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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Life Online collection makes a buzz at the National Media Museum

Dancing badgers, talking dogs and grumpy cats; these are just a few of the hilarious treasures the Internet offers to users. What started out as an experiment in the 1960s was finally made into a reality in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and has now evolved into an incredible, and sometimes wacky world.

Vint Cerf, one of the ‘Fathers of the Internet’, opened the Life Online collection at the National Media Museum in March 2012. It is collaboration between Future Everything, an award winning festival and innovation lab, and the museum. Tom Woolley, curator of new media at the National Media Museum and lead curator of Life Online in 2012, said: “No other gallery in the world is dedicated to exploring how the internet’s ever-evolving history links to the impact it has on our lives”. This new collection offers the 600,000 annual visitors to the museum the chance to witness history in the making.

Life Online takes pride of place on the ground floor of the museum. Walls filled with questions invite you in to take a peek. Turning the corner into the collection, the words ‘Life Online’ scream at you in white and fluorescent pink, following questions such as ‘How was the Internet built?’ and, ‘What is the future of the internet?’.

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All of these questions are answered on your way into the exhibit. Turn right and you find glass cabinets holding pioneering technology that made everything we have today possible. The first ever projectors and vinyl players sit on the edges of the collection, posters bursting with information for those of us who maybe take modern technology for granted. Turn left and you discover social networking and Internet humour. The white walls of the collection are filled with computer code and famous faces such as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Zukcerberg is pictured surrounded by just some of the millions of faces he has connected together on the World Wide Web, a powerful image that reflects the social networking world we live in.

Banks of bright touch screens are situated opposite this wall of fame, offering fun games and trivia. Quizzes on technology, old and new, test your knowledge of the modern world. Did you know that it only takes Google 0.1 seconds to search the entire Internet? Were you aware that in 2011, the number of people playing Farmville on Facebook equaled the entire population of China?

If trivia isn’t your thing, then other information kiosks offer histories about the founders and pioneers of the internet. Names such as Larry Roberts, creator of the very first network in 1965, are given the rightful amount of credit that they deserve. Ben Matthews, an undergraduate studying Computing Science, said: “It’s been really interesting learning about all the people who founded the research into modern technology”.

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Additional kiosks provide some fun. Mini games that put all eyes on you, your face appearing on the screen in front of you like Big Brother, and in order to switch off the cameras you must answer questions on internet security. Other games show a basic method to shutting down networks by swiping your fingers across the connections.  These games bring life to an otherwise complex subject matter, and encourage those of a younger generation to interact in a fun and exciting way.

A final set of LCD screens allows you to customize your own webpage in HTML, the coding language for the internet, and then send it to yourself via email. Each step allows you to choose fonts, colours and background images, reflecting each and every change in HTML code in a screen above.

Large TVs showcase the funny side of the internet as viral videos play in unison. These distract your attention and entice you to giggle uncontrollably at clips such as PSYs international hit single, Gangnam Style, which boasts the most YouTube hits of all time.

As you wipe away tears of laughter, you notice something out of the corner of your eye; there are relics of the digital age on the floor. Not content with glass cabinets on the walls, beneath your feet are the very first personal home computers, as well as a trio of Apple’s revolutionary products that have revolutionized the way people interact with technology. Starting in the 1960s, and ending in 2010, this collection allows you to walk across half a century of technological advancement. Sadique Ahmed, IT Technician and self-confessed technology geek, visited the museum and said: “Seeing old and new technology together in one place has been a great experience”.

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Finishing your tour of the Life Online collection is like reaching the end of a chapter in a novel. New chapters are written every time a new piece of technology is discovered, and a collection like this is always being expanded for future generations.