F-19 Stealth Fighter

aka: F19
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Description official descriptions

Rule the night! Take the pride of American Stealth technology and take on the best the Warsaw pact technology can offer! Dodge between radars, sneak under enemy fighters, and take out your primary objectives and secondary objectives with your limited weapons onboard, then make your way home. Can you survive all the way to general and win the Congressional Medal of Honor?

F-19 Stealth Fighter was based around Sid Meier's closest estimate of the stealth fighter based on the data available at the time. You get full 3D graphics, 3D enemies, random objectives and enemy dispositions (so each mission will be different), dynamic radar effectiveness that depends on your position and radar cross section, enemies that search you out if you do "tickle" their defenses, even civilian aircrafts in the air, and ability to play in cold war, moderate war, or all-out war, with very different rules of engagement.

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Credits (DOS version)

19 People · View all

Original Concept
Lead Design
Programming
Additional Programming
Libraries / Utilities
Graphics / Artwork
Music
Sound
Packaging
Documentation
German Manual Translation
  • Alpha CRC
Playtesting
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 85% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 66 ratings with 4 reviews)

A Classic! If only Microprose were around today...

The Good
What's not to like? Even today, if you ignore the graphics, it holds its own for gameplay. For it's day, it was incredible.

The graphics, even though only 16 color, were well done. With a little imagination you're soaring over the North Cape or Iranian Desert. That they managed to fit very complex 3D theatres into the humble PC XT without using floating point holds F-19 up as some very awesome coding. The gameplay was good; you kept coming back for more. The manual was a masterpiece; it really sucked you into the environment.

The Bad
At the time, there was nothing like this, so faults were forgiven or not noticed.

It was very easy; too easy. Even on the highest level your humble F-19 could smack bang the entire North Cape forces.

The AI was light was stupid; even top of the line MiGs would fly straight at you so you could pop them off with a sidewinder. Annoyingly when chased back with the enemy on your tail, your own F-18s would orbit the airbase ignoring your plight.

But these were early days and the faults were forgiven. What wasn't that when MPS released the sequel F-117, they only gave it a graphics makeover and didn't fix any of these shortcomings.

The Bottom Line
A classic. The definitive combat flight simulator.

If only Microprose had stuck around and stayed true to their original philosophy; can you imagine what we might have today?

DOS · by B Jones (14) · 2006

The old classic hasn't quite been equaled since...

The Good
Almost infinite variety of missions, plenty of authentic weapons with different release parameters and effects, plenty of enemies from planes to radars to ships and more, different rules of engagement, multiple theaters of war, the tension of sneaking around radars (it's like playing Thief or Metal Gear Solid)

The Bad
After a while, the mission start to get repetitive. To win the CMOH you need to play at ELITE level (which is nearly IMPOSSIBLE as not even flying 20 ft off the sea level can get you past fighter patrols) and do EVERYTHING right. Some weapons are very difficult to use (some bombs must be dropped at altitude) but required to hit larger targets.

The Bottom Line
F-19 SF was a game that stressed FUN and TENSION above all else. The controls are easy to learn, as there aren't a ton of controls to keep you confused. The terrain is a bit simple but they get the point across. Sneaking past enemy radars, flying under enemy fighters and radar planes, and take out the primary targets are a lot of fun and you feel really accomplished after finishing the missions, esp. in cold war ROE where you must NOT be seen (or else deal with anyone who saw you). The ability to be promoted and win medals are just icing on the cake. The full debrief with a second-by-second replay of your accomplishments with every single plane shot down and target blown up are shown as well. It's great for your ego.

On the other hand, this sim does have some flaws. On the PC, the x86's at the time can only drive the sim at about 4-12 fps. The missions can sometimes get extremely long as you can't use autopilot when you're extremely low (sometimes, flying 20 ft off the ground is normal) and thus you can't use accelerated time. Sometimes enemy fighters chase you right to your base (even though they can't see you). The missions get quite repetitive after a while as there's no real "campaign" mode, just fly mission after mission until you die or retire. While the targets do vary a bit, they don't vary THAT much.

While the game has its flaws, it does not distract from the truly amazing gameplay. The tension in the mission is real. If you got hit you can be damaged, and if you managed to get the wounded bird back to base you really feel you've cheated death. Unfortunately there are no sims that truly capture this kind of tension, as the stealth fighter only made its appearance as one of the planes in EA's USAF, and that game doesn't have a campaign like F19's. In fact, no game came with a campaign quite like F19's except MicroProse sims like F-15 Strike Eagle III. As Sid Meier have not designed a sim since, his touch on this sim will truly be missed.

DOS · by Kasey Chang (4601) · 2002

Addictive simulation

The Good
Almost everything is great. This is the most addictive game I ever played, it just makes you want to go up in the air again and score more points, get more medals, hurt the enemy as bad as you can with your limited fuel/weapons load. Flight model seems to be good, and I often use high stall speed to help me maneuver during dogfight. Excellent game... whoever played it, must be horrified at the sight of Il-76 Mainstay on the radar.

The Bad
The engine noise is irritating, and it's way too easy to shoot down anything from the sky using only guns.

The Bottom Line
Low-resolution simulation, endlessly addictive. Minor bugs with gunfire, but otherwise this is the way a game should be made. Today's games which are based solely on graphics could learn a lot from this one and its gameplay and atmosphere.

DOS · by Dan Horvat (2) · 2005

[ View all 4 player reviews ]

Trivia

Development

A section of the F-19 manual explains the process behind its design (and the design of computer games in general:

The Design Team

Simulations such as F-I9 Stealth Fighter require a large, talented creative team to produce. The 16-bit version was engineered by that now-famous team of Sid Meier (master of algorithms and data structures that recreate reality) and Andy Hollis (one of the hottest 3-D and assembly programmers in the nation).

Sid’s the founding father of MicroProse (along with President “Wild Bill” Stealey), and brings a veteran viewpoint of game programming and game design. A large number of features in this product started with Sid saying, “Wouldn’t it be neat if The neat part is that Sid then goes and implements the code that very day!

Andy is one of MicroProse’s veterans, and has done fast, tight 3-D code before —in C64 Gunship, and then again in IBM Gunship. Each time Andy finds new ways to get more, faster, in less space. Andy isn’t our only 3-D expert. For example, he used some Scott Spanburg’s secret and magical object logic, which Scott had just finished conjuring for another (future) MicroProse product. Andy’s a great fan of high speed anywhere: in computers and in cars (he races autocross in his spare time).

Jim Synoski, creator of the original C64 Stealth Fighter, was dragged into this version to help out. He was nice about it, especially about all the things Sid changed! He worked with ace computer artist Max (“Maximum”) Remington to create the entire preflight and postf light system. Even an “old guard” expert like Jim, veteran of many other MicroProse games, can be impressed (distressed?) by the complexity and detail involved in Briefings and Debriefings. The apparently limitless variety of IBM graphics modes (VGA, MCGA, EGA, CGA, Tandy and Hercules) doesn’t help!

The 3D databases for the four “worlds” were created by game designer Bruce Shelley and artist Max Remington. It was here that “Maximum” got his nickname. For a while every object he created went right to the data space maximum, causing something new to “blow” in Andy’s code, like an engine overrevving too far. Fortunately 3D graphic glitches are fairly obvious to a trained eye — all were spotted and eventually fixed. Bruce’s job was more difficult. A veteran of many board wargame designs, he worked within the very complicated and often frustrating limitations of a microcomputer’s data space layout. The remarkable fidelity of the data space world to the “real” world is a testament to his perseverence. Fortunately he was a good sport through it all, perhaps inspired by the 7:00 AM basketball games in the warehouse with ‘Major Bill’ and other B-ball fanatics within MicroProse.

All this data and graphics takes up a lot of room. In fact, F-IS Stealth Fighter on our development systems occupies about five megabytes (fifteen 360K floppy disks!). It’s problems like these that David McKibbin was born to solve. His compression schemes “shrank” the code and data to its current size! Every time the disk drive loads something, it runs through a special “decompressor” that expands the code andior data to “full size” in memory. This means you’re getting a product that would otherwise require a hard disk and command a retail price well over $100. So David’s saving you a lot of cash as well as making F-19 commercially viable.

The paper materials were conceived by designer Arnold Hendrick, author of this manual. Usually MicroProse’s marketing department is concerned about the size, weight and cost of our manuals (not that it does any good, the manuals always go over budget). But for this product the word was, “go all out”. Arnold took them at that, although they gulped hard when the page estimate jumped from 128 to 192! The rumor that marketing’s office furniture was pawned to pay for the extra paper is entirely unfounded. Incidentally, the design, layout and artwork of the manual, maps and overlays were all done on computer with final output on Linotronic typesetters. In his alter ego as manager of the game design group, Arnold kibbitzed unmercifully about various aspects of the design. Surprisingly, Sid, Andy, Jim and Bruce even took him seriously (at times).

Murray Taylor, 3-D artist extraordinaire, designed the basic “look” of this manual, executed the weapons illustrations, and did the six full-page computer pictures that grace these pages. How he finds time for the triathlon remains a mystery even within MicroProse.

Barbara Bents did yeoman (yeowoman?) work with the technical drawings, maps and keyboard overlays. MicroProse uses state-of-the-art drafting and layout software on MacII’s for many internal graphics. Barbara’s designs, however, consistently went beyond the abilities of current postscript interpreters. Unfortunately, we didn’t write the software.., so when we phoned the creators they just said, “Oh, gee, sorry. You’ll just have to do less complicated things!” The keyboard overlays were difficult for a different reason: we redesigned about as fast as she could redraw them on the Mac! For surviving these trials and tribulations, she wins MicroProse’s competitive and coveted “most tolerant artist of the year” award.

Everybody at MicroProse takes Ken Lagace for granted. He’s the quiet. silver-haired gent who gave up teaching and performing professional classical music for a career as a computer sounds composer, with scores of brilliant scores to his credit. You’ll probably take him for granted too, since the sounds for F-l9 Stealth Fighter fit right in!

Finally, the QA (quality assurance) staff at MicroProse approached this product like all others: with the maniacal glee of a mad scientist! Al Roireau, Chris Taormino and Russ Cooney just love to find bugs, then torment the poor, exhausted programmers with multi-page bug reports. In fact, they enjoyed itso much they stayed late nights, then came in on Saturdays and Sundays, for weeks on end, for just that purpose. In fact they’re still cackling over the airfield-in-the-ocean bug, or the 1500 kts level flight bug, or... well, you get the idea. Unlike many software companies, at MicroProse QA really does have the final say for shipment. Until “Big Al” gives thumbs up, the product stays in testing and the programmers continue slaving over the bugs.

F-19

The game was named "F-19" as it was originally thought that this would be the name of the then-unreleased Stealth aircraft. However, it was finally named F-117A, which is the name of the next stealth simulator released by Microprose.

Since the game was designed when the F-117A was still classified, the external views of the aircraft were approximate. The F117A has been made "public" around the same time the game was released, so Microprose modified their game so that you could see the real aircraft instead. By default, you got the original; you just had to rename one or two binary files in the game's home directory to enable the new one.

To be exact, rename the files STFLT.3D3 to STFLTF19.3D3 and STFLT117.3D3 to STFLT.3D3. To undo the changes, rename STFLTF19.3D3 to STFLT.3D3.

The 8-bit versions were called Project Stealth Fighter on the box, but F-19 Stealth Fighter in the loading screen. The fictional Stealth Fighter portrayed in the game is based on a 1982 model kit by Testors. The kit caused a certain amount of controversy at the time; although the design was no more accurate than Craig Thomas' Firefox, the stealth programme was supposed to be top secret, and the US senate - not knowing what the real F-117 looked like - assumed that Testors had been given access to sensitive information. As noted below, Microprose's simulation was overtaken by events.

Game worlds

At least in the DOS version it is possible to copy Middle East and Vietnam game worlds from F-15 Strike Eagle II to F-19 Stealth Fighter directory and switch two of the original worlds with these, so that you can fly in these worlds. The names of the game worlds replaced are still the original ones in the theater selection menu, however, so you must remember yourself which worlds you replaced. Make sure to back up the original worlds before doing this trick.

Gulf war

Ironically, the 'Limited War' level of the Persian Gulf campaign in the game involved the US helping Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, including protecting 'friendly' vessels sailing out of Basra (particularly oil tankers) from attack by Iranian missile boats and planes. In the wake of the Operation Desert Storm two years later, the Iraqis in the game's sequel F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0 were no longer the allied nation that they had been in the original game, and the new game included a Desert Storm campaign.

Hint book

Compute! books published a full handbook to help you play this game. It helped you develop a strategy and avoid being detected.

Sid Meier

Sid Meier on F-19 Stealth Fighter:

F-19 was the last flight simulator that I wrote. I felt that it was everything I knew about how to write a flight simulator, and I never felt the need to write another one after that. That didn't mean that Bill [Stealey] didn't keep asking me to write them, though.

--From the gaming history book High Score! by Rusel DeMaria and Johnny L. Wilson (2002)

Awards

  • ACE
    • October 1988 (issue #13) - Included in the Top-100 list of 1987/1988 (editorial staff selection)* Amiga Joker
    • Issue 01/1991 – Best Simulation Game in 1990
  • Commodore Format
    • May 1991 (Issue 8) - listed in the A to Z of Classic Games article (Great)
  • Computer and Video Games
    • Issue 06/1989 - Runner-up Golden Joystick Award 1989 for Best 8-Bit Simulation Game (reader's vote)* Computer Gaming World
    • October 1989 (Issue #64) – Simulation Game of the Year
    • October 1990 (Issue #75) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #52 in the “150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • EMAP Image's Golden Joystick 1991
    • April 1991: Best Simulation - 16 Bit
    • April 1991: Best Simulation - 8 Bit
  • ST Format
    • January 1991 (Issue #1) – Best Simulation Game in 1990 (Atari ST)
    • August 1991 (Issue #8) – #17 Top Atari ST Classic Games (Editorial staff vote)
    • January 1993 (issue #42) – #50 in '50 finest Atari ST games of all time' list* Zzap!
    • January 1990 (Issue 57) – 'The Best Games of the 80's Decade' (Robin Hogg)

Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Ashley Pomeroy, NH, Olivier Masse, PCGamer77, Sabri Zain and Trixter

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Olivier Masse.

Windows, Linux added by Charly2.0. Amiga added by Rebound Boy. Atari ST added by ektoutie. PC-98 added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Kasey Chang, Neville, Patrick Bregger, Jo ST, FatherJack.

Game added December 2nd, 1999. Last modified August 20th, 2023.