JOYSTICKS have spend several decades occupying a strange niche in the gaming peripheral world – they’re either incredibly complicated replicas of literal jet aircraft control columns, or they’re cheap and simple, almost retro-inspired designs that are fine for arcade-type games.
Turtle Beach have introduced a new controller that’s designed to fill an obvious gap in that market, and they’ve proved they have the right stuff with the Turtle Beach VelocityOne FlightStick.
While their previous offering, the VelocityOne Flight Control System, is clearly designed to emulate a civilian plane (specifically, a Cessna 172), the VelocityOne FlightStick is a more general purpose design which does an excellent job of letting you control pretty much anything, whether it’s a turboprop flightseeing plane, a jet airliner, a stealth fighter, or a spaceship.
The remarkable thing about the VelocityOne FlightStick is how is manages to pack a lot of features and buttons into an intuitive package. Nearly every single button or control has a clear and obvious (or easily remembered) purpose, and there’s even a touchpad and a small display screen there too.
There are 27 different buttons on the FlightStick (plus the trigger), including two hat switches, two throttle controls, and the Xbox buttons, but they’re all so well laid out you don’t notice them all immediately and won’t find them overwhelming when you come to use them either.
I really liked how the buttons were labelled with their corresponding number – so when the game said something like “Press Button 6 to lower landing gear” on screen, I wasn’t sitting there thinking “I don’t know which one is Button 6! Which one is button 6?” and pressing buttons randomly before then wondering why the engine had suddenly stopped working.
I spent a lot of time in Microsoft Flight Simulator testing the FlightStick out and it didn’t miss a beat – in fact, it was set up intuitively straight out of the box; all the buttons and controls were mapped to what you’d expect and there were no input lag issues etc.
The little touchpad above the scrollwheel functions as a mouse in Flight Sim in PC mode, meaning you can access in-flight menu options very easily, the hat controls and throttle sliders were responsive with no drift, and you can even adjust the controller for left or right-handed use, too.
Obviously flying around scenic coastal areas in a Grumman G-21 Goose in Microsoft Flight Simulator is one thing, but how about something a bit zippier – like, say, an X-Wing Fighter in Star Wars: Squadrons?
While I had to remap the controls (the game’s issue, not the FlightStick’s), it performed really well as a combat flight stick too – I had absolutely no issues controlling a TIE fighter to blast rebel scum out of the skies (space?) or strike a blow against Imperial oppressors from the cockpit of an X-Wing.
According to Turtle Beach, in addition to Flight Simulator, the VelocityOne FlightStick’s software is also compatible with Elite Dangerous, Ace Combat DCS World, X-Plane 11 & 12, War Thunder, and Everspace 2, so we can add them to the list of games you can play with it too.
What makes the FlightStick even more attractive is that it works perfectly with both Xbox AND PC (you can switch between configurations via the menu wheel at the base of the stick). Plug it in, select system, away you go – the experience is same regardless of which platform you’re using. The FlightStick even has the Xbox buttons on it so you can access the system menus etc, just like you would with a regular controller.
While it doesn’t function as a regular controller otherwise (ie, you can’t use it to play non-flying games; I tried to play several titles including Strange Brigade, World of Tanks Legends and Sniper Elite 5 on the Xbox Series X just to see if they’d work and I couldn’t even get past the “press any key to start” screen), it definitely works for flying games – I was even able to play Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge with it, (albeit using the throttle switch as the gun/rocket controls), and that came out literally 20 years ago for the OG Xbox.
There is a price tag attached to the FlightStick – about AUD$250 – but there’s enough features and usability here (along with the build quality) to justify that, especially if you’re more than a filthy casual when it comes to flying games. In short, I think the price is right for the offering and while it’s not entry-level, it’s a great mid-point between a basic joystick and a full-on HOTAS system modelled after a real aircraft’s controls.
I only have one noteworthy issue with the VelocityOne Flight Stick, which is that the control stick has noticeably more resistance than I’d like and isn’t adjustable in that regard. It’s not a dealbreaker, especially given how good the rest of the offering is, but it something to beware of if you’re very particular about getting the optimal stick response in your hand (phrasing!).
This is easily the best all-round, accessible-to-everyone joystick I’ve had the pleasure of using in years and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it for anyone looking to take their flight game experience – either serious simulation, combat, or arcade – to a higher altitude.