I’m a racing game fanatic. Under RPGs, it’s my favorite video game genre, and I can’t tell you how many hours I have sunk into games like Gran Turismo, Forza, GTR, Project CARS, iRacing, etc.
My preference in racing games is sims. As a huge fan of cars but virtually no money to actually spend on collecting them, the next best thing is a good sim racer with a racing wheel setup. I currently own a Logitech Driving Force GT Wheel ($104 on Amazon). I’ve also had the pleasure of checking out some other high end wheels like the G27 ($238 on Amazon) and the Fanatec CSR Forza wheel ($200, NOT including pedals). These are all fantastic wheels but, with the exception of the DFGT, all of them are hundreds of dollars. That’s not exactly the sort of money your average Joe can drop on a gaming peripheral.
Also take into consideration that along with a wheel and pedal setup, you’re going to need to be able to mount them to something. No, you cannot just pop a G27 wheel in your lap and hope to play that way. You’re going to need some sort of mount/cockpit to fix the wheel to, and it better be steady. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of mounts…you might want to think about what you plan on sitting in as well.
All this added together makes for one expensive hobby. There is a second option, however, for those who want the added tactile feedback of a wheel and pedal set, but don’t have the money for a top of the line setup. There are plenty of third party wheel manufacturers who make affordable sets, but bear in mind you are going to have to make some sacrifices, namely in quality and compatibility. That’s what we’re bringing you today; a review of the Genius Speed Wheel 6 MT, retailing for $89.99.
For a sub-$100 wheel/pedal setup, you’re actually getting a pretty decent value. I’ve seen some really, REALLY poorly designed wheels in my day, and I’m happy to say that Genius at least put some effort into making this a fairly well put together set. It looks great and has a nice feel in your hands. It doesn’t feel cheaply thrown together, save for one component, though I should point out if you’ve ever touched any of the high end wheels, you will see a difference in quality.
Setup was kind of a pain since the “manual” that was included is not that helpful. There is also a lack of any lights or any other indicators that lets you know the wheel is actually plugged in and working. I had to take my PC’s word for it when it started downloading the driver, which then led to the next issue; the Speed Wheel 6 actually shows up as a Xbox 360 PC controller. Hm.
Because the Speed Wheel 6 MT was not developed with any specific racing game support in mind, you have to manually map each button with each new game. I tested the wheel out with GTR, Project CARS, Need For Speed Shift 2, Simraceway, Raceroom Racing Experience, and Auto Club Revolution. Each required me to map the individual buttons, which is not a huge amount of skin off my back, but it still would have been nice to see some out of the box support.
One of the biggest improvements to using a wheel over a controller (or keyboard) is the addition of force feedback. For those who aren’t familiar with the feature, force feedback is a wheel’s ability to replicate the bumps in the road and resistance in the steering due to tire grip. This is typically accomplished via a motor (or two) in the wheel itself, which creates resistance in the steering column. However, in some cheaper wheels, the “force feedback” is replicated by what appear to be giant rubber bands, simulating “resistance” but not really offering anything dramatic.
Here’s where one of my biggest issues with the Speed Wheel 6 lies. It utilizes a dual motor setup, yet the feel is so loose and weak that it almost feels like the wheel uses bands as opposed to motors. It’s difficult to describe, but the force feedback is very weak….when it even works. Compatibility is a huge downer since most of the games I tried did not support FF. Those that did, like I just mentioned, were barely noticeable. The Speed Wheel 6 is also compatible with the PS3, and I tried it out with Gran Turismo 5. It worked about the same as with my PC games. The FF was present, but again, fairly weak.
I mentioned earlier that the build quality was pretty decent for a $90 wheel. This is mostly true but there were a few areas that I was not a big fan of. For starters, the pedals do not have a grip on the bottom for users with carpets. There are four thin rubber grips which work great on hardwood floors, but the lack of a grip for carpets means unless you have the pedals strapped to a cockpit or mount, you’re kind of screwed. I would have liked to see the row of “teeth” that the Logitech wheels have that grip the carpet tightly.
Other than the grip issue, the pedals are actually designed quite nicely. One feature that I love is the fact that both the accelerator and brake pedals not only plunge downward, but also swivel up and down as well. This makes for a much more comfortable user experience as people of different heights and folks who like to sit closer or further from the pedals can now angle them exactly to their liking. No matter what angle you sit in relation to the pedals, they will almost always be perfectly lined up with your feet.
However, the shifter is of shoddy quality. This was evident right out of the box, as the shifter, even untouched, will jiggle around when the whole wheel is moved. In the thick of an intense race, I often manhandle the wheel, and with the Speed Wheel 6, I was very aware of how “jiggly” the shifter was. It never seemed like it was in danger of breaking or anything like that, but I was always paranoid, and that’s more than I can say for the shifter on other wheels that I have used. Luckily, there are also paddle shifters mounted behind the wheel, so you can bypass the shifter altogether. The paddle shifters are actually very nice to use; they have a fantastic springy effect that’s much better than even the one in my DFGT.
For all my complaining about the weak force feedback, there might actually be some sort of benefit. The Speed Wheel 6 comes not only with the requisite c-clamps to mount the wheel to a cockpit or table, but also with a set of suction cups on the bottom. This was a nice surprise, as I could now simply stick the wheel to my computer desk. The weaker FF makes this possible since it doesn’t shake my whole desk in the middle of a race. I suppose in that regard, I am somewhat thankful of a weaker FF.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, the Speed Wheel 6 MT offers a lot for its price, but the FF issues, poorly installed shifter, and lack of carpet grip for the pedals are just a few sacrifices you’ll have to make. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and for $90, I wouldn’t go into this expecting anything of G27 quality.
But for $90, you can at least get a relatively decent wheel. It beats using a controller or keyboard, and regardless of the issues, you at least have that added degree of control and accuracy that comes with a racing wheel. If you’re not open to dropping $200+ on a racing wheel, then check this one out. It just might fit your needs.