Space trucking and exploring in Elite: Dangerous. Dogfighting in Star Citizen. For the first time since the glory days of 1990s space sims, the flightstick is a must-have peripheral. An Xbox controller just can't compare to the feel of a flight stick and throttle, and you'll want every one of those buttons and switches for controlling a space ship or dogfighting above a Battlefield ground skirmish. We've tested out seven sticks to help you decide which to buy. If you're on a budget, never fear—one of our favorite sticks is a mere $50/£40.
Andy Mahood takes to the skies, race tracks, and battlefields in our monthly In Simulation column to showcase the best that sim games have to offer. This month, Andy test drives the Ferrari of flightsticks and shows how it can take your flight sim experience to the next level.
"Always use the right tool for the job.” Sage advice from my father many years ago, but his words rang especially true this past month when I finally got my paws on Thrustmaster’s latest HOTAS Warthog A-10C flightstick and throttle.Weighing in at almost 15 pounds, the mostly metal HOTAS Warthog is the Rolls Royce of Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick controllers for current-generation flight sims. It ain’t cheap (the best online price I could find was $350), but if you’re serious about your virtual combat flying, it’s one of the best investments you can make.
The one thing we don't review enough of in the PC Gamer hardware pages is game controllers. A fair number of wheels and joysticks with nasty plastic cases and pseudo rumble reactions pass through The Labs, but very few of the old fashioned, real-world simulation kits which used to be a stalwart of PC gaming get strapped to the test bench these days.
Partly, this is because gaming tastes have changed and the sims that require this gear aren't as popular as they were – it's been five years since the last Flight Sim, for example. Partly it's because there just aren't as many industrial strength peripherals around any more, and what there is can be very niche and usable only by the kind of sim fans who already have a real helicopter pilot's licence.