If you were to ask me what game activity I've been doing most for the past week, the answer is simple: playing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue with this wheel. This is the ultimate peripheral for die-hard car enthusiasts who are as passionate about sim-racers (i.e. Gran Turismo) as I am. Hell, it's even the ultimate peripheral for those who are simply looking to have some realistic fun with their virtual-cars, all at no harmful expense as result of an accident. I've demonstrated this wheel to a large number of people, both friends and family - and every single one of them as impressed as the last. It even caused a few chair pushes for the next eager player awaiting his turn. Even my own girlfriend found herself engrossed, and to her credit she can drive an actual manual transmission fairly well.
So, as mentioned before, the G25 wheel comes with a separate assembly that features a true six-speed shifter, with a reverse gear that is engaged by pushing down on the shifter knob -- just like real life. Attached to the pedal board is a clutch that needs to be pushed in just about half-way down in order to engage - again, much like a real car (but there are some quirks about this I will get to later). The shifter assembly can also be configured to work with a simple up and down touch, but using that really defeats the entire purpose of this wheel.
On the shifter assembly is a range of buttons, as well as a directional pad, all of which are instantly recognized by the game and the PS3 - so navigating is extremely easy and never cumbersome. The wheel itself features two buttons, and two paddle shifters, which will come in handy for when you're laying down some rubber using a Formula One vehicle in the final Gran Turismo 5.
The feel of the steering wheel is absolutely fantastic, better than its predecessors. You can really feel the weight of your car, and it's especially nice to be able to correct oversteer by replicating a technique any experienced/professional driver would use. The control over your car is certainly sublime, and it really changes the way you play Gran Turismo 5. I've begun setting records using the wheel, and I just cannot go back to using the controller - it just feels wrong.
Being a 350Z owner, I've primarily spent most of my time driving a 350Z in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, just to see how well its characteristics translate when using the wheel. The results were quite impressive, as I was able to take immediate command of the car, knowing its breaking point and its tendency to be a little tail-happy. While I'm still working on my heel-n-toe technique, I adapted to the clutch and shifter with ease - pulling off lightning fast shifts nearly each and every time. I say nearly, because the occasional - and very common - 3rd gear miss has happened to me, but learning the correct wrist movements will alleviate that greatly.
Furthermore, don't expect to sit down in front of this unit and think you'll dominate it: because if you have no idea how to drive a stick, or have never driven a stick before, you will struggle with this. And believe me, I've seen more than one person moan and groan out of frustration - some more willing to learn than others. But, I would say most car enthusiasts should be able to work the assembly with no complications.
I do have a few quirks with the wheel, and the with GT5's implementation of the wheel. First, working the shifter takes nothing more than a baby's touch, which isn't something I found myself crazy over. I'd have much rather preferred a slightly firmer throw. It would've been nice if Logitech had designed a feature that would allow you to adjust the firmness of the throws. I'd imagine something as simple as turning a little knob or screw would tighten something up inside the assembly.
The pedals are also stiff, especially the brakes, and don't show much sign of breaking in and becoming softer. So make sure your placement of the pedal board is smart enough so that it doesn't move around - because you will apply some decent pressure on those brakes. Again, it would've been nice to be able to adjust the spring pressure of the pedals just by turning a screw. You do get used to the clutch and throttle fairly quickly, but the brakes may bother you if your pedal board isn't sitting securely.
Another little nitpick I have deals more with the game, as opposed to the wheel assembly. It pertains to there being no engagement point when using the clutch from a dead-stop. Where as in a normal manual transmission, when engaging the clutch, the RPMs of the car will jump just a bit, and you'll feel the car begin to inch forward. This is the engagement point of a clutch, the area where you'll want to apply the gas and release the clutch as you do. I wasn't able to do that in GT5 Prologue no matter how much I tried - while releasing the clutch slowly, the RPMs remained dead, and showed no signs of life. Again, it's not a problem with the wheel itself, but how Polyphony implemented its use in Prologue. Who knows, perhaps the final release of GT5 will have this corrected.
While at just below $300, the Logitech G25 wheel is an expensive peripheral. But there's no doubt in my mind that it is the very best thing out there for car enthusiasts seeking the purest driving experience out of Gran Turismo 5, as well as a slew of PC games. Because this wheel is designed with a USB interface, you aren't limited to just using it on your PS3 - it was, in fact, originally intended for various PC games (such as GTR 2). You can opt to wait until Gran Turismo 5 hits later this year, and perhaps the price of the wheel will drop. Or you can pick this bad boy up in March when the American release of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue hits.
Either way, I cannot stress how utterly amazing this product is. Beyond that, I cannot stress how absolutely addictive using it is, too.
1/18/2008 Arnold Katayev