First impressions of the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog are impactful to say the least. You know a gaming peripheral means business when it features a big US military sticker on it, and that thought will be all the more cemented when you attempt to lift the incredibly heavy pair of boxes out of their outer packaging. Combining a flight stick and throttle, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog, based on the real life controls found in a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, sets out to be the ultimate flight sim attachment, and resoundingly succeeds.
The Warthog is built to last, but please try not drop it anywhere near your feet or any other extremities. This thing is built from military-grade metal and feels as though Thrustmaster has undertaken a night-time raid of an air force base, ripped a few sticks out of unattended Warthogs, and stuck a USB cable into them. In the hand it feels immense; initially ice cold to your touch, warming as you spend longer playing, and it’s utterly unlike any plastic gaming peripheral you’ve ever used.
The throttle is similarly serious, and once more has you wondering just where the discarded carcasses of airplanes are that lie in Thrustmaster’s wake. A solid black rivetted metal case boasting a split thrust lever and an unbelievable array of inputs, it is amongst the most tactile gaming products I’ve ever come across, and when combined with the flight stick and sat next to your PC, or attached to your gaming chair, these must rank amongst the most empowering devices we’ve ever reviewed.
Let’s talk inputs. The Thrustmaster Warthog flight stick plays host to an enviable 19 inputs plus an 8-way ‘point of view’ hat. If you’re planning to play a flight sim – let’s say the brand new, unequivocally life affirming Microsoft Flight Simulator – the Warthog is immediately going to set you on an entirely new path to realism. Whether indulging in wide ranging sims, flight trainers or space shooters, you’re not going to find many peripherals that upgrade your experience in a similar one-shot manner.
Each of the inputs feels as well-made as the stick itself. The red metal trigger satisfyingly clicks with every pull, while the digital and analogue sticks and directional controls rest easily beneath your thumb. They’re all suitably firm, with Thrustmaster boasting that the controls feature ‘realistic’ pressure. It feels like no expense has been spared on outfitting the Warthog with every mod-con, and every other HOTAS I’ve experienced previously feels like a toy in comparison.
Moving over to the thrust module, the numbers climb astronomically. The dual throttles themselves play host to 17 action buttons, plus a mouse hat with a push button, and another 8-way ‘point of view’ hat. Each of the throttle inputs sat naturally beneath my fingers, with the Slew mouse hat control perhaps the only one that didn’t match the tactile and natural fit of the other controls. Both of the dual throttle controls meanwhile feel smooth and natural in the hand, and thanks to the base’s 3kg weight, even the most frantic movement didn’t unsettle the unit at all.
That base isn’t just a dumb block of metal either, there’s another 15 action buttons and a Trim wheel to tinker with here. This industrial-feeling engine and auto-pilot panel pulls yet more realism into your flight sim experiences, made up of green LED-lit controls and solid metal switches. Everything, barring the Trim wheel, and auto-pilot and landing gear push buttons, makes a satisfying, and eternally loud, clacking sound as you interact with it, and while I haven’t sat in a Warthog’s cockpit, I can now imagine at least some of the control’s feel and the noises you might hear.
How does it all feel in use? Frankly, and without too much hyperbole, the Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS makes you feel like you’re flying a real plane, before you’ve even lifted off the runway. Once in the air, you can begin to appreciate not just the material feel of the stick itself and the inputs, but the accuracy with which it all operates. The Warthog is, like all modern Thrustmaster sticks, outfitted with Hall Effect 3D magnetic sensors, and every motion is instantly replicated on screen. Small motions, and incremental changes, are registered just as easily as heavy strafing movements, and though the stick’s heft might put some players off, I never found it unwieldy.
Perhaps the biggest question mark with the Warthog lies with what you’re planning to do with it. It’s undeniably one of the finest pieces of gaming equipment I’ve ever come across, but it isn’t always going to match the aesthetics of what you’re doing. Playing War Thunder or heading off into the stars in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw looks and feels natural, the Warthog marrying with the fiction perfectly. Microsoft Flight Simulator however, despite the array of real-life aircraft, can feel a touch detached to have something so substantial if you’re piloting something light, or alternately a heavy commercial aircraft.
That said, MFS has a perfect preset already in place for the Warthog, and given the quality and consistency of the experience of the stick in use, I’d weigh the standard of equipment over the aesthetics every day of the week. Alternatively, if you have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve in your mind, or you’re really planning to live the sim life, the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is potentially going to be a better fit.
The biggest question surrounding the Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS really comes down to budget. If you want one of, if not the best HOTAS set-ups for your PC, you’re going to have to pay for it. With an RRP of £450 you’re definitely paying for it. There are considerably cheaper options out there, many of them from Thrustmaster themselves like the classic T.16000 M, but the Warthog is a thousand air miles above everything else out there.