Logitech Driving Force Pro
Platform: PlayStation 2
At the time of writing Gran Turismo 4 is just under two months away from release. For many PlayStation 2 owners this will be the highlight of 2005 and certainly one of the best games on the console. One of the key new features in Gran Turismo 4 is the support for a 900° steering wheel rotation. The thing is though, as the European release date approaches only one steering wheel on the market will allow you to make use of this refined control system and that wheel is the Logitech Driving Force Pro.
Let's not beat around the bush here and just say that having been fortunate enough to use the Logitech Driving Force Pro for just over a week it's one heck of a steering wheel. My previous experience with steering wheels has been a mixed bag. On the PC I've had a few good ones over the years with the occasional poor effort that's just gone straight back to the shops. On the PlayStation 2 I've had a few that I haven't been satisfied with and likewise they too have not remained under my roof for more than one night. The Driving Force Pro surpasses them all however and it's been a real eye-opener for me over this last week just seeing how much a game can be improved when you're using such an impressive peripheral to play them.
When you're considering spending money on peripherals it makes sense to check out the capabilities of the item in question. Below you'll find the official specifications of the Driving Force Pro.
Realistic 900º wheel rotation (2.5 turns lock-to-lock)
State-of-the-art Force Feedback technology
Comfortable, full rubber wheel
Automatic 200º rotation compatibility mode
Smooth and sturdy steel bearings
Optical sensing – for precise steering control
Sequential stick shifter
Wheel-mounted paddle shifters
Responsive gas and brake pedals
Exclusive carpet grip system
Compatible with PlayStation®2 (more than 30
2-year manufacturer's guarantee and full product support
The Logitech Driving Force Pro up close.
Before we talk in more detail about the performance of the Driving Force Pro let's take a look at the steering wheel itself. On taking the wheel and pedals out of the box the first thing you'll notice is the impressive build quality of the Driving Force Pro. The pedals feel solid, although not too heavy and during use do not slip at all, which is very impressive. The wheel is covered in a thick rubber with textured grips on either side of the wheel. Even if you suffer from sweaty palms, your hands are not going to slip on this steering wheel. One thing I will say though is that I wish the gear stick/stick shifter had been rubber coated in the same way as the steering wheel. Whilst the stick itself is sturdy the ball that you grip does feel kind of plasticky. It's certainly not bad but it doesn't have that quality feel like the steering wheel. From the pictures you'll notice that the wheel needs to be fixed to a table. For £15 you can purchase an add on that will allow you to use the wheel on your lap but personally I wouldn't recommend this. Fixing to a desk is quick and easy. You simply slide the wheel onto the edge of a desk and tighten the clamps (very easy to do and requires minimal effort). Once fixed correctly the wheel does not move even in the most rigorous situations. Detaching the wheel can also be done in seconds too which is great to see.
The two clamps that hold the wheel in place
The shift stick that should have had the rubber coating
The superb steering wheel complete with Gran Turismo insignia
It's also worth pointing out that the wheel has all the buttons of the Dualshock 2, so you don't need to use one during a game. In fact I've been happily using the wheel without a controller plugged in at all. The Driving Force Pro has been designed with Gran Turismo in mind (with consultation from Polyphony Digital) and to remind you that this is the official wheel of the game you'll find the Gran Turismo insignia at the centre of the wheel which only adds to the very professional look the wheel has.
900° Wheel rotation?
The main feature of the Logitech Driving Force Pro is the support for 900° wheel rotation, or in normal terms 2½ turns of the wheel in either direction. At the time of writing few games support this but of course Gran Turismo 4 is just around the corner. The games that we have access to that support it are TOCA Race Driver 2 and Gran Turismo 4 Prologue Signature Edition. TOCA Race Driver 2 actually allows you to switch between the standard 200° rotation and the 900° rotation. Of what significance is this to gamers? Well essentially it will allow driving games to move one step closer to being as realistic as possible. Think about it, when you get behind the wheel of a real car you are not limited to a simple 200° rotation in either direction are you? Experiencing the 900° in a driving game is an eye-opening experience and makes you realise just how dumbed down your virtual racing experiences have been in the past. Confined to a mere 200° wheel rotation games have been giving a false experience as the lack of movement has bought with it an artificial amount of steering power. With a 900° wheel rotation you really have to work the wheel and steer correctly. It may put off those looking for an effortless arcade experience but those looking for an authentic experience are going to be in for a treat with the increased realism. What you have to consider though is for the 900° rotation to occur the game has to support it otherwise you'll be confined to 200° rotation. You'll notice that on the wheel that there are two green LED's. In 200° rotation mode only the left LED is lit whilst in 900° mode both are lit.
The games and putting the wheel through it's paces.
Now I have a confession to make here. Like most of you I bought Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec for my PlayStation 2 but to be completely honest I've never really taken to it. The reason for this is nothing to do with the game but it's the fault of the Dualshock 2. Whilst the PlayStation 2 controller is great for most games I find it's horrible for driving games. I find the analogue sticks inaccurate and using the directional buttons ends up with me having sore thumbs. Gran Turismo 3 with the Dualshock 2 then was disappointing for me. When the Driving Force Pro arrived at Deaf Gamers though I thought I would give the game another go, which in some ways was a mistake as it's been so good with the Driving Force Pro that I've neglected to get several jobs done (this review alone is behind schedule). I can actually see for myself now why people regard the game so highly. Even though the game doesn't support 900° wheel rotation the handling is much better than using the Dualshock 2. The same can be said for other games such as WRC 4, Colin McRae Rally 4, TOCA Race Driver, Auto Modellista and many more that I've tried. In fact it's turned me into a driving game nut and I haven't enjoyed driving games so much in a long time.
So the Driving Force Pro works like a dream with the current driving games then but Gran Turismo 4 is the game that's going to show off the full potential of this wheel and The Prologue Signature Edition certainly hints at it being a memorable experience. The Prologue only offers a handful of tracks but they really show off the Driving Force Pro in all it's glory. My favourite track, the Italian Citta di Aria, is simply superb and racing round it using the Driving Force Pro is an amazing experience. Turning all the driving aids off and using manual gears it really felt like the real thing. Although there is a stick shift I preferred the racing style paddle shifters that are on the reverse of the wheel. I'll be honest here and say that when I play a racing simulation I usually have some form of driving aid turned on but with the Driving Force Pro I wanted the most realistic conditions possible and I can't believe how superb it's been. It's safe to assume that when Gran Turismo 4 finally arrives I'm going to be spending a lot of time with it.
The force feedback has been implemented nicely and really adds to the whole experience. If, like me, you've experienced force feedback steering wheels since they first appeared you'll know that not many steering wheels have had quality force feedback. Many wheels simply offer a buzzing sensation that lacks definition. Thankfully though the force feedback in the Driving Force Pro is refined and affords you a good tactile experience of your driving game which is so important to racing enthusiasts and deaf gamers in particular. The Gran Turismo 4 Prologue offers 3 strengths of force feedback. I used the maximum and found it to be very good although you might want to lower the setting if younger children want to play the game, so it's great that the force feedback strength can be altered. Some games don't have force feedback but this didn't cause any problems and the wheel still offered a satisfactory amount of resistance.
Final thoughts and a surprising bonus.
The Logitech Driving Force Pro has really surprised me. It's a top quality steering wheel that makes driving games on the PlayStation 2 much more enjoyable and feel a lot more authentic. Gran Turismo 3, WRC 4 and Gran Turismo 4 Prologue Signature Edition are all getting huge amounts of my free time (and time when I should be working) and I've never enjoyed my racing simulations quite so much. If you're a gamer who's considering a steering wheel for your PlayStation 2 and are looking at the possible options you might look at the price tag and think why should you pay the same amount for your steering wheel as you have for your PlayStation 2 (if you've bought it within the last year or so). My answer to that would be you get what you pay for. Those £40-£60 wheels usually range from poor to average at best and in no way compare to the Driving Force Pro. If you also enjoy racing simulations on your PC then there is even something else to consider. On first using the wheel on the PlayStation 2 I was very impressed with how good it was and decided (as it was a USB wheel) to try it on the PC. To my surprise it worked very nicely indeed. I played Rally Trophy and EA's Formula 1 2002 and both worked like a dream. There wasn't any force feedback (drivers would be needed for this) and you are confined to the 200° wheel rotation but otherwise it was superb. To sum up then the Logitech Driving Force Pro is easily the best PlayStation 2 steering wheel you can buy and the Gran Turismo 4 experience isn't going to be complete without it. Even with existing driving games it manages to make them so much more enjoyable.
The Logitech Driving Force Pro is a sensational peripheral that is as good as it gets with current technology. My only complaint is that I wish the stick shift had the same excellent rubber coating as the wheel but otherwise there's no area that can be faulted. The fact it works on a PC is one heck of a nice bonus for what is already an incredible product.
Many thanks to Logitech for providing the Driving Force Pro