I’ve been using my new joystick (a MadCatz F.L.Y. 5) for about a week now, though not as much as I would have liked to due to other trivial things, like work, getting in the way. Last night, I also added VoiceAttack to my Elite experience.
Result = Overall, and in combination, these 2 products have provided a distinct improvement in control.
I thought I’d provide a short review of each.
MadCatz / Saitek F.L.Y. 5:
Research on sticks seemed to point to this being a good cheap choice, and I tend to concur. It’s a good entry-level stick/throttle combo, with an excellent range of physical adjustments that make it possible to get a good, comfortable ‘fit’ for almost any (right-handed) user. It costs about £40 – £60 new, in the UK.
It’s a bit ‘plasticky’, and therefore the whole body tends to flex somewhat (though strategically placed blue-tak seems to minimize this). I also employed the well known ‘adjustment’ of two cable ties on the spring (to pull together one ‘turn’ of the spring) to reduce the rather strong spring-tension.
It’s given me a little more ability to track targets with a finer degree of control than with the x-box controller, but I have to admit, the centering is still ‘notchy’ enough to make fine-control from dead-centre to slightly off-centre somewhat difficult, and this often requires a ‘nudge’ that sends me beyond my target and prevents smooth tracking of a target.
Overall, however, I think it is doing its job well. It works out-of-the-box with the F.L.Y. 5 preset in Elite: Dangerous (ED) Alpha 1.1, and all buttons can be re-bound as preferred. The integral throttle helps save some money too, though it means a less comfortable ‘compromise’ position for both hands, as the throttle cannot be detached and placed elsewhere.
It’s certainly not my stick of choice, though. It will be fine to play through the Beta until July, when I can collect my shiny new Saitek X52 Pro (+ CH pedals & TrackIR), currently waiting for me 6,000 miles away at my parents’ house! It’s very difficult to source more advanced peripherals where I live, and often prohibitively expensive, but that’s OK. Sometimes it’s better for me to develop my setup one step at a time. Throwing loads of new components and software together at one time can feel a little overwhelming, and lead me to some rather confused configurations.
Note: The Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X is the main competitor in the same price bracket. It does have a throttle that can be separated from the main body and, because of this, I probably would have bought it rather than the F.L.Y. 5, if I had found it in stock anywhere here. Other reviews seem to rate it about as good as the F.L.Y. 5, overall, but since I’ve not used it, I’ve not reviewed it.
Conclusion: A good, cheap alternative to more expensive stick/throttle combos, but for anyone seeking fine control in dog-fighting scenarios this may not cut it. It’s not going to be a bad second stick to have around, however, in case your ‘best’ stick has ‘issues’.
This software is simple to use, and ideal for space-combat games, though it does require a reasonable quality microphone (ideally on a headset, or throat-mic).
After about 5 minutes training your Windows speech-recognition, you can try the software. It’s available on a 21-day trial, and only costs $8 if you decide to buy it.
It, basically, will recognize your voice commands and send a key-press (or combination of key-presses) to ED, or another game. I find this particularly useful for actions that are either difficult because the particular buttons for the respective action(s) are hard to discern by ‘feel’ alone whilst concentrating on the screen, (the 4 default buttons on the F.L.Y. 5, used for ship power management in ED, being a good example), or where the action(s) tend to be too complex/awkward for me to do whilst using other controls in, say, a dogfight.
It does mean that you tend to sound a bit crazy, as you are now probably listening to the game sounds through your headset too, so anyone nearby (or a neighbor), will simply hear you repeatedly saying things like “full engines,” “target,” and “balanced.” It works very well, however, and I have had very few instances of the software misunderstanding me. There are a whole range of more advanced things this software can do, too. Not least is the ability to ‘stop’ listening unless a keyword is used as prefix for commands, thereby preventing accidental issuing of commands if also chatting, for example. It also has an option to stop listening on holding a key down, which means that if you bind your TeamSpeak push-to-talk key to this option, for example, you will not be heard talking to your computer on TeamSpeak.
Not only does this software improve control in flight, it also adds to the immersion. For me, it would seem strange not to be able to talk to one’s computer in the 34th century, and especially strange in a spaceship piloting context where one literally has one’s hands full much of the time.
Tips: You can also set the software to provide audio feedback when a command is executed. You can use text-to-speech for this by simply typing in the text you want ‘the computer’ to say when the command is processed. Windows 7: 64 bit, however, has serious limitations on adding extra voices, and I don’t like the ‘Anna’ default. There is a simple solution: The software will also play an audio file when a command is executed. There are many, very good, speech engines on the net. A few minutes recording and editing and you can have the voice you want saying exactly what you want, and when you want.
I found this guide handy to learn how to set up VoiceAttack for ED.
Conclusion: Great value software, that can add a lot of control to a basic setup, and is also a fun and immersive way to interact with ED.