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Sim Toys

Fly and Drive: 10 Sim Game Controllers

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I upgraded my first PC way back in the dark ages of the 1980s. The reason? I wanted to play a flight simulator at full fidelity.

Back then, I had a 20MHz 386 system that lacked a socket for an 80387 floating-point coprocessor. Yes, back in that era, the FPU was a separate chip. Real men added 387's to their systems.

So I replace the existing motherboard with a Micronics board that had a 387 socket. I also upgraded to a blazingly fast (!) 33MHz 386, as well as adding the 387. It was ludicrously expensive: My recollection is that the whole affair cost something over $1,000. All of this was so I could run Falcon 3.0 using the high-fidelity flight model, which required a 387 FPU.

Back in the era of DOS and Windows 95 gaming, the landscape for game controllers was rich and varied. You had companies like Thrustmaster (the original, Portland, Oregon based Thrustmaster) putting out realistic-looking flight controllers, CH Products with their line of flight controllers and a variety of other joysticks and driving wheels of varying quality and cost. Microsoft even dived into the PC game controller business, and I still have a couple of their force feedback driving wheels and joysticks around.

In the past few years, though, I've drifted away from simulations. Sims demand not only large amounts of time, but often have substantial learning curves. It's much easier to dive into Battlefield 2142, than it is to figure out how to turn on the engine, set the flaps and navigate the taxiways in Flight Simulator 2004.

Sims, however, continue to beckon to me. I've kept buying them—and putting them on the shelf. Finally, I decided it was time to give them a whirl again. There was no single game that really triggered this, but several titles kept mocking me from the shelf, including the spiffy new Microsoft Flight Simulator X, GTR2 from Simbin, and a host of smaller combat sims, including Over Flanders Fields, a nifty World War I mod to Combat Flight Simulator 3 and a space-combat sim called Starshatter: The Gathering Storm. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore.

To properly play one of these games, you need the right controller equipment. We round up ten of these:

  • CH Flight Sim Yoke
  • CH Throttle Quadrant
  • CH Pro Pedals USB
  • CH Products MFP
  • Saitek X52 Pro
  • Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
  • CH Fighterstick Pro
  • CH Pro Throttle
  • Logitech G25 Racing Wheel
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel
To find out which of these will give you the best sim experience, read on. Continued...
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