The Weapons Locker: Thrustmaster T.16000M Flight Control System (FCS) Review
The state of flight simulators, DirectInput, and Flight Control Systems (FCS), is less than appealing these days. There are just certain things that I do not understand. I do not understand why games allow analog inputs to be recognizable for mapping to digital controls. I do not understand why Microsoft does not implement more granular controls over DirectInput device configuration within Windows itself, such as the ability to inhibit specific button or analog inputs in the Device Controller calibration / configuration screens. I especially do not understand why Windows and several games recognize many of my analog control inputs in the inverse axis to what they are in the real world. All of these dynamics just plain make it difficult for any FCS to score an 8.0 out of ten or above on my scale. Just check Amazon, where most FCS' other than Thrustmaster's Warthog FCS, are below 4.0, which is usually my minimum average customer score for purchasing a device. But the Warthog is a $500 controller. Point is, take my final score for the Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS with these factors in consideration.
I purchased the T.16000M as a replacement for my venerable Saitek X45 FCS HOTAS stick and throttle set. While the bees knees in its heyday, the X45 was aging ad suffered from a lack of support due to the sale of Saitek to Mad Catz. Principle of my problems was that the X45 has two 3-position switches, the AUX and MODE switches, which were always recognized as three buttons in Windows, and therefore always seen as depressed, either button 9, 10, or 11, plus one of either button 12, 13, or 14. This was particularly irritating when trying to set up the controller for use in a specific game, because often the always-on button would intercept your attempt to map a different button to a particular control. So when I went hunting for its successor, one of my requirements was no switches. This is hard. There just are not a lot of flight sims being made these days, and, therefore, even fewer controllers that specifically target that genre of game.
The T.16000 is reasonably priced in comparison to current and historical prices for FCS'. I would call it Thrustmaster's mid-grade FCS. They also sell variants of the console-compatible HOTAS.X, one for the PS3 and one for the PS4, both of which are also PC-compatible. Then they also make the Warthog. The HOTAS.X is around $60 -$65, and the T16000 cuts in-between it and the Warthog at around $110 for the SKU that includes the TWCS or Thrustmaster Weapon Control System, which is the throttle control assembly that works with the joystick. The TWCS is unusual in that in most throttle assemblies, the lever traverses a semi-circular arc of movement. But the TWCS moves linearly back and forth through an even plane. While many flight sim gamers have found this appalling, I actually feel it works quite well. The big problem I have with the TWCS is that when configuring an FCS in-game, you typically need to have any analog inputs zeroed out, which I find impossible to do with the TWCS. With no notch or groove for position neutral on this accessory, you are left to hunt for where the zero point is and, as I said, I have found this impossible to hone in on with the TWCS' linear versus arced kinematic
The rubber feet on both the joystick and TWCS are of low quality, with no ridges, and, with minimum thickness, they do little to keep the accessories from sliding around during gameplay. One thing that the T.16000 FCS does have is a large number of buttons. The stick has 16, while the TWCS has 3 buttons, 4 X 4 or 8-way hat switches, a 2-position click slider, 1 radial dial, and a yaw lever. All of that makes for some pretty impressive combinations; for the games you can get it to work in. But none of the buttons on either accessory have a lot of travel, save for the trigger on the stick, and so in some cases, I literally cannot tell when I have pressed a button. This is especially true for the 12 base-buttons on the joystick. Because the joystick and TWCS were made to be sold as stand-alone units, each has a Z-Axis slider, which is typically auto-mapped by most flight sims to throttle input. With both of them plugged in, I have seen some wonky behavior from there being two independent throttle inputs. You usually need to disable one or the other via the game's configuration screens. For me, I have found the slider action of the TWCS preferable, as using the throttle slider on the joystick base requires me to take my left hand off the TWCS or off the button area if I am using the joystick as a stand-alone device. Throttle slider action on the TWCS is smooth and precise. Just don't jam it up and down with anything more than light light and smooth, fully in control, force, or else it will slide around as I mentioned.
Nice thing about the stick is that it does include twist-control for yaw, so it is suitable for use in both modern flight sims as well as space sims, which usually require at least one additional degree of axis control. The T.16000 lacks some amenities you should find in more expensive FCS', such as an actual cover over the middle thumb button replicating the flip-up cover many warplanes have. The springs in the joystick are also very weak, even in comparison to a clearly arcade oriented joystick like Logitech's Extreme 3D Pro. That joystick feels like it could easily exceed the T.16000 if it had its own conjoining accessory such as the TWCS, and the Extreme 3D Pro runs one-third to one-half of list price of the T.16000M.
In general, the T.16000M is as good as it gets in this market, and it may seem like I am dragging the peripheral through the mud. Let me put it plainly: there just isn't an alternative for the space this product fills. It's an inexpensive mid-grade controller that has plenty of buttons, and feels pretty solid, despite the non-premium material used in its construction. I used it two weeks ago to play some Digital Combat Simulator: A-10C Warthog, and the controller set did not cause me to lose a step. In other games...not so much.
My expectations were high for this device. With no one on the playing field, Thrustmaster had a chance to swoop in here and set the standard. In some ways, they kind of have done just that. I just don't care for the standard that was set. The only thing I can say is that it did not cost me an arm & a leg, and I am hoping that compatibility improvements and software updates in both Windows and the individual games, leads to a more enjoyable owner's experience than mine-to-date.