If like me you like your driving games as much as real driving and track days the Fanatec CSR wheel is a must - it transforms the driving experience by giving incredible feedback. Here are a few on my thoughts on the wheel so far:
This view looks sort of familiar…
Feeback, Feel & Realism
Driving a GT3 RS on Forza 4 at Road America the experience is visceral. Turn in too fast and you can feel the weight at the back of the car starting the pendulum effect, the vibrations in the rim of the wheel along with the strong force feedback somehow manage to convey this impression, the sensations of the wheel perfectly match the audio cues. Get the turn in speed right and squeeze the throttle and you get the signature 911 'pitter patter' understeer telling you the limit of adhesion has been reached - that alone is quite incredible attention to detail both by the game and wheel designers. The quality of the feedback means it is easy to both catch the transition to oversteer and quell understeer. Try a bigger heavier car like the Panamera Turbo and the sensation is totally different, massive understeer and you can feel the mass of the car pushing you wide in corners. The feedback, spring strength and damping are all adjustable via the on wheel display giving you fingertip control, you can save up to 5 settings for various cars, race environments or games.
The pedals also deserve a mention here too, I went for the CSR Elite pedals as they have the load cell on the brake pedal – which in real terms means it feels like a brake pedal and gets harder to push the further you depress the pedal. The sensitivity of the accelerator means you can hold throttle positions easily for the start and through sweeping corners. The load on the brake pedal means it is much easier to judge the amount of force needed. The loading is effective from high speed into a hairpin when you need everything the brakes can give you, it’s easy to find the point of maximum braking before the lock up begins (although the lack of force feedback on the brake pedal on the 360 means you need to use the ‘tyre chirruping’ audio cues to make the most of this). The brake pedal is more the heavy limited travel race car weighting than often longer and softer roadcar style. The difference between cars is again impressive, standard Forza roadcars need a lighter touch of braking with most of the sensation at the top of the pedal. Race cars like the R8 LMS require some serious pressure on the pedal before any real reaction but once they bite they really do bite.
Stepping on the Gas
Is it faster than the controller or MS Wheel?
To set the ‘faster’ debate in context I’m far from the fastest Forza player in the world, though I’m usually in the top 1% of players and just outside the top 100 circuit hot lappers overall.
In my hands the CSR wheel is faster, up to 2 seconds a lap on circuits with fast sweeping corners. I make the fast sweeper distinction because the main advantage of the wheel is being able to hold a constant radius rather than making the constant adjustments needed on the control pad. Smoother is definitely faster just as on the real track. The precision of the CSR also means you can hit any apex consistently.
While the MS Wheel I was using was slightly better than the control pad it was imprecise at the limit and difficult to feel the limit of grip. The plastic pedals also move around a lot unless secured (the weight of the metal CSR Elite pedals mean this isn’t a problem), the brake pedal was hardest to modulate as it was like the accelerator a position sensor only with no weight.
Forza 4 Auto Clutch
If lap times matter to you in Forza 4 you’ll know manual with clutch is the only setting option where the quickest times are possible. The CSR 737 firmware flash introduced the ‘autoclutch’ setting on the wheel . With this you can select manual with clutch and the wheel will automatically depress the clutch for you on up/downshift. It’s the same system as the fastest control pad users who mash the A/B or A/X buttons together to achieve the fastest shift.
There is only one downside to this wheel and that is cost, about £300 for the CSR and Elite pedals set up (plus various shifters for the ultimate realism if you want the H gate and sequential box to match a particular real car). It’s worth every penny though and just going faster is last on my list of reasons for saying so. . It’s better than using the controller because it’s more realistic than constant left stick twitching. It’s better than the MS Wheel because the steering input is more precise, there is far more feel and the pedals more accurate and weighted. It’s better than the Logitech G25 wheel because it supports all PC/Xbox/PS3 formats and the feedback through the wheel rim takes the CSR to another level.
Those few improvements alone would not justify £300 for me though. Being able to accurately simulate the character of a 911, and making the R8 LMS feel like the beast of a racing car it must be is what makes the difference. This is a truly great wheel, probably the best all rounder unless you want to spend £500 for the CSR Elite wheel alone, it makes every decent racing game more realistic, more of an experience and ultimately a lot more fun and that makes the price worth paying.