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New Toy…

I used to be a great fan of the “study sim” genre – flight sims which tried to model their aircraft as accurately as possible. The acme of the genre (and simultaenously its nadir thanks to system requirements and a plethora of bugs and instabilities) was Falcon 4.0, a simulation so accurate that F-16 pilots reported no discenable difference between the simulation and the real thing (beyond the obvious). They even took one player of the simulator up in a real Block 52 F-16 and had him fly for a few minutes, and he was able to do so successfully (not to trained professional fighter pilot standards, true, but for a guy who trained on a home PC, it was a definite succes).

Well, the new laptop can finally handle the computation load that went with Falcon 4.0 (which was enormous back when it was released), and a new version with all the patches and updates since 4.0 was released recently (Falcon 4.0 Allied Forces), so all I need is a new USB joystick (my old thrustmaster kit was wonderful to use but needs a joystick port my laptop doesn’t have).  Away to Maplin and I buy this utterly ridiculous-looking thing, seemingly the last USB joystick in Dublin (none in PC World, none in Game, none in WH Smiths even – maybe Petes had some but they had closed):

Saitek ST290 Pro
Saitek ST290 Pro

Don’t get me wrong, to get the job done it’s grand – stick, throttle, a few buttons (sorry, but five thumb buttons, a pov hat and a trigger is not a lot for a flight sim joystick when you’re used to the Thrustmaster HOTAS systems 😀 ) and rudder through twisting. But look at it. It looks like an extra from a Transformers fight scene, and not in a good way!.

See, this is what I miss about the study sim genre. Yes, you got an inch-thick book, actual paper maps of the area you were flying in, had to learn arcane jargon and procedures, needed a top-of-the-line PC (which is why I fell away from the genre in the end, Falcon 4.0 demanded so much that it just broke my enjoyment) and “proper” gameplay was a dedication of several hours and it was often more cerebral than adrenal. But that was the joy – it was immersive escapism at its best.

And the joysticks didn’t look so utterly ridiculous.


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