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GT Force Steering Wheel

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by Logitech

Logitech’s GT Force steering wheel is the official steering wheel for Gran Turismo 3. If you didn’t know that already, portions of the GT3 booklet and game menus are devoted to it, and the wheel itself is adorned with a GT3 insignia. All that aside, the GT Force is a PS2 version of Logitech’s PC wheel, the Wingman Formula Force GP. It has been calibrated specifically for GT3 but accommodates an increasing number of other games as well (such as Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero and Nascar Heat 2002). And oh yeah, it is also one damn fine peripheral.

The GT Force is compact, comfortable, and stylish. The steering wheel base can be mounted onto most flat table surfaces using the two plastic mounting clamps. Ideally, the wheel would connect to a coffee table or desk, but the clamps open wide enough that you can get creative (I used a wooden TV tray for height and mobility). The wheel then connects to the pedal base, which rests on the floor, and a power outlet. Conveniently, the GT Force connects to the USB ports of the PS2, which allows for simultaneous use of the PS2 controller for navigating menus. The wheel itself is quite compatible with menu screens, however, although I have not encountered any read errors during game play while using both at the same time, the ease of the wheel eventually lulled me away from the controller entirely. It is also possible to use two GT Force steering wheels at the same time during multi-player games.

The wheel has four face buttons, three of which are programmable (the fourth acts as the start button on the controller), and two butterfly gear-shifters located behind the wheel. All are easily reachable during game play. It has an ergonomic rubber grip to prevent slippage. The pedals sit high upon the pedal base for better feel and performance. The base is light, but I found it to be fairly stable on my living room carpet.

There is, in fact, only one glaring problem with the design of this wheel: the length of the cords. I have a small living room. The cords of my Dual Shock Controllers are more than long enough to reach from my couch to the PS2 sitting inside of my entertainment center, yet I had to drag my PS2 half way across the floor just to hook up the GT Force. Yes, the USB cord for this thing is roughly half the length of a regular controller cord. And the power cord doesn’t reach from one end of my couch to the other! It is hard to imagine the phenomenal lapse in judgement required in limiting the cords like this. As if steering wheel peripherals weren’t inconvenient enough to set up and tear down anyway, now you either rearrange your living room, or connect everything with extension cords. And of course, like every other USB peripheral, it is recommended that you do not use extension cords, as it causes interference with the device. Ugh.

Nuts and bolts aside, the GT Force plays like a dream with GT3. The game recognizes the device instantly, and has a calibration screen dedicated to it in the set-up menu. There is an incredible sense of realism, and just plain coolness, when using this steering wheel with the cockpit view in GT3. The force feedback is responsive, replicating subtle differences in road texture as well as the huge jolts of bumps and crashes. The effects are particularly convincing during the rally races where every pebble, every powerslide, every change in the road is dramatically reproduced on the wheel. It all adds up to create the best feedback experience I have had outside of the arcade. The effects are a bit more subtle than your typical arcade racer, but I actually think this is a plus in that it enhances game play but doesn’t hinder it. There are inconsistencies though, particularly in collision detection. While running into a curb or barrier during a race will always produce an effect on the wheel, running into another car often does not. But I believe this is merely a product of GT3, as the effects are similar on the Dual Shock Controller.

I would, in fact, go so far as to say that for steering wheel enthusiasts (those of you who just don’t feel like you are driving unless your hands are at the ten and two o’clock positions), the GT Force will improve your performance on the game. It is also fun for younger gamers. My seven-year-old son loves it. His legs aren’t long enough to reach the pedals at the arcades, so the GT Force gives him a driving experience he is otherwise unable to have. For the rest of us (admittedly, I love my Dual Shock), it is just a fun addition to a fun game.

Aside from the fact that mounted steering wheels are not as well suited for living rooms as they are for computer desks (most coffee tables are too low to be comfortable), and the frustratingly short cords, I can only think of one other reason not to rush right out and buy the GT Force—the price. While the $100 price tag is not outrageous for a steering wheel peripheral, it is more than they charged for the PC version, and that was when the design was new. This is an obvious exploitation of its connection to the hugely popular GT3. Gamers who just paid $50 for the game, and quite possibly $300 for a PS2 (GT3 has reached "killer app" status), might not be willing to fork over that much cash for a wheel. But those who are, I assure you, will not be dissappointed.

Jeremy Kauffman   (09/27/2001)


Ups: Great steering; convenient shifting; force feedback; nice pedals.

Downs: The cords are way too short; a bit pricey.

For use with Sony PlayStation 2.