What is a HOTAS and should I buy one for SW: Squadrons?

Take a look at which models work on your system and which offer the best value for money

What exactly is a HOTAS?

HOTAS stands for Hands On Throttle And Stick. From a gaming standpoint, the concept of a HOTAS is to put a huge array of inputs at your fingertips, allowing you to control all the functions of a vehicle without ever needing to place your hands on a keyboard or controller.

The joystick controls the roll, pitch and yaw, whilst the throttle is used to control speed. In addition to these main functions, each hand will have access to numerous buttons, hats and sliders that can be bound as required to weapons, components and comms.

Originally it was unknown whether HOTAS would be available on console systems but the tweet below from Ian Frazier, Creative Director on Star Wars: Squadrons, cleared up any confusion and was certainly well received by the console community!

What about HOSAS?

Standing for Hands On Stick And Stick, a HOSAS uses a joystick in each hand to give an even greater amount of control. These are useful in games with 6 degrees of freedom, meaning lateral movement can also be controlled. Star Wars Squadrons is based on an atmospheric flight model more akin to that found in World War 2 era flight games and therefore doesn't utilise 6DOF. Although HOSAS units are compatible with Squadrons, we recommend a HOTAS.

Should I buy a HOTAS?

A HOTAS isn't required for Star Wars: Squadrons, but if you're looking to really dive into the game then we recommend taking a look at what they have to offer.

Immersion is the number one reason here. A joystick setup isn't going to give you a major competitive advantage, but it's our preferred way to play for really feeling like you're in the Star Wars universe. Flying becomes an absolute joy and provides a feeling that controllers and keyboard can't match.

Combined with a VR headset, the immersion factor of a HOTAS is unbeatable. Full 360-degree views combined with a Star Wars-like control system will guarantee you feel like the Imperial hotshot you've always dreamt of being! VR gameplay is, unfortunately for Xbox owners, only available on PC and PS4.

Which HOTAS is right for me?

If you're using a PS4 or Xbox, choices are limited to just one model each, the Thrustmaster T.Flight 4 and Thrustmaster T.Flight One respectively. These are simple units that are more than good enough for playing Star Wars: Squadrons, having enough inputs to satisfy the default control scheme. This HOTAS can be used as an individual unit or separated into two halves so that the joystick and throttle can be positioned individually.

The T.Flight is also available in a PC compatible option and follows a similar design to the PS4 and Xbox specific models.

PC users are met with a huge variety of options, but we'll focus on some of the mid-range units that offer a great balance between value and performance. More expensive options are available, but if you're reading this article and looking to buy a HOTAS for the first time, these are two great entry points.

The Thrustmaster T.16000M is a highly regarded unit offering great value for money. This unit has a fantastic reputation for build quality whilst offering more inputs and greater flexibility than the T.Flight models. Although solid in most departments, the look and feel of the 16000M is dated and might not appeal to all tastes. That said, we can certainly recommend picking up this model if value and performance are priorities.

The Logitech X52 is a similarly priced unit to the 16000M but features even more inputs to fine-tune your control set up even further. The X52 comes in a standard and pro version, the latter being a more attractive black matt with a slightly stiffer spring, for an overall better look and feel. We like the ergonomics on the X52, especially on the throttle. It fits the hand very well and has a good selection of easily reachable buttons, great for boost and countermeasure bindings. In comparison to the 16000M, the joystick spring feels looser and will give a lighter feel to the stick, which some users do not enjoy.

Previously this model was produced by Saitek and was affected by build quality issues. Logitech acquired Saitek in 2016 and since the X52 has seen a much-improved build quality, although the reputation for poor quality has stuck over the years.

Price and availability (a warning!)

Unfortunately, HOTAS units are hard to find right now, and where they are available can carry an inflated price. The pandemic has caused stock levels to be lower than usual, whilst the release of games like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Squadrons have cleared out what little stock was available.

In the UK, eBay has a steady stream of listings, although you may have to pay over RRP even for a second-hand unit. I recommend taking a look on resale sites if your usual retailers are out of stock.

Let us know your thoughts on HOTAS units in the comments below!

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