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| Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel - Drive away today, no strings (wires) attached! (11 comments )|
by: Beefysworld (290) | Posted in cluster Editors Challenge Sponsored by Intel Round 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Gamers have always looked for better ways to interface with the game, whether it be from successful peripherals such as the Light Gun, down to the not-so-hot Power Glove. The humble steering wheel (along with the joystick for flight sims) has made it through the test of time better than most and is still a sought after item today. With the amazingly detailed graphics of the current generation of consoles, nothing could cap off a racing simulator better than holding onto a wheel, with your foot to the floor and feeling the road travel beneath you.
|» MEDIA (10)|
Contents of the box (cat not included)
The wheel, showing buttons on front and headset port
The battery compartment on the right side of the wheel
Rear / underside of wheel, showing grip and ports on back
Cord under pedal unit safely routed out the side
The table mount (inset shows car \'hood\' release button
Table mount secured to table
The wheel and pedals, set up (headset shown is optional)
Change the options in PGR3 to enable the wheel
If only I had a glove too! In-game dash board view
Microsoft, being the switched on company that they are, obviously had the same idea and have released the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel with Force Feedback. Coming from a long line of Microsoft gaming hardware, big things were expected of the wheel, and Microsoft are not one to let their fans down (we’ll just ignore their software for now). Let’s take a look at the new wheel from Microsoft and see what they have to offer.
Upon opening the box, you’ll find the following:
• steering wheel
• foot pedals (brake and accelerator)
• quick release table clamp
• power cable and power pack
• RJ-11 cable
• Battery pack and 2xAA batteries
• Project Gotham Racing 3 (Force Feedback Edition) disc
For a device touted as being ‘wireless’, there seems to be a few wires included. One of the wires is to connect the wheel to the pedals, while the other is an optional power cord to power the wheel from a power point. The wheel communicates with the Xbox360 in the same manner as the 360 Wireless controller, hence the title.
The wheel itself is rather well made. It has a solid feel to it, has little resistance when no force feedback is active and is comfortable for big and small hands alike. The basic controller buttons are all laid out on the front of the wheel, offering a D-pad, the Xbox Guide button, Start / Back buttons and the four standard buttons. The gear change paddles just behind the wheel act as the two shoulder buttons, while the two foot pedals replace the triggers on a standard controller. There’s also a port on the front right for a headset, which is useful for all the gamers out there who use voice communications over Xbox Live.
The wheel has two power options – you can use the battery pack (or the Xbox 360 Rechargable Battery pack, sold separately) or can plug in a cord directly into a power outlet. The battery pack is hidden under a removable panel on the right hand side of the wheel, while the port for the power connection is located at the rear of the unit, beside the RJ-11 connection for the pedals.
The base of the wheel is slightly rounded, with rubber lines running across the wheel. This allows the driver to sit the wheel on their lap without too much sliding or discomfort. MS have done well in this respect, as it’s very comfortable driving with the wheel on your lap, without fear of slippage.
The pedal unit attaches to the main wheel via a RJ-11 cable. The cable attaches to the underside of the pedal unit, with the option to run the cable out from three different cavities. The cable itself can be secured in small grooves running around the base of the unit, which helps prevent the cable from being crushed or broken by the edging.
The pedals themselves are reasonably sturdy, with small rubber pads covering the front of the pedals. This provides excellent grip and leave little chance of your feet sliding off while you drift around that important corner. The pedals have sufficient resistance behind them to allow greater control in how far you depress each one, making gradual and slight braking / acceleration very easy. There doesn’t seem to be much of a dead zone when you first press the pedal, unlike some pedal sets, so you know that lightly pushing down will have instant effect.
One thing that did concern me was where you were supposed to rest your feet. It seems as though you are supposed to rest your heels on the floor surface, which presses up against the front of the unit to help prevent it sliding from underfoot. In most cases, I’m sure that works great… but I’m one of the lucky people graced with massive feet (you know what they say about people with big feet… big shoes!) and I found this slightly uncomfortable. What I ended up doing was resting my heels on the white bar at the front and using the balls of my feet to control the pedals. It ended up being surprisingly comfortable with no slippage and suited me just fine (with or without shoes on).
The Table Mount:
For those of you who plan on using the wheel sitting in front of a table or desk, you’ll want to make use of the table mount. The mount allows you to attach the wheel quickly and safely to any table-like surface, giving you a greater level of stability and making the wheel more effective. The mount is simple to attach, with an adjustable clamp and lever allowing you to quickly attach and detach the mount (via the quick release lever on the front). There’s also a button on the front of the mount that lets you quickly detach the wheel so you can take it elsewhere while leaving the mount in place. I had a chuckle to myself when I saw the ‘Open Hood’ symbol on the wheel release button.
Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough grip on the bottom clamp, which will slide a little under pressure. A simple rubber pad on the top of the clamp could have helped prevent this, as well as more textured rubber grips on the top part of the mount..
Connecting the Wheel:
Connecting the wheel to the 360 is very easy. The first time you connect it, you simply turn the wheel on by holding down the Xbox Guide button until it lights up, then pressing the sync button on both the wheel and the console. Soon enough, one of the light quadrants around the button will light up showing that it is connected. From then on, simply hold down the Guide button to turn on the wheel and it will connect automatically.
Once you’ve got the wheel set up, you’ll surely want something to play. Thankfully, Microsoft have included a special release of Project Gotham Racing 3 which includes support for your new force feedback wheel. Aside from the force feedback support, this version of the game is the same as the normal retail version which has been released for a while now.
Driving in style with PGR3:
Set to race with the new wheel set up, it’s time to give it a test drive. What better way to do it than in front of a 60” LG Plasma TV… In the manual, Microsoft mention that you need to put the disc in before connecting the wheel, as it needs to perform a driver update on the console. If you’ve received updates via Xbox Live, you don’t need to worry about this step as you’ll already have the update.
PGR3 itself needs no introduction – the game has been around for a while. If you would like more information on it, head over to the PGR3 information page on FS (http://www.firingsquad.com/g/253/Project_Gotham_Racing_3/). Once you load up the game, the first thing you’ll want to do is go into the controller options and change the settings to Wheel A. This changes around a few things, mainly changing the two paddles to act as gear controls. Once this is done, you can choose your racing preference and drive away.
Before purchasing the wheel, I’d played through PGR3 and made it most of the way through the solo career. Using the controller, I’d been a somewhat decent driver, so I expected to retain some of my l33t skillz using the wheel. I was horribly mistaken. It’s not that the wheel is bad in any way, but it is seriously like learning how to drive in the game all over again. Instead of pushing sideways on a control stick, you’re now turning the wheel a certain degree and back again. I was so out of touch with the wheel that I deleted my profile and started from scratch, so I could (in effect) learn how to drive again.
Driving with a wheel as a controller does have a slight learning curve. There’s a vast difference between using a controller to using an actual wheel and you can’t just pick it up and drive like a pro. Three different people jumped on and tried the wheel, in most cases only to start careening across the track and back again. I found that the in car view (in the game) seemed to be the best to relate to, as you get the feeling you are actually in the car driving. You can even see the car wheel on the screen.
Once you get used to the different sensations, you’ll find the wheel does offer greater control of your vehicle. For those who’ve spent many hours behind the wheel of an actual car (or even down at the local arcade on a Daytona machine), you’ll pick up the controls fairly quickly.
As PGR3 had been previously released, it was rather obvious that force feedback had simply been tacked on to give gamers something to make use of the feature of their new toy. While it’s not a bad thing, the implementation in the game doesn’t really add that much to the experience. It’s basically just a glorified rumble pack and doesn’t offer any physical pulling or sensations that a normal steering wheel would. However, that is not reason to be dismayed. Forza Motorsports 2, the sequel to one of the greatest driving games created (on the original Xbox) set to be released in May, will feature some of the most advanced use of force feedback seen in a gaming controller yet. The original had a well developed physics and damage system, and Turn 10 (the developers of Forza 2) have insisted that the game mechanics in Forza 2 will leave the original sitting in the dust.
The wheel itself is a good little controller. Once the initial ‘learning curve’ had passed and I limited my movement, it was very responsive and made driving a lot easier. The table mount could have been a little sturdier with better gripping, but as long as you’re not trying to rip the wheel off to the side it has sufficient hold. The lap rest grip underneath also works very well, as long as you sit with your legs slightly apart to hold it in place.
Using the pedals was also fine, once you find a comfortable resting place for your feet. I’m not entirely convinced that the ‘hole to the floor’ option was the best way to go, but it seems to work well enough. The lower your seat is to the ground, the more likely the pedals are to slip along, so it might be worth putting something heavy in front of them if you’re sitting on a couch or low chair. That being said, there’s not many ways around it so it’s just something you’ll have to deal with.
Force feedback is a bit of a moot point at the moment. The game included with the wheel doesn’t really give you a full appreciation of what force feedback is capable of in a wheel. As stated earlier, Forza Motorsports 2 is going to offer fully fledged force feedback support, so for most driving fans it’s probably worth waiting until FM2 is released before buying the wheel.
All in all, the wheel would rate about an 8.5/10. Let down by a few flaws with the table mount and an average force feedback demonstration, the wheel is still a great alternative to using a control pad in racing games and, once you master your driving technique, the wheel should give you the edge over your opponents…
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