Written by  :  Kasey Chang (4617)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2002
Platform  :  DOS

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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.