Introduction about wheels, pedals and feedback
Having read reviews of wheels and got an experience of driving a car at my friend's house I set my mind to a purchase of a computer wheel with pedals. You think it's excessive pleasure? Of course, it is so if you are not keen on race simulators, but if you are… Let me explain.
One of the advantages is convenience (you can sit in an arm-chair and turn the wheel), but it is not a major advantage. Imagine a car control with a keyboard or a simple gamepad. You just press a button and wheels start turning. If you hold a button rather long (about a sec) the wheels will turn at the maximum angle. Release the button and the wheel will take the middle position. When passing a gradual turn at a large speed you have to press the button abruptly. From the outside it looks unnaturally - the wheels turn jerkily to the turn.
A wheel is quite another matter. Here everything is like in a real life. If the wheel supports the "Force FeedBack" technology then you can "feel" the road. When at a low speed, the wheel slightly trembles, when the speed grows, trembling becomes stronger, when you get to a roadside the wheel jerks much stronger, and in case of drift you can't hold the wheel with just one finger… But all these features need a competent game support.
Gas and brake also need gradual changing. When you press a button set for the gas it means pressing the accelerator up to the stop. But in a real situation, if one would do this at, for example, the 1th or 2nd speed, a car will utter a roar and spin round and round leaving a thick layer of rubber and a lot of smoke. By the way, in the Need For Speed Porsche Unleashed game such situation occurs quite often.
I hope I have convinced you that a good game needs pedals. A computer wheel with pedals allows passing a long turn without a speed loss. So, today I'm going to examine Genius Speed Wheel Force FeedBack model to see whether it is a good simulator of a real car.
Transportation and studying of characteristics
When I came to the store, I saw a large box, but
it turned out to be quite light since all things were, unfortunately,
made of plastic.
In the box I have found the following things:
First of all, I decided to study a wheel unit.
Well, I think the plastic wheel will serve not more than one-two years. I didn't open the box but the construction doesn't seem to be reliable. First of all I checked a turning angle: well, true 110 degrees to both directions. On the left and right sides red relief rubber is glued to the wheel (As for me, I like the color solution: red+black) which has two hollows for thumbs. That's very good: it prevents slipping of hands.
Of course, a leather wheel is much more pleasant, but what do you want at $120? It is not "TSW2 Stock" from "THOMAS ENTERPRISES" which has metallic pedals on a wooden base weighing 4.5 kg and a wheel unit weighing 6.8 kg. There are even some variants where a wheel is upholstered with natural leather. But it costs from $350 to $1500.
For mounting of the device there are two built-in clamps with rubber stripes and plates and 6 round plates on the base of the wheel unit. After I have mounted the base on a wooden table, it was impossible to move. It is a vivid advantage - no vacuum cups are necessary, like those of the Maxxtro Fire Wheel STR-100. The unit sits rigidly on a plastic table as well. By the way, it doesn't matter what the form of the lower part of the table's lid. The wheel base is not bulky - as you can see on the photo there are enough space for installation of the wheel, since the rear part is sloped downward.
On the wheel there are 6 buttons on the cross-bar and two shifters (the Formula-1 has the same construction). The profile of the shifters is figured, and they must serve for a long time. The click is rather pleasant. In the center there is a logo, above which there are two indicators: the left one (green) is power supply, the right one (red) means connection to a computer.
A button under the logo looks like a klaxon, but it is intended to enable the Force FeedBack. But I don't think that the position of the button is right.
A diameter of the wheel is 27 cm, almost the same as of the Speed Wheel Formula. A slope angle of the wheel is fixed and makes 27 degrees.
Now let's look at the pedal unit.
The unit is entirely plastic, even without a metallic base! Here the engineers have provided 10 rubber plates and decided that it will be all right. Well, the plates do not come unstuck, but the unit moves on the floor rather decently. On the carpeting it sits excellently, but I've got linoleum under my table, and rubber plates do not help here. The mount of the pedals is metallic: a metallic lever which sits on a metallic axle is attached to a plastic pedal, and there is a string under the pedal. Such mount must live about two years; by the way, the pedals didn't creak on the 6th day of testing. Special bulk structures make the device solid and strong in case of vertical and horizontal mounting. The only disadvantage is that the distance between the pedals is too short. Look at the pedal stroke on the photo: the brake pedal is sunk up to the stop with a thick reference book.
The pedals have weak strings. If you just put you leg on it, the pedal will sink by 30%. A stronger string will be much better here.
Connection and installation of drivers
A 6-pin cable is to be inserted into a connector on the rear side of the wheel unit.
To the right you must connect an AC adapter cable. On the CD you can find drivers only for Win95/98. As for Win2000, I couldn't find them. After that I installed drivers for Win98 (SE2). This operating system is installed on my second HDD and indented only for games.
Installation of drivers was flawless. The device can be connected via a serial port or via a USB one (there is a USB adapter in the box). When I switched on the computer I saw that the system found a new device: "Speed Wheel Force FeedBack (USB)".
After that I connected the wheel and pedals in the section "Game devices".
Now let's make settings for the wheel - we should open the wheel properties.
In the submenu "Force testing" you can feel what the wheel is capable of as far as feedback is concerned, in the "Force values" I haven't changed anything. The "Input testing" submenu is meant for controlling operability of the wheel, pedals, buttons and shifters. Don't forget to activate the "Separate operation of pedals" otherwise the accelerator would implement two functions: down - gas, up - brake.
You can enable the "I-FORCE" feature, and the wheel will tremble when the engine starts up.
Days 2 - 9
Need For Speed Porsche Unleashed - a standard of feedback support
The Need For Speed is a standard of feedback support. The game detects the wheel immediately. I set the shifters for speed selectors, and 6 buttons for 6 different functions: from a klaxon to the change of the camera's position. Then I adjusted the force of the effects, the pedals and the wheel. After that I adjusted the free play for the wheel (5%) and pedals (10%) - for the latter ones it is very important since they are pressed under the weight of my lags. If your computer is weak for this game, then set higher values.
The impressions of the game are excellent. The first pleasant impression appears when the engine starts up. The second one arises when the car passes a turn: the wheel returns back to the initial position. You can perfectly feel the road: asphalt, roadside, pavement. In case of drifts or crashes the wheel tries to get out of your hands. At the 50% power of the effects the wheel can be held with one hand, and at 100% you better use the second hand as well. I think that the feedback is enough for a simulator. At the stronger feedback rotation limiters can break.
Dependence of the frequency of wheel vibration on the tachometer values is very interesting. Small trembling at a high motor speed is unpleasant: you understand that it is necessary to change a speed.
When playing the game you'd better take off your boots otherwise you won't feel the pedals.
Among all games the NFS PU has shown the highest degree of reality.
Need For Speed High Stakes and its predecessors
The game has detected the wheel without much problem.
The feedback in this part is sharper and rougher than in the previous
one. Realization of effects differs. The reality depends strongly
on the feedback in the game.
I won't write about earlier versions of the game (NFS3, NFS2, NFS2se, NFS, NFSse). I just want to note that in the NFS3 everything works good, in the NFS2 and NFS2se it must work without problems, as far as I remember there was "Force FeedBack" support. And as for the two earliest versions, I'm not sure: a wheel must work, but they lack for feedback.
TDR2000 (AKA Carmageddon3)
This is a typical arcade. The feedback is supported, everything works flawlessly.
Here you have to hold the wheel with two hands! The game makes possible to feel the whole power of the feedback, but it bothers very soon.
Colin McRae Rally 2
Arcade race. First of all, there are problems with control: it is impossible to separate the accelerator and brake. Secondly, you can move only when you press both pedals up to the stop.
Conclusion: problems stem from the game: in the NFS PU, HS everything worked good.
Pro Rally 2001
Here we have the same problems :( The accelerator and brake pedals do not work separately. The buttons and shifters work wrong. Most likely, here we should blame the developers.
I tried to play in "Storm", "Mig 29 Fulcrum" and "F22 Lighting 3". In the Storm you can set the pedals for the function of moving forward/backward, or engine traction… as for the wheel, it is much more pleasant to play with a joystick. In my opinion, this game needs a special complex of joystick+pedals+throttle lever.
When I adjusted the wheel and pedals for the Quake 3, the feedback refused to work. I set the pedals for jump/squating, and the wheel for turns, and then I understood that the latter is useless.
But I think that after a bit of training, the system of keyboard+mouse+pedals will work very good.
Drawing a conclusion
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