Nov 17

Written by: Thryon
11/17/2006 11:57 PM  RssIcon

Product display box
Racing has never felt so real!
Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel
Release Date: November 15, 2006
Developer: Microsoft
Hardware Category: Controller
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I have been enjoying Project Gotham Racing 3 since launch day. It was actually the very first title that I popped into my new Xbox 360 once I got home. I have completed each race (at least on easy) and unlocked as many cars as possible. In short the game was great fun. Just as with most games, PGR3 lost its lustre after just a few months, as newer games started trickling out. Eventually PGR3 was left on the pile. Today PGR3 is back on my must play list and I am glad to say that I am enjoying this title more than ever, all thanks to the new Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel.

The first thing that needs mentioning is that the wheel, contrary to its name, is not completely wireless. It is true that there are no wires from the wheel to the Xbox 360 console, but the main wheel is connected to the pedals via an RJ11 cable (think old landline phone cable). Also the wheel needs to be plugged into an AC outlet to enjoy the built-in force feedback features. If force feedback is not required, a standard battery pack or two AA batteries are all that is required to use the wheel rendering it almost wireless. The wheel consists of two parts; that main steering wheel itself and the base unit (pedals). The wheel sports a D-Pad to allow for menu navigation, a guide button, a set of ABXY buttons and two paddle shifts. Also present is a port to connect an Xbox 360 headset and a system link button.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
I could not find a short enough table to fasten the wheel to, so I just used it on my lap. The wheel has two small indents on the underside that is lined with rubber ridges. These indents that fits over your legs and the rubber keep the entire thing from slipping and sliding when playing. Similar the base unit also contains rubber ridges on the underside to stop it from moving during game play. Also the form of the base unit allows for one foot to assist in holding the base in place, while the other is used for breaking and stepping on it. I had no complaints with the design of the unit with the exception that I wished the base communicated wirelessly with the console instead of a small cable to the main unit.

Enough about the physical aspect of the wheel, the real question that everyone wants answered is “how does it perform”. I cannot give you a clear cut answer to that question as it will vary depending on the title played. The Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel caome bundled with a copy of special version of Project Gotham Racing 3. Actually the only difference between this version of PGR3 and the retail version is the inclusion of the wheel drivers on the game disc (the same drivers would be downloaded for free if connected to Xbox Live). After unpacking the wheel (I never knew they made blister packs so large), I quickly inserted the game disc, updated the console with the drivers and game the game a go. I have to admit that once I played PGR3 with the wheel, I never want to play it again without it. The wheel’s response time is great and natural. After a couple of races, I had eliminated the urge to over-steer and started driving as I would in my own vehicle (that is if I was driving a 500hp monster capable of speeds of over 300km/h). The force-feedback feature greatly enhanced my gameplay experience. Now I could feel each time I left the track, allowing me to “feel” the track and improve on my driving. Playing the game, using the in car view, placed me in pure racing bliss.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
Enough about the physical aspect of the wheel, the real question that everyone wants answered is “how does it perform”. I cannot give you a clear cut answer to that question as it will vary depending on the title played. The Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel caome bundled with a copy of special version of Project Gotham Racing 3. Actually the only difference between this version of PGR3 and the retail version is the inclusion of the wheel drivers on the game disc (the same drivers would be downloaded for free if connected to Xbox Live). After unpacking the wheel (I never knew they made blister packs so large), I quickly inserted the game disc, updated the console with the drivers and game the game a go. I have to admit that once I played PGR3 with the wheel, I never want to play it again without it. The wheel’s response time is great and natural. After a couple of races, I had eliminated the urge to over-steer and started driving as I would in my own vehicle (that is if I was driving a 500hp monster capable of speeds of over 300km/h). The force-feedback feature greatly enhanced my gameplay experience. Now I could feel each time I left the track, allowing me to “feel” the track and improve on my driving. Playing the game, using the in car view, placed me in pure racing bliss.

To bad this feeling was not mirror in all titles. The only other game at this time to support the wheel is Need for Speed Carbon. Unfortunately the wheel does not appear to be very helpful in this game. Carbon does not respond very well to the slight movements of the racing wheel which caused me to over-steer, resulting in a loss of control of the car. I was struggling to just stay on the road let alone actually compete against the other racers (or cops as the game would have it).
--Brian Wray

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