When it comes to console games, you don’t usually need a special controller to enjoy the game. Just grab the official one that came with it, and you’re good. However, if you’re playing a racing game, you can’t get the same immersive feeling with an analog stick. What you need is a wheel with a shifter, and a set of pedals. Mad Catz has you covered with their officially licensed Wireless Force Feedback Wheel for the Xbox 360, which we’re taking a look at today.
We’ll start with the wheel itself, which looks beautiful. While it is mostly plastic, the hand grips on the wheel are textured rubber to help you get a better hold. The inner part of the wheel is solid metal, as are both paddle shifters and the top of the shifter knob. The shifter can be positioned on either the left or right, to accommodate your preferred location. On the rear you will find a sync button, DC jack (for the included power cable) RJ-45 jack and a spot to plug in your 360 headset.
One of the things you’ll notice about this wheel is that it is heavy. You could actually play with this sitting on your desk or table, without the need for a clamp. The only downside is that most of the weight is in the wheel, which means it would have a tendency to lean forward. The clamp is pretty basic, and keeps it locked firmly in place.
If you don’t have room for a table in front of your TV, you do have the option of leg supports. These attach to the bottom with four screws (they don’t come all the way out, so you won’t ever lose them) and have a rubber coating. This layer of rubber provides a bit of padding, and helps keep the wheel from moving around.
Remember how I said that I loved how heavy the wheel was? This is most definitely not the case with the pedal unit. It is very light, and almost cheap feeling. There are rubber feet on the bottom, which are there to keep it from sliding around. The design of the pedals is nice, as they are suspended. This should give a more realistic feel than other pedals which are mounted at the base. The only other thing you’ll find on the pedal unit is a single cable, with plugs into the RJ-45 connector on the wheel.
Just as with their Primer headset we reviewed yesterday, this wireless racing wheel is a breeze to setup. All you need to do is attach either the leg rests or clamp to the wheel, set your pedals in place and connect the two cables (one for the pedals, and one for the power). You’ll need to press the sync button on the wheel and the 360 the first time you connect it, just as you would with a regular 360 controller. Once that’s done, you’re ready to go.
I talked a lot about the solid construction of the wheel earlier, and it makes a difference. When you sit down with this for the first time, you’ll think you’re holding something that’s worthy of being in a car. I think my favorite part is the metal paddle shifters, which are leaps and bounds above any plastic ones I’ve used.
I was most surprised by how well this particular wheel worked in my lap. The sheer weight of the unit was enough to keep it in place, but at the same time wasn’t so heavy that it hurt my legs. Of course, I still preferred using it with a table, and the simple clamp was extremely effective.
Just like the weight and construction made the wheel a superior product, the cheap feel of the pedals left me wanting. Since they pedal unit weighs so little, I found that on a hardwood or tile surface, it is virtually impossible to keep the pedals in one spot. You’ll need to have something heavy sitting behind them to keep them in place.
The main draw to this particular wheel, (aside from the wireless capabilities) is the force feedback. Let me tell you, it works, and it works well. Nothing adds to a racing game like struggling against the wheel when you’re trying to make it through a tight curve. Overall, the wheel handles like a dream. The paddle shifters are quick and responsive, though the stick shifter felt a little more gummy than I would like when shifting.
While I hate how light and cheap the pedals feel, they still work quite well (if you can keep them in place). The suspended placement of the pedals does provide a more realistic-feeling experience, and I had no issues with the responsiveness. I think if Mad Catz had given them the same metallic treatment that they gave the wheel, they’d have solved both of these issues at the same time.
When it comes to racing wheels, this Wireless Force Feedback one from MadCatz is difficult to top. Its quality and performance is marred only by the light and cheap pedals that come with it. My only other complaint is that you’re forced to plug the wheel into the wall, which defeats the purpose of making it wireless in the first place. I would say that overall, it’s worth the $250 price tag, but only for enthusiasts.