Late last night, during my fourth day of playing Forza Horizon 2 with Mad Catz’ Xbox One Pro Racing Wheel, I began to wonder if force feedback in my hands was enough. Why isn’t my chair shaking? Shouldn’t I feel the vibrations of the road beneath my feet? Oh no.
It’s been ages since I’ve played around with a real mount-to-the-table racing wheel. I’d imagine that had I been incredibly impressed with the ones I’ve tried before, I’d still have one set up today. But alas, while I love my racing games, I’ve never felt I was good enough at them to warrant the purchase of something like a $400 racing wheel. I should have taken the chance sooner.
For after struggling for the first hour or so with Mad Catz’ aluminium and suede beast, something clicked. Something also rumbled and rattled, but the clicking — it was a very profound sort of clicking. A clicking of slightly misshapen puzzle pieces finally clicking into place. The problem wasn’t my skill. I just couldn’t connect driving a car with flicking sticks on a game pad. This, on the other freakishly large hand…
…this I understand. Skin against leather-wrapped metal and plastic, kicking in my hand like some sort of manly wild horse trying to toss a cowboy. You’ll have to excuse me, this whole grunty male car power fantasy is new to me. I’ll get the nomenclature down at some point. Probably after I stop using words like nomenclature.
Leaning back in my green high-backed Ikea desk chair, gripping the wheel with two hands as I barreled through the Forza Horizon 2 wilderness — I’m an excellent driver in real life, and suddenly I was a rather ok driver in this virtual Europe.
To anyone else that’s played a racing game for more than 15 minutes, there’s nothign special about this clip. Just a guy out on the road, racing against jets. The usual. For me, however, this clip is one of my fondest achievements. I did not hit the wall once. I did not spin out on the grass. I followed my racing line with something akin to confidence, and I triumphed.
Now I drive through the European countryside one-handed, charging over hilltops and weaving between trees like a giant bumblebee. I went ahead and spent the $US25 Microsoft store credit I’ve been holding onto for several months on the Forza Horizon 2 Car Pass, for I’ve the sudden urge to race all of the vehicles. I’m in love with racing again.
Now I’m not saying the Mad Catz Xbox One Pro Racing Wheel is some sort of magical device. It’s a solid piece of equipment, able to withstand the massive amount of pressure my ridiculous legs can put on a plastic and metal pedal assembly. Its suede steering wheel cover just comfortable enough to keep my hands gripping it long enough to change my mind. And thank goodness the steering column can be adjusted upward. There’s even a switch on the back to switch between 900 and 270 degrees of rotation.
It’s not without its issues, however. The force feedback is very rumbly and loud, especially in a game with off-road driving like Forza Horizon 2. There are two sets of aluminium pedals on either side of the steering wheel, but the lower two have no function and cannot have a function mapped to them — hopefully support for those can be patched in (they do nothing in Forza 5 either). The wheel is relatively small as well — only about ten inches in diameter. It’s still a good firm grip with two hands, but I feel my gargantuan paws aching for something larger.
And then there’s the price tag. I usually don’t quibble over price, but $US400 is a lot to spend on what’s at the moment the only game in town. And it’s even worse now that I feel the uncontrollable urge to by a racing seat to mount this to.
Either way, congratulations, Forza Motorsport 2 and the Mad Catz Xbox One Pro Racing Wheel. Together you have changed the way I’ll be playing racing games from here on out.
Now if only I had something with which to play Driveclub on the PlayStation 4.
Oh hello, Thrustmaster T300RS. You’re up next.