Red Baron II/3D from Dynamix/Sierra is a sequel that attempts to capture the W.W.I era of aerial combat with missions that accurately reflect the talent and skill needed to be successful as a fighter pilot.
The premise in Red Baron 2 should be simple to grasp. Hop in your plane, take to the skies, and shoot down or blow up the other guys. Simple right? Well, it is and it isn't. This isn't a very high tech machine you will be flying. They are not very fast, have as much mobility and control as a tub of dirty bath water, and hitting someone with a machine gun sometimes takes as much luck as it does skill. Even experienced pilots from modern flight sim games will find a bit of a learning curve in Red Baron II/3D.
The game can be played in single player or multiplayer mode, with varying types of play for each. In the single player, you can jump right into some dogfighting against enemy pilots by choosing the "Fly Now" option. For these games, you can customize the missions by altering your choices, like which plane you'll be flying and what type or types of plane(s) you'll fly against. You can set the enemy's AI level to one of five choices, ranging from novice to elite, and can determine how quickly other enemy planes will appear after you encounter the first one, which can quickly turn a one-on-one battle into a "soup." For almost all of these options you can choose a random setting that will make each "Fly Now" game different from the previous one.
If you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, or just some more structure, you can fly one of the game's standalone missions. They range from simple tutorial flights that introduce you to dogfighting and attacking strategies, to escort missions and nasty battles against ace pilots. If you master all the missions provided, the game provides you with an option to create your own. You can have these missions stay true to historical parameters, as determined by the game, or can have the freedom to dream up anything you want. While there are a lot of settings to consider, creating missions is actually fairly simple. Pick a map, choose both a starting point and a landmark for the actual battle, choose flights for both sides in the battle, indicate which planes and pilots you want involved, and you're pretty much ready to go.
The most challenging and involved single player mode is the campaign mode, where your successes and failures in a battle actually have future consequences. Unlike the single missions, where you have to start a new game after every battle is finished, the campaign mode links together the experiences of a pilot. As you fly more missions and successfully complete them, your reputation will improve, you might be awarded shiny medals for your chest, and you'll have the opportunity to transfer to different squadrons with better and more experienced pilots. If you make five kills in combat, and that would be enemy kills, not friendlies, then you'll be able to customize your plane with the paint plane option.
In the campaigns, all pilots take part in missions as a member of a flight, which is in turn part of a squadron. Whether or not you get named to these positions has a lot to do with how successful you are and what the rank and experience of the other pilots in your outfit is. Both squadron commanders and flight leaders can make decisions within the realm of their responsibility, whether that be a whole mission or simply which pilots you'll fly with or who will fly what planes. Squadron commanders can make changes to the mission itself and all the flights that will be a part of it. A flight leader can make changes to his own flight, but not those of any other flight in his squadron. This means you can change the route you take, waypoints along the way, what weapons and ammo you'll have on each plane, etc.
Multiplayer play is well supported in Red Baron II/3D. Using the game's Massive Multiplayer Arena you can play via modem in the internet or via LAN. Once you have started the MMP Arena you will see different servers run by other players. Online play is free of charge. You can choose to join in or start your own server using the free MMP server software. Regardless of your connection type, the server host (i.e., whoever runs the server) chooses the game options. This includes the difficulty level, which determines the flight model etc. Up to 64 palnes can be found in one server, realistically about 30 planes for good server performance. It depends mainly on the bandwidth the server is provided with, while playing via modem or ISDN provides sufficient bandwidth on the client side.
The two main multiplayer game types are 'Team Target' and 'Team Melee'. In 'Team Target' the object is to destroy the other side's ground targets before they destroy yours. 'Team Melee' is a simple dogfight with no ground targets included. You can either have teams or play "every man for himself" in the melee games. Other options in multiplayer include whether you can damage an ally with friendly fire and which players will be on which teams. The planes used in each game depend upon what the server settings are and which team you are on, if you are playing a game with teams. In a melee game, you can choose any plane you wish.
Your plane's control panel, which can be toggled on and off using the keyboard, provides all the crucial information you'll need to successfully fly your plane. An engine temperature gauge helps you ensure you don't burn out engine while the oil pressure gauge ensures you have enough oil to keep from overheating. The tachometer, compass, altimeter, inclinometer, airspeed indicator, and artificial horizon all help you keep your bearings and let you know how fast you are going. As the pilot, you'll also have access to your kneeboard, which is essentially a miniature map of your current mission. This map keeps track of all the important information, including waypoints, flight path, and your current position.
The best on Red Baron II/3D is its very active game community which still brings amazing patches and enhancements after all these years.
To have a quick rundown about the game's enhancements, tips and tricks and where to start your Red Baron II/3D experience take a look at the comprehensive Red Baron II/3D Newbie Page.