Using a gamepad to control a racing game may be satisfactory for some, but for others, it is akin to using a keyboard. The controls just don’t fit, and by using a gamepad, you distance yourself from the immersive perspective of the gaming experience.
Enter Saitek and the Adrenalin Wheel for the Xbox.
This is a plug-and-play device, requiring no setup. You simply unplug the Xbox controller you are replacing, plug in the Wheel, then power up the unit and pop in your favorite game.
The wheel comes with all the buttons you might expect on an Xbox controller. There is a D-pad, the A, B, X, Y buttons, Start and Back buttons, and two buttons mounted on the underside of the wheel (behind the D-pad, and A-Y button array) that act as the black and white buttons. In addition, the wheel has two arms installed at the 9 and 3 positions of the wheel – one for acceleration, the other for braking.
Games tested on the wheel included Project Gotham Racing, Spyhunter, Off-Road Wide Open and, for variety, the snowmobile game, Arctic Thunder.
The initial drawback to the wheel is that the lap adaptor, a device that makes it comfortable to balance the wheel on your lap while going through the gyrations associated with the immersive gaming experience, is not included in the basic package. That is an extra that must be purchased separately.
However, the wheel does come with a clamp device, which will not only lock the wheel onto a desk, but can but used to extend the base for the knees to grip (if you happen to be one of those folks that like to plant yourself on the floor in front of the television when playing your favorite Xbox game).
Once situated, launch the game of choice and give the wheel a whirl.
Though the standard diameter for most peripheral wheels, the initial reaction was how smoothly and much easier it was to control vehicles flying down courses at high rates of speed. Take Project Gotham, for instance. Not only do you have to negotiate hard corners (and the brake-accelerator paddles are quick and responsive and allow the slide turn to be executed infinitely easier than with a gamepad), but also you have to run through cones in the proper manner. Gentle pressure to a thumbstick was challenging; gentle pressure on the turning radius of the wheel was challenging, but more realistic and fun.
Jessica, 13, is a devotee of Arctic Thunder. She tried the wheel on that game, as well as others, and said: “It’s pretty cool. It’s easy to use on some games, like Arctic Thunder, but harder to use on other games. It didn’t really feel like it was vibrating a lot.”
If you have a force-feedback device, like the ACT LABS RS Wheel, you are probably aware of the force-feedback rumble you can receive, in which it actually feels like you are on that particular terrain. The Xbox does not indulge in force feedback. This is vibration technology, and you will feel some vibration in the wheel but little of resistance that you feel with force feedback. Different technologies and different systems account for that.
However, with Xbox technology, while you feel some vibration, you won’t have the resistance though your vehicle will slide through, not around, corners – which is the test of real-life physics.
The Adrenaline Wheel is relatively comfortable in the hands, and definitely makes a difference when playing racing games. One or two turns around a course, alternating between wheel and gamepad, will make most die-hard believers that there are the right tools for the right jobs, and when it comes to racing games, you need a wheel. Thanks to Saitek, Xbox gamers have that option.
The wheel has a nice feel, and the buttons are set in locations that make them accessible. While basically plastic, there are simulated leather strips at the 10 and 2 positions to increase grip. The wheel is a plug and play device, requiring no setup.
The wheel does have a lap adaptor, which is sold separately, for comfort on the player’s lap. While not a major drawback to the package the wheel comes in, if the price was increased slightly and the lap adaptor was part of the packaging, it would make this a more complete deal. The base of the unit could be heavier for greater stability.
This product definitely accelerates immersion into a racing game, and is well designed. It is so much easier to nudge a wheel into a turn that trying to calculate how much to tap the thumbstick. The thumbstick-controller device has a solid place in console gaming, but when it comes to racing games, the wheel is the only way to drive. Saitek’s product may be a little lightweight, but it is responsive, and puts all gaming options within easy-access range of most game players.