Night Hawk: F-117A Stealth Fighter 2.0 is the sequel of the combat flight simulator F-19 Stealth Fighter by MicroProse.
Released for MS-DOS in 1991, it features 256-color VGA graphics and other improvements compared to the previous game. The Amiga version was released 2 years later. Even if the graphics of the DOS version is better, the Amiga version has better sound and music, as well as more user-friendly controls.
Mmm...F 117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter...Officially it would be the "sequel" to F 19. Generally a sequel should be a product that improves on the previous one. Was that the case for the F 117 Nighthawk? I remember that at the time, and we are in the early 90s, I bought both versions, so I was able to fully test both simulators. Well, F19 was well done, also from a graphic point of view, for that period it was well done. In particular I remember that the explosions on the targets were convincing. Perhaps where the F 19 lacked a bit was the number of missions it was capable of generating and there were also fewer scenarios. But its strong point was the maneuverability of the aircraft. In fact, almost immediately it was possible to establish a "feeling" with the fighter's commands. Its successor, the F 117A, featured more missions, but was less convincing in graphics. But above all it had a strong weakness... Maneuverability!!! The controls were very slow and prevented the player from maneuvering with the necessary precision.
And let's get to the game..."F-117 Nigthhawk" dealt with what at the time of the early 90s was the main topic among flight simulators, namely the so-called "Stealth" aircraft.
At the time, the news was all about the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait, with the involvement of the United Nations, led by the United States.
The air campaign, which unleashed the so-called "Operation Desert Storm", was widely documented by the mass media and the world of video games has not been excluded.
I think the reason for the release of this game was the recent conflict in that part of the Middle East. Its predecessor, i.e. F19, with its scenarios did not cover the military operations of "Desert Storm". In fact, there were only 4 scenarios that included Gaddafi's Libya; The Iran-Iraq conflict; The Cold War in the North Cape area; and finally the classic scenario of central Europe, where it was thought that a conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact could break out.
With "F -117 Nightawk", the scenarios increase to 9!!! Indeed, in addition to the aforementioned Desert Storm, there was also the 1989 Middle East involving Israel and its rival neighbors. Then there was also the 1994 Vietnam scenario, a hypothetical new US involvement in that scenario. There is also room for a scenario involving Cuba in its hypothetical attempt to expand its influence over the Central-American countries. Finally, the scenario of North Korea, with its hypothetical alliance with China to drive American influence out of Asia.
Obviously the 4 scenarios of the previous game remained confirmed and the simulator reproduced the game mechanics of F 19 quite faithfully.
The "dynamic" campaigns had not yet been developed by the programmers of the time, so each mission was an end in itself. If in one mission you destroyed an enemy radar station, if you stayed in that scenario again, at the next mission, that radar, it was there again!!!
So it was necessary to plan the mission well. It was necessary to check the distance to travel, if it was a lot then it was the case to sacrifice a load of weapons to carry additional fuel.
A point in favor of this version of the game was the fact that when choosing weapons it was not always possible to choose the most "comfortable" weapon. In fact, it often happened by chance that a certain weapon was not available, very realistic.
Once the choice of armaments had been completed, we could leave, and as I have already written, unfortunately we immediately came across the poor maneuverability of the aircraft, this fact will accompany us for the entire duration of the mission and will be penalizing precisely in the delicate landing phase. Another positive factor was that each fired weapon had a certain probability of missing its target, while sometimes it could happen that even a direct hit would not have been sufficient to completely destroy a particular target. Here too the realism is good. Obviously these things happened based on the degree of difficulty of the game that the player chose.
The part dedicated to avionics was very accurate, a wide range of video cameras, which detected the situation outside the aircraft in all its 4 main directions, i.e. facing; behind; To the right; and to the left. So target identification was 100% guaranteed. There were a variety of buttons dedicated to defending the aircraft, depending on the threat, whether it came from radar-guided missiles or heat-seeking missiles.
Tactical maps or grid maps could be used for easier identification of various threats.
The weapons available were many, ranging from air-to-air missiles, to air-to-surface missiles, to more conventional free-fall weapons, and most importantly, each of them had a certain effectiveness. The various displays also included a variety of screens,for viewing waypoints, choosing a particular waypoint to follow and a complete overview of remaining fuel reserves - very important if you intend to hit more targets than those prescribed by the mission itself.
In this game, good resource management was a cornerstone of the simulation.
You could choose to go on a top secret mission, using the "stealth" features of your F117. Or try to deal with the enemy's anti-aircraft defense, hoping that the characteristics of the aircraft are able to evade the enemy's defenses.
As in F 19, also here, with F -117 at Nighthawk, it was possible to choose to work in the context of the "cold war", i.e. the current situation, to carry out a completely clandestine mission, here the emphasis on additional objectives not indicated in the mission must completely eliminated. Since war has not been declared, the actions had to be completed "top-secret" and nothing else was to be done beyond what the command instructed us to do. In fact, more targets destroyed meant serious repercussions in the world community. What had to be avoided at all costs was damage to civilian structures. It was also necessary to avoid visual detection by the enemy. To put it in other words...We, "OFFICIALLY" HAD NOT HAD TO BE THERE. In this scenario, almost all missions were reconnaissance on ultra-secret enemy targets!!! Enemy radar operators often didn't even turn on their detection equipment, as there was no state of war.
Choosing a "limited war" situation, we would have found ourselves in the middle of an ongoing, fortunately still limited, local war. The rules of engagement for missions in this conflict situation can now also include other military objectives not indicated as main objectives in our mission, i.e. we can hit other objectives, as long as they are not civilians. In this situation, since there was already a declared war going on, the enemy will certainly be more alarmed.
The last choice concerns that of a "conventional war". Here things have already come to a head, weapons have taken the place of diplomacy and all restrictions on civilian targets of the enemy have been lifted. In this situation, we no longer have an obligation not to be detected. Here the command expects us to do more than what we've been ordered to do. Strangely, however, I have noticed that in the condition of "conventional warfare" the photographic type missions, which seemed to be more appropriate actions in the conditions of "cold war" or "limited warfare", also exist in the case of "conventional warfare".In any case, regardless of the type of scenario chosen, exploiting the "stealth" capacity of our aircraft is a wise thing. The mission that we are assigned is made up of two objectives, one primary and the other secondary. Once destroyed, these are the targets that give us the highest score, the other targets that we can hit will always give us a significantly lower score. So we will be able to destroy many targets not foreseen by the mission, but if we don't hit those indicated by the command, once at the base ... it will always be a failure !!!
Therefore, it is always advisable not to be detected by the enemy, at least until the first primary objective. At that point we will certainly be discovered, but once the primary objective has been achieved, we can try to recover our stealth again, moving away from the area of the target we have hit and while the enemy will search in a certain area with missiles, radars and planes , we will be able to sneak out of that area and head towards the secondary target indicated in the mission. At this point, we will do the same maneuver with this second target and if there are still weapons available and enough fuel, we will be able to hit other targets that we find in our way. This is to have a high score and ... who knows, even promotion or a medal waiting for us at the base.
Judging if there is a favorable situation to keep hitting, to increase the overall score of the mission, is the exclusive task of the player. If there's any damage taken, if we're low on fuel, or if there are several enemy planes chasing us, then... it might be time to disengage.
Keep in mind that if your mission involves taking photos of a target, if things go so badly that you have to parachute, other than the possibility that the enemy will find the remains of our aircraft and examine it, thus compromising potentially future missions, the camera is on board our plane that crashed, so the command, your requested photos would never have !!! Then the mission will be considered a failure.
When we select a target, based on the type of weapon we have selected, the system colors the aiming reticle. Depending on the type of color and shape we will know if this weapon will be effective or not on the target. A big white rectangle indicates that the weapon is capable of destroying the locked target, when the rectangle turns into a circle, then it means that we are with the effective range of the weapon, when, finally, that circle turns red, it means that the accuracy on the target is at its best ... it's time to launch !!! Attention remember that, except for the machine gun, to fire the selected weapon, you must first open the "bay door" of the weapon you intend to fire.Once your job is done, it's time to go home. In the game, the airstrips are oriented north-south, therefore, this (unrealistic) situation allows you to plan your return. Indeed, just maneuver so that the waipoint, which indicates the direction of our base, is at 0 (zero) degrees, if you are coming from the south or, if you are coming from the north, our waypoint should be exactly 180 degrees (one hundred and eighty ). This way you should arrive at the base perfectly aligned with the runway.
But, as I said before, the painful notes start here, the handling of the plane is so awful that if you need to wiggle a bit to line up perfectly with the runway then it's a safe bet that the controls too slow of the plane affect everything. This happens to me who played with the keyboard commands, who knows ... maybe playing with the joystick, things could improve, but I don't believe it that much..
It's a shame, because once this flaw was removed, the game would still make a good impression even now, more than 30 years after its first release !!!
Guys, there's another problem... The game does NOT save score; nor the medals and of course not even the career of the pilot !!! In my opinion he will never be able to do it, because from the instructions in the manual, and also from my memories of when I used to play it with my old "Amiga", the game, for the saves, would require a separate disk. At the time of the Amiga this meant using an old floppy disk, but now this is obviously no longer possible. So, when you finish a mission, the game keeps score, medals and career until you turn off the simulation. The next time you start another game session, just go to the pilots' bulletin board to realize that everything we've done previously has gone up in smoke! The game does not recognize us any previous achievements! The only way to try to remedy this big problem would be to rely on the saves via the emulator, i.e. using "SAVE STATE" and "LOAD STATE", hoping that the future smooth running of the game will not be affected! At least to me, this happens.
Review by: Maurizio Petta
Published: 10 January 2023 6:37 am