Around the SI Kids offices, we've seen plenty of video game racing wheels come and go. Usually these wheels either offer too much--gas and brake pedals, "units" that need to practically be bolted down to your coffee table, wires flying everywhere, etc.--or too little (see: the Wii Wheel). But the new first-party Wireless Speed Wheel for the 360 (Microsoft, $59.99) hits the sweet spot in-between those two extremes.
Available in shiny black and looking (to me, anyway) like some sort of intergalactic horseshoe, the Speed Wheel is not bad looking as far as video game peripherals go. The Speed Wheel functions via some hypersensitive built-in motion sensors which detect your movements. The 360's A/B/X/Y buttons are located near your right thumb, making it easy to reach them during gameplay. The locations of the left and right trigger buttons--gas and brake, respectively--are also in perfect locations, close to your index fingers.
Two foolish assumptions that I made:
1. That the wheel would somehow function only with Kinect. This is false. Kinect is not part of the equation at all. If you own a 360, the wheel will work with it.
2. That I would get tired of holding the wheel in front of me while playing. This is also false. After hours of play, the wheel still felt comfortable in my hands.
I put the wheel to the test by taking the upcoming Forza 4 (Microsoft, $59.99) for a test drive. I completed three races with the old-fashioned 360 controller. It was fun. But then I put the controller aside and used the Speed Wheel.
I was surprised by the incredible amount of control that the wheel provided me with. I was not only winning races; I was enjoying a far more immersive video game experience. I was no longer merely playing a video game--I realize this sounds cheesy, so bear with me--and instead actually found myself being pulled into the racing action in a much more dramatic fashion when I used the Speed Wheel.
And now, my preferred way of playing Forza 4 is with the Speed Wheel.
Lots of peripherals come across my desk each week. Trust me when I tell you that this one is pretty special.