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Thursday 12 February 2004

Flight controllers [muz]

I am what you might call a bit of a sim nut. Helicopters, space sims, mech games, you name it, I've played it at one point or another. Mainly with the aid of my trusty Saitek Cyborg 3D. A truly fine piece of engineering, it has been my ally in the never-ending fight against the German war machine in Il-2 Sturmovik, the Shivan horde of Freespace 2, the Red Menace in Enemy Engaged: Comanche Hokum, and (most recently) the terrorist scum in the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942. It's also been dead handy when playing various Mech games, but to be honest, they're not as interesting, so I'll spare you the details.
While playing Desert Combat, I noticed that my control of helicopters seemed a little... off. Not to worry, says I, it's probably just the engine and the poor joystick components of DX9. How wrong I was.
After the crushing disappointment I suffered at the hands of the Deus Ex: Invisible War demo chronicled in blog 574, I understandably approached the sequel to another of my all-time favourite games, X2: The Threat, with more than a little trepidation. I needn't have worried. X2 appears to be a fine successor to it's namesake; a huge, living, breathing universe in which the player is free to pursue his goals through any means, fair or foul, all set against the dramatic backdrop of an impending alien invasion. Woot. (Expect a blog about it at some later date).
However, after being blown away by this masterpiece's real-time introduction sequence and loading up the first tutorial, I noticed something inconceivable: my ability to finely control the movements of my craft was almost non-existent! It appears, that after six long years of dedicated service, my Cyborg has finally succumbed to the ravages of age... specifically, the spring controlling the resistance to movement has weakened to the point that fine control of pitch, yaw, and rotation is nigh on impossible (this also explains the difficulties I was having with the helos in Desert Combat). It served its time well, and shall be missed.
And now, at last, we come to the point of this blog. I need a replacement. I have searched far and wide, and returned with a list of candidates that I now submit for perusal.
First, the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro. Only available from Game, as far as I could see, for the fairly steep price of £79.99. Essentially the same features as my Cyborg, with Force Feedback thrown in, and without Saitek's ninja programming software.
Next, the Sidewinder Precision 2. As above, minus Force Feedback, for £39.99. A possibility.
And now, Saitek's offerings. The original Cyborg 3D is still available for the bargain price of £22.91 from Dabs, but why settle for less? There are several successors to the Cyborg, however, there are only two of interest to me.
The Cyborg 3D Force Feedback, is, as it's name suggests, a Cyborg 3D with Force Feedback. The stick has almost all the same features of the original Cyborg, with the added bonus of being slightly more ergonomic, and looking that little bit nicer. Yours for an even £47 from Dabs. However, I must note an issue that concerns me - that of the layout of the buttons on the base. Firstly, they have gotten rid of the two shift buttons... this is fair enough, as where they were positioned on the old stick (right next to where the stick met the base) meant that they were awkward and inconvenient to use. However, the remaining four buttons have been moved to where the shift buttons were. Though they are not as close to the stick as the original shift buttons, this is not encouraging.
The other Cyborg option is the actual successor to the Cyborg 3D, the


  1. I might be wrong but I assume that because of the way they are built force feedback joysticks are unlikely to ever lose their centre and resistance. Thus they should last alot longer and may effect your decision

  2. Hmm. That's a point actually. If it's true, it might have some bearing on my decision, but realistically, given that my Cyborg lasted 6+ years, I don't think it's that huge of an issue. :)

  3. wouldnt recommend sidewinder precision pro´s, i got one of the old ones and its fucked after not too much use... of course, the pro 2 might have been worked through. either way, im gonna get a saitek cos your lasted 6 years :)

  4. The ergonomics on the MS Sidewinder Forcefeedback job I have is appalling. I really can't be arsed with powered shite and no game, least of all Desert Combat, seems to make use of FF that makes it worth considering in my view.
    I was actually considering the Evo. I think the X45 is a bit of an overkill for me and I like the small and light look of the Evo. I'll probably get Saitek to send me one and check it out. The day the Sidewinder hits eBay is fast approaching...Another thing, the MS job really seems to have a rudder which is very difficult to control. This is less of a problem with DC - since you have to really ram the rudder to control an aircraft - but for X2 it's fucked, you need to precision rotate your craft. Also Muz, can you please not like the X45. It looks so elite/overkill that I just know I wont be able to resist it...
    Hans, you know that throttle control would be the win just for your keyboard DC :)

  5. Heh. I'll try, but I just don't see it happening. I've yet to use a Saitek product that doesn't do exactly what it says on the tin. Spiro's considering getting one as well now. :)

  6. I've had the precison pro and am currently using a pro 2. The 2 is a lot better (in that it's still working) but I've hardly used it that much, so wear and tear shouldn't be a problem at the moment anyway.
    I always though the x36? and now the x45 look a bit ridiculous, plus the fact that I like having one hand on the stick and the other on the keyboard for the extra controls.
    Having the stick and throttle either side of the keyboard seems like input overload to me :)

  7. Got them all at work now. I don't really like the X45. The stick doesn't twist, the thrust thing is just plain silly. The Evo has by far and away better ergonomics and is half the price and is adjustable and doesn't use up anywhere near as much space.
    The Evo is the nuts.

  8. Hello from sunny Singapore. The stick isn't supposed to twist, Mat... the rudder is handled using the rocker switch on the underside of the throttle?
    What's wrong with the thrust thing? Don't like the feel?

  9. Bah, it's very cold and shit here. I know it isn't supposed to twist, I also know where the rudder is supposed to be. The thrust thing takes a crap load of force to push and pull it. Which is OKish for jets I guess but it's fuck all use in a chopper that's for sure.

  10. Bleh. How unfortunate. Looks like it'll be the Evo then... unless you want to get rid of the X45? :)

  11. I do actually... you sure you want it though?

  12. Came accross this in a X45 thread:
    'I've had it for over 3 weeks now, at first the throttle was a bit stiff and moving it would actually cause the base to lift up, but later someone in this forum posted that there is a tension screw at the base, so I lowered the tension on the throttle and now it works fine.'Being a stirrer, I started a poll.

  13. I've just plumped for the Evo, not actually tried it yet, but it looks very sexy. I'm lookin forward to getting it home. It'll replace my Sidewinder force feedback, which I fucking hate.
    Oh and x2 sucks buckets of piss mux, you plannk!

  14. A fine choice in the Evo Slim. I went for the evil MSFF2 on the basis that I could get one for 20 quid. (No - it's not hot!). Takes a lot of getting used to for 1942 where a good non ffb stick would be better, but it really shines in IL2-FB. That's the trouble with FF joysticks really. You're at the mercy of the quality of the FF programming on a per game basis. Colin Mcrae 3 was slated on the forums for it's 'rumble' effects rather than providing proper feedback. Still I'm happy with my MSFF2 as it tracks a LOT more accurately than my old MS non FF joystick.