"And Now We Have an Aerodynamic Black Ensemble Highlighting Some Finely Crafted Curves."
My god, everything is better when it's stylish ain't it? Take the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback racing wheel. Nice wheel, good feel, decent in all respects: your typical, ubiquitous, dependable Microsoft gaming peripheral. But, put it in a sleek new body made to look like the nose cone of next decade's IndyCars, slap a Saitek label on it, and make the wheel an illogical, but strangely compelling trapezoid/square, and you have one very, very nice racing wheel.
That is, in essence and form, what the Saitek R4 Force Feedback racing wheel is - a repackaged Microsoft Wheel, that by changing items like button placement and general feel, becomes one of the very best Force Feedback racing wheels on the market.
Just to give essential background for any of you readers who might be new to the concept of Force Feedback, it's a way of engineering a Joystick or Racing wheel with little computer controlled motors that can provide resist, pull, vibration, and other effects. When done right, it will make it feel tangibly as though you are actually doing, in real life, what you are doing in the game. The best example is, naturally, a racing game: feel the tires slip over wet pavement, stick in mud, feel the vibration of your V8 engine as you start the race in idle, and plenty of other effects that really draw you into the driving experience. In fact, really good force feedback can be just as important to the total immersiveness of a game as the sound and graphics.
The R4 Force does an excellent job of this, provided of course that the game has good Force Feedback support. The wheel provides a powerful jolt as you slam into a wall, and the gentle trembling finesse of a minor road surface condition.
While providing you with superb Force Feedback it's also very comfortable. The wheel is a fairly large, pointed, sleek, futuristic contraption that would seem cool if it weren't so gaudy. Aesthetic excesses aside, the wheel certainly feels great; the rubber coated square wheel is surprisingly comfortable, feeling just as natural as any traditional wheel on the market. The wheel clamps onto your desk with a supremely effective single clamp that makes the wheel virtually inseparable from the desk while engaged. The angle of elevation is adjustable, as is the tension on the well spaced pedals which unfortunately move around just a little to much on a carpeted surface.
On the main unit, there is a Nascar style stick shift, butterfly flap shifters on the back, and two buttons. Everything is very reachable and at no time does the wheel become uncomfortable or cumbersome.
The Force Feedback, which as previously stated, uses Microsoft's gear/motor bases system, does have one drawback. There is a little button on the front that allows you to engage or disengage Force Feedback. Without FF engaged, there is no resistance at all on the wheel, making for a overly fluid, sloppy driving experience. Also, if FF is on, but the game does not support it, the FF system does provide resistance, but a fairly grainy and unnatural feel when compared to that of conventional, non-FF, spring based wheels.
However, you don't spend all that money on a Force Feedback wheel not to use the Force Feedback. The R4 does with aplomb that which it is meant to do, bring you, the gamer, deeper into the white knuckle driving experience that you ever thought possible. Try the R4 out, pop in the included Interstate 76 Nitro Pack, and trust me... there is absolutely no going back. You better get ready for a whole new kinda drivin'.