Forza 3: Controller or Wheel?

What's faster in Forza 3: The Xbox 360 controller or a racing wheel? Our 'highly scientific' study has the answers.

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Forza Motorsport 3 is released in the US today, and if you didn't already know, the game is pretty darn great. If you even have a passing interest in cars or racing games, you'll likely find something to like (if not love) in the game.

Late last week, we got a package from Microsoft--a huge wooden box, inside of which was a Porsche 911 Turbo S Wheel and a RennSport Wheel Stand. Now I've played with the Porsche wheel before; it's a pretty decent product, though a bit light on force feedback. The real gem here was the wheel stand--a compact and relatively affordable solution for those of us (like myself) who don't have the room (or the money) for a full cockpit in their living room.

Instead of attaching your favorite wheel to a table or a desk, you can use this wheel stand (which is available for $129.95). You attach your favorite wheel--it supports Fanatec and Logitech models, as well as the Microsoft racing wheel--for an adjustable and storage-friendly option. For more on the RennSport wheel stand, check out our photo feature we just put up today.

So, with this wheel and wheel stand at the ready, it got me thinking about which controller is actually more conducive to speed in a game like Forza 3: the wheel or the Xbox 360 controller. I've dabbled with wheels in the past, but, for the most part, I'm a controller guy. My guess was that, thanks to the sheer amount of hours I've put into the game with the Xbox 360 controller, I'd be considerably faster using the wheel. So I fired up Forza 3 and did a little analysis of my own.

My methodology was simple: I drove time trials in a single unmodified car (the rally-ready 2007 Peugeot 207 Super 2000) on three separate tracks: Suzuka, LeMans Sarthe (old course), and Road Atlanta. I drove no more than three laps with either controller in order to give myself enough time to warm up the tires and then drive two flying laps. Here are the results:

Suzuka
Controller: 2:17.161
Wheel: 2:21.208

LeMans Sarthe (old course)
Controller: 4:20.995
Wheel: 4:27.126

Road Atlanta
Controller: 1:29.909
Wheel: 1:33.901

As you can see, my laps were considerably quicker using the Xbox 360 controller than the wheel. I attribute that to a couple of possibilities: First, I've had a lot more practice playing with the controller. Second, the force feedback when using a wheel makes you much more aware of how the road and the car can fight you in corners, especially if you aren't driving an ideal line. As a result, it's easy to overcompensate for that motion by overcorrecting and making things worse as you try to straighten the car out.

There's one other possibility, too: Playing a driving game with a wheel is much more akin to real driving, and, as a result, when using one I become much more of the senile 'fraidy cat I am when I drive in real life. Maybe if I put someone who drives like a friggin' maniac in real life behind a Logitech wheel--someone like, say, my wife, who has broken land speed records in residential neighborhoods--the results would probably be considerably different.

So, what's your controller of choice for Forza 3?

Discussion

28 comments
Wedge598
Wedge598

I've been racing sims for over a decade and have always used a wheel. I prefer the realistic sensation of the FFB and I've also built myself a comfortable cockpit for my Fanatec Wheel. The combination is pure racing bliss with a game like Forza. However, despite my years of experience those pesky gamepad drivers always seem to out place me. I've always suspected that the game physics are slightly modified for the gamepad to account for the lack of FFB and the less than precise controls. I'd really love to know for certain if my suspicion is true. Make no matter though as I just can't enjoy a driving simualtion without a wheel.

me729
me729

Waiting on a Fanatec myself right now.....my M$ wheel broke 4 days after Forza 3 was released. It took time to use the wheel more effectively than the controller. But now, I don't have a working wheel and I can't even play with a controller anymore. Forza is ruined until the Fanatec arrives. Thankfully, it supports 360 and PS3 so I can play GT5 with it as well.

pshmit
pshmit

The best video game racing wheel in history was the TurboForceX wheel for the NES. True, it was only made out of a wooden dowel and a paper plate, but that was all we needed for our racing games back in the day. We didn't need the fancy "force feedback" or "wires connecting the wheel to the system" that spoiled kids have nowadays.

akdiuuuryttt
akdiuuuryttt

can someone pm me whats the best wheel if want the best force feed back? i want a weel that feels like the on in the arcades not this crap wheel i had before

Anteraan
Anteraan

A wheel + the VRC cockpit from Bob Earl racing = 100% sweet! Steering precision is increased, feel is increased, and the experience is massively improved.

jmcmanj
jmcmanj

I prefer the wheel because it gives you more finesse in turns and acceleration

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

Well, what's the point of having realistic driving if u r gonna use a controller instead of a wheel then? How could people say that the game is very realistic when they are using a controller anyway? We don't drive a real car with a controller. :(

anotherone10
anotherone10

IMO, i think its much more fun if you use a good wheel on racing games, especially sims, its adds more enjoyment as a whole to the gaming experience and feel :)

guthwulf_de
guthwulf_de

The last racing wheel I had was for the Saturn and it was obviously pretty bad... :P With the release of Forza 3 I seriously consider buying a new racing wheel. Although I don't know whether my times will be much better (if at all) I believe that I'll enjoy playing Forza much more with the wheel.

e_ten
e_ten

The wheel takes to the next level, a place you can never get with the controller. If you take the time to get good with the wheel, it is well worth it as you feel like you are actually driving and interacting with the car. As the review says, the fore feedback is wonderful, and you can truly get a sense for what your car is doing and what it is going to do next.

saiedkarimian
saiedkarimian

I just tried both of them and finally came back to controler.

WarpedCore
WarpedCore

Controller. Only because I don't have the $$$ to fork out for a wheel.

rfi99
rfi99

Wheel! Cars are driven with wheels today and I think that the real racing simulation experience is only possible to achieve with a wheel. But, going from controller to wheel is not easy... it's quite different and you need practice. But after a while I'll bet that the lap-times goes down.

Virtual_Erkan
Virtual_Erkan

I wish can we can drive cars with controllers in 'real' life

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

controller for me, although the wheel is the clear choice if you can really get good at using it

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

when i first started using racing wheels 4ish years ago it took a month or so to get my times up to par with a controller but now im much faster with the wheel just because its what im used to.. but i mean really ill take the more realistic experience and fun of the wheel over possibly quicker lap times anyday

BubbenMan
BubbenMan

I'm a lot quicker with the controller but it's more fun with the wheel : D

benboz
benboz

I rather use the controller. So much better!

profileap600
profileap600

I was expecting the opposite. When I use my Microsoft wheel I run faster lap times after I warm up for a few minutes. It does take a lot more effort and energy, but steering angles are much more precise.

bowlingotter
bowlingotter

I love the prospect of getting a nice wheel to play the racing games with, but I think I'll wait until GT5 since then I can get a Logitech wheel

Couth_
Couth_

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

redguard117
redguard117

btw i'll be more than willing to take that wheel off your hands, since i'm sure you don't want it after it decreased your times ;)

redguard117
redguard117

what i've noticed is that it takes at minimum a few weeks to attain previous lap time records, and then a further few weeks to supersede them when changing your wheel/controller setup. For example, when i transitioned from a mouse and keyboard to a logitech g25, and much later to a fanatec 911 gt3 wheel with clubsport pedals, it took me a while to adjust to the new feel of my setup. In GTR2 and Live for Speed, i noticed my times decreased until i had put in enough time to acclimate to the varying force feedback and pedal response levels between the wheels. Given enough time with a high quality wheel such as the fanatec 911 with 900 degrees of rotation i'm sure your times will be MUCH faster than with a controller. Add in clubsport pedals and the sky is the limit.

skunkpants
skunkpants

Of course you're going to get worse lap times with that stand your using!!! Its cheap and tacky! If you're going too Forza then it should be with a Playseat Evolution and a wheel (my case the Xbox Wheel). Then you will see improvement in lap times! Wheel is good for driving, controller is good for designing.

cjasko94
cjasko94

@ twztid13 true about GT5 and the ps3 controller design. But unlike most people I love the ps3 controller and the r2/l2 buttons.

twztid13
twztid13

too poor to get a wheel. gt5 mighy force me to since the ps3 controller did NOT have racing/fps games in mind when being designed (could be cuz its ps1 design & instead of evolving, sony stuck to what players were used to). never felt a need to try one on xbox cuz the setup is rather tight for racing games in particular.

Jelod
Jelod

Link to the feature doesn't work.