I will say that the game would improve 10 fold if you could manually pilot a'la freespace. But it just wouldn't really work, since you're flying cruisers and battleships, etc.
But honestly, the combat isn't THAT boring most of the time. If it's boring, you're probably doing something too easy. I was running L3 missions yesterday, surrounded by about 25-30 pirates in mostly cruisers and t2 frigates (I believe they were T2) and it was really gripping. There's so much going on that it pulls you in, and in a much different way than Freespace or WoW does. Freespace and WoW have "on your toes" twitchy reflexive combat. EvEs combat is very thoughtful, you're sitting there thinking "oh **** oh **** I'm running low on cap, they're eating away at my armor.... I don't have shield boosters... should I warp out and come in again? Can I pull this off... drop one gun, switch on hardener 2... wish I had another cap recharger... **** they took out one of my drones! Release another medium.... take out that cruiser, then focus on the webifier..."
Then again, maybe this enthusiasm for EVE combat just shows how much of a dork I am.
And hell, everythingis exciting when you're flying in very lowsec (0.3 and below) and you're on the edge of your seat, scanning local chat, looking at peoples info, trying to figure out who the pirates are... where they are... HOW to be SAFE. Nerve wracking.