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:
LeMans Sarthe (old course)
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?