Over many years of sim racing, I have used a variety of set ups including pads, joysticks and motion control remotes and find myself always with a feeling that something is missing when I am not using a wheel. A wheel just adds that missing piece of the experience that makes sim racing so fun.
There are lots of benefits of using a sim racing wheel. A wheel not only enhances your immersion, but it provides a better, more accurate range of motion that feels more authentic to the experience. You use your whole hands as opposed to singular fingers or thumbs, meaning better control.
If you’ve been thinking of upgrading your current sim racing set up, you should absolutely consider investing in a wheel. Below we discuss all the major benefits of using a sim racing wheel and how they contribute to the immersive, authentic experience.
As mentioned previously, using a wheel offers players more control over their game. An obvious reason for this is having your hands free to steer, without having to worry about also controlling the acceleration and braking. Other parts like pads, can be unreliable in crucial moments, whereas a wheel is not so unpredictable.
Nowadays, the market consists of a large range of wheels with various features that can be obtained at various price points. One key feature in wheels is force feedback. When driving, the steering column in a car is constantly reacting to the surface of the road and the way we are driving. This effect is amplified in most racing cars.
Receiving the feedback through your hands allows you to react more intuitively and is far less distracting than using the rumble pads on a controller. However, you should be careful when looking for this feature as some wheels offer similar qualities like force vibration, which acts more like a controller rumble pad than actual force feedback.
The way wheels turn is also very important. Gamepads often have a very narrow degree of turning, meaning that players will often over or under turn because of a small change in where the joy pad is pointing. With wheels however, there is a greater amount of rotation available.
More Accurate Racing
Some basic models of wheels come with around 270 degrees lock-to-lock, whereas the more expensive wheels can have up to 1080 degrees of range. More flexibility in the turning range means that players can be more accurate and can drive in a way that suits the style of the game or race. Drifting, street circuits, fuel saving, and rallying are all much easier with a more flexible rotation.
Other prominent features on sim racing wheels include flappy paddle gears, on-wheel buttons and controls, and heads-up displays. Additional features may cost extra, but many will find the purchase worth it so that the wheel can better fit a specific game or driving style.
Sim Racing Wheels Offer Realistic Feel
As well as catering to the aesthetics of the wheels, they also offer a much more immersive, player friendly experience to make things feel more realistic overall. Many wheels do this by copying the look and feel of wheels in real cars. Some sim wheel manufacturers even license wheels from real car brands like Ferrari and Tesla.
However, these branded wheels are often not practical and tend to be expensive. Despite this, the look and feel of these wheels is great and there is nothing like feeling as though you are behind the wheel of your favorite car. Consider these factors when purchasing a wheel.
The immersion from wheels in general, of course, is second to none. No car has ever been controlled by a joystick, so being able to use a wheel allows players to be entirely engaged during a sim race and start to feel like they’re racing the car for real.
Game authenticity is extremely important to players. In any genre, a game can be easily ruined by poor physics or an unrealistic feel. Therefore, anything a player can do to help their experience feel more authentic is an investment well worth making.
What To Think About When Buying A Sim Racing Wheel
Since the release of the first gaming wheel for home systems back in the 90’s, there has been an explosion in the hardware. An array of companies has taken on the task of designing the perfect wheel, however there are some important factors to consider when you are buying your own.
Wheels can range in price from a hundred to a few thousand dollars and all offer different, unique features. Consider what features you want on your wheel and what features might be unnecessary. Many will be sold bundled with pedals, but others won’t, and you’ll want to make sure you have them. Keep in mind that you will likely need pedals from the same manufacturer as the wheel.
Though it is less of an issue now, compatibility has been a problem in the past so it is important to double check that the wheel you’re purchasing will work with your PC or console. It’s more common than you might think to accidentally purchase a wheel that isn’t compatible with the rest of your set up.
Although we like to think so, not all of us can be great at something right away and this, of course, applies to using a wheel. If you have just switched from using a pad or joystick, it may take some time to adjust to your new equipment. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t pick up on it immediately, before you know it, you’ll see major improvements.
No race experience is complete without a wheel, as they improve control and give an incredibly authentic experience. They can cost anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand dollars with various features. So, it’s important to determine what works best for you and your racing style before buying.