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?
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