Racing games are ten a penny these days with the genre spanning sub-genres and spin-offs left, right and center. Though, quality among these titles tends to vary, there’s always one constant that you can be sure of, a realistic racing sim. Games such as Forza Motorsport and Project CARS tend to be stunning and wonderfully created, however, immersion is usually tethered to the default console controller. How does one take it to the next level? With a racing wheel, of course. Let me tell you, there’s no shortage of racing wheels to take to. Much like any given console peripheral or accessory, racing wheels come in all forms of shapes, sizes and prices. If you’re looking to pick up a wheel for the first time, it makes sense that you would want to start out in the shallow end to see what all of the fuss is about, however, if you’re on the market for something with a bit of extra kick, the Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 Competition Mod is the perfect go-to addition. Very costly, indeed, but its quality and its feedback justifies its price tag five times over, and then some.
The wheel costs roughly £500/$600 depending on where you shop. I tested the wheel on Forza Horizon 3, and just for transparency, this was my first ever experience with a Thrustmaster product for the Xbox One. Upon opening the box, you’ll be greeted with quite an extensive setup to get through. Having never experienced a device like this, I have to admit, I was somewhat overwhelmed by how much equipment goes into just one wheel. Mercifully, the installation was super easy and not at all confusing to piece together. The pack comes with the Sparco P310 competition mod steering wheel, a large red-colored base unit and the T3PA add-on, which serves itself as the gas, break and clutch pedal mount. The mount fluidly connects into the base unit as well as the 240v power pack. There’s also a USB cable which connects from the Xbox One. The steering wheel itself needs to be pushed into place and has a screw thread mount which pulls the wheel securely into the unit, on top of an addition screw that offers that extra bit of security once the wheel setup is done.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much the entirety of the setup. Like I said, super simple. Fun fact, as far as wheels go, this is as realistic as it gets. Thrustmaster teamed up with Sparco to create a life-size replica of the aforementioned P310, so if you’re looking for authenticity, this will most certainly tick that box. The wheel will self calibrate with its degree angle of movement, which, I should point out, is nothing short of magnificent. Furthermore, there’s minimal feedback delay, which helps in any given racer, you’ll agree. Before we get too deeply into its handling, let’s discuss its design and durability. There’s no denying whatsoever that this wheel is built to last and built for realism. The wheel itself is flat along the top and the bottom to relay the design of its counterpart. The pedals are 100% metal (but is actually quite light) and can be fully adjusted; spacing, inclination and height. The wheel can also be detached and swapped out for other wheels that are more fitting in design for whichever racing game you’re aiming to spend the most time on.
The base system is made of hard plastic and has been developed and designed to ensure that it looks great and can be subjected to countless hours of subsequent gaming sessions. There’s a dedicated cooling system within the base to prevent it from overheating, which tends to do the trick for the most part. There’s no shift stick included with this kit, which I have to say, for its price, that’s quite a shocker. Shift sticks will typically set you back another £100/$150 but it’s not an essential purchase either way, so I’m willing to let it slide. The product can either be screwed onto a racing chair or clamp-mounted to a flat surface. Whichever layout you’re aiming for, you’ll be glad to know that it remains steady and tethered well throughout. When all is said and done, the TS-XW looks the part. It’s gorgeous in its design and presentation. However, the most important question of all is, how does it feel to play with? I wont lie, I was shocked when I first tried it out. It felt like trying to tame a bull that had just had its ass smacked. This isn’t a negative against the TS-XW, far from it.
The feedback comes with a lot of force and will literally make you feel like you’re being thrown around the track. You feel each and every on-track movement, whether it’s a hard turn or a slight track realignment, the wheel will react with the perfect amount of force. The same can be said when you move from on-road to off-road, which isn’t something that the standard controller can replicate anywhere near as well as the TS-XW can. It all goes hand in glove to promote that extra layer of immersion and on that front alone, it’s outstanding. This does indeed mean that the wheel consistently reacts, should the game support it, of course, to your terrain. Racing on-track will present a smoother, more fluid experience in comparison to racing off-road, in which the wheel will constantly fight you at each and every bump and turn. Much like I pointed out at the start of this review, it can be a shocking eye opener to begin with, but once you’ve bonded with the feedback and have a firm handle on the wheel, the controller will never feel the same again. I certainly wont be looking back.
The same can be said about the pedals, regardless as to how you adjust them. The feedback is top notch and the immersion is just mesmerizing. I went one step further when testing its durability by dropping it from chest height to the floor a few times. Suffice to say that it took a beating like a champ and still works like a charm. I doubt it would endure a Negan-like beating, but it’s nice to know that it can withstand damage from accidental dropping. Button placement will take some getting used to, but again, time and perseverance helps. My only gripe sits with the break pedal which didn’t really have the precise feedback that almost every other piece of the device enjoys. It’s not a huge issue but something I wanted to make a note about all the same. Also, when driving in automatic you need to use your brake pedal as reverse, which is fine, but not when you install the conical stop that they provide with the pedals. This small metal bracket gets screwed behind the pedal to add a more realistic feel, but when I was playing in automatic there was no way for me to reverse.
The Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 Competition Mod is the perfect go-to racing wheel. Very costly, indeed, but its quality and its feedback justifies its price tag five times over, and then some. If you’re new to racing wheels, you may want to try out a cheaper base-line model and go from there. Though, if you’re here looking for the best of the best, TS-XW has your back. It looks great, it feels magnificent and above all else, it’s built to last.