What is head-tracking? It’s a system that tracks and amplifies the movement of your head. With games like Elite: Dangerous (ED), which are designed for use with head-trackers, this will permit the movement of the character’s view as the player’s head moves, thus giving a more natural, flexible and effective view, independent of the character’s, ship’s, plane’s or other in-game vehicle’s fixed (usually straight-ahead) line of sight. The amplification of the player’s head movements means that the player can still easily look at the screen, even when the character has turned his or her view to the extremes of the ranges. In ED this means no longer using keyboard, joystick or other controller inputs to look around while flying.
Put simply, it’s brilliant! At about £180 new (for the TrackIR 5 Pro, which I review here) it’s not cheap, only works on Windows systems, and there are alternatives (see below). It has immediately added a significant improvement to my experience of ED, and after 2 weeks of use, it is hard to imagine flying without it.
People are different, and there is much debate about the best controller type for Elite: Dangerous (ED). If keyboard only, or mouse + keyboard, is your thing, then I am not going to try to dissuade you. For me, though, joystick and throttle controls seem the most natural and effective (perhaps improved by pedals, but I have yet to try my new pedals).
I still rate the X-box controller too, for a more relaxed, leaning back, type of game-play, but for sheer precision and smoothness the joystick/throttle combo wins hands down for me. It also feels more like I imagine flying a spaceship would feel, though in the future I am sure there would be plenty of other ways to actually fly a spaceship!
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.