Rating: ★★★☆☆

My opinion on all racing wheels is this: if you’re going to play a semi-realistic racing game, why not do it with a wheel? A controller is unnatural for racing, no matter how good you may be twiddling your thumbs. It just doesn’t compare to a wheel. Wheels themselves come in all shapes and sizes, and while the most powerful one I’ve seen thus far is the Thrustmaster T500RS, my time with it was limited.

With the Ferrari Wireless GT Cockpit 430 Scuderia Edition, I’ve driven the distance from LA to New York and back,, and then some.

The Ferrari Wireless GT Cockpit 430 Scuderia Edition, or 430 for short, is a wireless non-motorized racing wheel made specifically with console and desk-taken players in mind. It not only sports the wheel and two foot pedals, but is a fully assembled slab of metal, plastic and electronics built to eliminate bolting the wheel down to a desk or holding it on the lap. It may not be marketed towards console gamers, but there is no better place for the 430 than in front of a giant HDTV.

That’s not to say it doesn’t fit right at home in front of a desk. It doesn’t fit my desk, not in the slightest, though not everyone will have that problem. My PS3 moves between my office desk and media center, and for my testing of the 430 the console went back to a full-fledged TV. This wasn’t a problem, of course, because the 430 is a fully-inclusive racing wheel.

What that means is that unlike most racing wheels, it isn’t meant to be seated on a steady surface, like a table. It comes with it, as you can see in the pictures above and below. The wheel is connected to an adjustable metal bar, which can have it’s length and angle adjusted to accommodate any seating position or player height. And because it’s connected to a steady base with the foot pedals, it’s very stable.

Keeping a racing wheel stable is a great difficulty for many gamers. Logitech has used a bolt-system for stabilizing it’s wheels, Fanatec a mix of lever and pressure handles. Both require a table, and a strong one at that. Even then there is no assurance that the surface will remain stable, and that the wheel will remain in place. And when racing, if the wheel isn’t stable, neither is your driving. The 430 with stability in mind, which is why the base of the setup also houses the foot pedals. The 430 is smartly built to use a player’s own weight, along with 10.5kg of weight added to the base, to keep the wheel firmly set.

It also helps that the 430 is not a motorized racing wheel. That is to say it won’t fight back, so players will not get the most realistic driving experience using this wheel. The next best alternative is the Logitech G27, which comes with wires, a powerful motor, an excellent gearbox, and three foot pedals.

Installation is straightforward and takes no more than five minutes. Two pedals work for gas and brakes, and shifting gears is accomplished by hitting the right and left pedals behind the steering wheel. The height and position of the wheel can be set mechanically, and it can also fold down for easy storage. There’s even a handle at the end to carry it around. The wheel can also be removed for easier storage.

With a 270° turn radius, the 430 is a tight racing wheel, though the handle diameter is relatively small at 28cm, just under a foot. It feels small, especially for regular drivers or anyone who’s played with larger racing wheels, but that size won’t diminish your ability to drive in-game. Thrustmaster states that it’s 70% the size of an actual Ferrari F430 wheel.

Driving with the 430 is average to good. The small size is noticeable and the lack of force feedback has its ups and downs. On the one hand, not having to fight the wheel made it easier to focus on the driving aspect and not fighting it, but on the other hand, not having to fight back limits how realistic the racing is. For the purposes of this review, we won’t philosophize the realism of any simulator when lacking proper G-forces.

Button placement is optimal for gaming, not for fitting any console control scheme, which is both good and bad. Buttons scattered around the wheel make it more comfortable to command on the PC, but less comfortable on the PS3. Every button has to be manually set on the game console, and doing so is no easy task.

Even with the wheel’s small size, driving with it feels good. The leather is easy to grasp and comfortable to hold for hours at a time. The directional “Inginition” key, which acts as a D-pad, makes most menu navigation fairly simple. Driving with only 270 degrees° does take some getting used to. Not having any force feedback is likewise a challenge. Players may be able to focus on driving instead of pushing against a wheel, but that makes driving no easier. The buttons are well placed, and the shift pedals are strong and clicky.

I had no trouble with the wireless connection or using four AA batteries. They’re rated for 50 hours, and I haven’t managed to use them up after a month. The battery life really is phenomenal, but even better is how easy the 430 is to store. I’ve had five other racing wheels, all for review, and all were equally terrible when it came to storage. They all have cables, extra parts and connectors, and none came with a simple way to store them when not in use. The 430 is one piece. You take it out, play, and put back with no fuss. I don’t know about you, but I hate having to spend 10-15 minutes getting a racing setup together to play. The 430 takes 30 seconds.

The way I see it, the Ferrari Wireless GT Cockpit 430 Scuderia Edition is a racing wheel for anyone who doesn’t want to waste time, who doesn’t want wires and cables everywhere, and who doesn’t need every bell and whistle other wheels have. It’s all inclusive, and while I’d love an option for a gearbox, for the sake of consolidation Thrustmaster is right to have left it out. For $250, buyers get a wheel that’s smaller and less realistic than the next best competitor.

The 430 is, however, better for storage, more practical, and more reasonable for the even-minded gamer. It won’t give you the best racing experience, but if you play racing games on and off, or perhaps play when you can, then this is a great wheel for you. Console gamers and those interested in force feedback should look elsewhere, knowing that they will spend more money, and find a way to keep it steady. Having the all-in-one setup on the 430 is simply amazing, really. But for gameplay, it’s only better if you don’t want force feedback, and need something to keep the wheel steady.

For that, Thrustmaster reigns supreme. I’ve never seen or used a wheel so easy or comfortable to use over time. It actually makes me want to play racing games. It’s great for what it was designed for, but at a price too close to more advanced, albeit less convenient racing wheels.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.