- Publisher: Microsoft
- Genre: Steering Wheel
- Pros: Slick design; works really well
- Cons: Lack of buttons; no vibration
The Wireless Speed Wheel is a slickly designed "U" shaped device with a little magic motion sensing doodad in a round center piece. The left handle of the "U" has the Left Trigger (usually the brake in most racing games) and a d-pad. The right handle of the "U" has the Right Trigger (usually the accelerator in most racing games) and the A,B,X,Y buttons. The A,B,X,Y buttons are interesting because they are much smaller than the same buttons on a normal controller, which lets you easily hit more than one at a time with your thumb if you need to. The center piece of the controller has the Xbox Guide button along with Back and Start buttons. On the back of the controller is the Xbox 360 system sync button along with a button that releases the cover on the battery compartment. The tips of the "U" can glow green during gameplay and will light up depending on what you're doing, which definitely looks cool.
The wheel requires two "AA" batteries, which are included. We're not sure about how long battery life will be as we've been playing Forza 4 with it for a week or so and they haven't run out yet. At any rate, a set of rechargeable batteries, like Sanyo's Eneloop brand, is recommended.
The MSRP for the Wireless Speed Wheel is $59.99, which is more than a standard Xbox 360 controller. That price, however, is also much less than most full steering wheel / pedal setups for Xbox 360, which balances things out a bit. The price does raise it a bit out of "impulse buy" territory, but if you play a lot of racing games but aren't hardcore enough to invest in a full wheel, it is worth a look. It is also great for kids / wives / girlfriends intimidated by complicated controls. With the Wireless Speed Wheel, you just steer like you would a real car, which is very appealing for casual players.
The first thing you'll notice when using the wheel is that it is absolutely intuitive to use. It works with pretty much all Xbox 360 racing games with zero setup. It does come with a setup disc, but I just jumped right into Forza 4 and it worked fine automatically. Once you're in a race, the motion sensitive steering is very, very good. It isn't like with the Wii Wheel where there is a sort of delay (because, lets face it, the Wii motion tech is 5+ years older than this ...), you turn the wheel and your car immediately responds. Small movements. Big movements. The wheel accurately relays the data to the game. Using the cockpit view and watching your in-game driver make the exact same moves you're making at nearly the same exact time just goes to show you how accurate it is. It feels really surprisingly great to use, and after a race or two to get used to it, it is completely second nature.
The steering works well, but the triggers also deserve some praise. The triggers have an extra long throw on them, which means you can really feather the gas and brake. Incredibly important with the new handling model in Forza 4. You have really precise control over your speed using the Wireless Speed Wheel.
One important thing that is worth mentioning is that the wheel doesn't have to be held out in front of you in the air to work right. You can actually rest it in your lap and it still works fine. Of course, in tighter, more exciting on-track situations you'll probably find yourself raising it up in the air anyway. But it is nice to know you don't have to have big muscle-y arms to use it for long periods of time. You can relax with the wheel in your lap and only make little turns with it and it works just fine.
Another great bonus is that because it is small you can actually put it away out of the way when you're not playing a racing game. Full racing wheel just take up too much space and can be a pain to set up. With the Wireless Racing Wheel you just get it out of a drawer or box and turn it on and you're ready to go with no setup.