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.
This is an oversight I hope to fix in the hardware section I'm putting together at the moment (issue 233). I'm on the hunt for the best controllers out there, and let the devil take the price. These are the wheels, sticks and pads that make games more like real life and command collector's prices.
The local couriers are not so happy. Not only does Thrustmaster's T500 RS GT (opens in new tab) wheel (pictured above) cost almost as much as a second hand car, it weighs about the same too. And that's not including the crash cage-solid frame that supports the pedals. My office is up a fairly tight flight of stairs. Sorry, UPS man.
I don't tend to play many sim games nowadays, being more of an FPS and RTS fan, but playing with this kind of kit is proving to be a highly nostalgic exercise which brings back many memories from when I did. Without wanting to sound too geeky, a really good peripheral can create just as many memorable moments as a well designed game, especially when the two are almost perfectly matched (and I don't mean in a Guitar Hero kind of way).
I'd be enormously grateful, for example, if our sister mag PCFormat would return my Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 , the best joystick ever made bar none. They borrowed it for a photoshoot several years ago and it hasn't been seen since. I still mourn its loss, and the memories of Mechwarrior 4 and Crimson Skies it left behind.
Any suggestions for favoured kit you'd like to see included in the round up gladly received.