Ah, the wheel, one of the finest inventions in human history. Who would have thought it would lead to so much use throughout our evolution, and lets not forget the fun that can be had once an engine and a racing driver is slapped onto them. Sadly us normal folk don’t have racing licenses and million pound team budgets to play with. So in order to get up and close to the racing scene we have to make do with the virtual kind, and what better to aid that experience by plugging in a force feedback wheel to control that hot rod purring away on your screen. Over the last few days I have been toning my forearm muscles with the aid of the Logitech Driving Force GT, a force feedback wheel and pedal combo for the PlayStation 3 (PS2 and PC). So without much wheel spin, shall we take this setup for a test drive? Let’s check it out
The Logitech Driving Force GT comes in two parts. The first is a fully-fledged steering wheel and gear-stick base unit. The wheel itself is a generous 11inch (28cm) wide, a size that sits perfectly between your sweaty gripping paws. A rubber golf ball like texture wraps itself around the left and right sides of the wheel, which helps to maintain your grip during those intense hot laps, whilst the top and bottom section carry a soft, mat rubbery texture.
On the face of the wheel there are an array of buttons poised for your attention. First you have the standard PlayStation controller buttons, from the D-pad and face buttons located on either side, to the Start, PS and Select buttons located on the middle column. These buttons are easily accessible during the most intense racing moments, though sadly the shoulder buttons haven’t had the same careful consideration. The round L3 and R3 buttons are located at the top of the front-facing centre portion of the wheel, while the elliptical L2 and R2 buttons are poised on top of the adjoining arms. These four castoff buttons are a little out of reach to make it truly comfortable, and when views or certain functions in games require the use of these buttons it can prove a little tricky at times. Thankfully, racing titles with remapping options will overcome this little niggle.
The Force GT wheel also goes the extra mile by adding some bespoke buttons to the wheel; these have been designed specifically for Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Other than the large glowing centre ‘horn’ button, that carries the GT livery, the most obvious feature on the wheel, mainly due to its size and its bright red coat of paint, is the “24-position real-time adjustment dial”. This dial and centre switch lets you “Fine-tune brake bias, Traction Control System (TCS), and other settings on the fly for unprecedented control over your car’s performance.” This is a great addition for the game this wheel is made for, and although this is only currently used in GT5, I just hope future racers make use of the wheel’s additional functions and that they don’t become redundant and exclusive features.
For the Pro gamers who love full control over their gears, the Force GT offers two options to choose from; the paddle L1 and R1 shifters, located around the back of the wheel, or the sequential stick shift that is poised on the right side of the wheel. Both options give the virtual driver the ability to have a full hands-on or hands-off approach to their gear selection, or like me, you can remap control to the stick shift and use it as a handy handbrake in dirt racing/rally titles.
The second part of Logitech’s setup is the pedals. I’ve used a few home wheels setups over the years and I have still yet to find decent pedals with enough weight to them to prevent them from sliding away from my feet. Sadly, the Force GT is nothing new here. Although it is a solidly built unit, the pressure and abuse that racing pedals endure the Force GT doesn’t cut the grade, as it slides further away from my feet on every braking moment. To remedy this you have to pin them by positioning them in front of something more heavy weight. What I did was to sit closer to the screen, and wedge the pedals up against my AV unit that sits between the display and myself. The pedals themselves though are high quality, with a firm distance and feedback to them, especially the brake pedal, which has a realistic sponge effect when depressed.
Unfortunately in a gaming world of wireless controllers, the Force GT uses the traditional wired approach. Connecting the pedals to the wheel is a serial cable, which connects into the back of the wheel. This sits alongside the power connector, which powers the force feedback motor. Finally a third USB wire connects the whole setup to the PS3 once plugged into the console’s USB port.
Powering up the wheel initiates the self-test mode. During this test you really have to keep your hands away from the wheel to prevent any fingers or thumbs from coming off. During this self-test the wheel goes into autopilot, rotating the wheel its full life-like 900-degrees, between full lock to opposite lock, before resting back into its neutral centred position. This happens each time the wheel is first powered on and also when you begin a game, so for people with a nervous disposition – be ready for it!
Once in game, the Force GT excels. From the wheels I have used in my gaming history this has to be the best I have experienced on a home setup. Force feedback, via its gear driven system, is tight with a good weight to it, and with regular use your forearms will be the size of Popeye’s in no time. Of course, force feedback given is game specific, and with the right in-game support you’ll be able to set the strength of the Force Luke. With that said though, in Codemasters’ Race Driver: GRID the default force of 50% was more than enough to ‘feel’ the competition.
If you are a virtual racing fanatic, then a wheel setup should be a serious consideration for your gaming den, and you will not go wrong in choosing the Force GT. Although it was made specifically for Polyphony’s racing simulation game – Gran Turismo, I found Race Driver: GRID the most thrilling experience with the wheel, and one that I will continue to enjoy for many more months, that is until DIRT 2, FUEL and the like hit our consoles this year.
With solid build quality, superb force feedback and carefully placed pedals, gamers are in for a real treat with the Logitech Driving Force GT wheel. The low points with the wheel would be with the cables, lightness of the pedals, the slightly cheap looking face buttons and the location of the L and R buttons. But none of these tiny niggles ruin the shear enjoyment that can be had once setup correctly, whether it be mounted to a table, stool or something like a VR3 racing frame, which is something that is now next of the list of must haves!