Saitek Adrenalin Stick Review

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Company: Saitek
Platform: Xbox
Details: Corded, Force-Feedback Capable

It's a joystick. For the Xbox. From Saitek.

Rob de los Reyes

Saitek's Adrenalin Stick for the Xbox looks very much like the company's Cyborg 3D Rumble Stick for the PC. Almost identical, in fact. Which is to say, there isn't much here in the Xbox stick that Saitek hasn't had plenty of time to work over and consider. The result is a quality joystick packed with enough features to justify the stick's $40 price tag. And yet, Saitek is faced with one small problem. Where are the joystick-compatible Xbox games? Saitek released its Adrenalin Stick a few weeks ahead of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, an aerial combat game and a good candidate for joystick play. The trouble is that while the joystick certainly functions with Crimson Skies, the game doesn't permit you to shuffle the control scheme for controllers that aren't shaped like the standard Xbox control pad. As a result, you have to fire your guns with the throttle control, barrel roll with the rudder control and forego the special moves that are otherwise executed with the standard controller's dual analog sticks. In short, whatever its merits in isolation, the Adrenalin Stick just isn't a good choice for Crimson Skies.

It may not be fair to blame Saitek for that. Maybe it's not fair to blame Microsoft, either. It is, nevertheless, a shame that the two outfits couldn't get together on the control issue so that gamers who long for the flight stick (and there are yet a few of us) could get a little satisfaction. The pity of it is that the Adrenalin Stick is a pretty good controller. Sturdy and heavy, it sits well on a coffee table or in your lap and doesn't jerk around while moving the stick. The throttle control helpfully includes a little "click" so that you can feel and hear when you've slid the control to the neutral position. The rest of the features work as advertised: the stick twists smoothly in the base for rudder control (or what should be rudder control), a hat switch offers easy camera switching, and the rumble feature shakes when it ought to. Overall, the stick just feels good to grip.

What may be a problem for the Adrenalin Stick in future joystick-compatible games is that it has fewer control elements than the standard Xbox controller. The thumb area is missing an "A" button which is linked by default to the trigger. But since a standard Xbox controller has triggers of its own that function separately from the "A" button, where do you map those functions? In fact, it's exactly that problem that yields the shooting issues with Crimson Skies – the triggers default to the throttle control. The shortage of controls comes up again when you try to play, for example, MechAssault which uses both of the standard controller's joysticks for movement. The Adrenalin Stick comes up one direction-of-movement control short, rendering the stick unusable. Presumably, the way you deal with such an issue is to design a game with a joystick in mind, something that wasn't in the gameplan for either MechAssault or Crimson Skies (unless Microsoft has some double secret plans of its own). Until such a game comes along, however, you're left with a performance joystick with very few opportunities to perform – perhaps too few to justify dropping $40 just yet. Let's hope that changes sooner rather than later. If it does, the Adrenalin Stick will be worth another look.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 27, 2003 2:15 PM.

Space Empires: StarFury Review was the previous entry.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge Review is the next entry.

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