You're on the dawn patrol; full up combat load, best wingman in the squadron. As your two-ship flight approaches the CAP area AWACS commits you against what appears to be a large strike package. You will be 2V8 against their fighters until help arrives! Seconds later you and your wingman have drawn first blood with a coordinated AMRAAM attack; now you are 2v6! You then direct him to attack high. You go hard left and dive for the deck, punching out chaff, effectively negating their BVR attack and bracketing them in the vertical. At 10 miles you start a 5G pullup and Fox 2 the southern leader as your wingman Fox 2s the other southern bandit. You roll and pull to your left, Fox 2 the northern leader and then unload, roll wings level, and pull the nose vertical as you slam the throttle into AB, punch out chaff and flares and look for incoming missles. Your second Fox 2 and Two's missle impact almost simultaneously. You direct Two to cover you, roll 180 degrees, pull the nose down and Fox 2 the trailer; then begin an immediate conversion to a gunshot on the remaining bandit. Less than a minute after the commit you have decimated Red Air leaving the Red Strikers vulnerable to attack. All this and your fingers have never touched the keyboard!
CH Products' new F-16 series sticks, fighter style programmable throttles, and dual-mode rudder pedals add a new dimension to simulated air-to-air combat. They are well designed, durable, and are ready to play in minimum time. They look and feel like the real thing and, once installed, transform your PC into a very capable and realistic cockpit.
The F-16 series currently includes two joysticks, the Flightstick and Combatstick. Additionally, the Fighterstick is being developed as the top of the line model with a target release date prior to December of 1996. The Flightstick (SRP $69.95) is for those who want a realistic stick but don't require or desire the complexity of the advanced models. (It has three buttons, a trigger and a throttle.) It's an easy to install device (simply follow the "Getting Started" instructions to transfer the Electronic Manual to your hard drive and then refer to it as necessary) which has these basic features in common with the other two:
Sturdy 6.5" X 6.5" base
F-16 style stick grip (with good return to center characteristics)
Rotary throttle control
Trim control (for electronic centering)
Three year warranty
Usable with IBM/PC and compatibles
Preset button functions
The Combatstick (SRP $99.95) has an additional two push buttons and two four-way switches for a total of 14 preset functions. The presets are logical and realistic, making this stick quite versatile. It is both user friendly and sophisticated enough for advanced play. The stick may be programmed when used with PRO Throttle just as the Flightstick. Programming through the PRO Throttle is easily accomplished using the instructions in the throttle's electronic manual. The manual contains "templates" for current popular games or allows custom programming by pushing the desired button (on the stick) and then specifying which single command or macro is desired on the keyboard (or using the mouse with some commands). If Combatstick is used as a stand-alone joystick (without a throttle) the game software must support the extra buttons. If it does not, some may be inoperative.
The Fighterstick will feature mouse-driven point-and-click programming in addition to preset button functions. By replacing two of the Combatstick's buttons with four-way switches, CH designers will increase the Fighterstick's total stand-alone capability to 16 programmable functions and 4 gameport buttons. Combined with the Pro Throttle, a total of 40 programmable functions will be available. The Flighterstick will operate digitally, requiring no special game support, and will allow the use of two buttons\switches simultaneously. The target release date is prior to December 1996.
CH Products intends to market a "force feedback" joystick in the near future. They have teamed with Immersion Corporation to develop an input-output device which will feedback jolt, jolt-button, reflex, vibration, buffeting, axis force and vector force to the gamer. The stick has number one priority and should be available some time this fall for the Christmas season. It will have the same shape and button configuration as the F-16 Combatstick. Expected price is $149.
Current throttles include the Pro Throttle, which is available in PC and Mac variants, and the PC compatible CH Throttle. Both offer generic jet throttle style and feel with smooth, (no afterburner detent) linear sliding action. Both have button function presets or are easily programmable with single key and macros for maximum flexibility. They are compatible with all software which supports a keyboard and joystick, require no memory, and have a three year warranty.
The CH Throttle has six buttons, a two-way switch and a four-way switch. The throttle is analog only. It installs quickly and is compatible with all other CH Products sticks and pedals. At the $119.95 SRP it is a good buy unless you are an advanced gamer and require full HOTAS capability. HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick), in case you are not familiar, is an aviation cockpit design concept which places all critical functions on the stick and throttle allowing the pilot to fly and fight with his hands on the flight controls and his eyes outside the aircraft, as it should be!
The Pro Throttle is equipped with four four-way switches and four buttons; twenty programmable functions total. It allows programming all of CH Products sticks and has analog and digital modes for complete software compatability. It is as easy to set up as the CH Throttle and makes the transition to advanced play possible because it has enough functions for full HOTAS capability in most of today's games. The SRP is $189.95.
There are two pedal models to chose from, the CH Pedals and Pro Pedals. Both are PC compatible and a Mac version of the CH Pedals model is available. The pedals incorporate heel cups to support the feet and are mounted on a sturdy plastic base. They move forward and aft and also pivot to act as toe brakes for flight simulators. In the car mode the pedals function as brake and gas pedals. A slide switch mounted on the base selects the mode of operation. Setup and installation are quick and easy and both models are compatable with all CH Products joysticks and throttles.
The Pro Pedals are 9" long and 41/8" wide, mounted on a 131/4" X 14" base which is 11/2" thick. The total pedal travel fore and aft is 43/4". They pivot 11/2" when depressed. The pedals are mounted on an 8" center, leaving 37/8" of space between the inner edges. There is no adjustment to this spacing which may be too narrow for some users. This one aspect aside, the Pro Pedals add significantly to the realism of PC games with a well designed, durable product.
The F-16 Fighterstick has 16 fully programmable buttons, which are increased to 20 when used with the Pro Throttle. This stick has four (4) hat buttons and is really the king of the joysticks.
Durability is the key to long lasting satisfaction with any product and CH Products offerings, from the original Mach I joystick through today's F-16 series, are known for that all important quality. (Thus the series motto, "When failure is not an option.") There have been some reports of hat switch problems when playing Descent II due to the almost constant use of the switch in the game. CH designers are aware of the problem and addressing it.
This summer we will report on the Fighterstick and the CH Pedals as soon as they become available to us. Also check back with our web site for the latest on CH Products' "force-feedback" joystick. Journalists: Steve noticed a delay in response time, he claims was due to having the joystick plugged into the keyboard port.
Please send us your reviews and previews to publish right here on the Computer Show by email of your article text.
Steve Wartofsky, Computer Games, number 74, March, 1997, pg. 36.
Steve Klett, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 106, 88%.
Denny Atkin, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 107 - 108, 90%.
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