Flight simulation games have always had a firm following amongst wannabe pilots who want to relive WWII dogfights or experience more modern jet warfare. Essential to this air combat are a decent joystick and throttle control and while there have been many recent advances in design and functionality, none has totally managed that bridge between authenticity and gameplay compatibility. Until now.
Saitek already made a massive impact in this area with the X-45, which provided multi-programming options on two solid pieces of hardware. The X-52 is essentially an upgrade with so many new design and function enhancements that flight sim fans will be drooling in their cockpits.
The first thing that strikes you is how strong and durable both the joystick and the throttle are. Both have large square bases designed in sleek black and silver and a mass of blue LEDs that look impressively sexy with all the lights out. They are also built with comfort in mind: the joystick even has a 5-position adjustment to suit all hand sizes as well as a wide hand rest to take the strain out of extended gameplay.
The secret of success with this equipment is taking the time to discover all the programmable features and then start assigning, which will take some time. The joystick has a 2-stage metal trigger as well as a ‘pinkie switch’ which can be used as a shift key to double up on commands. In addition there are two 8-way hat switches (one pre-defined as point of view), three fire buttons as well as a missile launcher protected by a safety cover and 3 toggle switches on the base for a further 6 combinations. Finally there’s a rudder twist handle at the base of the spring-loaded joystick which can be locked off if required.
On the throttle control there are two more fire buttons, another 8-way hat switch, a clutch button (which initiates ‘safe mode’ to allow on-the-fly profile selection), a thumb slider and two rotaries to provide axes for pitch, trim and yaw settings. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even a mouse controller (which will take a little getting used to) which can double as another hat switch and a left mouse button (for clicking on-screen menus, etc.).
The completely new feature on the throttle base is a Multi-Function Display screen which gives you details of the three modes you can choose from, the name of the command you’ve assigned to a button, plus the name of the profile in use. At the bottom of the display are details of the time zone plus a stopwatch to tell you how long you’ve been in the air.
First time flight sim players could easily be daunted by the sheer volume of gadgets, buttons and options (a possible total of 90 presets) but the SST Proramming software that’s supplied guides you through the various functions in a highly user-friendly manner. It’s designed to work with other game genres as well as flight sims, so you could use it for first person shooters, etc. (though probably not for driving games!).
What will ultimately convince you that this is the future is when you lay your hands on the two controls and see how snugly they fit your hands and how smoothly they operate in-game. At such a reasonable price, it’s hard to see how much they could be bettered.
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