The roar of the engine and the squeal of the tires, racing games are a lot of fun. They lack some of the realism when you are driving with thumbsticks and buttons though. Can a racing wheel really make a difference? The Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel for the Xbox 360 might be able to. Strap your helmet on, we're going racing.
Surprisingly there is not a lot to set up out of the box for the Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel. The biggest assembly depends on how you are going to use the wheel; either in your lap or attached to a table. If you are going to use it in your lap there are two lap pads that you'll need a Phillips Head screwdriver to attach to the wheel. No tools are needed for use with a table; it comes with a large clamp. After that it's simply connecting the wire from the pedals to the wheel, the AC power supply, and then syncing with your Xbox.
A Gentle Sweeping Turn
It might be a bit naive, but I thought that I would be able to race easily right off the bat. Boy was I wrong. I put in Forza 4 and set up a class E race at the classic Indianapolis 500 Raceway. My car of choice was the 1971 AMC Javelin. As soon as it said go I eased on that gas knowing that as a rear wheel drive car if I floored it the tires would just spin and the rear end of the car would take on a mind of its own. I still had a bit of a spin out, but manageable. Eventually I had the gas pegged, but then came the first turn. Spinout city. After much crashing, retrying, etc. I quit trying to run that race and set up a class F race and chose a front wheel drive car, the Fiat 500 Abarth.
This time I set up a practice lap all by myself and took things a little slower. Did you know you can make the Abarth roll like a bowling ball? So yes, one does not easily transition from years of playing racing games with a normal controller to suddenly being A. J. Foyt behind a racing wheel. After 30 minutes or so I was not only racing laps around Indy, I was even racing against other cars. So what did the Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel do for me that I couldn't get with the regular controller?
You know that rush you get when you do something exciting? Well I was getting a bit of that rush, especially when I switched the view in Forza 4 to cockpit view. Even though I was sitting in my living room, I felt a little closer to what it was like to fight with a car wanting to go in one direction, while I forced it in another. Re-enforcing that feeling was the wheel itself with the force feedback. If you started sliding in one direction that wheel would stiffen right up forcing me apply a little muscle to keep the car from going into a skid. Bump into (or get bumped by) another car? Expect the wheel to shake and react accordingly.
Other touches bring the realism home. Shifting gears is one. Normally I play with the transmission on automatic since, with the normal controller, I want to fiddle with as few buttons as possible when I race. I found the paddle shifters to be almost tailor made for the drag races in Forza, in fact I would almost say needed. For those who want a stick shift, there is one and it can be mounted on the left or right hand side of the wheel. Both work great.
Within an afternoon I was up and racing against A.I. opponents on regular twisty tracks. My "skills" aren't up to what I can do with a regular controller yet, but I am enjoying the process of relearning. The smoothness of taking that big turn at the Maple Valley raceway feels so natural now. I've even shaved the time on some of my course records, so I am getting better. I always felt my turns with the regular controller were a "herky-jerky" manipulation of the system, at best. With the Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel it feels like they are smoother, turning the car the way it should be. Making the experience and my game even better.
If you really want a challenge and better overall experience with your racing game I highly recommend the Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel. While I have talked mostly about Forza, it also works well with most car racing games.
The Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel is available now for the Xbox 360. For more information see the Mad Catz Wireless Force Feedback Racing Wheel web page.