Over the past few years there has been a re-emergence in space flight and flight simulator games. To capitalize on this market a few companies began manufacturing quality, realistic-looking, flight control sticks. Saitek has brought to the market three controllers all with affordable price points. Their mid-level flight stick the X52 Pro comes in at just over $150 and is unbelievably worth the money – I picked mine up on Amazon and it arrived within just a few days.
Upon unpackaging the controllers I was amazed at how much bigger they are in person than what they appeared to be in photos. They are extremely well-built and look like they were pulled right out of a jet fighter. It’s recommended you install the driver before plugging in the controller via USB. Although the driver comes on the CD I just downloaded the latest version from the Saitek website – because who has a CD-ROM drive anymore? The two controllers have wires that join together into one USB plug so you’re only using up one port, it’s little considerations like this that truly make a great manufacturer.
Once plugged in I opened up Elite Dangerous, the spaceflight game I’ve been playing for the last six months. I’ve tremendously enjoyed playing Elite but honestly become a little bored with it and I’m hoping the new controller reinvigorates my love for the game …and that’s exactly what it did.
Elite automatically recognized the X52 Pro and adjusted the default settings for use with the controller. Most of the default settings were perfect but I still had to go into the game settings and tweak a few key mappings for personal preference.
The very first time I flipped the glowing toggle switch to pull up the landing gear and then blast off with my ship I almost shed a tear. I honestly felt like I was flying my ship for the first time, sitting right smack in the cockpit, gripping the throttle control in one hand and the flight stick in the other. The feel and movement is absolutely magnificent. Most of the controller material is plastic but it feels completely sturdy and it gave me that next level of space flight enjoyment I was hoping to get with this purchase. Within minutes I adapted from the old keyboard and mouse control to flying around and making quick maneuvers with the X52 Pro. Probably the best feature is the red guard that protects the firing button underneath. When you flip up the cover your guns deploy and the red button glows red just begging for you to start lighting up some bad guys.
Now with the ability to Control your speed with one hand, Direction with the other hand, and thrusters with your thumb, you can make landings 2 to 3 times faster than ever before. The ability to twist the controller on it’s y-axis and point your nose left and right is a much more intuitive way of controlling your ship. When fully mapped you can pretty much toss your mouse and keyboard to the side and solely use the two controllers.
There is only one complaint I have with the controllers. Often times when I’m in combat and frantically jerking the stick around the base will slide forward or lift off from my desk. The base comes with four suction cups which unfortunately don’t stick well to my wooden desk surface. If you don’t mind making the controller is semi permanent fixtures on your desk surface I suppose you could use Velcro or some kind of clamp to lock them in place. I have also seen some metal controller platforms that wheel underneath your desk and allow you to affix the controllers and adjust the height of the stand but at the price of another $150.
All in all I really freaking love this controller! It has made a six-month Old game feel brand-new and given it a realistic flight simulation experience. Saitek didn’t just try and capitalize on a niche market, they attempted to make a great flight controller and they have done just that with very little compromise. If you are currently playing a flying game or planning on purchasing one you will absolutely want to experience playing it with a flight stick controller.