Published on April 8th, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor

The Proper Way to Play Racing Games: Wheel vs. Controller



One of my favorite genres of video game is simulation racing. I remember when “The Fast and Furious” came out, everyone was all about car modifying and racing, and I was no exception. Equipped with a copy of Bleem!, a Dreamcast and a fresh copy of Gran Turismo 2, I found a teenage version of myself playing for hours with my favorite cars at the time: Integra’s and Toyota Altezza’s (known stateside know as the Lexus IS series). My parents gave me an SUV when I became of driving age, but I still enjoyed playing racing sims such as the Gran Turismo series, Forza, and even obscure gems like Enthusia Professional Racing.

After years of modifying my SUV, I became older and realized that I wanted a car for the first time. After purchasing a 2000 Mercedes Benz C230K, which I modified and won a car show with, I sold it and got one of my favorite Gran Turismo 2 cars: The 1998 Mercedes Benz C43 AMG. Since that moment, my interest and knowledge in cars has tripled, and Gran Turismo 5 is CONSTANTLY in my PS3 ready to play. After more than 14 years of playing my racing games with a controller, I decided to invest in a wheel to see if I would enjoy it more. The wheel I selected was a Driving Force GT wheel by Logitech. While the wheel is more fun to use, which is actually better for racing? For this experiment my housemate, Robert Wiley Carrington IV, was chosen. As a former Nissan 300z, Mercedes Benz C280, Cadillac CTS and now 2007 Mercedes Benz E63 AMG owner, the man is well aware of cars and car handling. Now, let’s see some results.

The Setup:


Our setup.

The Driving Force GT wheel is firmly affixed to a bar stool with restraints holding it in place. The controller will be a Sony PS3 DualShock controller. A 32 inch LCD TV will be what the game is displayed on. Gran Turismo 5 for PS3 is our game of choice.

The Test:

2010 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG


World Famous Top Gear Test Track

The study will be done on the Top Gear Test Track. At the home of The Stig, Rob will take a couple practice laps with both the controller, then the wheel in a 2010 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. Afterwards, he will attempt a final lap then view the time to see if there is any difference in two key areas: Performance and Fun. The SLS AMG is not any easy car to handle with 561 HP, so the controller would ideally be a better for handling corners since this is a lot of power we are dealing with. First I have Rob enter the room to take a look at his control schemes…


Did I tell him to make these faces? Maybe.

… and like a kid in the candy store the controller disappoints, while the wheel steals the show. The important question is this though: Which one will drive better?

The Lap:

Lap time for Controller: 1:24.6

Lap time for Wheel: 1:21

Performance wise, the GT Driving Force takes the lead. While it was about FOUR seconds quicker around the track, you can notice many things in the video that show the distinct edge going towards the wheel.

“Throttle control is nearly impossible with the controller and makes for sub-par launches,” Carrington said. “The wheel is much smoother in the corners, and allows for corners to be done precisely and very tidy. The controller adds to the amount of under and over steer, and really feels more like a hindrance to the game. After years of playing racing games with a standard controller, I don’t think I could ever go back to one and play racing games competitively after spending time with the wheel.”

Final Truth:

Better performing, better speed and better control are all options that the GT Driving Force brings to the table over the standard DualShock controller. Finding a refurbished wheel in excellent condition one can be purchased for less than $80, and while that may seem steep in price, it is worth it to someone who truly wants to enjoy a racing game properly. Not only is it better for proper driving, it brings life into arcade racers as well, as Daytona USA is a true blast to play with the wheel, feeling like your in the arcades of yesteryear.

The decision is final: The Wheel Wins!

Want to try this experiment for yourself? Grab the GT Driving Force and a copy of Gran Turismo 5 XL and let us know what you think in the comments!

Special Thanks to Rob Carrington for being the test subject, and Jackie Crawley for photo editing.

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About the Author

Gaming for 23 years! Primarily into Nintendo systems, but play everything. Add me on Facebook, Shawn Long, on Twitter @ShawnLong85 or email me at slong@gamingtruth.com

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