Feel the force

Start your engines: Rev up your racing experience with the Logitech G920. — TNS

Start your engines: Rev up your racing experience with the Logitech G920. — TNS

Logitech G920 Driving Force steering wheel ups the ante on immersion.

The last steering wheel I owned was a Logitech Driving Force Wheel that I paired with Gran Turismo 3 A-spec. It was my first time driving with the videogame peripheral, and it’s still one of the best racing experiences ever.

The idea of a force feedback wheel, which fought your control, was revelatory at the time.

Now almost 14 years later, I get that same feeling with the Logitech G920 Driving Force racing wheel for the Xbox One and PC.

Like its predecessor, the device deepens the immersion with a racing game. In this case, it was my review of Forza Motorsports 6.

With my hands on the wheel, the most obvious improvement comes in the dual-motor force feedback. The tech works in conjunction with Turn 10 Studios’ title to give players an innate feel for the road.

If their tires bump a curb, they can feel that in a jolt of the wheel. If they veer off course, they can feel rumble strips on the edges of the track.

Add in the regular force feedback, in which players fight the wheel if they spin out or can sense an understeer, the controller makes players feel as though they’re in the bucket seats of a Dodge Viper or at the controls of a Ferrari.

It bridges the gap between videogames and real-life driving so that skills in one transfer to the other.

Pedal tests your mettle

Although the wheel gets a lot of the attention, the pedals are where the rubber hits the road. How players feather the throttle or hit the brakes is often more important than how they turn the wheel or shift gears using the paddles.

The bottom half of the Logitech G920 features three pedals for the gas, brake and clutch. The gas and clutch work fine.

They are easy to activate with the gas having enough give so that players can accelerate out of turns without spinning out. This is what separates controller players from wheel players.

The ability to delicately apply gas or brakes is often the difference between a smooth turn and an awkward one at high speed. But for beginners, there will be one obstacle that they’ll have to overcome – the brakes. Novices have to learn how to use them efficiently.

According to Logitech the nonlinear brake pedal mimics the performance of pressure-sensitive brake systems. In real-life terms, that translates to a stiffer-than-normal brake pedal that takes some getting used to.

I had to jam on the brakes extremely hard to get any noticeable slow down on curves. Those expecting the brakes to react the same way as their daily driver will have to adapt to the amount of force it takes to decelerate.

That pushed me to configure my feet in different ways as I tried to race with the wheel mounted on an Ikea deck table with the pedals underneath me. Because I had to push the brake so hard, I had to angle the unit so that my foot could slam on the pedal when necessary.

I had to relearn how to drive, but after a few hours of racing, I improved my times. The brake pedals are indeed more responsive and let players finely tune just how much they want to slow down.

Look for a racing sled

What players need before picking up the G920 is a dedicated racing sled, (two manufacturers are PlaySeat and Wheel Stand Pro). These contraptions let players mount the racing wheel and pedals so they securely stay on.

It also has the huge benefit of being more comfortable, so you can wheel around tracks for hours without regretting what it does to your posture.

Like other Logitech products, the G920 is built for maximum flexibility and that’s evident with the Driving Force Shifter. It connects to the wheel and gives players a deeper sense of racing.

The gear shift is built just like a real car so players will have to move the knob into the correct position for all gears. Combine that with the clutch and you’ll get more immersion (depending on what vehicle you use) than if you were just using the straight paddles.

Lastly, the build on the G920 is solid and almost luxurious in places. The wheel is covered in hand-stitched leather and the paddles are made of sturdy stainless steel. The pedals are tough and even when I was stomping on that brake pedal in frustration (I wouldn’t recommend doing that) the device took the punishment and worked just fine.

Like my original PS2 Driving Force wheel, it seems as though the Logitech G920 with its hefty US$399.99 (RM1,700) price tag will stand the test of time, and with the PC compatibility, it will likely see use even beyond this console generation.

For racing game fans, it’s definitely a peripheral worth investing in. — San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service