Ahead of its October release, I got my Logitech G27 wheel a few days ago and wasted no time, as I immediately took down my G25 setup and replaced it with the all new G27. Having used the Logitech G27 a few months ago during an event Electronic Arts held in New York City, I sampled the wheel with Need for Speed: SHIFT, and while, at the time, the game was not optimized for the wheel, I was still able to get a solid feel for what's in store. Now, with the final production unit in my hands, I've put it through the test of the following three games: Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, DIRT 2, and Need for Speed: SHIFT.
The end result after every session, especially with GT5 Prologue and DIRT 2, was nothing less than absolute amazement. Okay, so while the wheel isn't a whole lot different than its predecessor, it does a few notably different things that make it just that much more enjoyable to use. First off, the steering feels more precise, allowing for quicker reflexes when the speed really gets intense. On top of that, no longer does the wheel whine every time you turn it, as the internal motor/gear has been quieted tremendously - G25 owners will immediately notice how quiet the new G27 is when you power on your PS3 and it performs its auto calibrate.
The pedal board, while left alone for the most part, does offer one change: the throttle pedal has less resistance behind it, feeling more like an actual gas pedal should. On the other hand, I believe the brakes feel just a tad firmer - although, that could only be because this unit is brand new, where as my G25 is nearly two years old, now. But the crux of the G25, which I would later come to realize, is a slew of units that had a defective attribute to them: the shifter. After about 3-4 months of use, my G25 shifter would no longer engage into reverse. Oddly enough, it was during some hot laps with GT5 Prologue that it was working fine one second, but then no more than three minutes later it stopped functioning.
After some searching and researching, it turned out to be a common defect, which is a shame considering the cost of the unit. But Logitech was well aware of the issue and replaced shifter units free of charge under warranty. For the G27, this should no longer be a problem, as it uses an all new shifter assembly that does a few things differently. First, you may have noticed there is no longer a twist-dial that allows you to select between sequential and H-gate shifting. You can still perform sequential shifts by using the paddle shifters, which no longer boast sharpened edges that could potentially cut or hurt you during really quick and panicky maneuvers with the wheel, as the edges have been rounded off.
The one problem that arises from the lack of a dial is, where as in GT5 Prologue you could switch shifting techniques on the fly (sequential shifter, paddles, H-gate), you cannot do this anymore with the G27, and that may bother some. Furthermore, you simply can't use the G27 paddles in Prologue. But that may be because GT5 Prologue was designed for the G25, and not the G27, since the G27 did not exist in any form two years ago. So surely, GT5 will address this issue somehow. Most likely as DIRT 2 demonstrates, it's up to the developer to design special modes of play, allowing the gamer to choose via game options how they prefer to shift (sequential/paddles or H-gate).
But more on the shifter assembly. Rowing the gears sounds a bit less toyish now, but the unit still does perform the little click every now and then. With the G25 I complained about the lack of resistance in the shifter, as throwing it into a gear took the strength of an ant. So with the G27 this has been addressed, as the feel of the shifter has improved dramatically, overall. No longer does it feel like I'm shifting through a bowl of water, but rather churning through a tub of melted butter, which in turn makes this shifter feel buttery smooth and much more refined. Is it like an actual car? Well, considering how different shifter feel is between one car and the next...no. But, having sampled more than a fair share of manual transmissions, I will say that the closest car you could compare this unit to is a 2001-2005 Honda Civic, or even a Honda S2000, since they're widely known to have light and very precise shifting.
Still, I do wish for an even more sturdier feel out of the shifter. I do not like hearing that toy-like clicking noise, I'd rather it sound like the nice, solid, and hollow thud of a BMW shifter. Also, the leather boot used on the G27's shifter is noticeably cheaper than the one on the G25, as it's quite thinner and has an annoying tendency to make a flop-like sound when in use. You'll probably never notice it when you're engaged in a race, but when messing around with the shifter, it's there. Nothing serious, but I felt like I should mention it.
Lastly, as you can see, the face of the wheel now dawns an all new set of buttons, six in total, and a Formula One-inspired shift indicator. Now, to get the shift display to work is up to the developer of a game to utilize it, so don't expect it to magically work once you've powered on GT5 Prologue. To be perfectly honest though, as nice as the feature may seem, it's purely novelty, since you'll always be looking past the wheel and directly at your TV, anyways, so noticing the shift indicator would be somewhat difficult. The steering wheel is also grippier, with a bit more padding inserted, and thicker leather wrapped around the steering wheel.
All in all, for the hardcore enthusiast, the G27 is yet another amazing wheel from Logitech that continues to perform exceptionally well. Yes, it may be expensive, but chances are, if you're a big fan of racing games, you'll put all of that $300 to good use with this unit. But, I must admit that I am a bit disappointed that Logitech removed one of the best features from the G25. Yes, we gain improved steering feel, a quieter wheel gear, improved shifter unit, better pedal feel, and a few other changes, but not being able to throw my Ferrari F1 2007 around using the paddles, like it's meant to, is disheartening. I can only hope this is addressed in Gran Turismo 5, seeing as how GT5 Prologue was only designed with the G25 in mind.
9/23/2009 Arnold Katayev