There was a time, back in the day, when it became obvious to me that computers and technology in general would be a passion of mine. A friend of mine was working as a technician in a local repair depot that was located in the same building I was working in and occasionally I'd go back to his bench area to see what he was working on. At the time he had this semi-portable computer with a monochrome tube in it that looked to be no bigger than say 7 inches. We'd hang out some times after hours and play Leisure Suit Larry on that thing over a couple of beers and some pizza. What a gas. Yes, I'm dating myself but I've evolved since then, so it's all good.
A year or two later I was introduced to the DYI computer scene by that same friend and that's when the hook was set. I built my first 486 DX33 computer and I had installed 2D VGA card in it. We played Microprose's F15 Strike Eagle III and yes, we played it cooperatively over a 14.4K modem. It quite simply rocked, with text chat communication, the works. My good friend Bob noted one time during a mission, "networked games are king." Little did he know what a prophecy that was. We were hooked on Flight Sims then and were always looking for the next big sim coming down the pipe. Obviously time marched on and we were introduced to 3D cards and first person shooters. Frankly, though I still had a hankering for a good flight sim from time to time, the learning curve was usually steep with most titles and jumping in for some mindless FPS fragging was just too much of a temptation.
However, Ubisoft and Tom Clancy recently gave me a proverbial holla-back to my flight sim days and released a new Military Flight Sim called H.A.W.X. The visuals in the game are fantastic with leading-edge DX10 image quality and features. The learning curve? Well, let's just say if you've ever jumped into a virtual cockpit of any kind, you won't have a problem getting up to speed here.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. - Brings back the old school sim'er, looks great doing it.
The controls in H.A.W.X. are detailed enough but not overly complex, with just enough challenge and capability to keep this weekend flyboy interested. I got the opportunity to play around with H.A.W.X. when a new joystick from Thrustmaster was sent to me for a quick-take look. Again, back in the day, if you were at all into flight sims, you knew Thrustmaster was the Grand Daddy of all flight sticks. Back then, we had dedicated "game ports" on sound cards or IO plate headers on motherboards. Today the Thrusmaster T.16000M comes with a USB connection (thank goodness)...
Thrustmaster T.16000M USB Flight Controller
What's nice about the H.A.W.X / Thrustmaster combo pack is that, in the same vein as when you pick up a new graphics card, a game bundle usually accompanies your new toy that allows you to take advantage of the new technology. The T.16000M is a well-built controller with a heavy plastic construction that holds up well under the weight of even the klutzy, heavy-hand pilot like myself. It has a base that illuminates around the stick pivot area and is built with a series of hall effect sensors that do a really nice job of offering smooth, precise controls with a ton of granularity. You can also twist the stick to effect rudder control and adjust throttle with a slider at the back of its base.
A good fit, with a twist rudder and slide throttle...
Control-wise you get a ton of configurable buttons on the base of the unit as well as a traditional complement of stick-mounted buttons that allow you to do thing like target cycling, munitions release etc. The other nice feature, that my left-handed son will attest to, is that the entire controller can be setup to function in lefty mode, with the ability to flip around the thumb and wrist-rests on the unit. All told it's a really nice, high quality flight controller and it meshes quite nicely with H.A.W.X. as well. For less than $60 it's a pretty good value with a really fun flight sim included in the bundle.
Thanks to my friends at Ubisoft and Thurstmaster for re-kindling my youthful affinity for the classic Military Flight Sim. Fox 2! Good kill!