Designed for use with racing games, the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel from Microsoft offers a lightweight, motion-controlled alternative to a traditional controller or bulky steering wheel setup.
The Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel provides surprisingly precise and accurate control, a comfortable grip and rumble feedback; however it does have its share of problems that limit practical functionality, most notably a lack of shoulder buttons.
At roughly 7 and a half inches (19 cm) in diameter, the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel looks a bit small, however it feels quite natural to hold, even during longer play sessions. The peripheral houses two oversized analog triggers that serve as the accelerator and brake. The triggers are best operated with your index fingers and are extremely responsive.
On the left side of the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel you will find a d-pad and on the right are four face buttons that are about half the size of those on a standard Xbox 360 controller. Two lighted rings are on the top of the wheel and serve to indicate functions like gas, brake and shifting.
In the centre of the wheel you will find your start and back buttons, as well as the Xbox 360 guide button and the “ring of light”. Notably absent are the LB and RB shoulder buttons, which limits the functions available in certain games and will result in some not being able to be played with the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel at all.
For example, in Forza Motorsport 4 you cannot access a number of ancillary menus like those in the decal editor and profile settings. In Daytona USA you can’t cycle through leaderboards and in the case of Blur you are unable to select weapons. In my opinion, the omission of shoulder buttons is a glaring oversight that detracts from the overall appeal of the peripheral.
In my testing the sensitivity and accuracy of the motion-controlled steering has been surprisingly great, particularly in Forza Motorsport 4, in which I’ve completed over a dozen career mode races without ever using a standard controller. Of course, some games will feel better than others and newer titles are more likely to be optimized for the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel.
The peripheral is powered by two AA batteries and while having a cord attached to the wheel would be awkward for some players, having an internal rechargeable battery would be nice.
Rumble feedback is technically present in the wheel, but its effect is quite weak even compared to a standard controller and is implemented sparingly. While too much rumble could potentially affect the gyroscope, it would be nice to have more feedback when hitting an opponent or gliding over speed ridges on a tight corner.
If purchased as part of $100 a bundle that includes Forza Motorsport 4 the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel represents a good value, however it’s a bit overpriced on its own, particularly here in Canada where a $10 premium is attached to the cost.
The Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel won’t replace a dedicated racing wheel setup, but it creates a much more immersive and oftentimes more accurate experience than the Xbox 360 standard controller that will undoubtedly improve as developers include sensitivity and calibration options for the peripheral in new racing games.