Now that Microsoft Flight Simulator is also available on Xbox Series X, those players keen on soaring the virtual skies are faced with a dilemma: how do we play (decently) a game as complex as the most complete civilian flight simulator currently available? Sure, Asobo has done amazing things to make the Xbox gamepad fully compatible with the game and to give everyone the chance to take off without investing any money, but it doesn't take more than a few minutes to realise how the pad is just a temporary solution, unable to make that leap forward necessary to transform a "game" into a "simulation".
The most involved fans in the world of flight simulation are probably waiting for a yoke controller that mimics the devices of most airliners (except Airbus), but everyone else may not be very inclined to invest a few hundred euros to find themselves with a bulky peripheral at home and, above all, with something that would be dedicated to Microsoft Flight Simulator only. So, we were happy to try the Thrustmaster T. Flight Hotas joystick for Xbox and PC, a versatile device, able to introduce us to the world of Microsoft Flight Simulator and, why not, to extend its use to other available titles.
To avoid misunderstandings, let's say it right away: Thrustmaster T. Flight Hotas is not a joystick for civilian flights. Fans will recognise the throttle shape, typical of military aircraft and similar to that of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Additionally, some may note that the throttle is designed to be used with the left hand, while in civilian aircrafts the commander always holds the throttle with his/her right hand. Conversely, the joystick is designed for the right hand, in a configuration that would only be used by the co-pilot on a civilian aircraft. Furthermore, the throttle stops midway, in a sort of neutral position that doesn't make much sense on a civil flight simulator, but which instead finds wide application in space flight games, where starships can reverse. The throttle features the four ABXY buttons, plus two additional buttons and an extra axis. The joystick, on the other hand, includes 4 other buttons, a hat switch and the Z axis. The hardness of the joystick return spring is adjustable with a screw located under the device, and the joystick and throttle can be joined (or separated) with an Allen key included in the package. Finally, on the base of the Thrustmaster T. Flight Hotas, there are the three central buttons of the Xbox gamepad, plus another three additional buttons: more than enough to manage all the basic operations of a flight simulator, but also of any other compatible game.
This leads us to first, an important advantage of the Thrustmaster T. Flight Hotas: its versatility. While, on the one hand, it is true that the product is not perfect for the simulation of civilian flights, on the other hand it can be used for a list of very different games, making the investment more than valid for those players who do not intend purchase a peripheral for a single title. Although we have had the Thrustmaster T. Flight Hotas for Xbox for only a few days, the product is created with the same materials as the PS4 version, which has accompanied us over the last five years for hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay on Elite: Dangerous: we are therefore convinced that even this version can enjoy exceptional durability.
Unlike the PS4 version, however, this joystick for Xbox Series X|S also includes the ability to connect the T. Flight Rudder Pedals. This accessory, as you can guess, adds the pedal board necessary to control the rudder and the brakes of the aircraft, and it does so through a dedicated port in the joystick that avoids you having to occupy a USB socket on your console. Unlike the joystick, this accessory very effectively mimics the pedal board of a civil aircraft, and is a tool that you learn to appreciate quickly, as it allows you to take a step forward in the simulation level.
The combination of Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas and T.Flight Rudder Pedals is therefore excellent for entering the world of Flight Simulator without spending a fortune, instantly improving your gaming experience: after a few minutes you will no longer want to use the gamepad in Flight Simulator. Of course, the product lacks the analog sticks needed to move the view freely inside the cockpit, and in general the more complex operations on Microsoft Flight Simulator require the presence of a mouse to move quickly between the various instruments. Finally, we would have appreciated a longer USB cord to relax ourselves on the couch: 1.5 meters isn't enough. Anyway, if you want to start flying "as real as it gets" - as the old Flight Simulator 98 commercials used to say - this joystick is definitely the key to entry in a totally different way.