All peripherals are made to enhance the gaming experience. Some do it over the long run, adding a slight benefit over the typical hardware, or offer a significant improvement in a limited way, like a fightstick or racing wheel. Then there are more gimmicky add-ons, the sort that is a ton of fun for a few minutes at a time, and spend more time collecting dust in a closet corner except when friends are over. There’s nothing wrong with the latter type of hardware, so long as you don’t forget you own it. We all loved Guitar Hero, but who’s playing it now?
The Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel fits into the latter group. It’s a wireless racing wheel that you steer in the air almost stupidly, and certainly look dumb doing it. That shouldn’t stop users, of course, because it can be pretty fun, as long as you don’t game too seriously. Like a fake drumset or plastic guitar, the Speed Wheel fits the bill for racing games and is fun and somewhat realistic, but it’s mostly for those unique situations. The ones where you realize you sold your Wii and Mario Kart, but have Project Gotham Racing and a friend over and want to make the game more exciting.
That is to say don’t expect to get a better experience playing Forza Motorsport with the Speed Wheel than a controller. Like any peripheral designed to mimic the actual thing that’s wireless, holding a racing wheel in the air and turning it about gets tiresome. The most fun I’ve had is in a party setting. It makes for a great drinking game, no doubt.
The Speed Wheel is accurate and not too sensitive, which keeps it enjoyable. Users don’t have to turn the wheel much to turn in game, keeping the Speed Wheel more akin to a traditional racing wheel. It comes with an installation disc for the 360, something I’ve never seen for any console hardware. It isn’t required and it does work immediately after syncing to the Xbox, though for some racing games without the functionality built in the installation is supposed to help. With the racing games I’ve tested (Forza 3, Forza 4, Need for Speed The Run, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit), the wheel sans installation.
The Speed Wheel runs on 2 AA batteries and lasts about 20 hours of continuous gameplay, on the low end of what a typical 30 gamepad will last under heavy use.
Racing fanatics aren’t going to fall in love with the freedom of movement or the ease of storing this remarkably small racing wheel. No, the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel is a fun time for a half hour with friends, picking on the wheel user and turning it into a drinking game. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll just me more like Ricky Bobby that Jean Girard.
Bottom Line: A good time for friends and family to enjoy, but not to replace a real racing wheel.
- Accurate, good sensitivity, easy to use
- Doesn’t improve gaming quality over the long term
- Expensive for what it is
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