Since my C64 Microprose Gunship days I've loved flight sims but never been good enough to play with full realism settings. I prefer WW1 for some reason, so really enjoyed Red Baron 3d, which I played with about 50% realism settings, but RB3D is way old in the tooth now and doesn't play will even with glide wrappers (I go from120+ to 1 FPS). I've been on an FPS kick for a while so don't have any recent sim comparisons (I have IL2 but haven't really played it much as I crash way to much in it). I'm also not a good source of how well flight models or historical content is. I just like a good dogfight in old planes and this game definitely does it for the 1/2 arcade + 1/2 simmer in me.
So far I've only played Instant Action in First Eagles but I really like it so far. Looks nice for a small dev game. Tons of graphics and realism options that can either be quickly adjusted (Low, Med, High) or the different options can be customized. There are also Single Missions, Campaigns and MP but I have yet to try those. I haven't been shot down too often but I do have a hard time taken out the enemy though I haven't set them to Hard or ran any AI mods/tweaks (Game is easily moddable like its sister games Wings over Europe and Wings over Vietnam). It will definitely fill my WW1 prop fix until a more hardcore sim such as Knights of the Sky comes out, but this might be enough for me since I like shooting them down more than me crashing due to losing my wings after banking/diving too hard.
Casual sim fans of WW1 will probably like this like I do. The more full on sim crowd may like it more once its been modded or they may prefer the CFS3 mod OFF or the upcoming Knights of the Sky (By IL2 makers I think). I thought about getting OFF instead but CFS3 is still $30 and I've heard bad things about how well it runs so went with FE instead since its newer and expect any shortcomings to be either fixed by patches or mods. I also wanted to try out one of Thirdwires games as Wings over Vietnam may be my next sim purchase, but I needed a WW1 game to replace RB3D since I have IL2 to cover WW2 prop era (I'm not into more modern jet sims).
I tried the AI Mod v5 and the enemy and friendlies definitely are more aggressive and shoot at each other now. I got shot down a few times which was a rarity before. The flight model seems to have changed too as loops require a lot more height now and spins/stalls are easier to get into and a bit harder to get out of. My current pilot skills with this mod have me crashing into the ground by doing to many loops before they could get me while I was trying to get them. These are noted as prepatch mods but seem to work fine (They probably need some tweaking by the author but I like the AI changes so will keep it and look for the next version). I'm playing on Hard AI and Hard Flight Model so unsure how Normal + Mods would feel but it is harder now, which is a nice change.
While I do think RB had better atmosphere in the menus/pilot roster, FE has good atmosphere once in the game. RB does too but it really hates my system so I cant play it anymore without stutter and random crashes (unless I dig up my voodoo2s). FE feels good in the air with tons of planes and lots of flake bursting all around along with tanks on the ground. Though the flight model of FE isn't as hard as RB3D (I played RB3D on medium settings and can play FE on Hard settings). Both make me fight for my kills though, but the planes in FE do seem to break up quicker once hit than in RB3D, at least with default INI settings.
If only RB and FE could go off and have a love child...