As mentioned above, we chose Apache Air Assault as our test vehicle for the F.L.Y. 9. The game has pre-configured settings for this stick so it was a simple matter to get the controls mapped. The only change we made to the default settings was to invert the throttle axis so that lifting up on the controller’s throttle control equated to adding collective to the helicopter’s rotors and thereby causing the chopper to climb. It seemed more intuitive that way.
One of the most important yet subjective qualities of a flight stick is the spring forces. They need to be strong enough to provide sufficient resistance to help prevent over-controlling, yet not so tight as to make it difficult to keep the base of the flight stick stable on the desktop or your leg. The F.L.Y. 9 seemed to have met that delicate compromise quite well. It’s also important that the break-out force required to move the stick away from center be small enough that delicate motions around the center (required for precise control while hovering, for example) are possible. The F.L.Y. 9 break-out forces were a little high for our tastes, but not horribly so.
The thumb switches at the top of the joystick are conveniently and comfortably placed and their shape makes it easy to determine which button your thumb is on without having to look down at the stick. The buttons have a nice tactile click to them when pressed and resist accidental pressing quite well. We were particularly impressed with the positioning and the feel of the tiny nipple control positioned in the center of the array of buttons. It was extremely useful for slewing the aiming reticule in Air Assault. The trigger button feels natural in both location and feel. There are two left buttons that fall comfortably under the fingers of your left hand as you use it to hold the base, and your left thumb rests on the D-pad controller.
The stick twists to provide yaw control. All in all, while a set of rudder pedals would be preferable to twisting the stick, the controller worked very well with Apache Air Assault and was a vast improvement over the standard Xbox controller. The wireless connection was rock solid and did not introduce any untoward lag into the control of the helicopter. In fact, our only criticism was that it required more physical twisting action than it should have to get the helicopter to respond to yaw inputs, but that may not necessarily be the fault of the controller; that problem could be innate to the game itself.
As the quality and realism of air combat simulations on the Xbox improves with titles like IL-2 Sturmovik and Apache Air Assault, the demands on the quality and appropriateness of the controller are also going to get more stringent. In anything but “arcade” mode, the standard controller is going to be deficient and anyone hoping to hold their own in multiplayer dogfights is going to need a good flight stick. The Mad Catz Cyborg F.L.Y. 9 will provide the level of control required to survive in those demanding environments.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
The Cyborg F.L.Y. 9 does what a good flight stick should do: it gives you better control and a more intuitive feel when playing air combat games. It's a solid, well-designed controller that lends itself well to the more sophisticated air combat games appearing on the Xbox 360.
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