Real farmers do not operate their tractors using keyboard and mice. They don't operate their tractors using Saitek's $600 Heavy Equipment Precision Control System for PC either, but it's much closer and a hell of a lot more entertaining.
I love Giants Software's Farming Simulator series. Or maybe I just love the idea of it. That the games attract such a hardcore fanbase dedicated to virtually performing tasks many of them would never undertake in the real world just tickles the hell out of me.
Those hardcore fans are the reason Mad Catz' Saitek brand got together with Giants to create plastic recreations of farming equipment controls.
Now you can't rebrand a standard racing wheel into a tractor wheel. You need a wide range of motion for precision movement. You need thumbsticks for moving about on foot, an important part of the Farming Simulator series.
And you can't operate heavy equipment without a heavy equipment steering wheel knob.
How can you drive a tractor without pedals? You can't. You just can't.
Now you could stop right there. You can pick up just the pedals and the wheel for $300. But if you're going that far, you might as well go all the way.
The main control panel features 25 programmable buttons, a loader stick for crane and camera control, a dial for adjusting cruise control, because a farmer needs to rest their foot now and them. It looks like a panel in a 1970s sci-fi movie. It's pretty amazing.
All of this specifically-tailored equipment may seem silly. It is silly. But it's also excellent at adding a layer of immersion to Farming Simulator 2015 that I've never felt before. Watch me play the game with the controls here, and witness my joy.
Suddenly I'm enjoying more than just the idea of Farming Simulator. I'm enjoying the game itself — I'm enjoying the tractor ride. Every now and then I find myself bouncing up and down in my seat, because that's what farmers do in the movies when they aren't being fiercely protective of their female offspring.
I've still got plenty more to do with Saitek's Heavy Equipment Precision Control System before I get to a full review. There are dozens of pieces of farming equipment for me to control, plus the system works with several other games, including Euro Truck Simulator, Elite Dangerous and Kerbal Space Program.
It will work with those games, but this ridiculous hardware was made with one series in mind, and the series in much better for it. The Heavy Equipment Precision Control System will be available December 16, but you can preorder now.