As someone who particularly enjoys playing a variety of simulator based games, I was excited when the Heavy Equipment Precision Control System was announced by Saitek. While I was interested to see how it would add to the experience of playing Farming Simulator, I was also curious how it would interact with other simulation games such as Euro Truck Simulator 2. After opening the box there is a lot to try out with the included steering wheel, pedals, and side panel control deck, not to mention a lot to set up each time you want to use the hardware set. Fortunately, the actual setup process of gripping the steering wheel and panel to a desk or other surface are easy with the vice grip type knobs. Then it's simply the step of hooking both of their USB connectors into your PC and connecting the pedals to the steering wheel base.
As mentioned, the complete set will get you the three hardware items. Additionally, the hardware can be bought separately in a steering wheel and pedals package and then gamers just looking for the side panel can purchase that by itself. All packaged together the hardware set costs an eye raising $300, while separately they retail $150 for each of the mentioned sets. This is a much welcome choice from Saitek as it allows gamers not interested in farming per say to only pick up the side panel for use in games such as Elite Dangerous or other titles able to take advantage of all its buttons and knobs.
For the $300 price tag I expected a lot from the hardware having used other steering wheel and pedal sets from manufacturers such as Logitech. At an initial visual glance everything looks great as it was taken directly from inside a tractor. Details like the knob on the steering wheel and the two included joysticks on the steering wheel all check the right marks for an impressive package. In particular, the side panel is the standout item of the set with all of its varied colored buttons and knobs and even its own miniature joystick. It's not only until you actually get your hands on the hardware that you see nearly everything is just plastic. For example, the steering wheel isn't close to the quality you would find in other dedicated racing ones that feature rubber grips. The same goes for the included pedals that don't feature any sort of metal but again a flexing plastic material.
The side panel also led to immediate disappointment only to discover that the toggle switches don't actually well toggle. They are mere simple buttons that are imitated to look as if they toggle, which is both an odd design decision that leads to false gameplay impressions. Fortunately the included joystick on the side panel is the most impressive feature as it also features directional rotation as well as the ability to switch between different modes with two buttons on top. Yet, its included volume-looking dial feels imprecise from its loose nature. While the whole package together is undoubtedly the best designed hardware for Farming Simulator, gamers intending to use the set in other games would probably be better off only purchasing the side panel and then a better quality steering wheel and pedal set.
During my time with the hardware set I tested it with the following games: Farming Simulator 15, Euro Truck Simulator 2, and Dirt Rally. Potential buyers should note that each of the hardware items function via plug and play with Windows and in my instance with Windows 10 required no additional drivers or setup. All the games I tested were able to detect the steering wheel, pedals, and side panel instantly in addition to all of their additional joysticks and knobs. This really is a no hassles hardware setup which is a huge plus for those not wanting to bother with installing drivers or worrying about game support. Gamers should know that while the controller mapping is automatically detected with Farming Simulator 15, in other games it requires having to spend time mapping each of its buttons and features.
Most of the time will probably be spent with setting the sweet spot of turning the steering wheel in-person and in-game so they match each other's rotations. In Euro Truck Simulator 2 this was a simple process, while in Dirt Rally it took a bit longer to find that sweet spot. The controller mapping process and fine tuning other settings will ultimately depend on the game and hopefully in the future we'll see more games have built-in profiles for the hardware set.
It didn't take long for me to see the added depth and realism added by the hardware set when playing games such as Farming Simulator. Keyboard and mouse are just fine, but there's something about being to actually turn the steering wheel of your combine as you harvest your cornfield. The experience of turning an actual wheel and seeing your in-game wheel turn at the same angle and such makes for truly the best way to play driving based simulator and racing games. Not to mention pushing down on the pedals to speed up or go in reverse. While the steering wheel feels particularly well in games, the pedals on the other hand often felt spongy in regards to their responsiveness. I also have to mention the awesome factor which is the decision to include the knob on the steering wheel top, which is common in tractors, is a huge plus in my book both for its look and usefulness in games to give added control.
Combined with the additional side panel control deck a lot of actions are now much simpler to accomplish in Farming Simulator. The process before of using the logging machinery to cut down a tree and move it around was near impossible with the keyboard and mouse. The side panel makes the whole operation as easy as accomplishing any other task in the game. The side panel is easily my favorite accessory of the hardware set both for its wide array of buttons and knobs as well as its usefulness stretching far behind just Farming Simulator. In Euro Truck Simulator 2 the side panel is especially helpful for mapping out the various GPS system panels and settings. The other aspect of the side panel that is especially helpful in all of the games I tried for looking around the cockpit of your vehicle. I could imagine how useful the side panel would be for other simulator based games, especially those where you're piloting an aircraft or futuristic spaceship.
Since the focus of this hardware set is for use with Farming Simulator it's an easy recommendation if you're a fan of the series. While it might be a bit cumbersome each time to hook everything up when you want to play, in the end it's definitely worth the hassle for longer gaming sessions. Even for those gamers looking to pick a hardware set up for other simulator games such as Euro Truck Simulator 2 this makes a good entry point with all the features it contains. Lastly, the side panel control deck by itself is a recommended purchase for gamers that already have a steering wheel and pedal set and are in need of extra buttons and knobs. The major downsides that I see are the quality of the hardware pieces in comparison with other steering wheel and pedal sets and the price for the entire set. The side panel by itself for $150 is a bit easier to manage, but $300 for the entire set seems a bit much considering the build quality.
Complete hardware specifications can be found on its online product page.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game release. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and massively multiplayer online, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements. View Profile