Malcolm Owen On October 30, 2002 at 6:26 pm

There is something about the film "Top Gun" that doesn’t quite do anything for me. I am not a serious person, and I have a slight problem with flying. "Hot Shots" (With most of it’s shenanigans being on the ground) is in my opinion a much better film. The sequel sucked, but then again, any film that has a number in the title, linked to the word "Part" is asking for trouble. This could be the very reason why the James Bond films have various different subtitles instead of numbers, but that is for another day.

The Thrustmaster "Top Gun" Afterburner II carries the name "Top Gun" for no real reason, except that it’s lisenced the name from Paramount and also a joystick, which many people know, is used to pilot the craft called the "Fighter Plane". Ignore this slight oversight, as underneath the slightly ambiguous name is a mighty joystick.

The Afterburner II is a combination joystick and throttle. It has a vast 8 buttons to press, a Point-Of-View hat as standard, and also a rudder rocking lever on the throttle. All of these buttons give off a satisfying, if muted, click, and are chunky/strong enough to last a fair old while. Oddly, one button has been moved from the de-facto "Thumbrest" position, instead being higher up than the main trigger button, making pressing all the buttons on the top of the stick very tricky to do.

The rocker on the throttle (spaced alongside 4 of the buttons) can be chosen by a small switch on the back of the stick, where the other option is to twist the shaft around to get the same effect. It’ll give flightsim and mech fans a good choice of what they can use to turn, as I feel that the rudder switch may be better for those who cannot get to grips with the twisting shaft aspect of the stick, but either method gets the job done, and does it satisfactorily.

The stick itself has a nice solid core (slightly visible at the base), meaning that it won’t break as quickly as many other sticks available. Surrounding the core is a pieced together montage of plastic casing and rubbery-ish grip. This cheapens the look a bit and feels a bit weak after wrestling the stick around, but it still holds together to give a decent lifetime to the stick.
Surrounding the base of the shaft is a lose rubber sheathe held down by a metallic-looking plastic ring, made to look like the gear lever of many a sports car. The rubber hole which the shaft goes through is quite baggy and open, leaving the surrounding’s job of keeping dirt away from the inner works almost pointless, but it stays just enough for it to look nice and functional.

The throttle is a nice sliding handle, with little stops for "Idle" and "Afterburner close to the ends of the throttle’s influence. It slides well, although a bit light on the move, as if it was a little bit more free in it’s construction, the throttle section would not attempt to lift off each time I move from idle to full blast.

One nice feature of the stick is that it can split apart into separate modules of the stick and the throttle, connected only by a good length of wire between the two. This was ideal for me, since I am nothing short of a fat wide lump of a man, and keeping them together cramped my style quite literally, making movement tricky. With them separate, the weakness of the throttle’s lightness is amplified, leading for some slight mistakes and frequent engine stalls when you just wanted to slow down a bit. A technique of holding the base down whilst moving the throttle in one hand has to be mastered in order to get the most from the stick.
It even comes with an allen key for device attachment and separation. Just two little screw-based parts and a thick plastic hook keep the parts together tightly. And then Thrustmaster came out with a nice idea of bundling another "Support" with the stick, so that when they are separated, the joystick section looks nice on it’s own, and is supported as well as if the throttle was attached. The only failure of this system is that the throttle has a pretty striking "gap" where a large circular object should fit. It does not matter to talk about the aesthetics of a throttle when the joystick (the bit you may be looking at more than any other part) looks nice.

The Afterburner II is a great stick for flight-sim enthusiasts, being strong in it’s primary construction and great in it’s separation and stabilisation, but slightly poor button management, even more slight external construction missives and the "Gaping Void" of the separated throttle side, are only tiny problems for a fundamentally great stick.
If only it wasn’t called "Top Gun"…

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