Gaming

Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS One (Review)

It’s been a while since I last played flight sims on my PC using a joystick. I had an old Saitek Cyborg 3D that was nigh on indestructible however the march of progress would eventually be it’s undoing as it required a game port connector (pre USB). Now that I’ve been regularly playing Elite Dangerous over the last few years I was keen to get back to using a stick again so needed to find a replacement. My only requirement was that I could also use it on Xbox too as I spend of of my ED time on that platform.

Luckily Thrustmaster have a solution with their T.Flight HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) line and in this case one specifically for use with PC and Xbox One (T.Flight HOTAS One). The main difference between this and and the PS4 equivalent (T.Flight HOTAS 4) are basically the PlayStation specific buttons are replaced with their Xbox equivalents. Since I do the majority of my gaming on PC and Xbox using an Xbox controller it made sense to choose that model.

The controller is tightly packed away in its box. Note the “Recommended for Elite Dangerous” panel.

Opening the box you’ll find that the stick and throttle assemblies are seperated with only a cable joining the two. This allows players to position them comfortably side by side however if you’re looking for convenience or have limited space the two can be combined into one controller that is secured together via screws tightened by the included Allen key. When playing on Xbox I did this so that I could have it sitting on a lap table and it worked fine. Connecting to a PC or Xbox One requires a free USB port and a platform toggle switch on the unit be set appropriately. For Xbox players you might want to consider getting an extension cable because I found it a little short (approx. 1.5m) for my liking.

There’s a fair share of buttons spread across the two controller assemblies. The stick used by your right hand has two buttons for your trigger finger and two plus a hat switch for your thumb which will be used A LOT. The Xbox buttons and platform toggle switch are on the base. Like my old Saitek, the stick can also twist acting as a rudder. The throttle for your left hand has the A, B, X and Y buttons near your thumb, two buttons under your trigger finger and a rocker type switch under the rest of your fingers. The spacing of these takes a bit of time to get used to and a little dexterity too. Another three buttons are located on the base too.

For PC gaming it’s probably an easy call to get something like this if you’re already into flight sims as there’s been plenty of games over the years that will support HOTAS controllers but for Xbox One it is a more difficult decision. Right now only the following games support it on the platform:

  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
  • Air Missions: Hind
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China
  • The Crew 2
  • War Thunder

Thrustmaster also provides helpful control guides via their support portal which are highly recommended to help you get started.

The controller joined up and ready to go. The USB cable has a breakaway connector which is a nice addition.

Of these on Xbox One, only Elite Dangerous uses the full capabilities of the controller with mappings to almost everything. The most immediate change to players of ED is that you no longer have to switch control modes (on the default configuration) between thrusters and rudder as they are now mapped to the finger controls on the throttle. Having them both available at the same time allows for some fluid manoeuvres which take time to get accustomed to but feel great in motion.

The one gripe I have with the controller is that there’s no audio connector for an Xbox headset. That means plugging an Xbox controller into a spare USB port (to keep it running) and use that for audio/comms. It’s a bit of an inconvenience for couch players who may need to run additional (and lengthy) cables to play games. It’s also worth noting that the controller doesn’t have rumble support but I’m fine with that. Considering the size of it, would you really want it sitting on your desk rattling away?

If you’re willing to go for the full flying experience or find using the stick for ridder controls cumbersome, the T.Flight HOTAS also integrate with the T.Flight Rudder Pedals. I’m not sure if I will be going that far (yet) but the option is there at least.

So… can I recommend it? If you play a lot of Elite Dangerous then this is going to make flying feel more nuanced in a way similar to players who use racing wheels in driving games. Personally I think it’s pretty cool and look forward to getting better with it. However there’s not much else on the Xbox One that justifies having one of these so unless (like me) you’re also going to use it on the PC you might just be better off sticking with a controller.

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