You may remember my recent review
of Saitek’s Aviator joystick, and the measurable difference it made in my BattleField 2 world. Well, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I received a set of Saitek’s new Pro Rudder Pedals. Twisting the Z-axis of the Aviator to control the helicopter’s tail rotor worked ok, but it wasn’t all that natural. In the real world, tail rotors, rudders, and nosewheel steering (granted, two-thirds of those are moot to chopper pilots) are controlled with rudder pedals, not twisting motions on the stick. With the new rudder pedals available from Saitek, hard-core simmers can now make the leap from “good enough” to “way frikkin’ cool!”
The installation of the pedals was easy, and with both the joystick and pedals being USB-based both Battlefield 2 and Microsoft Flight Sim X had no problem with configuring both controllers. Some of the older programs I tried couldn’t understand that I wanted to use two separate flight controllers, but Saitek cannot and should not be held accountable for that. It’s very definitely a case of Caveat Emptor on that topic. Some of the older titles also had a problem with getting the correct orientation of the pedals; some had the pedals working opposite to convention (i.e. left pedal equals left rudder) and did not provide a means to reverse the output of the pedals. Again, these were older titles and the potential buyer would be advised to determine compatibility before plunking down the dinero.
The pedals are constructed of relatively sturdy materials, which is to be expected given that they will be the recipient of repeated foot bashing and carry a street price of over $130. They are very smooth to control in both the rotational aspect and in the individual toe brake functions. The centering spring tension is supposed to be configurable by adjusting a large knob at the pivot point of the pedals, but the knob on my unit was so stiff that I couldn’t get it to turn. The default tension was acceptable, though, so this didn’t bother me greatly. The break-out force from the center position is not adjustable, but it was just fine as delivered from the factory. Demonstrating an understanding that rudder pedals at this price point are very likely to be considered a luxury item to most users and that the majority of the target customer base is likely to be grown adults, the pedals themselves have three size adjustments to allow for comfortable use by the smaller feet of youngsters as well as the hobbit-like appendages of older folks like me. Fortunately the pedals are built to last a long time, long enough that even the young ‘uns will eventually want to configure the pedals for a larger foot size.
Since BattleField 2 was such a stellar test bed for the Aviator joystick I decided to see what effect the pedals would have on my helicopter pilotage. Upon returning to BF2, I found the pedals to be a great adjunct to the joystick. Freed from having to contend with controlling all three flight axes with one hand, I found that my level of control had again been increased. Controlling pitch and roll cyclic with the stick and using the rudder pedals to drive anti-torque (yaw) from the tail rotor, I found that I could maintain a hover and use the pedals for a pivot turn that would allow me to fire at enemy choppers as they went by. This tactic has been devastating for the enemy, and the number of air kills that can be attributed to the additional control provided by the new pedals continues to rise.
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