Racing games have never been that true to life. Yes, the handling in Gran Turismo may be exceptionally realistic, but there’s still a world of difference between driving a real car and piloting the computer game equivalent. After all, if this wasn’t the case then Ferrari wouldn’t be paying Michael Schumacher so much, as any kid with a Playstation can beat him to the F1 world championship. You just don’t get the same feeling of control with an average game controller that you do at the wheel of a real car. As an avid fan of racing games (mostly the more realistic simulators though), I had always put off buying a steering wheel due to the price. I finally succumbed to the temptation when I saw the impressive looking Ferrari Playstation wheel for only £24.99. The package contains the wheel itself and a base unit with the pedals (accelerator and brake) on. Each section is fabricated from black plastic, which looks not too bad. The wheel has a Ferrari prancing horse logo in the centre, which looks good, and the wheel generally looks of a higher quality than comparable units. The wheel is about the same size as a real racing car wheel, although anyone who watches F1 regularly will know that most F1 cars now use much more sophisticated looking devices. The wheel unit has 4 paddles behind the wheel itself, 2 on each side. The top 2 are for gear changes, and are digital. These are the equivalent of the L1 and R1 buttons on the standard PSX controllers. The lower 2 paddles allow you to ignore the pedals, as they perform the same functions, namely accelerate (the right one) and brake (the left). The wheel centre contains the other buttons found on a standard controller – there is a small joypad within reach of your left thumb, and another to replicate the circle, square triangle and cross buttons. L2 and R2 buttons are located directly below each of the joypads, and Select and Start buttons are below
these. The final button allows you to select the mode you wish to use the device in. The first mode is digital, where the steering is either full left, full right or straight ahead. This is not really that good for most games, as you really want more control than this method offers. The analog mode is much better, since the more you turn the wheel, the more response you get from the game. The final mode is Negcon, which allows you to simulate the control method of the Negcon controllers (favoured by the Ridge Racer games). An LED shows you which mode the wheel is in at any one time. The vibration function of the wheel is not that great, consisting of a motor within the unit the wheel is attached to. This is nothing like as sophisticated as the Force Feedback technology used in PC controllers, and gets a bit annoying after a while. The pedals appear to be fairly sturdy, with a solid weight in the base to stop them moving about too much. The pedals are sprung from the bottom, in contrast to most cars (except for BMWs) where they are attached at the top. This means you actually angle your foot down onto the pedals rather than pushing against them as in a real car. My main criticism of this wheel is that the ‘feel’ you get through it is rather lacking. In games like Gran Turismo, I find it much easier to stick with the standard Dual Shock controller. This wheel is simply not responsive enough; you end up steering too much one way, then overcorrecting and so on. This spoils the whole point of having the wheel, which is meant to make racing games easier to control. One recommendation – this wheel really requires something substantial to be bolted onto. The unit comes with a basic clamp which allows you to secure it to the edge of a desk. Simply laying it on your lap is not really an option, as it is not heavy enough to prevent it sliding about, the last thing you want when you’re playing a g
ame. I just wonder how many people actually play games on a Playstation while sitting at a desk though? The version I bought has now been superseded by a very similar looking model, with a slightly smaller pedal unit the main difference. I believe the price is around £35, which still leaves it as one of the cheaper units on the market. Overall I have been really disappointed with this wheel. The PC version seems much more substantial, although I have not had a chance to try it. I would recommend you stick with the standard dual shock controller, as it is much better for controlling games like Gran Turismo and Colin McRae Rally. The low price may attract you, as it did for me, but I would advise you not to bother. Yes, it looks great, but you’ll soon get frustrated with it and go back to your trusty Dual Shock.