Update: Following our original review of the unit we have been made aware of the fact that the Ace T.Flight Hotas has a locking mechanism to secure the two sides together. The review has been updated to reflect this.
Though gamers across the world use them every day, a gamepad’s analog stick is a poor substitute for any number of gaming activities. There’s going to be plenty of steering wheels knocking about people’s living rooms (or the cupboard under the stairs), but flight sticks are a step further in the specialised controller stakes. Ace Combat 7 makes a very compelling argument to change that though – catch our review here – and with its arrival on PS4, Xbox One and PC there’s suddenly a very salient reason to start eyeing up Thrustmaster’s catalogue.
The T.Flight Hotas 4 is the official controller of Ace Combat 7 and it’s fair to say before any of the other details that this stick makes Bandai Namco’s latest aircraft-a-thon more accessible, enjoyable and fun. While it’s aimed at the PS4 market with its black and blue colour scheme and long USB cable for playing on the sofa, it’ll also work just as well on PC, which is handy in multi-platform homes or for those on a particular budget. An Xbox One oriented edition sports a white and black colour scheme, and also has PC support.
The Hotas 4 isn’t a shy and retiring controller, it’s a hefty piece of black plastic with an aggressive look that matches up with the task asked of it. You get two main controls with the throttle on the left and a control joystick on the right, and as with some of Thrustmaster’s other flight sticks you can either keep them locked together or detach them so that you can position the throttle off to your left in a more realistic position. That’s particularly useful if you’re going to be playing Ace Combat 7 in VR.
The left portion plays host to the throttle, which in turn houses the PlayStation symbol buttons and a rudder control rocker that gives you even more control over your craft. You’ve also got rudder control on the right with the joystick being able to twist left and right as an alternative. The joystick features most of your weaponry functions, with a trigger for your guns, along with controls for missiles, targeting and weapon select. You can adjust the stiffness of the stick to three different levels of resistance so you can find a setting that’s going to suit.
The weapon select is on a hair trigger that sits just above your right index finger and while it’s in an easy-to-use position I found myself catching it a little too easily, inadvertently swapping out the special weapon that I was using. The longer I spent with the stick the less I managed to do it, but that was after some conscious thought, and it was easily the most annoying aspect of the entire package.
I originally thought that the two portions of the controller didn’t have a proper locking mechanism beyond a plastic catch, but thankfully it turned out that it did. On the underside of the unit there are two raised screws with Hex/Allan sockets and an Allan key to tighten them up which allows you to securely lock the two portions together, making it perfect for playing on your lap.
At £80 the T.Flight Hotas 4 is an entry level flight stick that gets everything right at that price point. There’s a second Ace Combat 7 stick from Hori that has a few additional features, including rumble which is missing from the Thrustmaster stick, but you’ll be paying an extra £100 for the privilege. To be honest the key hardware feature that’s missing from the Thrustmaster stick is a headphone socket, so anyone without wireless headphones will be left out in the cold – well, listening to their TV speakers.
Besides being absolute besties with Ace Combat 7, the T.Flight is already keyed up to be used by a bunch of other games including War Thunder, Elite: Dangerous, Ultrawings, EVE: Valkyrie and Air Missions: HIND, and just as with Ace Combat it’ll make those games more immediate, more realistic, and arguably more enjoyable. These titles will automatically know which flight stick you’ve attached and set everything to a pre-loaded control layout so you’re instantly good to go.
The Thrustmaster Ace T.Flight Hotas 4 is a great entry level flight stick, and if you’re planning on picking up Ace Combat 7 it’s a going to make the entire experience more accessible and realistic, without breaking the bank. If you’re planning on playing on PSVR with this in tow as well it feels as though you won’t get much closer to actually flying a fighter jet, at least not from the comfort of your own home.