Hardcore petrol heads and casuals looking to move up to the next level will both understand that when it comes to steering wheels for the 360, choices are limited. With Microsoft also cancelling the production of their own wheel last year, it has left quite a bit of room for 3rd parties to wrestle your hard earned cash from you. Enter Mad Catz officially licensed wireless force feedback wheel for Xbox 360 (bit of a mouth full).
Upon relieving the wheel from its packaging the first thing of note is how light the wheel itself is. The majority of its construction is plastic with the core of the wheel being one of the few metal parts visible. It’s quite easy to write the wheel off for poor build quality due to this, but it is actually remarkable stable under punishment. However due to the two part plastic mould that makes up the grip there is a very noticeable seam where they join together which might put some off. On the plus side due to its relatively insignificant weight, this is the most portable wheel I have had the pleasure of handling. Add the wheels wireless nature to the equation and you are left with controller you should have no issues moving around your living room when the need arises.
As expected of an officially licensed product the wheel comes equipped with all the face buttons (and directional pad) required for navigation on a Xbox 360, with the two flappy panels functioning as RB and LB, all of which feel relatively solid and are placed for easy access. However those used to receiving feedback from their panels via a satisfying click will need to look elsewhere for their audio cues. Alternatively, the wheel itself comes stocked with a detachable sequential shifter that can be attached on either side of the wheel base for those who like to drive on the wrong side of the road, which is a nice touch. Disappointingly, the wheel is locked to a 270 degree turning circle, which is perfect for F1, but becomes a slight over-sight when playing games such as Forza that has the ability to drive sports cars especially in this day and age. On the reverse of the unit you’ll be greeted with ports for power, pedals, an Xbox Live headset, a button for syncing to your Xbox 360 and usb slot for future firmware updates via your PC.
Mounting options come in the form of a detachable clamp that wouldn’t look out of place as part of a Fisher Price set, but does its job remarkably well considering how flimsy it looks. However those wishing to hard mount the wheel to a desk or hard surface are going to have a “hard” time as the option seems to have completely been overlooked in favour of what we like to call “lap flaps”. These consist of two detachable panels that enable the wheel to rest on the users, erm, lap? While no hardcore racer would even dare to consider the option due to the resulting ridicule that would ensue, for those without adequate space it is a viable option providing you are willing to slouch a little to get optimum stability.
Force Feedback is where the wheel really starts to shine. Your mother always told you not to judge a book by its cover and no truer words have been spoken about Mad Catz wheel in this department. Despite its deceptively small build the controller supplies a hell of a “wallop”. Providing enough delicate vibrations and hard hitting feedback to adequately convey most driving situations. From surface changes to violent wheel tugging spin outs, Mad Catz latest wheel has a good handle on them all. This is great for those who like to tweak their in-game feedback settings, enabling you to get the wheel feeling just the way you like. The only downside in this area being a rather unsatisfactory (read: loud) grinding sound when turning the wheel with any moderate force.
No racing setup is complete without a pair of pedals and that’s exactly what you can expect here. No clutch has been incorporated. This means if you want to get the ultimate simulation experience in Forza you will need to look elsewhere. On the plus side the pedals do come inverted, which would add to the realism if not for their near horizontal angle. Meaning their use often results in a stamping motion then the pushing motion you would come to expect from a real car. Add to this, the lack of resistance on either pedal, whereby upon release they can take some time to return to their neutral position and you are left with a rather lacklustre pair of pedals. Easily becoming the worst part of the overall package.
Mad Catz’ officially licensed wireless force feedback wheel is not a bad wheel for entry into the elite world of simulation racing and is most certainly a step up from the Xbox controller whether you prefer Need for Speed or Forza. However, with the poor pedal build quality, limited turning angles and the fact that it can’t be used on anything but your Xbox 360, it is hard to recommend at its price point. It is just too expensive for what it is.
In an ideal world the whole setup would be cheaper, as it stands if you are serious about taking that step into the force feedback racing world you are better off throwing down a few extra bucks and picking up one of Fanatec’s offerings or saving yourself a bit of cash and checking Logitec’s stable.