Microprose had had a great deal of success programming flight and combat simulations during the mid and late 1980's, squeezing quite a bit of realism and detail out of computer systems when the 286 was considered an advanced processor.

One of the most realistic and for its time, ground breaking simulators was the 1988 release F-19 Stealth Fighter, which simulated the then rumored United States Air Force stealth fighter. For its time, it was extremely detailed, as it immersed the pilot in an entire continents worth of fighters, SAM radars, missile boats and hundreds of miscellaneous targets. I spent a great deal of 1990 playing the original Stealth Fighter from Microprose.

Of course, even with all the games detail, I eventually moved on to other games, but I always wished I could reimmerse myself in its world. Which is why I was quite happy to find the sequel to the original game, Microprose F117A simulator, the other week. This game is advertised as version 2.0, and indeed, after playing it, I realized that perhaps the Microprose game designers were a little too respectful of the original formula.

This game is basically the first game, with slightly better graphics, more maps to fly on, and some bugs worked out. In addition, since this game was released in 1992, after the actually F-117 had been publicly viewed (as opposed to the theoretical F-19), the game included the ability to fly the plane as it actually existed, with no cannon or air to air capability.

However, for all those additions, this game is almost exactly like the first one, meaning that this game, released in 1992, seems to be lacking some details that four years of computer technology could have allowed it to have. For example, every target the game presents you with is either totally destroyed by a single missile or round of gun fire, or not affected at all. For example, when strafing a naval unit, a single 5 round burst from your plane's cannon will totally destroy it. It would perhaps have been more interesting if it would have instead taken several passes to do so. The inverse of this is also true: it is impossible for one of your bombs to take out several enemy targets at once. If you drop a bomb on a cluster of enemy targets, it will only destroy the one closest to where the bomb hits. There is also the issue that the game, other than keeping your plane from hitting the ground, is not much of a flight simulator as such. The game doesn't really get into the mechanics of flight as such: your plane could just as well be propelled by anti-gravity as by aerodynamics. Also, other than your plane, there is not friendly forces active on the game map. It would have been interesting to add in some AI controlled allies or wingmen, or added a campaign game. These were all acceptable shortcuts in the original game, which was designed for equipment as old as the 8088, but it seems like they should have made a better game engine since they had better technology to work with.

So the only reason to play this game at the time it was released was that its graphics were designed for the 386 and later processors, which of course doesn't seem terribly impressive in the present day. So, while the original game is still considered a landmark in gaming history, the sequel is considered a footnote.

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