- For those authentic flying moments.
Packaged with the Mad Catz published Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII Collector’s Edition, flight combat game fans will find the rather nice Saitek Pacific AV8R Flight Stick Controller. We will take a look at the game another time, but for now the emphasis is squarely on the flight stick and what it can bring to a flying game.
The AV8R Flight Stick has been around for a while now and is a firm favorite amongst the more hardcore flight combat gamers. However, packaging the flight stick with a game and then making that available for the PS3 and Xbox360 will introduce many new players to the complexities of using a flight stick, myself included. The big question that the average gamers will be asking is “how does it compare to a control pad?”. Well, we’ll get onto that in just a moment. First, let’s have a look at what you get…
Within the Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII Collector’s Edition box, alongside the game itself on your chosen platform, the flight stick comes in two parts, the base and the stick itself. The two parts are joined together easily and tightened into place without the need for any tools. Also in the box are four optional curved feet. These are just slotted into place to provide a nice curved underside which can comfortably sit on the players leg, giving a more authentic experience.
Authenticity seems to be the keyword when talking about this flight stick. The stick itself has a comfortable rubberised grip allowing for long dogfighting sessions, and is shaped with a firm nod towards the actual sticks used back in the day, or so I am told. The trigger sits perfectly under the trigger finger, and gives a healthy click when pressed. However, I found the trigger personally to be a bit light to press and would have preferred something more substantial.
On the rear side of the stick, perfectly placed for the thumb, can be found three additional buttons and a small stick. The small stick is the equivalent of the d-pad and, on the PS3 version that I was using, the three buttons are labeled as cross, square and triangle, with circle represented by the actual trigger. Whilst this made sense for the layout of the flight stick, I did find that the square and triangle buttons were not naturally placed and I constantly had to think about where they were when I wanted to use them. It takes a bit of getting used to.
The stick moves nicely in the hand, pivoting and twisting with ease. There is a good amount of springback to the stick, offering some resistance which makes the experience feel more natural.
On the far side of the base there is a very cool throttle control which feels good to use. Finally the front side of the base are the start, select and PlayStation buttons, two stick buttons representing L3 and R3, and a circular black “nub” button. These are all laid out so they are easy to use whilst keeping with the authentic look.
The build quality is solid, especially for the stick itself. The actual base is not quite as good, looking and feeling somewhat plasticy. The unit itself is far too light, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your preference. Personally, I would have preferred a heavier feel over the comfort of the lightness. Packaged with the flight stick is a sheet of stickers so the player can customise the look to suit their taste.
As for using the flight stick in Damage Inc., or any of the other supported games (which include the likes of Hawx 1 and 2, IL-2 Sturmovik and Blazing Angels), it is certainly a learning curve. As someone who has played games like this using a controller, albeit not very successfully, changing to a flight stick made things much more difficult. With practice though, I found myself performing aerial maneuvers with ease and dogfighting at a level that I had previously not been able to achieve. The flight stick allows for a much higher level of control and, as a result, a much more immersive experience. It takes time, but much like using a steering wheel peripheral, using a flight stick can raise your gaming to another level. That being said, using the stick successfully is still an investment of time that the more casual gamer may not be willing to take.
When it comes to rating the Pacific AV8R Flight Stick controller, it is quite difficult. The build quality is good, but the base could have been better, and the button layout is not natural. However, when I compare with other flight sticks I have used in the past, which have all been mighty PC-based sticks, the Pacific AV8R performs favourably. It is a lovely flight stick, but still will only really appeal to the more hardcore flight combat gamers out there. Gamers who are less serious would be better served by sticking with a control pad for console-based aerial combat.