Not everyone will agree with this statement, but I think the only way to truly experience the rush of racing games like Forza is to use a racing wheel, even if it's something as simple as Microsoft's wireless handheld deely. The dual sticks just don't cut it for trying to replicate the experience of driving racecars. Like tires need the road, you need something to grip to immerse yourself in the experience.
Thrustmaster agrees with me. As one of the companies that pioneered the racing wheel, they've introduced the Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Racing Wheel for the Xbox 360. It's a fully featured racing rig (wheel, collapsible stand, and pedals) that brings the beauty and precision of a 458 Italia right into your living room. Well, not really, but it does have a stand!
No Keys. . .Push To Start
The stand is an important feature. With most racing wheel setups, the wheel rig and the pedal box are separate, leaving you to find a suitable solution for setting it up on your own. Thrustmaster has already released a version of its 458 Italia wheel just like this. In fact, the look of both editions' wheels are identical, featuring paddle shifters, a genuine "Manettino" dial, and an engine start button that doubles as a d-pad; however, the new cockpit edition vibrates and relieves your lap and/or table of wheel duty. It'll also relieve you of 300 of your big, fat American dollars.
So, the question becomes, is the convenience of a stand worth the extra money? Well, it depends on who you are and what you're looking for.
The stand is definitely a major improvement over having the wheel in your lap, or even clamped to a table. Because you can adjust the height of the stand, you can use any chair you feel comfortable in as your seat without having to hunch over. The cockpit is also completely collapsible, so it can easily be slid into a closet when it's not in use. Speaking of sliding, however, I did notice that when I had the stand on carpet, it would slowly migrate away from me as I played more and more. Despite the base being pretty substantial, it wasn't enough to keep the whole thing from moving over time. I ended up putting some books in front of it. A sandbag, or a child, would also work if you happen to have one of those around.
It's a Ferrari, Without The Whole Pesky Car Part Of It
The wheel itself is nice, wrapped in a grippy, padded rubber. It's also an exact replica of the Italia's wheel, and everything has its place: the A,B,X,Y buttons are where the turn signals would be and the Manettino dial controls in-game settings.
The unit also delivers extremely precise actions, helping you prefect your turns. The paddle shifters are great, but if you prefer a stick shift, you're out of luck. Obviously with this set up, there's no clutch either (just gas and break pedals), but the unit is modeled after the Italia, and the Italia has the flappy paddles; there is no stick shift option available in real life, either. Part of what you're paying for with the cockpit edition is the luxury of an authentic Ferrari experience, and I guess it's nice to know they're staying true to that, even if it means limited options.
The wheel and pedals are great, but it's also important to remember that the exact same equipment is available without the stand for a much cheaper price.
Good Vibration? It's Probably Your Engine Mounts
The other feature of the cockpit is the Global Vibration System (G.V.S.); however, I did not find the vibration to be much of a bonus. In fact, I found it sort of distracting. When driving the track like it was meant to be driven, I hardly noticed the vibration, but sometimes when the car would oversteer, I experienced something I started calling "angry wheel." The whole thing would vibrate so violently that the paddle shifters would start shaking making a disturbing racket. I could definitely live without the plastic wheel reminding me I just totally f*$ked up.
Since the vibration didn't wow me, that really just leaves the stand to decide between the two models. Like I said before: the stand is certainly convenient, but it's not groundbreaking. There are other stands on the market you can buy for an existing wheel, or if you were industrious, you could even make your own. Sure, it probably wouldn't fold up, but if you're serious about your racing games, you could proudly display your creation in your home for all to enjoy. Basically, if you buy the cockpit edition, you're paying an extra $220 for just the stand (and the vibration), so it's really up to you and your bank account to decide if the ease of the provided stand is worth that kind of investment.
And On That Bombshell. . .
If your serious about investing in a racing wheel, the Thrustmaster Cockpit 458 Italia edition is a good choice, but if you're just a casual player, it may not be worth the high price tag. It's pretty to look at, with sleek styling that pays a small homage to the supercar of the same name, and the convenience of the stand alone is definitely a reason for serious racing gamers to consider it over other models, but for those who don't dream of more powwwwwwwwwwwwwer, it's probably a little much.
Thrustmaster Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Racing Wheel For The Xbox 360
Release Date: September 28th
Platforms: Xbox 360 and PC