Thrustmaster's T300 RS force feedback racing wheel is the first officially licensed force feedback driving controller for the PlayStation 4. I am actively afraid of it for the best of reasons.
Earlier this year I declared my newfound love of racing controllers. Put off by the herky-jerky force feedback of earlier years, my reintroduction via the Mad Catz Xbox One Pro Racing Wheel was delightfully rumbly in all the right places. A racing wheel controller was the only way I wanted to play driving games from here on out.
Then along came the Thrustmaster T300 RS. "So you love force feedback racing wheels, now do you?" it whispered in my ear, my response a breathless nod. Then it forced itself onto my gaming table and did things. Powerful things. Wonderful things. Frightening things. Racing things.
What It Is
The Thrustmaster T300 RS is a high-end piece of virtual racing machinery for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Consisting of a racing wheel and a pair of pedals, the $US400 T300 RS is good starting point for the serious video game racing fan. If two pedals or the metal shifting paddles located behind the wheel aren't enough, the T300 RS is fully-compatible with a range of Thrustmaster three and five pedal sets and gearboxes.
For those willing to compromise on features and build, Thrustmaster also offers the $US99 T80 racing wheel for the PlayStation 3 and 4 as an entry-level solution.
What makes the T300 RS so pricey? Within this sexy bulbous housing is some serious tech. An industrial-class brushless motor system provides smooth, powerful force feedback. The dual-belt, friction free system keeps the steering wheel relatively quiet. Plus there's something called H.E.A.R.T. — HalfEffect AccuRate Technology — that sounds like someone really wanted their contact-less magnetic precision system to spell out "heart."
Along with all the stuff inside, the T300 RS has some lovely features outside as well. Adjustable metal foot pedals to accommodate the largest or smallest of feet. A lovely rubberised 11-inch steering wheel capable of turning a complete 1080 degrees, should that ever become a thing you need to do. There's an ingenious little one-piece mounting system that will handle most tables or desks, while those going all the way with a custom mount will find it the T300 RS a welcome addition.
What I Did With It
Driveclub! Oh I could not wait to test this wheel out with Driveclub. It was all I could think about in the days leading up to the game's release. Hopping online with my friends... oh. Well, Driveclub let me down for a couple of weeks, but eventually I was able to get online and play.
Driveclub was important, because until The Crew comes out next month, it's the only current PlayStation 4 game fully compatible with the T300 RS. There are more on the horizon, including the eagerly-anticipated Project Cars and F1 2015. Who knows, maybe one day the Gran Turismo franchise will make its way to the PS4!
But yeah, tons of Driveclub on the PlayStation 4, plus a little DIRT 3 for the PlayStation 3 while nobody was looking. Check out Thrustmaster's site for a list of compatible games.
What I Liked
Delicate Power: There were times while playing Driveclub badly enough to crash into things one shouldn't crash into, that the T300 RS threatened to lift the flimsy folding table I had it attached to off the ground. The amount of force the wheel puts out is quite surprising.
But for all its power, the T300 RS still possesses a delicate touch. It never feels like it's going to shake out of your grip and it never rattles. It just sits there stoically, telling your hands that you're actually driving.
It's So Very Quiet. One of the few problems I ran into with the Xbox One Mad Catz Wheel I tested a few months back was noise. It was a loud piece of hardware. The T300 RS will let out a whir while calibrating, but after that it's a whisper. Its fans (yes, this unit needs to cool itself) are almost louder than the wheel in motion.
It's to the point where I didn't even believe the silence until I saw it on video. Gripping the wheel tight, it felt as if my car were about to shake itself apart, but I look at the video and there's hardly a peep. Most of what I am hearing is coming from the television. I'm genuinely impressed.
Precision Racing. Playing Driveclub with the first-person cockpit camera on, every movement on screen perfectly mimicked the motions of the wheel in my hands. Dropping the wheel off the table onto the carpeted concrete of my apartment because I screwed up mounting it the first time and then trying it again? Same result. Swapping from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 and back again? Same result. I'm guessing that's the convenient acronym technology I'd mentioned earlier at play.
Not that the wheel can be calibrated from sensible all the way up to 1080 degrees of rotation. Driveclub and the PlayStation 3 games I played were just fine with a more limited range of rotation.
Everything I Need On One Face. I use the Share button on the PlayStation 4 controller more often than most people. I secretly use it to upload screenshots to myself on Facebook or video clips to YouTube for game reviews. I need the share button, and wasn't sure the T300 RS would find a nice home for it.
Oh there it is, right there in the lower left of the wheel face, convenient enough for my thumb, yet not so close that I accidentally brush it. It's a lovely control layout, from the L1 and R1 metal shift paddles to the L3 and R3 buttons on the base, just in case.
Solid as a Rock. When attached to a heavy desk with its single-screw mounting hardware — properly attached — the T300 RS feels like an extension of the furniture. It was meant to be there. It was always there. I just never noticed it. Did it just move closer?
I can only imagine how lovely it would feel inside a custom driving game cockpit. One day. One fine, fine day.
What I Didn't Like
Those Pedals. Well, Not The Pedals. The pedals are fine, really. Nice and smooth action, a little extra tension in the break pedal. This dislike is all abou that base, no pedals.
Fine metal pedals, cheap plastic footrest. I'm thinking of cutting up an old floor mat and fixing this issue myself.
Fixed Height. Attached to my folding table, the T300 RS was at just the right height for me. My wooden work desk is a bit higher, and while the wheel felt great attached to it, it was too high for comfort. If you're going to invest $US400 in a racing solution, make sure it's going to feel right wherever you're putting it, because there ain't no going back.
Well, I guess you could return it, or adjust your mounting area. Still pretty damn inconvenient.
My Final Word
Upon careful consideration, I'm still a bit scared of the Thrustmaster T300 RS force feedback racing wheel. Nothing so quiet and lovely should possess so much power. It powers through curves and glides down straightaways with the grace and confidence of a machine that knows it could throw its user across the room if it weren't for its pesky programming.
If it at least rumbled menacingly it wouldn't be so intimidating. But the T300 RS just sits there, humming softly to itself, waiting to take PlayStation racers on the ultimate ride.