With a hand full of racing games now available for the Xbox 360, it's no surprise that gamers are ready for their first taste of racing in style. Racing wheels have been around for quite sometime on the PC. More recently as consoles have become more PC like, racing wheels have made there way into the living room. Logitech has raced it's way to the new generation of consoles with their Logitech DriveFX Racing Wheel for the Xbox 360. They are one of the first to bring the "simulation" to racing in this next generation of off-road, racing and simulation game titles.Package Contents:
Unpacking the racing wheel from the box was much more simple than thrashing apart Logitech's Harmony Remote (which I covered in a previous review). Typical packaging, with plastic bags covering the goods. In addition to the wheel and brake/gas pedal, I found separate packaging for the power supply and USB cable.
Setting up the wheel was very simple, albeit excessive on the wires. The pedals require you to connect to the racing wheel console via the connected serial cord (aka PC connection). Following that, you then attach the included USB cable to the Xbox 360 (you can use the front or back USB ports) and back to the wheel console. Finally, open up another socket on your wall for the included power supply. You need to plug this into the wall, as well as to the console. This powers the Axial Feedback motors in the wheel console.
the Drivefx Racing wheel
Be prepared to make accommodations for the racing wheel placement when using it with your Xbox 360 in your living room. In order to complete my setup, I needed to setup one of our TV Trays in order to mount this new racing accessory. The 10 foot experience here is literally just that. You pretty much have to be within 10 feet of the TV (or closer if you are hindered by the length of the power cable included). The racing console is not lap friendly, meaning you are required to attach this wheel to something that is solid or fixed. TV Trays, coffee tables, computer desk, or maybe even a breakfast bar if it's close enough to your main console TV.
This is one of my biggest concerns with the new wheel from Logitech. While we are starting to see more and more racing wheels that are lap friendly (meaning they are developed to actually rest the steering wheel in your lap), Logitech releases a brand new wheel without such support. This is very important for the sole purpose of living room use. The majority of Xbox 360 consoles will be in the living room or family room, with limited opportunity to fix the wheel to a desk. On a good note, the wheel worked perfectly fine mounted to the TV Tray, with the pedals resting underneath the tray.
After getting the new wheel setup and mounted, I turned on the Xbox 360. Because of the PC like connectivity, I was thinking that upon boot of the Xbox 360 dashboard that I will get some form of message that the system has detected my newly attached hardware. No such thing with the Xbox 360. It recognized the wheel as a standard controller, flashing the same blinking Xbox Guide button light (1) just like the Microsoft Wireless Controllers.
The steering wheel holds all the traditional Xbox 360 buttons, including the Xbox Guide button. There are F1 style paddle/shifter buttons located at finger tip reach located on the back side of the wheel. The wheel itself is an excellent design, and has a top quality feel. The rubber grips are perfectly located in the 10 and 2 positions, and when held in that position, it feels like you are holding onto an F1 steering wheel. The paddle shifters make round it out nicely. The A,X,Y and B buttons are all properly colored (and painted) and have a solid feel, with perfect sensitivity.
On the back of the wheel you will find placement for your Microsoft Xbox Live Headset. The female connection is the same proprietary connection you will find on your Xbox 360 controller. This makes the puck placement very natural. Pedal feel, although sounding a bit on the cheap side when depressing, have a very solid feel, and retract smoothly.
After popping in Project Gotham Racing 3, I entered the controller setup screen. When choosing a controller layout, PGR3 will provide you with a "wheel" configuration as one of the many options. I chose the wheel setup and backed out of the menu. After finding a match with closely matched Tru-Skill competitors, I was off to my first race in full racing wheel fashion. After 3 laps had gone by, I was still on my first lap hitting every car and wall. It was the OTHER racers who actually finished the 3 laps. Wow. I was ready to rip the wheel right out of the Xbox 360 console and go back to my wireless controller. Racing with a simulation wheel is much different than using a standard controller. I didn't let frustration get the best of me. I proceeded into the next race, and decided to compensate for what I believed to be a sensitivity issue with the wheel. Again, the raced ended with some frustration. Upon closer look, I found a black button on the steering wheel that wasn't labeled. Pressing this button made the green lights surrounding the center cap flash. Possibly a reset button?
I started up the 3rd race. The first corner came, and I made it. The remainder of the race I was able to stay on the track and finish. Logitech built in a sensitivity feature. Pressing this non-labeled button changed the sensitivity of the racing wheel. While it will still take some getting used to, I found that this change made using the wheel much more satisfying and enjoyable. The paddle shifters helped me move from being the traditional Automatic driver to a Manual driver. Doing such will improve your track times by making use of engine braking into corners, and pushing the redline out of corners.
The brake/gas peddle feedback was excellent. Instant response when accelerating and braking. The only downfall was minimal movement of the pedal base on the carpet when really slamming on the brakes. That would be more of a personal self control issue than anything. The "Axial" Feedback was very impressive. The wheel is able to determine which type of feedback to give, and when. The wheel would provide back shifting feedback at the same time it provides feedback that your tires are riding along the edge of the track. All of this at the same time, and a personalized feel for each type of feedback. One could determine what has happened with their eye's closed.
There were a couple issues that I found somewhat troubling during my testing however. The headset, when connected to the DriveFX Racing Wheel caused echoing in the lobby and during races. I decided to swap out the wheel for the standard controller to see if I could replicate the echo. The echo was not present when using the Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller. Upon reconnection of the DriveFX wheel, the echo returned. This may or may not be directly related to getting an early release of the new steering wheel, and might be addressed by the time this review was just posted.
Secondly, the steering radius. While not really an issue or a "bug", it's more of a preference. I am finding that the racers want the 900 degree (2½ turns) turning radius, just like the everyday car. I was also hoping to find the standard practice to be 900 degrees with then generation console wheels. What you will find is that you are limited to 90 degrees to the left, and 90 degrees to the right. This requires you to adjust to compensate from your everyday driving technique (if you were hoping for 100% simulation that is).
Let me preface by saying that this was my first experience with a racing wheel for a console. The experience overall was a good experience. Some consumers may be turned off by the number of wires (power, serial, usb), while others might find the steering to limited. But for the price, the DriveFX Racing wheel seems to hit almost everything a gamer needs in a racing accessory. It's well built, has a solid feel, and looks really cool with the chrome accented center cap, along with the rubber lined grips. With the Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel for Xbox 360 set to come out this holiday season at a rumored $130.00 price tag, this is probably the better choice for the budget minded consumer.