The road to racing hell is paved with good intentions.
Here at GR, we pride ourselves on being open minded to new ideas no matter how wacky they may seem. Though some are just ridiculous, we applaud those that think outside the box and go against the grain. Truly, this was our mindset as we embraced Gamester's questionable Pro Racer controller/wheel peripheral.
I'm sure all of you racing game fans have faced the dilemma of purchasing a big, geeky steering wheel versus the space needed to house it. Then there's the other popular mindbender, the expensive wheel versus the lint in your billfold (for some reason, the lint always wins). Gamester had you in mind when they set out to go where no peripheral had gone before.
But our drive to help the imaginative product designer does nothing for product efficiency. And that's too bad for Gamester.
Gamester Pro Racer
The Pro Racer is a $30 hybrid of your basic Xbox controller and a steering wheel. It has nearly all of the buttons found on your garden variety Xbox controller, plus it brings a whole new way to control your 2 tons of mobile fun.
At first glance, it's obvious that the designers had some good ideas. The Pro Racer is shaped like a miniature steering wheel. You control your vehicle by moving the left semi-circle of the wheel up for right turns and down for left turns. There's not much of a turning radius, so it's essential to be precise.
But if precision is key, then the lock is in another dimension. Succinctly put, the learning curve is rough. Moving a tiny semicircle up and down just isn't intuitive for driving a car, particularly if you want to steer with your right hand. A toggle that would allow you to change which semicircle controls your steering really would have been nice. Show some love for both right and left-handed gamers.
The D-pad is really tiny with a diameter smaller than a dime, so it can only be used for navigating through menus. There are no analog sticks whatsoever, leaving the left semicircle as your only means of steering. Unfortunately, no analog sticks means you can't access any game function that might require...the analog sticks. This is painfully obvious while playing the new Xbox racer Wreckless, where the right analog stick allows you look around to see if your target has cut down an alleyway or evaded you by some other means. It's a strange omission.
In most Xbox driving games, the triggers usually control gas and brake. But the shape of the Pro Racer makes excessive trigger holding a joint-aching endeavor. They're positioned so that you pull them slightly up and not back like we've become accustomed to with standard controllers. Plus, they're much smaller than you would expect, which doesn't help the comfort in the slightest.
A more minor omission is the lack of a memory card slot. This doesn't present much of a problem when you save games on the hard drive, but it becomes a hassle if you have saved game data on a memory card. You have to put the card in a controller with a memory card slot, move that info onto the Xbox hard drive and then restart everything. For lazy people like us, this is kind of annoying.
Sadly, the Pro Racer is a disappointment. We tested it with Project Gotham, Test Drive: Wide Open and the aforementioned Wreckless and we aren't satisfied with the comfort or the control in any of these titles. It doesn't really carve a niche for itself and it desperately needs to. Though it only costs 30 bucks, the missing functions and somewhat uncomfortable design outweigh its interesting concept. Gamester gets the GR "E" for effort, but that's about it. Back to the drawing board.