So, bit the bullet and bought AFS4 on Steam.
After using ASF2 for few years periodically, usually load it when I miss VR flying at 72+ fps, I must say I'm impressed and disappointed in the same time.
I'm still definitely impressed with the how aircraft fly and react to controls. Still one of the best sims out there in terms of physics and feel of flying, shoulder to shoulder with X-Plane. I'm also impressed how stable and bullet proof default airliners are. Flew 2 full flights with A320 and A380, both followed a flight plan perfectly, to the millimeter, climb and descent are perfectly on profile, SIDs, STARs, everything. Something that NONE of the rest of the sims have in offer with the default airliners. MSFS is far from it, and even with addons it struggles to get it right.
I'm also very positively surprised how many "hand crafted" airports are in the sim. Plenty of choice. Time skip feature is a genius move by IPACS, also none of the rest of the sims have something like that, especially the way how smart is implemented. Kudos to the devs for the idea.
But this is where the positive side of the story ends.
Scenery is pretty bad in overall. If I exclude a ton of buildings, and vegetation added, which is plus nonetheless, the most importantly, ortho imagery is just bad in colors and resolution. It's usable over 30k feet only. I mean I get it, IPACS used a free cloudless ZL13/14 source, but there should be a better solution, probably by using custom made EU ZL16 ortho. Will definitely try that. I have an amazing Switzerland HD for AFS2, and I don't have a clue can I use it in ASF4 and how (it's an addon from Steam).
Sound is still pretty bad, even FS2004 does way better in that regard. Not sure why sound is not left open for a simple modding, like replacing WAV files. Quick and effective.
Weather is still static. If only devs can add weather themes per region (departure, cruise and arrival airport region will be enough), should change everything.
Visuals are still way obsolete, and I also think it looks worse than AFS2 for some reason. Maybe it's a bit darker, maybe it's becausae bad ortho all around, maybe bad sky colors, but in overall I like AFS2 lighting better.
VR hands are amazing to use for buttons and, some switches, but for knobs and dense switches area, it's very cumbersome, clumsy and sensitive. I was flipping the nose gear light switch many times accidentally when turning on the landing lights in A320. How many times I was flipping the ADF switches while changing the range on the ND! Very frustrating to the point I used mouse at the end.
So IPACS had the time to solve these issues with sound, VR controllers and eventually visuals, yet they decided to "only" focus on airports and aircraft systems. While I applaud on the aircraft simulation efforts, it's time to move from year 2010 and follow the technology. AFS4 would be my main sim if I can create the whole EU in ZL16, play some PA announcements in the background that recognize aircraft states, better sounds for the airliners, and of course adjustable weather per region (rain/storm included). Ah, cloud shadows would be a plus.
BTW any good scenery for EU/part of EU, or I need to create the ortho myself? Any tutorials?