be more than a mite frustrating. I hope the disk version will be more user friendly. Definitely one for air combat sim aficionados.
MARK … 79%
'Microprose, the masters of flight simulation (and it would seem not much else), have come up with another thrilling game - F19 Stealth Fighter. Flight simulations on the Spectrum have never been fantastic, but this is quite acceptable. With the game you get the usual Microprose three billion page manual full of detailed information about the plane you will be flying and all the different moves it can make with ease. The game itself comes on two tapes, the first just holds an animated introduction with the F19 flying over a rugged landscape and then getting blown out of the sky (gives you some hope doesn't it?). The second holds the game. There are the usual controls in F19, using up most of the keyboard with things like brakes on/off, bay doors open/close and map selection. It takes some time to get the thing started, but once you have the game used, it's well worth it. Definitely one for all the flight sim fans.'
NICK … 86%
The first flight simulator I can remember playing was Psion's, erm, Flight Simulator. Or was that Flight Simulation? Something pretty innovative anyway. It was full of little quirks, such as a compass with 370', but the 'crash' effect was brill.
Then Digital Integration appeared on the scene with its F15 simulator. It was pretty much the same, really, but there were things to shoot down if you hung around for long enough. Various successors then trickled out until finally (as always) the Americans appeared on the scene. Project Stealth Fighter, luckily for this intro, is MicroProse's contender.
Unfortunately, MicroProse seems to have jumped the gun a bit when launching this one, and must have cringed when the real Stealth Fighter was rolled out looking nothing like the piccies on the box. Still, as you're not meant to be able to see it anyway it probably doesn't matter.
Being American, most of the game revolves around trying to knock some sense into the Russians, Libyans, Iranians and whosoever else currently happens to be irritating our friends across the pond. It goes without saying that the game is dangerously complicated - the sort of thing that only a real pro like me should be entrusted with.
With your fingers strategically placed above the vast battery of keys you have at your disposal, and your plane squatting at the end of the runway, aircraft carrier or whatever, it's time to confront the foe. Prodding the right combination of buttons does the trick, and soon you should be off the ground.
At first sight the graphics just look like a load of squiggly lines crawling all over the screen. This is a mistake that anyone could make unless they've been in the business for as long as I have. So don't try this at home, kids. Closer inspection reveals an array of ships, mountains, tanks, buildings and everything else you'd expect to find. There are enemy planes too, but these approximate more accurately to pre-WWII airliners than MiG-whatevers. They look a lot better while being 'taken out', I reckon.
The next job is to decide what to blow up from the millions of flashing dots that plaster your instrument panel. On the subject of graphics, I thought a rather unsightly touch was the way that the whole screen goes blue when you're flying over sea, and green when you're flying over land. Quite how else they could have done it. though, I'm not sure, so p'raps I'd better shut up.
Once in the air your fab Stealth Fighter seems to handle pretty much like any other fighter I've flown, Stealth or not. Considering the number of lines that are being heaved around the screen things run pretty smoothly, at least until one of those planes appears, at which point the game goes over to slow motion.
One of the things MicroProse has always been particularly hot on is cramming lots into its games and Stealth Fighter, as they say, is no exception. The scope is positively enormous, what with the dozens of different land-and sea-based targets, a wide selection of combat areas and a huge range of flashing lights.
I reckon that Stealth Fighter is the best Speccy flight sim to date, and coming from me that really means something. Not quite up to the standards of Falcon of course (Never heard of it. Ed), but a great achievement for those content to remain faithful to Sir Clive.
If an award had to go to the most comprehensive, option-packed and, quite simply, darned complicated flight sim around, it might just get pinned onto Project Stealth Fighter's uniform. Which is handy, as that's just what we're looking at now. Like most recent flight sims it's all about the legendary Stealth Fighter (which actually turned out not to be so legendary, and completely different to how everyone thought). THis doesn't actually make a lot of difference to the way the game works - it's really just an excuse for another flight sim. Technically PSF doesn't break any new ground. We've all seen wireframe graphics before, although these ones are about twice as detailed as anything before, and a bit faster. There is, however, masses to see/shoot. You can fly over land and sea, which means there are destroyers and aircraft carriers to take out as well as the usual tanks and buildings, and there's also a huge range of weapons and missions to use them on. Ideologically though, this one goes out the window. You have to spend the whole time beating up Russians and Arabs when really it ought to be the Welsh. (Just kidding.)
Well now - what do we have here? Mmmmmm, an 8-Bit version of one of Wild Billy Steely's super dooper simulations; this time of the F19-M035-1, known to the rest of the world as the Stealth Fighter.
Why's that? Well - because due to some fancy design and expenditure of loads and loadsa of the folding green stuff, the plane has a very weak radar signature. This means that it is very difficult tor any enemy to pick it up on their radars - and therefore it can pounce on targets deep into enemy territory with complete surprise. They've painted it black too - so it must be very difficult for the pilot to get into in the dark.
You might have seen the game appear on 16-Bit a while back and now it's on your own humble Spectrum. So whassit like?
For starters, this is not - repeat Red Leader - not going to be one for you "slam it in, load it up, shoot it out" brigade. Not with a 120 page manual, eh, and it's a tome that you're going to have to read through very carefully to even come close to wringing the full potential out of the game.
And don't loose the key card either - 'cos with over 30 potential control keys, you have to be a flippin' genius to remember this lot.
Come to think of it, you're going to have to have the patience of a Saint too, as the full load (which comes in three parts) takes a total of 15 minutes from the very start to "Chocks Away!".Better get a disc drive, eh - or take up reading epic novels in between missions.
OK, so that's the down side. The up side is that this is a title that takes the Spectrum very seriously. Locked up inside Project Stealth Fighter is a great number of missions and difficulty levels all to be flown over tree main combat areas - Libya, The Persian Gulf and Central Europe - each more difficult than the last.
The program is very sophisticated indeed - and be warned if you were expecting otherwise - is not geared towards pure arcade action. Far from it. it is obvious that most of the coding has gone into cramming all that strategy can control code into the Spectrum, with not that much going into the main visual display from out of the cockpit. This has been done in monochrome, with OK but not fab, vectors. Check out the three frames per second.
However, if you're willing to put up with that and want a game you can be assured you still be coming back to play this time next year - then you should think of making the hefty investment. But again, bear in mind, you won't be acquiring it for any major adrenaline surges, but the intense intellectual challenge and stimulation of piloting a billion dollars worth of kit.
Author: Paul Hutchinson
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
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