I love military aircraft. I saw Top Gun the weekend it premiered. I go to air shows every summer. Every time I stumble on Afterburner in an arcade, I head for the change machine. So when I saw the surprisingly small box show up at my door with the Saitek X52 Flight Control System in it, I knew I was in for a fun few weeks of reviewing.
The X52 is made up of a joystick and throttle, a manual, an installation disk, and suction cups to attach to both the joystick and throttle. These are all packed rather efficiently in a box that looks barely big enough for the joystick. I have yet to use the suction cups, as the rubber feet on the components work well to hold them in place.
As for the controls themselves, they have everything a flight sim or dogfight junkie could possibly want. The joystick features a two-stage trigger, 4 fire buttons, 2 8-way Hat switches, and a joystick handle that twists left and right for use as a rudder. One of the fire buttons is designed to work as a missile launcher and is even covered with a spring- loaded safety cover. The throttle is tension adjustable, with natural positions for idle and afterburner. It also has an 8-way hat, 2 fire buttons, 2 rotary controls, a slider control, a scroll wheel and a very small knob that functions very much like an IBM Touchpoint control.
On top of the active controls detailed above, the joystick has a 3 position rotary mode selector, and 3 spring-loaded controls that can be programmed with up to 6 flight commands. The throttle has a multi-function display, that shows current date and time, along with current mode and profile the joystick and throttle are in. These controls are all programmable through the software included with the system.
What struck me the most is how “real” the joystick and throttle feel. For one thing, they’re heavy. And I mean, HEAVY. I’ve never used a joystick with so solid a feel. The throttle also has substantial heft to it, and remains remarkably smooth. The joystick connects to the PC, with the throttle connecting to the joystick.
One of the features that I found most useful was the adjustable height of the “dead man’s switch”, the pinkie trigger on the joystick handle. I have big hands, but without the ability to adjust the placement of the pinkie switch, I would never have been able to use it in game play.
hardware adequately described, I think it’s time to get into the game play,
where the X52 truly excels. Wanting to see what the X52 could do in a variety
of situations, I played LucasArts’ Secret Weapons over
X52 in Secret Weapons over
JetFighter V: Homeland Protector was a bit more worthy of the X52’s abilities, and with some adjustments to the X52’s software, I was finally able to make use of the missile launch button for its’ intended usage. The first time I got to flip the spring-loaded cover and launch missiles, it was a pretty sweet feeling.
Microsoft’s’ Combat Flight Simulator uses World War II aircraft that for the most part took the missile launcher out of play, but allowed for the most realistic flight experience with the controls. I have to say it also made for the easiest use of the controls, and required the least work with the X52’s software.
In conclusion, if you are looking for the top flight control system at a reasonable retail price point, the X52 is the choice for you. It may seem like I’m becoming a bit of a Saitek fanboy, but the X52 is truly worthy of the Editor’s Choice award for it’s solid construction, multitude of controls, easily programmable software, and terrific look and feel.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
On my 12th birthday, I got a floppy drive, I stayed up all night playing Stock Market for Commodore 64. I owned everyone I knew at the various NHL titles for Genesis. I first learned how to code in LPC in the middle of the night from a heroine addict on the campus of Michigan State University back in 1992 when MUDding was the only ORPG there was. I was a journalism major my first time through college, and have been writing off and on since, and programmed up until 5 years ago, when I put down the tools of ignorance to become a business analyst. I'm a member of several gaming 12 step programs for MMO's, and I don't game nearly as much as I used to. I'm mostly on the lookout for items you haven't already seen reviewed 50 times, whether they are games, or just things a gamer might use. I'm now work out of GN's east coast office in Boston, and looking forward to spending the weekends my fiancee is away with Boston University Women's Hockey playing games while the snow falls. View Profile