Slippy wheels and rogue pedals – Mad Catz Official Wireless Steering Wheel Review

The Mad Catz official Wireless Steering Wheel for Xbox 360 turns your racing experience into a fun, adrenaline fuelled run for the finish line, whether you’re a pro gamer or a casual delver.

The wheel is very easy to set up, only taking a matter of minutes to piece everything together. It is advisable to have a set of screwdrivers handy, as you will either need to screw leg grips to the wheel, or screw the wheel to a table.

Those who are perhaps only used to the feel of the Wii Wheel will find the shape and feel of this a little strange at first. Functioning as a full-scale driving wheel, you will be put behind a very realistic piece of hardware, and it might take non-drivers a bit of getting used to, especially when it comes down to the sensitivity of the brake pedals. After a little bit of practice however, there is no reason that any driver of any skill level can not pick this up and drift around corners like a professional. The steering is gentle, but really kicks back when it needs to in order to over take and streamline the cars in front.

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A simple, elegant design

Mapping the buttons to your own liking is very easy, so you are not stuck to the rigid basic controls on some games, but there are some titles that will only allow you a choice of pre-set controls. The optional pedals are for more experienced gamers who also have, or would like to have, a racing seat as well. The pedals do tend to shuffle around on the floor a little bit, even when on a rough carpet and tend to be a little bit flimsy if you are racing at high speed and constantly using the brake pedal to take tight corners. It is important to try and secure the pedals to the floor and stop this issue from arising as not being able to find the brake pedal is a definite hazard to your lap time.

Unlike some other wheels on the market which simply offer plastic grips that are frankly pretty much useless for the inevitable sweaty palms, this wheel has an exceptional rubber grip to minimise hand-slip, allowing for precise steering without the aid of driving gloves in order to maintain grip.

The wheel is multifunctional, allowing you to desk mount the wheel or attach leg grips for playing anywhere in the house. Not everyone will have the desk space or driving seat in order to use the mount in the appropriate manner, which does sadly mean that thinking about your own personal set up is a must before purchasing this piece of hardware. Also, unfortunately with the vibration functionality switched on it is highly likely that the wheel may slip off your legs with the leg mounts, or manoeuvre itself into an awkward position that may render it impossible to continue driving. Quick steering can also cause this issue to occur

The wheel on its own is brilliant, but really does need a gaming chair in order to reach its full potential. Reality soon sinks in when you remember you are sitting in either a desk chair, or a lounge chair with improper support, and you do feel a bit silly with a steering wheel on your lap sometimes (then again, not as silly as you would feel holding an imaginary steering wheel; I’m looking at you Kinect). The engine sounds emitting from your mouth may also not help the look of sheer insanity you have going for you, but at least you’re having fun in your own little world, right?

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One of these might help if you want to fully immerse yourself into the role of the racer

When used with an arcade style racing game, the wheel adapts well to the speed and sense of urgency. When tested on Need For Speed; Hot Pursuit it was a slightly different experience to using the traditional controller as the brake pedals are slightly more sensitive, but it simply takes practice in order to familiarise yourself with the tweaked sensitivity. Unfortunately the wheel locks very early into a turn, so will take some practice on mastering turns effectively. It would be preferable for the wheel to have a full turn that is similar to a real wheel.  If you are not desk mounting your wheel, expect to perhaps fly a little out of control sometimes if you’re getting a little too into a drift and decide to attempt to spin the wheel round like a roundabout. It won’t work, and you will likely end up falling off your chair.

Similarly when used with a more simulation and reality based racing game like Project Gotham Racing 4 (PGR4), the steering is excellent and realistic but the brake pedals appear to have a little bit more sensitivity which makes entering sharp corners a little bit difficult for anyone playing purely for fun in comparison to the hardened pros.

It is possible for those who want to show off their driving skills to use the manual gear stick provided and attach this to the wheel, but it does however not physically go up in gears.  It is possible to change gears with a simple flick of the stick, and this may infuriate some gamers who want a more realistic driving experience. Those using this wheel with driving simulation games as opposed to arcade may not appreciate this slight issue, as it will potentially spoil their enjoyment.

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It sits comfortably on your leg, just try and sit still

All in all the Mad Catz steering wheel is a worthy investment for any gamer wanting to take their driving experience to the next level. Will the Mad Catz steering wheel help you practice for your driving test? Probably not. Will it be a hell of a lot of fun to use in your bedroom with friends? Definitely.

The wheel retails at £89.99 which may seem steep to some, but for the sheer amount of hardware and quality you receive you can hardly turn your nose up at it until you’ve at least tried it. It’s not the best wheel on the market but it does what it needs to do, and it does it well.

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