FOR a proper flight sim experience, it is generally accepted you need a joystick or a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) system.
Yes, you absolutely can play them with a console controller or a keyboard and mouse, but it’s just not the same.
For many years, Thrustmaster have been the dominant force in joystick/HOTAS systems, but with the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator in late 2020, there’s been a renewed interest in flight controllers from a much wider gaming segment than the tradition hardcore sim or space-pilot crowd.
With that in mind, Turtle Beach have released their first flight control system, the VelocityOne Flight Control System, designed to work with Microsoft Flight Simulator on either PC or Xbox.
Broadly, the system resembles the flight yoke of a light aircraft like a Cessna 172, with an attachable throttle lever quadrant similar to that found on jet aircraft; it also features vernier-style adjustable levers for fuel mixture, throttle and prop pitch. The throttle quadrant levers also have interchangeable tops, so you can customise them to better reflect how you want your setup to operate.
There’s also a screen in the middle of the yoke which can be used for a range of activities including switching profiles, a very helpful training mode (for working out which button does what) and also a chronograph, which will be of interest to people determined to keep track of elapsed flight time (and by extension how much fuel is left or when they need to make a turn etc).
The system mounts on to a desk or bench with clamps which are accessed via the top of the yoke dashboard; a very large Allen Key is also included. Once it’s fixed in place, it stays there, and I found it easy to detach from my desk when I’d finished – which is good, because it’s a bit hard to type when you’ve got a flight control system in the way.
Control wise, the Velocity One is excellent – it’s responsive and the way the yoke operates is much closer to a real aircraft than a traditional joystick. I tested it with several aircraft, both propeller and jet powered and it made a big difference to the experience. It was extremely responsive – it was very easy to make minor adjustments and the yoke really added to the feeling I was actually flying an aeroplane.
The yoke itself has 180-degree turning in either direction as well as push/pull input for nose down/nose up controls.
There’s two POV switeches and two hat switches (one on each handgrip), along with all the Xbox buttons, plus another 10 programmable buttons on the thrusters quadrant. There are, in other words, no shortage of buttons, controls, or things that light up on the VelocityOne.
Rudder controls are handled by the triggers on the front of the yoke; a surprisingly intuitive system for MS Flight Sim but less helpful for combat games like Il-2 Sturmovik, where I want to use those triggers for firing guns and rockets but instead had to use the LB/RB controls above them instead.
As you may have gathered, that does mean the VelocityOne can be used with other games – but reprogramming it was not a user-friendly experience for me. As a plug-and-play setup for Flight Simulator on PC or Xbox, it was fine – but trying to reprogram the controls for anything customised proved quite difficult (for example, I couldn’t work out how to reprogram one of the throttle levers to be for flaps).
Turtle Beach have said the VelocityOne’s standard profiles are compatible with Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and Elite Dangerous on PC and Flight Simulator, Elite Dangerous and Star Wars Squadrons on Xbox. Hopefully that list will continue to expand.
One caveat – you can’t use the Velocity One for navigating the menus on Flight Simulator; you’ll still need a controller or mouse for that. I gather that is a Flight Simulator issue rather than a fault of the Velocity One, however.
The “control panel” on the Velocity One has a series of warning/status lights that are supposed to respond to data from Flight Simulator (such as letting you know which position your landing gear is in, stall warnings, etc) but it doesn’t work without downloading and running another piece of software, which needs to be kept open in the background while you’re using Flight Sim.
It’s entirely too complicated for something that should just be “plug and play” – not to mention not available for Xbox at all right now.
Another issue I had with the Velocity One was feeling the thrust controllers lacked tension/resistance; I kept waiting for them to fall back to the bottom position. They didn’t, but it felt like they would and it wouldn’t take much to bump them out of position.
The real question is “Is this peripheral worth AUD$479?” and the answer to that depends on how much you love Flight Simulator.
If you’re a casual flightseeing pilot then you’re probably better off sticking with the basic Xbox controller – but if you really love the Flight Simulator experience (especially on console) then there’s a stronger case here; especially since it’s the only flight yoke I’m aware of at present that works on both PC and Xbox.
I still think it costs too much for what it is, however. If it was around AUD$349, or not largely made of plastic, it’d be a much, much easier recommendation.
The VelocityOne does, however, offer a very accessible flight control yoke system with throttle quadrant – it’s less intimidating than some of the other offerings out there, and will get you in the pilot’s seat very effectively indeed.