PS Flight Force Pro: HOTAS of Childhood Dreams
Four analog axes, fifteen buttons, sixty-seven programming slots
The value of modern game console flight sticks and yokes is their versatility and ongoing support from their manufacturers. Depending on the company, the external design of these advanced controllers may not change much, but every model includes more and more features. Specialized software, extensive button mapping, new buttons for extended functionality, and even personal computer compatibility. The purchase of a decent game console flight controller could potentially cover most flight games and flight simulators its buyer owns. The time-tested Thrustmaster T.Flight series and the recent Turtle Beach VelocityOne come to mind.
Things weren't always this sweet. They didn't have widely available and high-quality flight sticks with guaranteed compatibility in the 1990s. Anyone from back in the day can tell you that a serious flight enthusiast would end up with at least half a dozen flight controllers made by first-party and third-party companies for a single game console, depending on which one it was.
The Sony PlayStation 1 is a perfect example of this. Names like the PlayStation Analog Joystick, Mad Catz Flight Stick, Optech Mach 1, and even the one-of-a-kind NeGcon come to mind. But these controllers only work on a handful of specific games programmed to support them with predetermined button layouts set by the game developer. This is where the PS1 flight stick of childhood dreams must be introduced: the InterAct PS Flight Force Pro.
The true Hands On Throttle And Stick controller experience. It originally came bundled with a proposed game console port of the PC combat flight simulator, TFX: Tactical Fighter eXperiment. This title was released for personal computers (MS-DOS) and the Commodore Amiga by Ocean Software Ltd. and Digital Image Design in 1995. This was a no-joke simulator with over three million square miles of terrain in the game using official map data, multi-function display management, realistic weapons engagement envelopes, and even variable temperature, wind, and weather conditions. All while offering realism settings that can be turned off to allow for a more flight arcade-style experience when desired.
In preparation for a PlayStation 1 port of TFX, Imagineer Co. Ltd developed a HOTAS with official PlayStation branding. This HOTAS was named the ImageGun Dual Flight Controller (SLPH-0021). It was offered as a standalone unit and in the "Flight Maniac Set" (SLPS-00510) with the PS1 port of TFX. There was also the "Military Goods Present Campaign" that Imagineer ran. It included a pilot flight suit, aviator sunglasses, a pilot watch, and the HOTAS.
TFX received its PlayStation port in Japan, but that game version was never released outside the country.
Video game peripheral manufacturer InterAct produced the controller under a different name and without official PlayStation branding. The Interact PS Flight Force Pro (SV-1106) had the same design and functions as the original controller.
The PS Flight Force Pro has four pre-programmed settings that can be selected mid-game by pressing the mode selection buttons on the throttle. These modes emulate various analog, digital and unusual control types of particular games on that platform.
Its most prized function is the ability to remap all buttons. The PS Flight Force Pro provides four analog axes, fifteen buttons, and a maximum of sixty-seven programming slots. Besides standard button remapping, elaborate multi-button macros can be programmed even with idle periods (pauses between inputs). The remapping process is a simple four-step process assisted by audible beeps to let the user know when their selected button is ready to be remapped to a different button. With so many options available, remapping can take a long time, depending on how detailed the user wants to be.
Hardware-wise, the controller itself is very comfortable, even for adult-sized hands. The button placement on the throttle is good. Their positions align with many other current HOTAS systems, making the controller easy to understand and adjust. The Triangle buttons just beneath the Cross and Circle buttons on the stick are problematic because of their shape and the very firm press needed to get them to operate. The thumb stick on the throttle does feel somewhat fragile but functional. The throttle has detents for engine output from off to idle and from military power to afterburner with sliders to adjust throttle resistance and joystick Z-axis input. The flight stick moves easily and quickly snaps back to the neutral position with a deadzone much smaller than expected.
It outperforms other flight controllers from the PlayStation 1 easily, but the lack of instructions on how to properly set it up is the highest hurdle for people using it in 2022. These units are usually found in used condition on online shopping markets, and they rarely include the manual. My overall positive experience was possible because I had the manual and could find the correct settings if something did not work well with specific titles.
The immense functionality of the InterAct PS Flight Force Pro makes it a rare example of a non-USB game console flight controller that can adapt to just about any flight title in the entire Sony PlayStation 1 library.
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.