Good to the last frag.
I’ve been a gamer for a long time, and an obsessed one at that. I remember
telling strangers: “I have spent all of my money on videogames. Can I please
have a quarter for bus fare?” (back when a quarter would get you on the bus).
After pulling the pity strings and duping some sympathetic adult, I would run
as fast as I could to Mama’s Pizza and plunk that shiny George right into the
Donkey Kong machine with no regrets at all.
Since then, games have only gotten better. Now I sit here at home with the
same sense of awe, but in front of my own computer. I have been building this
machine purely for gaming – it’s not the fastest on the block, but with good
video acceleration and 3D surround sound, all my setup was lacking was for my
desk chair to swing around something fierce.
While Logitech has yet to make a flight simulation chair, they do make
a pretty good joystick that rumbles. In fact, it does much more than rumble.
Featuring the latest force feedback goodies, the Wingman Force 3D is
a great addition to any gamers rig.
For starters, it’s cool looking, so you don’t have to hide it when your friends
come over. It’s easy to install, and hey, it has force feedback, so you can
finally take advantage of all of that extra programming that game developers
went through to really bring your favorite titles to life.
If you already own a Logitech Wingman product, installation is a non-issue.
The Force 3D uses the same power cord and drivers as their other controllers.
I have the Formula Force 3D steering
wheel, so all I had to do was swap the power cord, plug into the USB port on
the back of my computer, and start playing; it was instantly recognized. In
fact, since it uses the same profiler my games were already available and ready
If you don’t already own any WingMan products, installation takes about five
minutes. Pop the CD in your drive, click ‘setup’, and away you go. USB support
means that you wont even have to reboot your computer, unless you really want
to. It’s about the easiest installation I’ve come across.
The WingMan profiler is a nice, simple interface that makes configuring the
controller a breeze. All you have to do is point the profiler to your game’s
executable file and add it to the list. Then use the game’s controller options
to configure the buttons the way you like. You can even reassign the buttons
to take on keyboard functions (in case your copy of Mechwarrior
2 doesn’t support a 4-axis, 7 button controller). Logitech also has a website
where you can download custom profiles for a number of games.
As far as ergonomics go, the Force 3D is pretty good. The seven buttons,
hat switch and throttle are in natural positions for human hands, making them
easily accessible, which is a definite plus. The shape seems like it should
be comfortable, though my hands cramp up a bit after a half-hour or so. However,
this may not be the case for everyone.
The force feedback is done well. Rough roads in racers or the recoil of the
machine gun in a dogfight translate as they should. Road vibration and loss
of control due to scraping the wall really add to the realism of a good racing
game. Flight games like Crimson Skies
really come alive when you feel the impact of bullets rattling the hull of your
plane or the stuttering of a bad engine.
My biggest problem with the Force 3D is that I’ve also played with
the Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro from Microsoft, and when compared,
the Force 3D just feels a bit cheap. Logitech is famous for putting out
products that perform well, and I have always liked their utilities, but they
are somewhat lacking in the assembly department. For instance, when driving
over rough roads, the whole thing feels a little rickety. I could say this was
adding to the realism, but I think that would be stretching it a little far.
Also, the stick is a bit too loose; it’s hard to pull off precision flying maneuvers
when there is little resistance to steady your hand.
The upside is that it comes bundled with Superbike World Champions,
which is a really good racer. I have never really liked motorcycle games, but
SWC has won my affections. It boasts superb graphics (except your rider’s
hands, which are big rectangles), challenging courses, and really good support
of the force feedback.
The WingMan Force 3D is a good choice for the price. The only real
comparison I can make is to the Sidewinder Force Feedback, and comparing
the costs, you save about half by sacrificing a little quality in the assembly
(try around $60 compared to around $120). And of course, a decent racer bundled
with it is a sweet bonus.