I’ve always considered myself a bit of a racing master. Whenever I watch the F1 Grand Prix, I always claim that I could do better. So when I saw the new force feedback steering wheel with Porsche 911 branding, I just had to give it a go.
This brand new Logitech Fanatec steering wheel will set you back a mere 300 euros (£230) – Ouch. But is it worth the money? This fully licensed wheel is identical to the real thing, with hand-stitched leather on the wheel itself and a selection of gear boxes. If you want real authenticity, you can use the 7-speed gear box and clutch. It’s worth noting that the only game that actually supports this function on the PS3 is Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Those of you wanting a racing gear box can either use the fitted flappy paddles on the wheel itself, or slap on the gear stick that has just an up and down clicking motion.
Moving our way down to the feet, there is a sturdy three pedal mechanism, just like in a real Porsche. The accelerator is slightly lower than the brake and clutch, which makes it a bit of an annoyance having to lift your foot that extra inch in order to catch the brake. Those of you in automatic cars will probably be used to that, but for those of you who aren’t, it might take a bit of getting used to.
The wheel is designed to sit on your lap, with the aid of two plastic flaps that wrap around your thighs. It can also can be screwed into a racing chair or if you plan to keep it for a long time, you could screw it into your desk. Needless to say, the wheel is ten times better when fixed in position on a desk or screwed in place somewhere. The same goes for the pedals. You can have them freely placed on the carpet (there are velcro strips to stop it slipping – no good on a hard floor though) or you can attach it to a sturdy place.
The main problem with the pedals is actually the brake. Fanatec have tried to recreate an authentic braking system, so the pedal itself is quite stiff. In fact, it’s probably a bit too stiff, especially if you haven’t fixed the pedals to anything. Because it’s hard to push down, you have to step on it with a bit more force than you would normally, which in turn sends the pedals forward. If you have the velcro strips gripping a carpet, you’ll end up pushing the pedals down towards the floor, and therefore sending your car into a tyre wall.
That being said, when the pedals are sturdy, they do feel quite realistic. Both the accelerator and brake have different pressure points, so pushing the accelerator a bit softer than normal will accelerate your car slower – as it should. And the realism doesn’t stop there. The force feedback wheel offers a real sense of driving a vehicle also. For example, under-steer and over-steer are both represented nicely in the wheels feedback. Should the car start to oversteer and the back end stick out, the wheel will force itself in the direction of the skid, just like a real car. Of course, all of this can be turned off if you want.
The wheel itself turns up to 900 degrees. Depending on how sensitive you want the wheel to be, you can adjust the turning angle between 900, 360 and 180 degrees.
All of this adds to some extremely realistic driving simulation. The annoying thing was that it showed me just how bad a driver I really am. On Gran Turismo 5, I usually play with all the driving aids off, no traction control and manual gears. With the wheel, I was using the exact opposite – and even then I struggled to keep the R8 on track. That’s not a fault with the wheel, that’s just my lack of driving skills.
So I guess we need to go back to the original question: Is the wheel worth the money? Well yes, it is – if you’re a hardcore gamer. Finding a place to screw it in will definitely increase the wheels worth, simply because it doesn’t slide around, and feels a lot more comfortable. The wheel itself is absolutely top quality, with the force feedback working exactly as it should. Watch out Logitech, there’s a new kid on the block.