Everyone I knew growing up wanting to be in the emergency services, or perhaps an astronaut or footballer. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Smaller me couldn’t quite grasp that wasn’t exactly the job – obviously I know now that the job is being a Jedi, and is still absolutely a possibility – but I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.
Besides being best friends with Harrison Ford and having a sword that made an incredible buzzing sound, Luke Skywalker got to fly the greatest spaceship ever created; the X-Wing. I made cardboard boxes and pieces of furniture into X-Wing configurations – though some days they were KITT from Knight Rider – and merrily barrel-rolled into battle against my sister’s dolls and my Grandma’s Airdale Terrier, Meggy. Meggy wasn’t very good at being a rival TIE Fighter pilot, but she was a pretty decent AT-AT.
Imagine then, a world where slightly older me can become Luke Skywalker piloting an X-Wing. With the arrival of Star Wars Squadrons I’ve finally got the Star Wars dogfighting game I always dreamed of, but, if you’re going to really fire up the old imagination – and don’t have any cardboard boxes or oversized dogs to hand – you’re going to need a flightstick. Thrustmaster are here to help, and with the Space Sim Duo you’re not just getting one flightstick, you’re getting two.
The Space Sim Duo comprises of two T16000 flightsticks. Readily considered one of the best mid-range sticks out there, if you’re into regular, earth-bound flight-sims it’s likely you only really need one, but once you’re unleashed in a zero-gravity environment that dual set-up suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.
The T16000 mixes plastic and metal components and feels resolutely solid in-hand, while its black and orange colour scheme manages to give just the right weight to your futuristic fantasies without it looking like some alien horror that’s bursting out of your desk. To top it all off, when you put your hand on each stick the base lights up with an orange glow, and despite being such a simple thing it genuinely adds to the experience. Not only do you feel like you’re about to take a spaceship out for a jaunt, it looks like you are as well.
There’s an embarrassing, and potentially mind-boggling array of control inputs on each T16000, and when you combine the two there’s 42 buttons, sliders, triggers and directional inputs to make use of. While it’s on a game by game basis, you’ll almost certainly be able to customise your controls to fit in exactly with what you’re doing, though you still might want some sticky labels if you’re the forgetful sort. Star Wars Squadrons had no problem identifying both sticks, and you can set to customising your layout with no friction whatsoever.
Each stick control boasts a clear orange plastic trigger that produces a satisfying click with every press. While it’s not as industrial feeling as the metal-built HOTAS Warthog, it’s solid and feels as though it’s going to cope with many hundreds of hours of digital laser cannon fire. You’ve also got three slightly clunky sounding input buttons that are easily accessible with your thumb, and a directional hat. These are primarily used for looking around your cockpit and out into the space beyond, but as you’ve got two you could use one for weapon selection or changing your ship’s combat modes.
Moving down to the metal base, there are a further twelve input buttons and a thrust slider. I have to admit to not being a particularly huge fan of this style of slider; they’ll do in a pinch, but they have a short range of movement and aren’t in the most natural place even if you’re only using one stick. I’d always opt for a full thrust unit as you’ll find in a HOTAS set-up, but with the dual stick set-up you’ve got another option.
I added the thrust controls to my left stick in Star Wars Squadrons and had a riot using the pair of inputs simultaneously. You can add a dedicated thrust unit to this set-up as well if you’re feeling particularly flush, but it becomes much less necessary, at least as far as something like Star Wars Squadrons is concerned. You might want something less strenuous if you’re undertaking a long-haul flight in Elite: Dangerous for example, but for a space combat game I can’t recommend it more.
Both T16000 sticks are fully customisable depending on which hand you’re using, with replacement hand rests and a switch beneath the base for selecting which hand you’re using. Though I can’t see a necessity for it as part of the dual set-up, it does give you some flexibility if you were lending one to a potential pilot friend that you were trying to recruit to the Rebellion – or the stinking Empire.
As you’d expect from a Thrustmaster, the pair of T16000 sticks boast just the right level of tension. Thanks to the inclusion of their patented HEART sensors every movement is faithfully replicated on screen, and even small motions are picked up accurately. There’s no option to alter the stick tension which is worth bearing in mind, but I honestly don’t think you’d need to. I used the pair for hours before beginning to tire, and the base is weighted to just the right degree that they won’t be going anywhere unless you truly want to re-enact your ship being blown up.