Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel Review
A budget racing wheel that does the trick.
For anyone who is a fan of racing games on the console, the only true way to appreciate them (or so I’ve been told) is with a racing wheel. So spendthrift that I am, I bought the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel to kick some life into my racing games. Sure enough, the experience changed dramatically from using the standard Xbox controller, and I enjoyed flooring the accelerator and screeching flawlessly around tracks. Unfortunately, the Racing Wheel was rather big – though I could comfortably play with it on my lap or mounted to a desk, it was just a bit of a chore to drag out of its box and set up each time I wanted to burn some rubber. So it has now retired to my storage cupboard, giving me guilty looks each time I open the door.
Well it looks like my days of racing are going to return, as I was very kindly given the new Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel to check out this weekend. Smaller, lighter, and definitely more easier on the wallet, this newly designed racing controller is an absolute breeze to setup and race with. While there are some small things that might work against it, Microsoft have a rather nifty little gadget on their hands.
Despite the name, this controller isn’t shaped like a wheel at all, and sports a sleek U-shape design. The entire unit is made from durable plastic, and the area where you grip the controller has a nice matte finish for better grip. On the left side of the controller is a D-pad for navigating menus, and the right side sports the standard face buttons. In the centre is circular dial for your Back and Start buttons, as well as the indicator ring for the controller number. At the back of each side of the controller is a single trigger button, one to accelerate and one to brake/reverse. Yes, there’s no shoulder buttons present here, which I’ll come to a little later on. The top of the controller has a green ring on each side that glows when the force feedback is activated. From a design point of view, the unit is quite light and comfortable to hold, and can easily be stowed away in a drawer along with the rest of your games. The device runs on two AA batteries, which showed no signs of running out even after a massive three hour racing marathon.
But how does the actual controller fare in-game? To my surprise, quite well – I fired up Forza and I had zero issues controlling my car. Even the slightest turns I was able to pull off with just a gentle nudge of the controller, and weaving in between cars was also surprisingly easy. Getting back on track after a crash however was a bit harder to execute as I swung wildly to the right to have the car come back on track (I’m very thankful for the ‘rewind’ feature of the game at this point). But despite this, the controller performs very well during the game, and the location of the D-pad and face buttons makes it easy to navigate menus or change views etc in-game.
There are only two problems I had with this controller which aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. Firstly the controller doesn’t have shoulder buttons, which means that if your game uses shoulder buttons to activate features or navigate menus etc, then you won’t be able to do anything about it. The official Microsoft site does mention “Does not contain shoulder buttons which may limit functionality in some games. Not optimized for use with Need for Speed: The Run” so take this into account when buying the controller. The second problem I had was that after about half an hour or so of gaming, my arms were beginning to feel a bit sore from holding up the wheel. Sure, the device is lightweight but after some time you will need to take a break, as opposed to a standard racing wheel which would rest on a desk or your lap.
In spite of these small nuances, the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel is a great buy for anyone looking to improve their racing experience without splurging for a full racing-wheel setup. With a much lighter price tag and little storage space required, this is an easy recommendation for any racing fans.
Good: lightweight, easy to store; responsive controls; good battery life
Bad: lack of shoulder buttons limits game compatibility; can be tiring after prolonged use; rumble feature isn’t the greatest