After exposure to GTR2 and rFactor, I was wholly impressed with the feel of the G25. I had two more tests to get through, though, so it was too early to call this thing a winner. I had to try Nascar SimRacing and F1 Challenge ’99-’02. With my recent experience in stirring the gears around through their gates, Nascar SimRacing was the obvious next choice. I’ve always struggled with Nascar – I can turn in solo laps easily enough, but when I have to drive side-by-side for any length of time, it’s not really a matter of ‘if’ I will cause a wreck, it’s really just a matter of “when.” The problem always seemed to be the result of over-controlling with the steering wheel. With the G25’s 900 degrees of rotational freedom, though, I thought it just possible that I’d be able to slow down the wheel enough to allow me that gigantic sawing motion you see on the in-car shots. It looks like they’re making massive steering inputs, but they have the steering geared such that the input that eventually makes it to the wheels is minute, despite the energetic and dramatic inputs from the driver. I will take this opportunity to point out that simply because something can be done, it’s not necessarily the case that something should be done. In other, less-lofty words, 900 degrees was way too much. After a few adjustments I did manage to find a sweet spot, though, and before you know it I was flying through the turns at Daytona swinging that wheel back and forth like a chain-ganger cutting weeds with a scythe. The car was rock solid, each impending sway towards the wall or an equally hard opponent easily caught without lapsing into a driver-induced oscillation from the hyper-sensitivity of the wheel. Shifting was much less of a factor, of course, since I was on oval tracks. The clutch was used almost primarily for starting and stopping in the pits. And since stock cars are at least reminiscent of street cars, right foot braking felt much more normal.
Having had such a positive experience with the three games I had tested with, it was a bit of a surprise to be disappointed with the G25 in F1 Championship. It took me awhile to figure out what was bothering me. The paddle shifters were great, and even though I was back to left foot braking, it seemed to be working out ok. I finally realized that the problem was with the center zone on the force feedback: there was a ‘gap’ in the middle where the wheel was responsive, but there was no centering force. This caused a lot of over-controlling and the type of swerving on the straights that is normally associated with Floridian Blue-Hairs driving home from the 3:30 seating at the Early Bird Buffet. Please note, however, that this is more than likely the fault of the aging game than it is the fault of the G25. I had no similar problems in any of the other games.
So, at long last, here are my impressions. First, anyone that has previously used a Logitech FF wheel will remember the notchy, gritty feeling of the steering. This is presumably a side effect of the type of motor used to provide the FF effects. People typically attribute this trait to “gears” in the drive mechanism, but to me it feels more like the gaps in the armature of a DC motor. Either way, it existed in the Momo wheel, and it is still present, albeit at a slightly reduced amount, in the G25. At first it feels like someone put aquarium gravel in the steering rack & pinion setup (or whatever the equivalent is in the motor racing world), but eventually you stop noticing it.
Second, the force feedback effects are very strong. A bounce against a retaining wall at Talladega caused, as one would expect, a commensurate torque on the wheel, the strength of which was quite surprising. Probably due more to liability concerns (heh!) than the unavailability of stronger motors, you don’t have to respond to an imminent impromptu meeting with concrete or brick by releasing the wheel to avoid breaking your wrists in the manner of an Indycar driver, but you will for sure know that you hit something! That said, the feeling through the wheel is still subtle enough to impart critical information concerning the current adhesion of your tires as you scream through turns at the very outside limits of your car’s capabilities.
Third, the resistance of the pedals varies by function, with the throttle being the lightest and the brakes being the heaviest. While I still race barefoot to get a better feel for the pedals, I’m not convinced it is a requirement anymore. The braking resistance is substantial, so it takes a pretty heft shove to get the tires locked up. Given the undesirable state and loss of control due to locked up, skidding tires, this is a good thing.
Finally, the shifter is solid and reliable, causing very few missed shifts, but it’s a tad noisy. If you’re like me and only get time on the PC when the progeny are finally safely tucked away in bed, you will find yourself reluctant to use the gated shifter. The paddles are much, much quieter, and while we love our children as only parents can, we also tend to resent their continued over-the-shoulder-what-are-you-doing-Daddy presence post-9:30 as, well, only parents can. Anything that could potentially wake them from their parent-friendly slumber is strictly verboten.
In summary, I expected a lot from the G25 given its price point of nearly three times that of my trusty, loyal Momo, and I feel that the G25 delivered on that expectation. The improvements over the already more-than-adequate Momo are felt clearly through the entire G25 driving experience, and the high-quality materials and construction of the G25 demonstrate the pride Logitech rightfully takes in their line of Force Feedback Wheels. I’m giving the G25 the same score that I would give my Momo, not as a reflection of identical quality, but as a reflection of quality commensurate with price. Thanks, Logitech, for another reason to spend those quiet hours after the child is in bed glued to the PC!
If you are serious about PC racing games, you owe it to yourself to take a long, hard look at the G25. It may or may not improve your lap times, but it will definitely make your races feel far more realistic.
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