Ok, so I started flight simming in about 2002 when I got a bundle of a crappy joystick and Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator + Micrsoft Flight Simulator 98 from Dixons. I was so chuffed with myself, here I was ‘flying’ a Hurricane and getting to shoot people down like a proper Douglas Bader (with legs). I joined 79 Squadron and never looked back, gradually upgrading the sticks as I found the £20 combo to be rubbish in reality! Progressed through the wireless Logitech 2.4GHz stick (which I loved!) until I got to try CH Products pedals and Combat Stick in about 2004/5.
I have used them since, they have been solid, dependable and had more than enough buttons and it was completely programmable so I could make all of those buttons do practically anything that I wanted. This met my needs for DCS World, IL2 1946, IL2 Cliffs of Dover and IL2 Battle of Stalingrad. They were not cheap at approximately £120 each, but their longevity made them worthwhile. Add to that the CH Pro Throttle and I was a very happy camper, then in 2015 I got the CH Throttle Quadrant (eBay special!)…more axis than you can shake a stick at.
Thing is it could only last so long and 12 years or so seems like a pretty good run (They do still have life in them). However, I kept hearing good things about the Thrustmaster Warthog, and the CH stuff is getting a bit glitchy, brake pedals very sensitive these days, the rudder pedals have cut through their own cable and had to be repaired, the USB cable going into the Combat Stick had had to be cut once, resoldered and it’s not holding up to the rigours of use anymore. Add to that the throttle never registering 100% power and it could get difficult to keep up with squad mates if I had not recalibrate the stick before use!
I know a few people that have the Warthog and the reports were superb, the reviews online were the same. I thought long and hard because it is not cheap, but at the same time the CH Pro stuff was not cheap and it had lasted this long. So I waited for a good second hand one to come up on eBay.
So, a couple of weeks later I feel I can give a pretty decent overview of my experiences of the Warthog.
First impressions…it’s heavy. This is no cheap plastic stick, this is metal construction. It’s very robust and feels superb. The switches and buttons are reassuringly solid and you know when you have pressed something, you can’t pull the two-stage trigger by accident! I have reasonably large hands, so I can reach all of the buttons without much of an issue. The feel of the throttle is really good, it is very smooth and the action is great – with the ablity to increase/decrease the resistance in the movement. The stick is stiff, again, it does not move without proper input. I opted to buy a 10cm extension to aid with this and the fact that I have always had the stick centre mounted and not on a desk.
The stick comes with pre-drilled holes for mounting it to a surface, as well as this the actual stick can be removed from it’s base and attached to a home cockpit. I tried this but it was not suitable on my chair. Instead it is screwed through the seat and onto, what was, a fold out platform. The Throttle comes with similar holes and this is screwed on to a plaform on the side of the chair.
The buttons and switches match those on the stick in the A-10C and around the throttle assembly. So there are engine starter buttons, EAC control, Autopilot control, hat switches, buttons, sliders, and thumb switches all in easy reach and all in just the right place for you to manage a complex workflow in a (virtual) combat situation. The throttles can be adjusted separately, if required, but I have only used them linked up. There is a bar that slides across between the two throttles which moves them together, this is easy to disengage without stopping what you are doing, should you need to. Added bonus…the throttle backlit with green lights, so you can see the controls in the dark! (Unless you’re using the Oculus Rift like me!)
So, what’s wrong with it? As a stick, nothing. I’ve never used a better joystick. However, for the cost I would hope not. The downside is the TARGET software. It’s not user-friendly and it is not simple to work out. I know it talks about being drag and drop but I can not see how this works. I also can not get it to recognise all of the buttons once it is programmed. Consequently I have not been using it and I have just used the sticks in plug and play mode. This means that I am missing out on a lot of potential functionality. The stick is fully programmable, like the CH kit – which in itself was not very beginner friendly but it was 1990’s stuff so not so surprising. The Thrustmaster software is being updated with the latest controllers so it’s not that old it should be simpler than it is. I do intend on getting the Thrustmaster rudder pedals, which also use the same software, so I may have another go once I have them; but I think it will take a few YouTube tutorials before I get the best out of the software.
However, this does not stop you using the HOTAS, and it shouldn’t stop you buying it. I’m sure it is perfectly workable if you have the time to sit down and plough through it. At the moment I have 13 week old twins and don’t have this luxury (add sleep deprivation into the mix, along with a demanding wife and I don’t have much hope!).
If you are looking for a HOTAS that will last you for a very long time, that is capable of handling pretty much anything that you can throw at it then this stick is up there with the CH Kit (which I am still a big fan of). If you use DCS world a lot, and especially the A-10C, then this is perfect. It works straight off in DCS with the buttons pre-assigned in the correct places for the A-10C. With the 10cm extension it is excellent for helicopter control, allowing small inputs to be made precisely. If you do not have rudder pedals then you’re going to struggle to use this with a helicopter, in fact I’d go so far as to say it is nearly impossible. There is no twist rudder function – as you would expect from a replica of a real stick. the build quality is excellent, the feel is superb, the precision is as good as you can get. It’s a definite recommend.
I will add photos this evening, at the moment the title image is from Thrustmaster.