Saitek's PC flight stick heritage merges with Mad Catz's console peripheral expertise to create the Saitek Aviator Flight Stick, containing all the controls you need to get your arcade flight games off the ground in style.
The Aviator combines two controllers into one, placing the throttle controls traditionally placed on a separate unit for flight controllers right on the base of the stick, giving players relatively easy access to all the buttons, sliders, and toggles they need to succeed in games like Ace Combat 6, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., and the Blazing Angels series.
One of the first fruits of the union between Saitek and Mad Catz, does Saitek's console debut soar, or does Mad Catz keep it grounded?
Sturdy As She Goes: I've been purchasing Saitek peripherals for quite some time now, and have generally been impressed with their construction and overall feel of their products. The Aviator does not disappoint. The controller is deceptively light, but very sturdy, making it just as easy to play with it sitting in your lap as it is with the controller resting on a flat surface.
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Smooth And Responsive: The aviator performed admirably in both Ace Combat 6 for the Xbox 360 and the PC version of Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.. After a brief adjustment period I found myself flying more naturally than I ever had with an Xbox 360 controller, banking and rolling with a twist of the stick. Flying games just feel more natural with a stick, and the Aviator does the trick nicely. I should also note here that the installation on my Windows 7 PC was a breeze. I didn't have to install drivers or fiddle with settings; simply plugged the stick in and it reacted like as if the PC were an Xbox 360.
Two Thingsism: The Saitek Aviator is one thing trying to do the work of two things, and as well as it handles the basic functions of the games I played with it, it doesn't come close to the experience of having a separate joystick and throttle control at your disposal. Moving the stick around with one hand wrapped around the base of the joystick simply feels off, and you wind up throttling blind because your hand on the stick obscures your view. There's also a problem if you have to consistently push one of the face buttons during battle, as there is no way you can grip the stick, access the throttle, and press the buttons at the same time. It works well enough, but it could never replace a two-handed setup.
More than anything, whether or not you should pick up the Saitek Aviator depends on your experience with flight controllers. If you've never experienced the joy of a dual stick/throttle setup and are simply looking for a reasonably inexpensive way to add a little more realism to your arcade flight sim experience, then the Aviator could very well be the controller for you. On the other hand, if your flight sim tastes run more on the simulation side or you've gotten used to a controller like the Hori flight stick that shipped in the Ace Combat 6 premium bundle, you'll most likely find Saitek's single-stick offering fails to achieve liftoff.
The Saitek Aviator Flight Stick was manufactured and released by Saitek / Mad Catz in January 2009. Retails for $49.99 (MSRP, seen for as low as $29.99 online). Manufacturer provided an Xbox 360/PC unit for purposes of review. Played several hours of both Ace Combat 6 for the Xbox 360 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. for the PC using the controller.