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[REVIEW] Elite Dangerous (PS4) and Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4
03 August 2017
Posted in Reviews

I've been meaning to write this review a month ago already, but sadly the mild depression that I already was in hit mye quite hard - I even had to start taking anti-depressives. On the other hand, because I've been in that depression, I could play Elite Dangerous a lot and because of the nature of the game (I played mainly as trader and explorer) the game eased my mind quite well. It also allowed me to get to know the game better than I already did from the time I played it on the PC and it allowed me to get used to the Thrustrmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 as well...

As said, I've already played ED on the PC before, but that was about 55 hours only. While I liked the game, I didn't like the controls that it provided. The mouse/keyboard combination was already a big no-no for me, while controller/keyboard was kinda the same but a bit better. Like most PC ED players, I bought a voice control program (VoiceAttack for me) to talk to the PC and avoid using they keyboard completely so I could focus on playing with the controller. Yet that still felt somewhat off, not to mention that the voice program had some difficulties with my microphone at times and responded (too) late from time to time. Of course, when I decided to hop to Linux, ED became totally out of the picture because it's a Windows only game
That means that when I bought the game (Legendary edition on disc), I knew what to expect and I figured I have to use controller/keyboard on my PS4, but I was wrong about that. On the PS4 ED doesn't use the keyboard at all (aside from optionally chat, but you can do that with the virtual keyboard as well), and the controller use has been extremely well implemented. After having run the tutorial and added a few missing functions (heatsink is not configured to name prolly the most important one) and changing only a couple to what I think was more convenient, I found that the controls felt quite natural and was ready to fly into the voids of space.

But still I found that the controls didn't cut it for me at all... In the past I've bought the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 to play No Man's Sky, but the game was not compatible with them, even while it was stated in ste sales ad. I returned them and said that I'd most likely get them again when ED would come to the PS4 (there was no release date set then) and 2 days after I bought the ED disc, I bought the HOTAS again (actually the same ones I returned 3 months ago ).
Much as with the controller, I ran the tutorials to see how the HOTAS would fly and I was immediately in love with them - using them it felt a 100% natural flying and controlling my ship. Of course, I once again had to make a few minor adjustments to the pre-set controls (gotta say that for both the HOTAS and controller, the PS4 controls have been done very well for ED - there is little to no need to remap the default controls at all), including adding the heatsink.

Ever since that I've been flying with the HOTAS and enjoying ED even more than I could imagine! There's are a few bad things about the HOTAS though...
  1. For me the stick is a bit too small. I have pretty big hands (glove size XL is a tight fit), and the stick itself might have been 5mm higher for my hand to make it more comfortable to play with. I can still use the stick normally, but I do have to adjust my hand from time to time and straighten my indexfinger to avoid strain from that bit-too-short stick.
  2. Being summer here (Europe) now, the plastic stick makes my hand sweat a lot. I have a PS3 controlled which has added silicone for a better grip, and that's also less likely to make my hands steat. I'd love to have seen that added to the HOTAS as well, but it's a minor issue though.
  3. Having used the HOTAS for a month now, the internal mechanism has 'loosened' a bit and the deadzones have to be set. While I think this is only natural because the springs (well, I guess they use springs) come tight woven from the factory and using them will strech them somewhat. Once more a minor thing, setting deadzones fixes it most of the time, but my ship does tend to fly up a bit from time to time because of this. Pushing the stick inward a bit fixes it most of the time. Of course, I could set the spring strength with the knob at the bottom, but I think that might strech the springs even more over time...
  4. Last but not least, there are only 2 PS4 games that support the HOTAS right now: Elite Dangerous and War Thunder (a 'Free2Play' game).

Enough about the HOTAS, lets spend some time on Elite Dangerous right now...
For those unfamiliar with the game, it's actually a 4X sandbox game. This means that the game has no pre-set goal like most games have (reach level X, or kill boss Y), but you determine your own goals in the game. Of course, the game does have missions that you can optionally pick up, but those are more a means to gain money and learn the ropes of the game (both are certainly true at the early stages of the game), but other than that, YOU decide what you do in the sandbox of our universe. You could decided to become a space trucker, get the biggest freighter money can buy and then buy/sell stuff from various stations or do the FedEx missions those stations provide. Youc an also become a combat pilot and play the kill missions, get faction (Federation and Empire) ranks to unlock better combat ships and get special permits to enter certain systems (Sol is a Federation permit locked system) or planets, become a bounty hunter or even a pirate (and be hunted by other bounty hunters ). You can also decided to head to Sagittarius A* (the center of our galaxy over 25K lightyears from start) for that (PS4) trophy and explore everything you encounter along the way (exploration does pay off quite well BTW).

But that's not all ED has to offer. The game also gives a good insight into astrophysics and I gotta say that Frontier (ED's developer) has done a good job at that. I wasn't the brightest light at physics at school (I have a problem learning formulas just because they are true - I need to know why thanks to my Asperger's syndrome), but playing ED has learned me a lot about physics in general. So far, almost all I've seen in the game makes sense according to the laws of physics. The only thing that I think is bugged is when you're decending to a planet at low speed, and the planet's gravity is not pulling hard enough on your ship, while at landing it is...

Graphicsally I think ED is decent enough. While space itself is a black void, the stars and planets so have some variation, but it might have been bigger. When you look on the star system map, you can pick out most of the systems immediately, making a scout for earth-like worlds and terraform canditates very easy (too easy?), while on your ship's HUD you can already see what kind of planet you're dealing with. Landing on a planet is something that might provide more variation as well. So far I've seen the same landscapes over and over again with an occasional rare flora and scattered rocks and mining nodes.
On the other hand, when flying and using the in-game's photo mode you can make some real nice shots of the game. The ED subreddit has quite a lot of them (not as much as the NMS subreddid has though).

The soundtrack of ED pretty a good. It gives you a real space flight feeling, but when flying for hour after hour it might become pretty dull. It's not like most games where you have 100s of musical scenes that change from situation to situation but instead your randomly get one of the tracks ED offers. I mostly mute the game's soundtrack and instead play some of my own music.

It's also worth to mention that ED has an online gaming mode in either open play or closed group play (as usual, PS+ required) that allows you to fly in a wing-party if you and your friend are close enough to meet - space if infinate and it might take some time to meet up. If you and your friend are 1000s of lightyears apart, there's also an option to hop into your friend's ship and take a seat there (if the ship allows it). On that seat you can take the role of gunner while flying, but if the ship has a hangar, you can also from down in a smaller fighter and fight from there (these small fighters can also be used by NPCs you can hire). Alternatively, you can also add a 2nd (or bigger) vehicle bay and the 2 of you can ride the survaces of planets and moons.

It's not all positive though. There is no cross-platform play (most likely because SONY and MicroSoft could not agree on the server sharing as usual), but the game does use one main database for all 3 platforms (PC, PS4 and XBOX 1). With the PS4 version of the game having been released 2 years after the PC version, finding new systems/planets is kinda hard. More importantly for me is that because of it, I had to start all over again - I could not transfer my old PC data to the PS4. While not a biggie (I wasn't realy far on the PC after that 50 hours ), it might have given me an extra boost

Personally, I think Elite Dangerous is one of the best games available for the PS4 right now. Last month I've spent over 100 hours flying through space (I am on my way to Sagittarius A* right now with some massive detours) and I'm pretty sure that I'll be playing ED for months (if not years) to come. And while I'm still in a pretty nooby ship (Asp Explorer with little to no modifications), exploration goes pretty well as well as fending off pirates (though I'd advice against battle when so far off from 'civilization' - there are very few ports out there and a repair unit needs quite some materials to work). In general, if you're a SF lover and enjoy sandbox games, I really can recommend to get it!

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