Car racing games are not just for kids. Many average Joes and car fanatics enjoy racing cars on their television sets, as do I. The beauty of playing car racing games is that you can drive virtually any type of car and don’t have to worry about getting busted by the cops. You also don’t have to worry about smashing your car or having insurance.
Using a regular Xbox 360 controller to play car racing games works fine but a steering wheel and pedals can add a whole new level of realism and enjoyment. I have been waiting for a steering wheel for my Xbox 360 since the day the gaming console came out. Mad Catz was the first company to release a steering wheel and pedal combo for the Xbox 360 so I was very excited when I finally got my hands on one.
The steering wheel and the dashboard come in an off-white finish to match the Xbox 360, as they should. The top and bottom sections of the steering wheel have a rubber coating that offers better grip and feel than plastic. The back of the steering wheel is also completely coated with rubber. Nine buttons plus a multi-directional pad on the face of the steering wheel allow the same functionality as an Xbox 360 controller. Patches of carbon-fiber-like finish on the steering wheel and shift knob made me think of my Honda Prelude. The spring-loaded gear shifter is treated with rubber just like the steering wheel and allows you to gear up or down, it is not a full shifter. Think of it as Porsche’s Tiptronic transmission. Green paddle-shifters are mounted behind the steering wheel, if you prefer the Ferrari feel over a Honda Prelude. Retractable leg supports come out from the bottom of the steering wheel base to place the unit more securely in your lap. A black pedal base sports gray gas and brake pedals – all of its components are made of hard plastic. The pedals feature a unique spring-loaded and double-hinged design to prevent the pedal unit from slipping on the floor.
The MC2 racing wheel offers a certain degree of vibration feedback, although it is not full force feedback.
I connected the pedal unit to the steering wheel using the 9-pin connector that looks like a PC’s serial port connector. Then, I connected the steering wheel to my Xbox via the USB connector. I loaded Project Gotham Racing 3 and sat on my couch with the MC2 racing wheel in my lap.
Using the multi-directional pad and buttons on the steering wheel, I navigated my way through the game’s menus and chose a race track. During the first few races, I used the steering wheel without the leg supports. Without them, the steering wheel went all over the place making it rather difficult to control the car. I pulled the leg supports down and quickly realized just how great of feature these were. The leg supports proved to be crucial during game play. Now, the wheel sat firmly in my lap allowing much greater control of the car’s steering.
Being used playing racing games with a regular Xbox controller, it did take me about half an hour to get used to the steering wheel. At first, I had trouble winning any of the racers. I frequently oversteered sending the car into uncontrollable spins or understeered into barriers. However the more tracks I raced, the more I appreciated the MC2 racing wheel. Once I got accustomed to the sensitivity and the dead zone of the steering wheel, my control of each car improved considerably. To my knowledge, the sensitivity and dead zones are actually controlled by the game, not the steering wheel. Unfortunately most games don’t allow you to adjust these settings. But the “Default” and “Wheel A” controller settings in Project Gotham Racing 3 worked just fine.
The wheel rotates through 270 degrees and its spring-loaded action feels appropriately tuned. During steering, it provides just the right amount of tightness giving it a realistic steering wheel feel.
Manually shifting gears with the gear shifter or the paddle shifter added yet greater realism to the game. Both worked smoothly and as predicted. Of course in order to use them, it helps if you are an advanced player.
The double-hinged design of the pedals worked exceptionally well compared to other pedals that I have used in the past. It did a good job of holding the pedal base in the same spot on my carpeted floor for the most part. Although I did have to readjust the pedals after every couple of races. In a clever move to improve the stability of the pedal base, I moved my ottoman in front of the base. This idea worked like a charm during game play. The pedal base was now virtually glued to my carpet. Slamming on the brakes was no longer an issue. If you own an ottoman, I strongly suggested putting it to use.
There is no question about it – the Mad Catz MC2 racing wheel elevated my video gaming to a whole new level. It added realism and excitement to car racing games that was absent when using a regular Xbox controller. With a suggested price of $79, the MC2 is so affordable that every car racing fan should consider one for their Xbox 360. Great job Mad Catz!