Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Thrustmaster

Taking Racing Games a Step Further

I remember very distinctly the first racing game I had ever played and where.  It was in the basement of a hotel in Billings, MT where I first put a couple of quarters through the ATARI Night Driver arcade machine.  It was a very basic simulator with white dots coming at you as if they were reflectors on poles.  The game had a wheel and four gears available through a shifter.  It had an accelerator and no brake.  It was the simplest racing game a person could play.  I was pretty young, so it was not as fun to me because I did not do well actually playing it.  Like most kids that age, fun is in the anticipation of playing and putting the quarter in rather than learning the intricacies of a game.

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Throughout the years there were distinct improvements.  I played Pole Position and Enduro on the ATARI 2600, I had my first PC racer with Test Drive (the Ferrari Testarossa was my favorite vehicle) using only the keyboard.  I took a break for a few years and did not get back into racing games until I attended the 3dfx T-buffer demo when I saw the latest NFS 4 (High Stakes) played at 1024x768 with AA enabled.  Sure, it looked like the cars were covered in baby oil, but that was not a bad thing at the time.

One of the real breakthrough titles for me was NFS: Porsche Unleashed.  EA worked with Porsche to create a game that was much closer to a simulation than the previous arcade racers.  It was not perfect, but it was one of the first titles to support Force Feedback in racing.  I purchased a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick.  The addition of FFB was a tremendous improvement in the game as I could feel the tires start to slip and experience the increased resistance to turns.  This was my first real attempt at a racing game and actually completing it.  I still have fond memories and it would be great to get a remastered version with better graphics and physics, while still retaining the simulation roots.

After PU I again stopped playing racers.  The release of Project Gotham racing for the XBox rekindled that a bit, but I soon tired of the feel of the controller and the rumble rather than real FFB effects.  Fast forward to Quakecon 2009 when I saw the first gameplay videos of the upcoming DiRT 2.  This title was one of the first to adopt DX11 that would push the HD 5800 and GTX 480 video cards for all they were worth.  This re-ignited my desire to race.  I purchased DiRT 2 as soon as it was available for the PC and played with the aging (but still solid) Sidewinder FFB P2.

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The box was a little beat up when it got to me, but everything was intact.

Something was missing though.  I really wanted more out of my racing game.  The last time I had used a wheel on a racing game was probably an Outrun arcade machine in the late 80s.  I did some shopping around and decided on the Thrustmaster F430 Ferrari FFB wheel.  It was on sale at the time for a low, low price of $76.  It had a 270 degree rotation which is more apt for arcade racers than sims, but it was a solid wheel for not a whole lot of money.  It was a fantastic buy for the time and helped turn me into a racing enthusiast.

During this time I purchased my kids a couple of low end wheels that use the bungee cord centering mechanism.  These of course lack any FFB features, but the Genius one I acquired was supposed to have some basic feedback and rumble effects: it never worked as such.  So, my experience to this point has been joysticks, bungee wheels, and a 270 degree F430 wheel.  This does not make me an expert, but it does provide an interesting background for the jump to a higher level of product.

Click here to continue reading the Thrustmaster TX F458 Italia Edition Review!

Logitech Announces the G29 and G920 Racing Wheels

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: stainless steel, racing wheel, racing pedals, racing h-gear shifter, logitech, leather, G920, G29, G27, force feedback, aluminum

PC peripherals are a fickle market for companies.  Some products get replaced and updated in a very short period of time, while others remain relatively stable and the product line lasts for years.  Logitech has laid claim to one of the longest serving products in the peripheral field with the G27 racing wheel.  This product has proven to be a popular accessory for those wishing to race on a variety of platforms with a clutch, stick shift, and a force feedback wheel.  For the time it was a rather expensive part that reached the $400 mark at introduction, but has eased down to the mid-$250US range.  Five years is a long time for such a product, but the overall design and quality of the G27 has insured its place as one of the better buys of this decade.

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The G29 has a unique layout of buttons, d-pad, and a 35 position rotary knob.

Time passes and all things must change.  The G27 has lost some of its luster as compared to some of the latest products from Thrustmaster and Fanatec.  We are now in the midst of a resurgence of racing titles from a variety of sources, some of which are emerging from relatively unknown developers and veteran studios alike.  Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, DiRT Rally, and F1 2015 plus a variety of paid and F2P titles are vying for racer’s attention in this very verdant environment of software titles.  We must also not forget the new marketplace opened up by the PS4 and Xbox One.  Logitech, in their quest to gain the hearts and loyalties of gamers has renewed their push into this marketplace with a variety of Gaming products.  Today we get our first look at the two latest entries from Logitech into the racing wheel world.

Today Logitech is announcing their latest two editions to the high end racing accessory market.  The G29 has been leaked and covered, but the G920 is a new revelation to the world.  The G29 is aimed at the PS3 and PS4 market and will be available for purchase in early July of this year.  The G920 is the Xbox One and PC model that will be released this Fall.  The models differ with their button layout, but they are both based on a lot of the same technology that powers the force feedback experience in modern racing games.

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The pedals are not as colorful as the G27 (it had red accents), but it looks nearly identical to the older part.  Stainless steel pedals plus a clutch.

The base unit features a dual motor design with helical gears rather than belt driven.  The helical gears should result in less backlash as compared to a belt design which can stretch and distort the feeling of the wheel.  The shaft of the wheel features solid stainless steel bearings so that wear and tear should be kept to a minimum.  The shifters and pedals are also made of stainless steel so that these high-wear parts will work for years without issue.

The wheel itself is made of hand-stitched leather over a plastic and aluminum framing.  The wheel also features a LED light rev indicator that reports to users when to shift at redline.  The clamping system allows the wheel to be used on desks as well as driving stations through either a clamp or bolts.  The three pedal stand is of a decent weight and of course features a clutch pedal that many competing products do not have.

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The G920 is a bit more minimalist in terms of button layout.  This wheel does not feature the rev/shift LEDs that the G29 has, and this is due to how the consoles address hardware.  Apparently it is just not feasible for the XBox One to do this.

The G29 and G920 differ in their button layout, but both feature the three pedal set and paddle shift setup.  As compared to competing products from Thrustmaster and Fanatec at this price point, there is no ability to swap out wheels with the base unit.  For example both Thrustmaster and Fanatec offer a variety of wheels that can be interchanged with the hub with the gearing and force feedback hardware.  Both of those companies have a great amount of flexibility with accessories that can be swapped in and out.  This of course comes with a significant price.  The competing Thrustmaster set has F1 and other wheels that cost anywhere from $150 to $250, while Fanatec will allow a user to customize their setup for the low, low price of $1,000US plus.

The G29 and G920 include the wheel and three pedal setup as stock at $399.99.  If a user wants to include a 6-speed manual shifter, then it will cost an extra $59.99US.  That particular product is configured as an H pattern shifter, but it is not included in the base package for the G29 or G920.

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The G920 pedals are essentially identical to the G29 unit.

It is great to see the G29 available in an early July timeframe, but it is slightly disappointing that the G920 will not hit the market until this Fall.  As a die-hard PC gamer it will be a few months before I can get hands on the G920 and put it through its paces.  The racing wheel market is not overly large as most users rely on gamepads, joysticks, and keyboards for their racing needs.  As such, we do not see refreshes on a regular basis as compared to keyboards, mice, and other devices.  It is great to see Logitech addressing this market with new products that bring new features.

Edit: According to the Logitech website, the G29 CAN be used with a PC as long as the users has the Logitech Gaming software installed.

Source: Logitech