Real pilots control an aircraft’s throttle using a large sliding lever that makes it easy to accelerate or lower the throttle quickly. This is vital in aerial combat or aerobatics, where control of the throttle is as important as the stick in maneuvering. This is the idea behind the HOTAS (hand-on throttle and stick) approach of controllers like the Logitech G X52 Professional (Rating: 9/10, recommends WIRED).
It consists of two parts: a big stick inlaid with buttons and a throttle slider that is also depressed. Typically, you use the stick with your right hand and the throttle with your left. The sliding throttle control definitely adds a lot to the experience. You really feel like you’re cranking things up when you slide the control forward and the engine roars, and it feels a lot more natural to carefully back up when cruising or landing.
The entire X52 is covered with buttons. There are six buttons, two hats, three toggle switches, and a dial on the stick, plus six buttons, four dials, two hats, and a small slider on the throttle. All of these are illuminated with LEDs, and there’s also a safety cover that sits on the main weapon trigger on the stick. Open the lid and the trigger button underneath glows a scary red.
This trigger could show that the X52 is not really a simple flight simulation. It’s right at home in air or space fighting games like Elite: dangerous which rely on flight skills and reactions to defeat these pesky aliens. These buttons are also great for flight simulations. They are all assigned by default to essential controls in FS2020, and you can reassign any of them. Even the trigger is assigned to something: open the lid and squeeze the trigger (which usually fires a missile) and your autopilot is engaged. Pull the trigger on the back of the control stick (which typically fires a secondary weapon) and your view changes to the nearest point of interest, typically the airstrip you’re trying to land on. With so many buttons at your disposal, you can manage an entire flight without using the keyboard.
However, all of these buttons can be confusing. The buttons are labeled, but they do not match the labels used in FS2020. The big button at the top of the throttle slider, for example, has a big “E” on it, but FS2020 Calls it Joystick Button 8. It’s inconsistent and makes things harder to figure out. In a flight, I accidentally pressed one of the throttle buttons which shut off the engine right after takeoff and crashed right at the end of the runway. But at least with this setup I can try to pull off this take off again, which I probably couldn’t do with a real plane.