Ok, so I recently had a birthday, and that means getting something from the wife that you wouldn’t normally get for yourself. In this case, I pleaded extra hard and was able to get a brand spanking new RailDriver® Desktop Train Cab Controller. My wife was able to get it from Amazon from the company, even thought it says on their site that they are sold out.
When it arrived, it struck me that it was smaller than I thought it might be. It makes up for that by being being BEEFY. I mean, this thing is heavy. It will NOT slide around on your desktop. I also noticed that in addition the to the USB port, it had an audio connection. In the manual, it tells you that you don’t need to set it up for pass through sound if you don’t want to. I say DO IT! More later. Anyhow, installation is typical, if a bit tricky, but if you follow their directions, you will be fine. I fired it up with Trainz Simulator 12 (yes, I bought the 10 year anniversary pack – verra verra nice!) which had an even more convoluted set-up, but it was easy.
The result… WOW. Talk about FUN. After you calibrate the controller’s levers and switches, you’re ready to go. (Take the hint and when you calibrate the full throttle position, do not go to the full forward position, back off a tweak to be able to reach Run 8.) Having the sound go through the box enables the bass driver in the box to vibrate realistically. Even at idle, the box sits there and rumbles like a real locomotive cab might.
Running Trainz with this thing makes the experience even more enjoyable. Having the break levers and all the others deepens the immersion into the sim and just enhances it overall. It is true, the throttle is not “notched” for 8 positions, but you get over this pretty quick, I find. (I am not a real railroad engineer, so take that FWIW). Not having to look for keystroke cards and such makes the sim just feel better. I also installed it for MSTS and found the same thing, it just improves the game.
The levers and knobs feel very solid, I never got the impression I might break it. All of the buttons are programmable using the software that comes with the controller. The sound that comes through the box are very good and help make the box more of a value. The speedometer on the display is a very nice touch as well!
All in all, I have to give this an 8 out of 10. It would better if the set-up were a bit more user friendly and if the throttle was notched. Other than that, it’s a GREAT toy. I realize the $200 price tag might be a bit steep for a game controller, but as I said, it’s an extravagance!