Everybody knows the best video game steering wheel ever made was the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel released by Microsoft in 2006. However there was a problem with a component in the wheel chassis that smoked when it got too hot (not good), and it was discontinued less than a year after release.
Microsoft halted manufacture and erased it ‘Bourne-style’ without trace, and now only the occasional Ebay sighting proves it ever existed. There have been many attempts to replicate it’s brilliance, most failing miserably. The main issue with other models was the lack of cohesion between what is happening on the track, and what you doing with your hands.
Always a slightly detached, randomness about things, at times it could feel like there was a backseat driver grabbing the controls from you at the most crucial part of the corner.
That is until now.
The Mad Catz Wireless ForceFeedBack Racing Wheel is a pretty serious piece of gaming kit, and while expensive, is a doorway to another level of gaming.
The build quality, especially that of the wheel itself is extremely good, superb in fact. If feels just like a real steering wheel in your hand and it comes with two different fixing brackets to either attach to a table or to put on your knee. The gear stick can also be mounted on the left or right side depending on your preferences, or country of birth. Despite the brake and accelerator pedals being more plastic-y they still look capable of withstanding some serious mileage.
In common with most high performance ‘real’ cars, there are also paddle shift controls mounted directly behind the wheel for easy gear changes. There is also the regular Xbox controller buttons in the middle, so if you were completely mad you could, in theory play Rockband on it.
You won’t need batteries, the wheel plugs straight in to an electricity socket. When you first switch it on the controller gives you a little kickback as a precursor of things to come.
I have to be honest, my first attempt wasn’t good, I unboxed it (no mean feat in itself), and headed straight to Xbox Live for a downhill duel on a particularly icy section of Need For Speed ‘The Run’. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.
Admitably my opponent made things worse, taunting me through the mic….racing on ahead, waiting for me to catch up and then speeding away again. At first it was like trying to guide a plate of blancmange around a canine obstacle course, however I wasn’t going to give up that easily and tried the wheel with a different game, F1 2011.
The results were a million times better, I was still finishing near the back, but at least I was competing, and I was enjoying the ride too. The wheel is definitely more effective on games that are more ‘real-life’ simulator and less ‘arcade-y’, and after 20 mins or so I was getting a real feel for the force (feedback).
Obviously the beauty of games like Forza Racing 4 is choosing from the huge range of cars, and you soon find out the difference in feel between driving a VW Golf and a Ferrari.
Whatever the vehicle, it does a great job of replicating the bumps and corners, and the feedback is authentic enough to drive in much the same way you would in a car around a regular track.
You can fine tune it to suit, and with a decent sound and TV set-up you’ve got an adrenaline fuelled driving experience that is unmatched in the comfort of your own home. Believe it or not, after a few hours I actually won a race!
While it’s probably true you can drive faster using a regular controller, it’s nowhere near as much fun. I would like to see special online filters for steering wheel users only, that would separate the men from the boys (literally). Did I mention the price? It’s not cheap, get it bundled with Forza Motorsport 4 and you’ll be lucky to get much change from £200, that is only slightly less than a Kinect and Xbox Console bundle.
That depends on your disposable income. If you are single and can afford to buy 30 Pot Noodles and a ForceFeedBack Racing Wheel with your wages next month, then yes. If you have a partner, you’ll need more money to buy them something as compensation. After all backseat drivers are the worst, even virtual ones.
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