Saitek Aviator Flight Stick for PS3 and PC|
It’s been a long time since I’ve needed a joystick for my PC, but with the recent release of Microsoft Flight I found myself visiting my “Closet of Unused Controllers” to find something suitable to replace my mouse as the primary input for flying around Hawaii. Sadly, nothing I had (and I had many) were suitable or compatible with Windows 7. Thankfully, the guys over at Saitek hooked me up with a couple of sticks that were compatible with the new Flight game. While neither are particularly new nor “hot topic” hardware releases, if you are a gamer playing MS Flight and looking for a stick, this one may be for you.
The Saitek Aviator is a unique hybrid stick that works with the PC as well as either the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 depending on the version you get. In the interest of doing the most complete coverage possible we had requested a PC/360 model, as I have numerous 360 flight games, but instead we received a PS3/PC version. Sadly, I didn’t have a single game on the compatible game list, but I did borrow a copy of HAWX for a quick test.
Just to get the console portion of this review out of the way; I had played HAWX on the 360 a lot and was pretty used to twin-stick controls, and since that game is hardly a simulator it still controls best with a gamepad in my opinion. The stick functions well enough with no issues with the PS3 other than the completely dysfunctional length of USB cable – less than 6-feet. That may work on a PC setup but not in a home theater where I am sitting about 10-12 feet from the TV. I’m not about to take my PS3 out of my entertainment center and sitting less than 6-feet from a 58” plasma is not a good idea.
Things are a bit better on the PC. The stick plugs right into any available USB port and Windows 7 was quick to detect and install the default drivers. Depending on your OS you may need to download new or updated drivers. You’ll also need to switch the stick into M2 (mode 2) for use with the PC. M1 is a PS3-exclusive mode for HAWX. The Aviator is deceptively lighter than you’d expect given the large base and thick stick design. Personally, the stick sat a bit too high on my desk for comfortable use over extended periods of flying. It was also a bit top-heavy and tended to flop around a bit. Continued use would require something like Velcro to keep the stick stable. Suction cups would have been useful.
The buttons are all labeled with PS3 symbols so you’ll need to figure out which buttons are what in the PC universe and map them accordingly. Two buttons aren’t in a very convenient location, so you are reaching under your right wrist to access them on the front of the base and neither are the twin throttle sticks that have you reaching around behind the stick to adjust. The split-throttle can also be locked together for single engine planes or games that don’t allow for independent throttling. The primary stick has a good feel and snappy return-to-center and also has a twist-axis feature that can be mapped to the rudder. A directional hat on the top will move your camera view around in Microsoft Flight allowing you to look out the window or down at the instrument cluster and there is a pair of buttons and a hinged secondary fire button on top that can be assigned to any function you like.
The Saitek Aviator is a fairly simple flight stick; actually a bit too simple for my purposes, which was mainly MS Flight. The only other PC game that ever tempted me to use a joystick was flying around in Battlefield 3, but there are still unresolved compatibility issues with that game; mostly software related. It’s easy to see that this game was designed with console use in mind and PC functionality was just a happy accident. I didn’t find it very useful, comfortable, or convenient for MS Flight. It works but it's nowhere near as nice as the Cyborg X (or F.L.Y. 5) stick which is also $49.99. And since most all of my console gaming is done on the Xbox 360, this PS3 Aviator is headed for the “Closet of Unused Controllers” until some PS3 flight game arrives.