Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Warthog, like the A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter whose controls it replicates, is an intimidating thing to lay eyes on. With a two-stage trigger, four HATs (one which can be pushed down), and four buttons on the stick, as well as ten switches, 2 HATs (again, one which can be pushed down) and three buttons on the throttle, the HOTAS Warthog totals an impressive 86 programmable features, meaning that no part of your flying experience should be missing from takeoff to landing. Admittedly it took me some time to feel confident enough to review this accessory because seemingly every time I used it, I noticed something I hadn’t before, from 3-way toggles to most recently, the throttle lock which can be disengaged.
The HOTAS Warthog is a pricey piece of hardware, and also fairly unforgiving and cumbersome to use to times. Normally, I could go into a list of things on these two points that would tell you what needs work to fix these issues, but with this flight stick, the simple answer is that nothing really needs to be fixed. Buyer beware, this isn’t just a replica in looks, but in feel. You’re going to need to train your hand to hit buttons a certain way. It’s going to take considerable pressure to depress several buttons featured on the Warthog. At times you’re going to feel overwhelmed by just how many control options you have. But, then, what you get in this package is as close as you’re probably ever going to come to actually flying an A-10.
What makes these control issues easier is the included T.A.R.G.E.T. software, which allows for easy binding and calibrating for every single switch and HAT on the stick and throttle. You’re going to need a quick-reference guide to remember all the commands, but with T.A.R.G.E.T., you actually gain access to even more control. When I learned that you could bind commands to not only when a button was pushed but also when it was released, I felt a little mad with power. Programming a profile properly, however, is a time-consuming task. Unlike most modern accessories which offer pre-made profiles for existing games, that’s not something you’ll find here. If you want it to work exactly right, you’re probably going to have to set it up yourself.
With spots to securely screw and mount both items to your preferred surface, attractive green backlit LEDs for the throttle, and, let’s not forget how it works here, precise, responsive controls, the HOTAS Warthog will set you back a bit financially, but will give you the most control in a dogfight for your dollar. The stick isn’t wobbly, and only moves exactly where you tell it to with sharp precision. Still, for me there was a missing point of realism, and I have to mention it because it completely took me out of the moment the first time I noticed it. I was going in on a big, low dive and then planning to pull straight up and try and get a shot on my bogey’s underbelly when it hit me: there’s no force feedback on this product. Now, I admit that adding it would probably add another hundred or two to the price tag, but when you’re already shelling out this much for a stick, you want it to give you everything you’ve ever wanted in one. I’m not saying that this is a promise that Thrustmaster failed to deliver on, merely an omission that at least for this reviewer is unfortunate.
This product is targeted at a group of people who love their games with uncompromising realism, and for a stick to match that level of realism with little to no compromises for the consumer market means that Thrustmaster knows their audience well. The thick metal casing and quality parts ensure virtually no chance of the Warthog breaking down, no matter how many missions you put it through.
The HOTAS Warthog doesn’t just work, it works amazingly well. You can bring up the price tag, or the fairly steep learning curve, as well as admitted hand-size requirements to use it properly, but you have to remember that this is the simulator community we’re talking about here.
- Feels just like the real thing, with all the appropriate buttons, toggles, and HATs
- T.A.R.G.E.T. software included as a digital download offers control like no other stick on the market
- Sturdy, solid design prevents any signs of wear or loosening from developing in the stick, even during intense moments
- Amount of time required to set up a fully-functional T.A.R.G.E.T. profile is most likely upwards of 30 minutes
- Most of the buttons and switches will only find use in specific games, limiting the uses of this stick
- The throttle is surprisingly heavy. Make sure you’re operating on a stable surface, especially if you have plans to mount the device
The HOTAS Warthog is available from Amazon for $449.82.