Racing Simulations

Growing up in an 'F1 family' where waking up at 02:00 to watch the races in Japan or Australia seemed normal, it wasn't a bit stretch to find myself playing racing games. Things really started out with Nigel Mansell's World Championship, which although certainly not a simulation, led me onto F1GP on the Commodore Amiga.

After progressing through and spending many years modding the Geoff Crammond Formula One simulations for myself, I started to run IndyCar Racing and NASCAR Racing from Papyrus Racing Games. In 1998 Papyrus released Grand Prix Legends, this had a huge impact on my entire life; I founded a Web site about it, began racing online with it, and it actually led me to where I am today; working for a racing sim developer.

Grand Prix Legends (1998):

Apart from the occasional rFactor mod, I didn't run anything other than iRacing (who I worked for) for a long time. In 2010 I started to work for Image Space Incorporated, deep into development of rFactor 2 at the time. That's all I run these days, I just don't have the time to run anything else!

 

Logitech Driving Force EX Steering Wheel Review

closeThis post was published 8 years 8 months 8 days ago.
Information might not be up-to-date.

Yes, that’s right! Finally… Tim Wheatley got rid of that dodgy $30 Thrustmaster wheel… I loved the old girl but, she had too many problems. She lagged, spiked, did all sorts of wonderful things… She made it very difficult to drive in a straight line though and after all this time… I moved on.

The Logitech Driving Force EX steering wheel that I was given, I should point out, is labeled on the box as a Playstation wheel. It doesn’t come with anything saying that it works on the PC, nor does it come with a drivers CD for the PC, but, you can simply go to Logitech.com and there they are, bright as day. Drivers are (currently) there for both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

CABLES, PLUGS & SETTING UP

The box contained wheel, pedals and power supply unit. I don’t have a Playstation, but reading the documentation that came with the wheel, my version should work with both the PS2 and PS3. It comes with a USB connector and (what I’d refer to as) a ‘gamepad’ connector. Obviously in this review I’m talking about the PC, so you would use the USB connector. The first thing I noticed when unwrapping was how wonderfully long they made the wires! No longer am I going to have to use the front USB connector on my computer case for my steering wheel! Not only that, but the wire between the pedals and steering wheel is similarly well-endowed, as is the power unit.

I attached the pedals to the wheel, plugged in the power (at both ends) and then mounted the wheel on my desk. Running the driver EXE I had downloaded from the Logitech Web site I waited until I was told to plug the wheel into the computer and then did do. Following the onscreen instructions made it very easy and after a quick run through the calibration I was ready to race… It hadn’t taken longer than three minutes.

I now took a quick look at the unit in it’s new home and tried to find faults. I must admit, I found it hard to pick faults on how the wheel looks. Apart from the obvious Playstation-related buttons, which don’t bother me, the wheel both looked and felt sturdy, professional and like it could take a race or two! I certainly didn’t feel like the thing would fall apart anytime soon.

I guess my only real issue is with the clamps. They don’t reach forward enough for me and I’m sort of concerned they’ll work their way loose as they’re clamped onto the lip of my desk, rather than just past that lip – where I would prefer. I guess this isn’t a big deal, I’ll just have to keep checking the tightness every week or so.

FORCE FEEDBACK & NOISE

Compared to many other wheels I have heard with motors, the Driving Force EX doesn’t make much noise at all, but that’s because it doesn’t have a motor.

I don’t normally use force feedback, so although I’m trying it with this wheel, your mileage may differ. Any review of force feedback is heavily reliant on the game or simulation used to test it anyway…

Trying the wheel with Richard Burns Rally I mainly found myself feeling tightening of the steering, there wasn’t really any notification when you’d landed after a jump. It seemed like the force feedback was only simulating the feedback of the steering column and ignoring any vibration or ‘jolts’ that I believed I should be feeling. It felt weird more than anything else.

Trying the same general settings with Flatout: Ultimate Carnage I felt the tightening of steering in the turns, but also felt a ‘jolt’ during sideward impact (from other cars, or the armco). I also felt the car becoming ‘light’ while in the air. Again, this force feedback was missing any sudden jolt’s you would expect when getting front or rear impact but did seem better than Richard Burns Rally. Annoyingly, Flatout 3 gave a constant rumble of vibration… I can only assume this is meant to simulate the engine? Whatever it is… It doesn’t work for me, it feels silly.

One thing I have discovered though is just how vast the difference is between software. Interestingly the force feedback in Richard Burns Rally doesn’t seem as good as that seen in the new Flatout title, they are a world apart!

The lightening I can feel from the car in the air or transitions in banking is probably me interpreting the annoying vibrations as something they are not. Really this wheel does not have force feedback, it has rumble feedback and honestly, it feels pretty weird to me.

GENERAL DRIVING

So, turning the force feedback off as I will normally be using it, how does it feel?

It feels great. You can’t feel any ‘workings’ in the wheel, it’s nice and smooth, but there is a bit of a problem (and maybe it’s just me)… When going down the straight I find my steering oscillating left and right… I actually ended up setting the wheel to pull back to the center with a strength of 30% – this made keeping it straight a lot easier. I’m thinking that the wheel is probably just a tiny bit too precise compared to what I’ve been using; my tiny compensations in steering didn’t help keep it straight.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s a very, very nice wheel and well worth the current purchase price (about $80 right now on Amazon.com, $55 on Amazon.co.uk). It’s probably the best feeling wheel I have ever had (so far anyway!) If you can’t afford the Logitech G25 and don’t want to go for the cheaper or unknown options, this is a great wheel.

LATER NOTES

It’s now a long time since I wrote this review and I have learned a couple of things further about this wheel.

First, this wheel doesn’t have actual force feedback. Apparently Logitech failed to get proper licensing to include it and instead included a basic ‘rumble’ technology which frankly is pathetic when compared to how a decent wheel feels.

Second, it seems to suffer from the ‘loss of center’ problem I hear a lot when reading about Logitech wheels. You’ll suddenly find yourself having to steer left or right in order to go straight. Some people think this is related to force feedback or the center spring but it actually doesn’t seem to be as I always had both of these disabled with the Force EX…

 
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Tim is British and lives in the United States with his wife and kids.

He works for software developers Image Space Inc. and Studio 397 on their racing simulations, and is a fan of Gaming, Motorsports, and photography.