Sidewinder Freestyle Pro
|PC Hardware Review
|| PC Controller
| Review Date
If you're anything like me, there's somebody important in your life who doesn't
play video games. In this case, its my wife. But it could just as easily be
your mother or your girlfriend, or even your boyfriend.
Here is my problem:
When I bring home a groovy new piece of hardware for my PC or PSX, my wife
turns to me and says, "That's nice dear. You can take that out of our house
as soon as you like." When I express my reluctance and try to convince her of
the merits of having a steering wheel clamped to the desk, she starts to suggest
that the rest of the house might look better with lots of little lacy doilies
and glass figurines of animals. The wheel returns to the Game Revolution office.
Yin and Yang. The balance is maintained.
I have been able to keep a gamepad tucked away where it cannot be seen, my ActLabs
RS Wheel is not allowed to live on our desk (nor the pedals underneath).
The compassionate, friendly company that is Microsoft has decided to see personally
to my needs (and perhaps a few others of you out there).
Introducing the Sidewinder Freestyle Pro. The Freestyle is an innovative
new controller that looks and works like a gamepad, but doubles as a flightstick.
It can do this because any direction you tilt the controller is registered by
the computer. Tilt the Freestyle forward and it's like pushing your flightsick
forward. Tilt slightly to the left or right to bank, or tilt harder to barrel
This is not the first time this type of controller has been made. I even had
a device for my Intellivision called 'the glove' which worked similarly, but
required you to install sensors at the corners of your TV.
However, the Freestyle is the first controller to use a solid state
sensor that actually senses the gravity field of the Earth (or planet of your
choice) by measuring the flow of electrons in a special chip. This means that
there is no little internal pendulum or gyroscope to wear out or break. I actually
even bashed the controller against the side of a moving car (long story) which
marred the outside a bit, but left it functioning perfectly.
Ergonomically, the pad is great. It is shaped a bit like the PlayStation game
controller, but it is a little larger for more adult hands. It has a nice 6
button layout and 2 triggers. The throttle is a rubber wheel in the center that
you can turn with your right thumb. In tilty flightstick mode, the D-pad functions
as the hat-switch, but switching to gamepad mode is as easy as hitting a single
Installation is a snap. The Sidewinder software installs easily and automatically
detects the Freestyle. The software allows you to fully customize the
controller functions and even emulate the keyboard, saving different configurations
for different games (I hate controlling Lara Croft with the keyboard).
As a gamepad, it works... well... like a gamepad. It has good, solid control
and the same full custom options. Having established that, let's move on to
the more interesting part of the Freestyle: all that tilting.
As a flightstick,
the Freestyle takes a bit of getting used to. The response is fast and surprisingly
accurate, but this is a control method you won't recognize at first. You have
to remember to keep those tilts steady and not react reflexively (when you get
hit by a missile, for example).
The most intuitive control is with motorcycle racing games, which is why the
Freestyle comes bundled with Microsoft's Motocross Madness. Just
tilt the controller like the handlebars: within minutes you'll be cruising along
side of Peter Fonda for some easy riding. Peace, man.
Flying your favorite aircraft sim takes a little more patience. All the controls
you need are there, and with some practice, there's no reason the Freestyle
couldn't be just as effective as a desktop flightstick. However, the Freestyle
just doesn't "put you in the cockpit" the way that a flightstick does.
Finally, the controller is weakest with action games like Unreal.
You will quickly get toasted by people using a keyboard/mouse or the SpaceOrb.
On the other hand, nobody ever uses flightsticks for those games, anyway.
What I'm saying here is that the Sidewinder Freestyle Pro is a great
compromise controller for those of you with space or budgetary restrictions.
Or even if there's just a woman (or man) in your house whose decorating tastes
do not mesh with geeky video game paraphernalia.
For flight sim junkies, this will never replace your flightstick and aileron
pedals. You racing buffs will want to keep your wheels and pedals, also. However,
the Freestyle is a great little controller that does everything
without taking up any space or making you crawl behind the computer to plug
in a new controller every time you want to play. If you only want one controller
in your life, this is a great choice.