BAH, pranged again. And after a successful mission as well. I'd just finished blasting villages and tank farms along the Libyan coast, had sunk a couple of ships, and was manoeuvring to land back on the US carrier when disaster struck. The engine stalled.
Not a fatal occurrence unless you happen to be flying at 200 feet, which is what I was doing at the time. Still, at least it was only a training mission. After being warned not to try it again in real life and given a combat readiness strip, I was ready for my next mission.
Or I thought I was. Oops, killed in action said the roster, just after my supposedly dead body had been cleared for combat service. Bit of a bug methinks, but thankfully the rest of F-19 Stealth Fighter makes up for it.
If you thought Ocean were somewhat mean with their skimpy packaging for F-29 Retaliator (the aircraft that will never see active service) you have a treat in store with this Microprose game.
The box is huge, the manual thick, slickly produced and glossy, and there's a couple of maps and a keyboard overlay to help you master one of the world's most sophisticated aeroplanes.
It may be a complex plane, and a ditto game, but getting into the air is easy enough so you won't be spending three hours reading the manual before you can take off. You'll want at some point though, otherwise you won't have a clue what's going on.
F-19 Stealth Fighter offers four theatres of operation: That new American favourite, Libya, the frighteningly topical Persian Gulf - though the designers have missed out by not including countering an Iraqi invasion - the North Cape, and good old Central Europe.
Initially you will be offered training missions in which the enemy cannot hit you and you cannot crash, though this can be changed straight from the start. There are more than 4,000 different missions to be undertaken, though just how different some of them are is debatable.
Before taking off the four weapons bays of the F-19 need to be filled up, and here the program scores highly. Virtually every missile and bomb you could wish for is available.
The ground crew recommends your ordnance, but this can be changed to whatever you like. The back of the manual contains a welter of information on weapons systems, or even if you aren't au fait with missiles and bombs you can check up and choose for yourself.
This should be done because in the mission detailed above the ground crew installed a Maverick thermal imaging ground to air missile, which is acceptable against ships.
What I really needed, and did install, was a Harpoon, sea-skimming, radar and inertial guided missile. This is the standard anti-ship missile of the navy and air force.
As mentioned earlier, taking off is easy, as is manoeuvring and flying level. Mastering the techniques of maximising the F-19's radar invisibility attributes takes practice though. Thankfully the excellent manual will guide you through fooling radar, avoiding missiles, strafing ground targets from 3km, and tackling hostile warplanes.
Unlike most other flight sims, the F-19 pilot needs to concentrate on remaining undetected until the target is reached, and the become invisible again after leaving the area.
Old Microprose hands will welcome the various medals and awards handed out after increasingly successful sorties.
The speed of animation is impressive in F-19. Flying at low altitudes the scenery just whistles by, unlike F-29 Retaliator. Sound effects are generally good, but when you are flying a silent fighter you don't expect to hear much until the action starts.
F-19 Stealth Fighter has class written all over it. The graphics are pretty good, if not quite as glossy as the recent competition, though they are fast and the round-the-
On the other hand, if you want a superb, sophisticated, enjoyable, complex and action packed simulation then you want a copy of F-19, a sim from the people who really know about sims.