many joysticks, so little time. And
money. There are so many
options, abilities, and programmability variances between them that it
can be a nightmare selecting one that suits your gaming needs.
Luckily, Microsofts latest model, the Sidewinder Force Feedback 2,
covers just about every detail with a responsive, USB compatible,
compact package of gaming goodness.
Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 retains the stylish ebony looks as its
keeps the number of buttons the same as the original, but tweaks the
configuration a bit, with great results. Theres still a hat and
three buttons for your thumb, but this time the two smaller buttons
are placed on either side, rather than packed together on the right
side. The long slim button is now a curved button for the lower part
of your thumb, which allows you to pop off customized button commands
very efficiently. The
trigger has become a bit firmer and packs a little more punch than the
original's rounded design. The
buttons are also conveniently numbered 1-8, making in-game
configuration easier. The stick supports USB only and doesn't always
support games that arent Windows 98 compliant. The base is heavy
and solid, because the power supply is inside itthat means
that there's just an AC cable on the outside, with no bulky
transformer-brick to plug into an outlet.
software drops drivers, Control Panel customization applets, and the
powerful SideWinder Gaming Controller software into place. The latest
version of the latter is built into the FF2's Control Panel applet, so
there's no need to launch a separate application to map keys and
combos to buttons. A green light on the base lets you know if the
flight stick is plugged in properly. There are two shades of
green for the light. A bright green means that the force
feedback is active and that the stick is working. If the light
is a darker shade of green, it means that your hand isn't covering up
the optical beam, which engages the force feedback motor.
For those who like to, you can also create your own custom
profiles for the games you play. Each button lights up on the screen
when you configure it to confirm the settings.
games are prepared to handle input from the standard eight-button
joystick, but that didn't limit the Microsoft wizards when developing
softwaretheres a high level of customization possible with the
Force Feedback 2. The Sidewinder software allows for custom profiles,
and has the ability to map keystrokes and macros to button presses.
Details like pauses are available to be used as well. Many sticks rely
on your game to set the dead zone, sensitivity and calibration, but
the Force Feedback 2 allows you to set it for the controller in
general. The software is easy to use and makes it very intuitive to
implement routines for new game profiles.
There was a bug, recently squashed at Microsoft's
website, that made the stick problematic with VIA-based chipsets,
but that's resolved now.
to the original release, the new Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 is a
nice upgrade that takes up less space, has more programming
versatility, and no power brick to deal with. If you're in the
market for a new force feedback joystick, youll want to consider
this one. For
around 90 bucks, the Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 is a great stick
that demonstrates Microsofts ability to improve a
well-established product with several enhancements.
Overall, with its reduced size, weight, USB connection and
the internal A/C power supply the Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 is
more than a worthy successor to the originalit joins the ranks of
must-have peripherals for serious gamers.