The Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel Ė A Warning

   22/05/2007 at 13:58       Germaine Greer       21 COMMENTS.
The warning is, 'it's shit, don't buy it'.

OK, I'll refine that to stop the apoplexy, 'it's not worth £90, don't buy it'.

As a long term Driving Force Pro user I firmly believe that when you're paying that sort of money for a peripheral you should be getting the Best and quite frankly the WRW is still a liver failure or two away from there.

I was perilously close to ordering one of these monstrosities for the pending FORZA insanity. Luckily (oh my God I was so lucky!) I got the chance to borrow one from my work first. And after dragging it excitedly home, I soon found that the most well engineered element of the whole package was the fiendishly constructed box...

Flaw #1 - The Pedals

I actually count four major design errors in the pedal unit. It only has two moving parts for fecks sake!

1. The angle the pedals are set at is atrociously high and the face of the pedals is far too straight. This would be fine if the medals moved away and upwards as they would in a real car, but they're not, perhaps something they forgot? With the feet in their intended position (see iv.) the ankles rest at too acute an angle not to be painful, meaning you are forced to depress both pedals slightly at all times.

2. The resistance from depressing the pedals is much too weak, as well as being uniform between the two (the DFP's brake pedal is far stiffer than the accelerator for example).

3. Having a laminate floor I found that the whole unit would not remain in place under use, God knows what it would be like on a carpet when the pathetic 'traction' pads would have even less grip.

4. Rather than opting for a flat surface for the heel plate, the designers have decided to be 'trendy' and therefore render the whole thing useless. I am of course talking about the ridiculous 'loop'. Presumably designed to let you rest your heels against it, it's a great idea, if you happen to have exactly the right size feet that is. For me the ridiculous angle of the pedals (see i.) meant that without breaking my ankles I couldn't rest my heels as intended, consequently I had to balance the ball of my foot right along the sharp ridge of the 'loop' itself. Painful.

Flaw #2 - The Wheel

Another four unnecessary errors this time, well done Microsoft.

1. The 'force' feedback strength. Oh dear. Notice I put inverted commas there? That's because using this wheel felt like playing a 10 year old Sega Rally cabinet in a bar, you remember, how you can easily go lock-to-lock with one hand whilst holding your beer in the other? Where claims like 'it will rip your arms off' have come from I've no idea, because I'm as weedy as they come.

2. The force feedback sensitivity. Or lack of perhaps? I'm prepared to admit that this may just be due to the currently software available, but, after trying both the bundled copy of PGR3 and the FORZA demo, I was shocked by just how little what I was doing onscreen seemed to correlate to what the wheel was doing. Although FORZA was by far the best of the two, there was still little noticeable change between different road conditions, a frankly massive dead zone and none of that intuitive sense of being on 'the edge' that force feedback should give.

3. Build quality on the whole was reasonably good, but again not good enough for the price tag. When I let go of the wheel and watched it grind back and forth it actually rattled quite badly.

4. Finally, perhaps a personal thing, but I found the shape of the wheel to be very awkward to use, with not enough 'free' space on the inner circumference to grip comfortably at all times.

Flaw #3 - It's not wireless

With two wires to trip over and tangle it's not quite a spider's web, but it certainly isn't wireless. Not really a go at the wheel this one, just at the marketing fucks who continue to make lying a viable career choice.

All that said, my greatest confusion over this whole affair is not that Microsoft would release such sub-standard equipment (oh look my 360 has died... again), but that it has been so universally well received. I haven't actually been able to find a negative review of the wheel anywhere and I can only put this down to three reasons:

The Ignorant - I use the word in its purest sense, as in those that don't know any better. Due to the sheer cost of such equipment, few can have been exposed to quality force feedback wheels before, and as much as I don't like the WRW, it's a judgement based on value for money more than anything, I can easily see how someone upgrading from their £20 Madcatz 'Ultra Mega Street Racing Pro Wheel' would see a massive improvement.

The Disappointed - As I've been saying, £90 is a lot of money and it's only human nature to evangelise about a major purchase to try to compensate for the niggling feeling of being letdown somewhat.

The Fanboys - Need I say more?

So in conclusion, the WRW is by no means the worst wheel ever made and is better than most of the crap that is available, if it was priced nearer half the current RRP I'd probably be singing its praises, or at least recommending it, but sadly it isn't and the sheer fact is that for the asking price it just is not worth the money. Of course you can counter by saying 'If I enjoy it then it is worth it!' and that 'it's the best 360 wheel available,' all of which is true. But if you were expecting the sort of build quality and design that the best wheels give you, prepare for a shock.

I realise most will dismiss my ravings, but if I'm wrong, ask yourself this question. Why are all the fastest times in FORZA being set with the pad?
User Comments:

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billdoor - on 22/05/2007 at 16:30 wrote:
I have a sneaking inkling you will be in a tiny minority when it comes to this one :)

angeltreats - on 22/05/2007 at 17:08 wrote:
I totally agree with the comments about the pedals. I found them incredibly uncomfortable.

HairyArse - on 22/05/2007 at 17:15 wrote:
/is still gutted at having to remove the 'torque is cheap' version of the headline

I dunno about anyone but my performance in racing games when using the wheel is nothing short of abysmal.

quedex - on 22/05/2007 at 17:26 wrote:
The only wheel I ever got on with is that fancy logitech 900 degree wheel, and I've seen a few reviews of the MS one that suggest it's not as good. Think I'll stick with the controller as well.

Manuel Garcia - on 22/05/2007 at 18:27 wrote:
I agree on a few of the points. The pedals are pretty bad. I was having this conversation with my housemate the other day actually, why has nobody come up with a force feedback mechanism for the brake pedal at the very least yet? Even on the DFP it doesn't offer any real variable difference.

I have no problem with the shape of the wheel though and the feedback in comparison to the DFP is more subtle, but still plenty strong enough to make it worthwhile for me.

I agree it is an inferior wheel to the DFP on most counts though, but I purchased it for £80 from Gamestation last week and I have to say I dont feel disappointed at that price. The quality is high enough overall.

Manuel Garcia - on 22/05/2007 at 18:29 wrote:
Also, as far as the pad/wheel thing is concerned. I've always bought and used wheels for the experience alone, not to set lap times alight.

For that I'd always use a pad because you can go from a full lock on one side to the other in a matter of a second, and you just cant do that on a wheel no matter how Bruce Lee you might be :)

ruttyboy - on 22/05/2007 at 18:43 wrote:
True Manuel, but if you are setting a fast lap you should never have to go lock-to-lock that quickly (except rallying obviously).

The fact is that most people were able to instantly improve their times using the DFP on GT4 and the same is not true with this. And yes the 360 controller is better than the Dualshock, but it's not *that* much better.

peej - on 22/05/2007 at 18:50 wrote:
I like it but I would have to agree about the pedals.


Mapster - on 22/05/2007 at 19:21 wrote:
I own a DFP too and while the 360 wheel isn't as good it's not shit (imo). Works really well with forza.

Having said that, if they made the DFP work then that's what I'd use.

Rhythm - on 22/05/2007 at 19:30 wrote:
The wireless wheel isn't as good as my DFP, true, but it's still plenty grand for me. I've got no complaints about the strength (I always dial it back to about the level that Forza 2 uses) but the missing gearstick is sad, as is the fact that due to the minimal controls on the face you can't even look left/right whilst driving.

I prefer the pedals to the DFP though - these ones don't bite when you pick them up :-)

And where's it £90? I only paid £80 from Gamestation ;-)

Oh, and laptimes dropped from 1:06 in C class to 1:04 on the Forza 2 demo when I fired up the wheel. It truly is shite in PGR3 though

Tiger_Walts - on 22/05/2007 at 20:11 wrote:
It is overpriced, but not grossly.
The pedals are not one size fits all.

But the FF implementation is superb in the Forza demo. Why do pad users get better times? Probably because the game cheats for them, smoothing out rough stick inputs and being a bit too forgiving. Hopefully they'll fix that. :)

ruttyboy - on 22/05/2007 at 20:46 wrote:
Dan, did you see that improvement the first lap you did with the wheel though, or did you have to get used to it?

Rhythm - on 22/05/2007 at 20:57 wrote:
First lap, Rutty. I was already familiar with the wheel having fought (and given up with it) in PGR3 and enjoyed it in TDU.

It's worth noting that TDU featured decent customisation for the wheel - I can oonly hope Forza does the same

ruttyboy - on 22/05/2007 at 21:05 wrote:
Fair does :)

I've just found out that Logitech have a wheel out, anyone tried this one? It looks a lot more like the DFP.

Rhythm - on 22/05/2007 at 21:41 wrote:
Slight caveat - first time I bolted the wheel to anything. It's hopeless in "knee mode" :-)

peej - on 22/05/2007 at 22:46 wrote:
Tis definitely not shit, and as Dan said - it's brilliant bolted to something, and TDU has a really nice set of adjustment parameters.

I never got on with the DFP at all. It was a far superior wheel, it was just attached to a game that didn't do it justice (imho). Using it on the likes of CMR4 though, it was ker-lovely.

As I said, couldn't agree more about the pedals - I find the "non slip" loop at the back more of a pain in the arse than a saviour. The main problem is that ideally the pedals should have a shorter travel distance but greater analogue adjustment.


Rhythm - on 23/05/2007 at 00:43 wrote:
Agreed on the DFP there, Peej. As a PS2 wheel it's OK but plug it into a PC and it really shines. GT Legends is a JOY with it

ruttyboy - on 23/05/2007 at 10:57 wrote:
Peej! 0_o

"The pedals are nicely designed too..."

"The handy plastic loop at the back..."

I don't know, the journalistic integrity in this place is shocking!


Harry - on 23/05/2007 at 16:21 wrote:
I couldn't disagree more with the review.

spanky - on 23/05/2007 at 17:46 wrote:
I've got a number 6(I've changed my mind to the last persons opinion) here, what i need is an 8 a 3 and a 4... Bingo!

Trip SkyWay - on 05/07/2007 at 06:24 wrote:
I like it, but I've never had a Force Feedback wheel before.

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