To those that know me, or even those that have read some of my stuff here on GGUK, it’s no huge secret how much I love motorsports and games based on them. Everything from Formula One, Touring Cars, Street Racing or Rallying, if it has four wheels, an engine and features in a game, I am interested in trying it out. This love of driving games has been in my blood for many a year, from back when I was a kid and I got to play Outrun in a games arcade while on holiday. This was the sit in cabinet and I could not even reach the pedals and so ended up standing inside the cabinet with my good old dad sitting behind me working the pedals as I drove the car using the wheel. This was my first time using a steering wheel to play a game and it was more of a novelty back then. But it is a memory that stuck with me all these years.
For a long time after that, across all the computers and games consoles I have owned and the many driving games that I have played on them, a keyboard or preferably a joypad has always been more than sufficient to get me through them. The one time that I got my hands on a steering wheel peripheral was a second hand wheel, pictured above, and was purchased primarily to play the original Gran Turismo on the PlayStation One. This wheel was in my eyes pretty much a gimmick. The pedals gaveÂ better control over acceleration and braking, but the wheel itself however was basic, as were most wheels back then. Turning this wheel to the left or the right would show off it’s huge wheel rotation of no more than 45-degrees either way before it would spring back to the original position. For a long time this was my first and last experience with a gaming steering wheel, as I was not overly impressed with what I had seen and from that point on I was more than happy using a joypad to play all my games, non racing and racing games alike.
Despite hearing what people say about the newer steering wheels on the market and that they offered up a lot more control within driving games, I was always happy using my controller firmly under the assumption that a wheel could not really improve my virtual driving so much so that it would warrant forking out the money for a wheel. So what, you may be asking, has changed my mind? Well, the obvious of course, the game that I have been waiting on for a year or two now, Gran Turismo 5. I began reading up on what was available and how good these wheels apparently were. On doing so one company name kept resurfacing, Logitech. So with my mind pretty much made up that I was going to purchase a wheel, it was a matter of choosing one and to be honest it was not all that hard to do. Logitech’s top of the line wheel, the G27, was definitely a stunning wheel and its place on the top shelf of steering wheel peripherals is well deserved. But a wheel of such high quality does not come cheap, weighing in with a hefty Â£350 price tag. That’s more than most consoles nowadays and pretty much taking itself out of the running as my choice.
The next obvious choice was the wheel that I did eventually go for, taking into account the price, which at just over Â£80 was less than a third the price of the previously mentioned wheel, along with the fact that the wheel was designed primarily with GT5 in mind, going so far as having controls on the wheel specifically for the game. It can be used for most racing games that are wheel compatible. But the fact that it was designed with the game I was mostly buying it for was a huge selling point for myself. The wheel in question is the Logitech GT Driving Force Wheel. Although not as high a quality as the aforementioned G27, it’s still an extremely well built wheel as I will discus in more length momentarily. Although I have been using the wheel lately to play Formula One 2010, my review of which can be found here on GGUK, I thought it would be a fairer test and review if I played more than that one game with it. So throughout my testing I also played Need For Speed Shift, Colin McRae Dirt 2 and of course Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.
On unboxing the wheel, my mind was set at ease over my two main worries. First and foremost the build quality of the wheel and pedals, although both made primarily from plastic, feels solid and well built. The pedals, especially the gas pedal, are the only slightly loose parts. But this is to be expected considering that it is a moving part in constant use. But under foot while playing a game you will not even notice this. My second worry was due to the fact that I have pretty big hands and I worried that the wheel itself would be a bit on the small side. Once again however my mind was set at ease as the wheel is a fairly decent size, even for someone of my stature. In fact I would go as far as to say the wheel size is pretty much spot on for a racing wheel.
The buttons are many, with everything that you would find on a PS3 controller present and correct, along with a few others such as a plus and minus button, a red dial and a back button. All the buttons can generally be remaped depending on the game you are playing at the time, ensuring the player has all the controls they need at their fingertips without moving their hands from the wheel, much like that of a real life F1 car. The extra buttons added to the wheel add more to the immersive feeling and were designed specifically for the Gran Turismo games, both Prologue and the upcoming title. What they allow the player to do is change certain settings on your car, such as front and rear brake balance and traction control amongst others, without having to pause or restart the session, by simply allowing you to do so within your race. It is not really a feature that you will use too much, but it is nice to have it there. Another addition which is more for a little bit of fun, the large light up GT logo at the centre of the wheel which also doubles as yet another button and is ideally placed and suited for games that include horns with their cars. Much fun was had by me playing Dirt 2 and hitting the horn as I roared past the cheering crowds. Silly, but fun nonetheless.
The wheel itself is the one part that differs from the solid smooth plastic of the majority of the wheel, as it remains just as solid but has a rubber like outside coating to it, making it much more comfortable to handle and use for prolonged sessions. For example, I can quite comfortably race a fifty four lap grand prix race, taking an hour and forty odd minutes with this wheel. Another nice thing is that the wheel offers a choice of methods for manual gear changing, either the sequential gear stick to the right of the wheel, or two buttons on the rear side of the wheel that can be used much like paddle shifting found in many racing cars. As for the turning circle of the wheel, things have also vastly improved since the wheel I talked about at the beginning of this review, with a 900-degree turning circle. That is a full turn and a half to both the left and right before the wheel returns itself back to its centred position.
Another major addition to all these modern wheels is the Force Feedback using gearing and motors inside the hardware. Gone are the springy wheels like the old school wheels and in are the motors making using the wheel a lot more smooth. The force feedback and motors also do a whole lot more than returning your wheel to the centred position. The GT Driving Force’s Force feedback means a lot more than you may think. The wheel does not only shake if you crash your car, cut the kerbÂ or spin out. What the wheel does is try to replicate the feeling of driving a car at speed on a road. It is difficult to explain, but in a simple terms it means that if you are driving into a turn at a high speed and then turn in, the motors within the wheel will pull the wheel in the opposite direction slightly giving the feeling of your car trying to slide out. What this is trying to do is to replicate the feeling of the car on the road and the cool thing is that in a way it does actually work when implemented properly in the game. It does this especially well in Gran Turismo. Once you get used to it, you can actually tell from the feed back if you are about to lose control and that you need to slow down just a touch more to correct you driving error.
So, I hear you ask, is buying yourself the GT Driving Force wheel worth it? This really depends on a few things, most notably of which is asking yourself if you play enough racing games on your console or PC to warrant doing so. If the answer is yes, then this wheel is definitely worth checking out. One thing you have to keep in mind is that, if you are anything like me, you may find going from your usual controller to a steering wheel a little strange initially. But given an hour or two of play, you begin to realise how natural it actually feels and you honestly do begin to shave seconds of your fastest lap times. Not only does the wheel improve your performance, it also has the effect of immersing you in the game more so than driving with a joypad. Whether it’s just me or not I am unsure, but while racing using the wheel I found myself physically leaning into turns in my chair and being amused by it. If after reading this you feel you may like to try out a wheel for your driving games, or are planning on playing GT5 a lot, then you could do a lot worse than checking out the Logitech GT Driving Force wheel for your virtual racing needs.