Wireless Speed Wheel

It’s unusual for us at Ready Up to review hardware. This may be due to a few reasons.  The most obvious reason has to be that there has been nothing terribly worth reviewing in the time we have been going.  Last week, however, this changed.  On a mad whim I decided that I was going to pick up the new wireless speed wheel when I was buying Forza 4.  I had only seen a small video of it being used. I admit to not being overly impressed with what I saw but I wanted to give it a go.  With my bag bulging under the weight of Forza 4 and this new peripheral I duly headed home to see if I had bought in to the latest fad.

Taking the wheel (I say “Wheel” because that is what it is called, it is “U” shaped and not wheel-like at all) out of the box, I was instantly surprised at how light it was away from all the packaging.  Amazingly it fits two AA batteries in a small compartment at the bottom and if you are connected to Xbox Live you will have no need to use the update disc in the box.  A quick sync with the console in the normal way and the wheel was ready to use in less than twenty seconds.  Holding the wheel as you would a car wheel, it instantly feels comfortable and genuinely like an extension of your hands.  Hidden at the back of each side are the familiar feeling triggers we have become used to, possibly a little chunkier than the normal controller.  A D-pad is present on the left hand side, the start, select and home button are integrated in the circular chrome effect centre and the A,B,X and Y buttons are on the right side.  Everything is within reach easily and can be pressed with very little hassle. My only problem thus far was making my thumbs grab around the wheel instead of thinking they were sitting on the normal controllers thumb-sticks.  The only omissions from the wheel are lack of a headset jack, understandable with the wheel being turned about so much, and oddly there are no bumper buttons.

Starting my first race on Forza 4 I was hugely apprehensive that I’d bought another turkey. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Squeezing the right trigger had the desired effect of making my car go faster. First bend approached and I as squeezed the left trigger-my car slowed down. All was well.  Now I had to use the motion control of the wheel to corner; it was brilliant.  A slight turn of the wheel in my hands and the car instantly responded. A little correction and it was back on track and zooming ahead of the pack.  The wheel is so sensitive to movements, that it is wonderful to use to drive with.  I’m not sure of the tolerances of the wheel but from my usage, it seemed to detect millimeters of movement. It was pin sharp.  Hugely impressed with the performance of the wheel I pressed on with the game and found it changed the way I drove.  I was anticipating corners more and owing to the super accurate response I was overtaking easily.  Definitely not a turkey.

Sadly the minor flaws came to my attention whilst navigating the Forza 4 menus.  Owing to a lack of bumper buttons, I was unable to navigate to certain sections of the menus; quite an oversight on Microsoft’s behalf.  The wheel was launched alongside Forza 4 so I would have thought that both game and peripheral would have been optimised for each other.  The wheel even shows up in the Forza 4 configuration screens, so it’s a little strange to make areas of the game inaccessible when using the wheel.  I also know that many driving games use the bumpers for manual gear changing, obviously a no go with this wheel, although you can assign any of the buttons to the ones on the wheel, just not the bumpers.

I was concerned that Forza 4 would be the only game able to use the wheel, so I dug out two of my favourite racing games to see if it could cope with their different styles of racing.  First up I tried Formula 1 2010, a game that can be tricky using a controller.  I selected a night race and set off not expecting much.  Once again I was proved wrong.  The wheel works like a dream. Switch to the in-car view and you really could be driving an F1 car.  As with Forza 4 the wheel detected the slightest movement and converted it amazingly well to the on-screen action.  It was at this point that I noticed that the two green halo lights that top each side of the wheel light up during gear changes and impacts.  Then when I tried Forza 4 again I noticed that it could actually help you to use manual gears as they light up to coincide with gear changes; a really nice touch.  Finally I tried my favourite racing game, DiRT 3.  I honestly didn’t think that the wheel would cope with the nuances of rally driving. But yes, you guessed right, I was surprised.  It works just as well as it did with the other games I tried.  The accurate control is perfect for rally driving too. I was only a few seconds off my best times using a controller.  With some practise I reckon the wheel will make me even faster.  A truly stunning piece of kit.







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