If you’ve ever tried to play a flight simulator game without the use of a joystick, instead relying on your keyboard and mouse then you’ll know how hard it can be to play effectively. Joysticks have been around almost since video games have been around and indeed, the control systems of early Atari consoles were essentially just very basic joysticks.
Nowadays, however, joysticks have come a long way but while they’ll never be completely innovative in terms of ground-breaking enhancements or new features they have in recent times become a much more important part of the overall gaming experience. Joysticks are no longer only used in flight simulator games; with other titles such as Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 having introduced flight capability into the game, having a joystick to hand can often be beneficial and make for a much more enjoyable experience than fighting for control of an aircraft using a keyboard and mouse.
This review will look at the Logitech Force 3D Pro Joystick, which is just one of many games controllers available on the market. Logitech have an enviable record of producing top quality gaming peripherals, including gaming mice and keyboards. So, does the Force 3D Pro stack up?
Joystick Features & Layout (5 out of 5)
The box features a picture of the joystick on all four faces and top of the box, and the views correspond with the joystick. The stick itself feels sturdily built and has a reasonable footprint size – 20cm x 20 cm.
The Force 3D Pro is a force-feedback joystick and requires a USB-connector. It is compatible with both PC and MAC operating systems and features 12 buttons and an 8-way hat switch and trigger. It also requires an external power supply due to the stick’s internal workings.
Also in the box are a user manual, driver CD and the necessary power supply. The power supply is both big and heavy as the transformer has been built into the socket connector, rather than a separate power brick further along the cable. This could cause problems for those who are short on available power outlets as it is recommended to leave a socket free on either side of the adapter on your strip to accommodate its large size.
The stick has been designed for right-handed users, and the buttons situated on the base of the joystick are fixed on the left side of the base. The joystick throttle paddle is located on the base near to the rear of the joystick and is a rotating throttle with a barrel-fin for easier grip. On the top of the joystick are a further four buttons and the 8-way hat switch, while a button also resides where your thumb would sit be in a traditional rest position – this button is recessed slightly into the shaft of the stick, making it harder to accidentally trigger while the main trigger is located in the standard trigger position, in the front of the stick just beneath the joystick’s head.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
Aside from the issue of having to make space on my power strip for the oversized power supply, installation of the Force 3D Pro was easy and involved simply plugging the joystick into a free USB port and installing the driver from the supplied CD. However, my PC did require a reboot in order to complete the installation process but overall the procedure was pretty painless.
Playtesting the Force 3D Pro (4 out of 5)
The joystick is surprisingly sensitive, and from the centred-position I actually felt like there was slightly too much travel in the joystick and it didn’t really feel all that steady. The stick would move off-centre with very little force applied and it took a little getting used to in-game. There is an option in the control software to adjust the joystick’s return-spring strength, but I found it made little real difference to the overall feeling.
Having said that, the joystick itself can’t be faulted for movement and accuracy once I got the hang of controlling it and all the joystick’s axes (X, Y, Z and throttle) were correctly calibrated, which was reflected by Logitech’s calibration tool. The buttons too were well placed and their use didn’t feel uncomfortable – I didn’t need to overstretch my fingers or apply any unnecessary force to operate the joystick’s button controls.
The Force feedback delivered by the joystick was strong enough to accurately represent the action on the screen, without feeling overpowering and its timing was spot-on; there was no lag between on-screen action and what was felt through the joystick.
Profiling & Custom Settings (4 out of 5)
Logitech have provided a utility which scans your hard-drive for installed games and allows you to create profiles for them, so you don’t have to constantly remap the joystick buttons each time you play a different game. By creating a game profile at the outset, the software can load the game’s joystick configuration automatically each time you start up the game. You can also print out the button configuration so you don’t forget what each button does.
You can also configure the joystick to your own preferred settings using the Global Device Settings menu. This allows you to adjust the level of force feedback you feel, as well as the spring strength – the force with which the game will push or pull the joystick - and damper effects, which determines the level which the joystick will resist movement. You can also change the return spring setting, which controls the speed at which the joystick returns to a neutral, centred position.
Other than the joystick feeling somewhat slack and the overly large power adapter, the Logitech Force 3D joystick was extremely easy to set up and use and overall impressions are positive. The joystick performed well and was comfortable to use, while the force feedback was impressive.
The accompanying software was easy to use and I found the profiling utility very useful in setting up controls for my games.
- Lots of buttons
- Well-laid out – providing you’re right-handed
- Good and easy-to-use software
- Force Feedback
- Overly large power supply
- Large desk footprint
- Left-handed users may find it awkward
- Sensitive - at least until you get used to it
Overall (4 out of 5)
Overall, the Force 3D Pro is a solid joystick which handles and performs well – providing you’re right handed. The software is easy to use and the stick delivers everything a gamer could expect in terms of controls and layout. While it is slightly over-sensitive, at least until you get used to it, it is extremely good value when compared to other force-feedback joysticks and is a good choice for serious gamers and flight-sim aficionados; but at around $60 it may just deter the more casual gamer