Reviewed: July 22, 2002
My history with ThrustMaster goes clear back to 1990 when their original PC flight sticks were being assembled by hand in the owner’s garage. During these past 12 years I have owned and used just about every single wheel, joystick, gamepad, weapons control system, and yes; even those famous pinball paddle buttons that attached to your keyboard. Suffice to say; when it comes to ThrustMaster, the only person more experienced than me is the founder of the company.
Last December I reviewed the Fox 2 Pro Shock for the PC, so I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect when my ThrustMaster Fox 2 Pro Top Gun for the PS2 arrived for review. The stick looks and feels just like it’s PC cousin and aside from the PS2-blue highlights, and the addition of a few new buttons, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart.
Here is the list of features for this stick:
The 8-button layout is very nice with a nice sturdy trigger, and several buttons on both the stick and the base. They are all clearly labeled to match the buttons on the standard PlayStation controller. The joystick swivels on its main post and can be used as a rudder or possibly even a throttle for a helicopter flight sim. If you don't like the twisting handle you can lock it down. A handy knob is located on the bottom of the base that you can use to adjust joystick tension/resistance, and the 8-way directional hat serves as the second (or right) thumbstick.
Installation is a snap and consists of opening the box and plugging the cord into your PlayStation. There’s nothing special required to make this joystick work with any of your PS2 games, although by its very design you will find it suited to certain genres of games. I tested this stick with several games in my library and here are the results.
Ace Combat 4 is the definitive air combat game for the PS2 so naturally it was the first game I tested. It also helped that it was first in my alphabetically arranged software shelves. Out of the box, the Fox 2 Pro took a bit of configuring before it worked with this title. By default, the game throttle was assigned to the twisting stick and the game rudder was assigned to the sliding throttle on the base of the joystick. Naturally, this was quite confusing, but since all the buttons and controls on this stick are totally configurable it was easy enough to fix. Once the controls were all properly assigned this game played like a dream, and before I knew it I was 8 missions into a game I hadn’t played in as many months.
Dropship is the most recent flight game in my library and the nature of this game just didn’t lend itself to the control scheme of a joystick. The fighter missions played well enough, but most of the other VTOL planes require heavy use of the R1/L1/R2/L2 buttons used for intricate hovering moves.
Fireblade was the next game to be tested. This new assault chopper game from Midway played like a dream, and I was able to use the twisting motion of the stick to control my altitude, just like a real chopper. The rest of the commands mapped quite nicely to the buttons on the stick and base.
Savage Skies is a dragon combat game that plays just like a flight sim and worked very well with this joystick. While the game worked well enough with the Dual Shock it played even better with the Fox 2 Pro.
Silpheed was the next game I tried. This game is more of an arcade shooter, so I wanted to see how the stick performed as a simple joystick that you might find in an arcade. Larger than the typical 3-4 inch stick found on a coin-op box, the Fox 2 Pro was a bit awkward a first, but after a few levels I found yet another game that played better with this controller.
Sky Odyssey was one of the first flight games I ever played on the PS2, so after I blew the dust off my copy and found my old save game I started to relive this amazing title. The joystick worked flawlessly but I did find that using the stick [mentally] required me to play the game in first-person camera mode. There was just something “weird” about using a stick and seeing the plane at the same time.
The last three games I tested took me to a Galaxy Far, Far Away, as I fired up Star Wars: Starfighter, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, and Star Wars: Racer Revenge. I had previously played and completed all three of these games using the standard Dual Shock, but the amazing level of precise control the Fox 2 Pro offered was enough to make me replay many of my favorite levels in the Starfighter games and take three racers through the pod race championship series. I had expected the star fighters to control well, but I was totally unprepared for the new level of immersion in pod racing, complete with nice vibration effects.
The stick has a nice weight that makes it comfortable in your lap or heavy enough not to slip around when resting on the coffee table or even on the arm of your chair. The motor inside the handle generates some good vibration effects; not to be confused with force feedback. These effects do not move the stick around in relation to gameplay, but merely offers various vibrations to enhance the on-screen action.
When it comes down to deciding to purchase this controller you simply have to ask yourself how many games do you own (or plan on owning) that will make good use of it. There are plenty of games available that will make great use of this controller, and the fact that it works with other PlayStation models adds even more potential value if you have any flight games for these legacy systems.
At $40, this joystick is a bit pricier than a normal controller, but if you own one good flight game and want to experience it in a way simply not possible with a conventional controller then you owe it to yourself to get the Fox 2 Pro. You might just enjoy it so much that you will start looking for more games to go with it.