Over many years of sim racing, I have used a variety of setups, 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. But as a beginner, you may wonder what the benefits are of using a sim racing wheel.
The 3 key benefits of using a sim racing wheel for gaming are:
- You get more control
- They’re more immersive
- They’re incredibly fun to use
If you’ve been thinking of upgrading your current sim racing setup, 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.
The 3 Key Benefits Of Sim Racing Wheels
1. You Get More Control
As I mentioned in the intro, using a sim racing 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, as you can use your feet for the pedals. Gamepads 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 lots of different 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 it’s 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’s rumble 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 rotate because of the fine control that analog control sticks require. 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 or more. 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 racing, and rallying are all much easier with a wider range of rotation.
Other prominent features on sim racing wheels include flappy paddle gears, buttons and switches, and even LED 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.
2. They’re More Immersive
As well as catering to the aesthetics of the wheels, they also offer a much more immersive 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 Porsche.
However, these branded wheels are often 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 race car has ever been controlled by a joystick (aside from RC cars of course), 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 easily be 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.
3. They’re Incredibly Fun To Use
Finally, sim racing wheels are also just incredibly fun to use. This is in large part down to the immersion, as many people play sim racing games for the thrill of feeling like they’re really in a race car. But realism aside, there’s just something so satisfying about using a wheel as you travel round a corner at high speed, feeling all the bumps in the road beneath you.
Drifting around a rally stage is incredibly enjoyable on a controller, and trying to beat your best time will keep you hooked for hours. But doing this with a racing wheel just feels so much better, as the extra control and immersive thrill combine to make a truly awesome sim racing experience.
If for no other reason than fun, we recommend you pick up even just a cheap sim racing wheel to try things out. If you enjoy it, you may then find it worth upgrading to something with better force feedback, more buttons and switches, and a higher price tag!
What To Think About When Buying A Sim Racing Wheel
Wheels can range in price from about $100 to a few thousand dollars, and they all offer their own 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 to complete the experience.
Note: Keep in mind that you will likely need pedals from the same manufacturer as the wheel if you're playing on console
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, and the game that you’re playing. It’s easier than you might think to accidentally purchase a wheel that isn’t compatible with the rest of your setup!
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 as well. If you have just switched from using a controller, 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, and with a little practice, you’ll see major improvements.
No sim racing 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 one.