So then, is the Ferrari cockpit the peripheral of the Illuminati?
Longwinded name aside, Thrustmaster's Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Edition attempts to bridge the gap between console gamers and racing wheels, primarily by offering a middle-of-the-road peripheral at a $300 price point. Casual racing gamers, let alone casual gamers in general, will likely walk right past this offering on cost alone, but it might attract the eyes of simulator enthusiasts, at least on first glance, who want to add another dimension to their racing in Forza Motorsport 4 or F1 2012. That said, this racing wheel sacrifices much to be a jack of all trades.
The Ferrari 458 Italia Cockpit stands ahead of the pack just by virtue of being a stand-up peripheral. With a solid spine, there's no need to clamp it to a table like so many other racing wheels, and its telescoping design allows for easy folding so that you can tuck the cockpit beneath a couch or in a closet. The long spine also hides the cable connecting the wheel to the base, a small change from prior cockpit models. Further angle adjustment and stability can be made with the series of built-in tightening screws.
Aesthetically, the wheel is almost an exact replica of the actual steering wheel for the Ferrari 458 Italia (hence the name) except that it's about 70% the size. The pedal set and metal chassis are sturdy and comfortable. Put your hands on the wheel, turn on head tracking for Forza Motorsport 4, and it's surprising how deeply you can convince yourself that you're driving the real thing. That said, pulling the metal planks behind the wheel to switch gears and changing the in-game viewing angle by turning the Manettino dial will dispel the illusion.
The peripheral is powered by a USB connection, despite the fact that it has a holder for four batteries, left over from prior Thrustmaster cockpits. It's obviously a move for cost reduction, but it will look strange to anyone who bothers to look.
More importantly, the USB connection gives the power necessary to support vibration, though force feedback is not included (correction from the preview). That alone will likely deter hardcore racing fans from considering this for their living room. Add the fact that the racing wheel only has 270 degrees of freedom and they should stick to the racing wheel they've probably got already.
Ultimately, the Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit 458 Italia Edition sits in the gray area, with a price point that is too high for casual fans and a feature set that is too lean for hardcore fans. For this peripheral, Thrustmaster aims squarely at the middle market and at console owners, an audience that hopefully exists and has enough members that are looking for an alternative racing wheel to elevate their gaming experience. This newcomer may not win too many praises, but it fits in fine with the rest of the pack.