There are two types of video game racing wheels. The first is the type that actually simulates the behavior of a real car steering wheel by providing force feedback in accordance with the car’s behavior and contact with the track surface. These wheels tend to cost upwards of Rs 5,000. The second type of racing wheel is basically a keyboard/gamepad in the shape of a wheel. It’s a simple case of mapping the keyboard or gamepad buttons to the various functions of the wheel, usually resulting in a very crude and clunky implementation of controls. The Genius Trio Racer F1 falls under the second category; a category that really shouldn’t exist because these wheels actually make games less fun to play compared to keyboards or gamepads.

While most racing wheels measure 10 or 11 inches in diameter, the Trio Racer F1 is just 8 inches in diameter, which, unless you’re under the age of 10, is really small. Also, most racing wheels are deisgned for optimum grip, which is usually achieved using leather or rubber, but this wheel seems to be aiming for the exact opposite, using glossy plastic instead. The wheel also features paddle shifters, like those seen in F1 cars and sports cars, just behind the wheel, but they’re extremely flimsy and tend to move around even when you’re not pulling on them. Not only does this wheel not feature force feedback, but there’s also no vibration/rumble, which is something most entry-level wheels offer. All you’ll get is an elastic band-like resistance when the wheel is turned.

A cable connects the wheel to the pedal base, and another connects it to your PC or console via a USB port. The base features two pedals – an accelerator and a break, and here is the first sign that the manufacturer really doesn’t know much about racing wheels. Since you tend to spend most of your time in a game with the accelerator pressed down, the throttle pedal in most wheels (as in real cars) offers a lot less resistance and can be easily pressed and held down, while the brake pedal is harder to press. Here, both offer equal resistance, and it takes a considerably amount of effort to keep the accelerator held down. Over the course of a long race, your foot will start to tire from having to constantly hold the accelerator down. Like the wheel, the pedals too are quite small; the entire pedal base is just about 8 inches wide. A clamp attachment is provided to help fasten the wheel to your tabletop, and it does a fairly good job of holding the wheel in place. The wheel’s small size means it can also fit on desktops with limited free space.

The Trio Racer F1 features support for PC, PS3, Wii, and Gamecube, and for our test, we ran it through its paces on the PC and PS3. Since this is an entry-level wheel, we skipped the hardcore sim racers and tested it with arcade racing games instead. On the PC, we tested it with Grid, Blur and Split/Second, while on the PS3, we tried it out with DiRT 2, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, and Need for Speed: Shift. The common impression across all games is that the steering is extremely unresponsive and there’s no way for you to feather the throttle or brake to regulate the intensity; it’s all or nothing. Since the wheel is recognized by the PC and PS3 as a game controller and not a wheel, none of the games recognized it as a wheel either. We had to map its controls manually as a custom controller, and in games that didn’t offer layout customization, we were forced to choose from the preset controller layouts.

On the PC, we had to manually assign controls in Grid and Split/Second and as mentioned above, the steering was unresponsive. Turning the wheel slightly had no effect, and turning it beyond a certain point will turn the car drastically; there’s no middle ground. The same applies to the throttle and brake; you either accelerate/brake all the way, or not at all. Blur doesn’t offer a custom controller option so we were unable to use the wheel with this game at all.

On the PS3, we were able to use the wheel with MotorStorm and Need for Speed: Shift, but not the pedals. We were forced to use the shifter paddles for throttle and braking, which isn’t the ideal way to play, and neither game gave the option to customize the control layout. DiRT 2 and Midnight Club: Los Angeles both feature support for several racing wheels, but both recognized this one as a controller and not a wheel. DiRT 2 was almost unplayable as it requires delicate steering, minute control adjustments and the ability to feather the throttle, neither of which the Trio Racer F1 offers. Midnight Club was the only game that was playable for more than 10 minutes, but that had more to do with the game’s arcadey nature than the proficiency of the wheel.

If you’re looking to buy a racing wheel, it obviously means that you enjoy racing games and want a way to better your gaming experience. That’s something this wheel does not offer. At Rs 2,500, it is an absolute waste of money because you’ll enjoy your games way more with a keyboard or game controller. It’s nothing more than a gamepad disguised as a wheel. If you’re serious about wanting the genuine racing wheel experience, you’ll have to look at wheels from the likes of Logitech, Thrustmaster, or Fanatec. For PC gamers, the Logitech MOMO wheel with force feedback will cost you approximately Rs 5,000, and the Logitech Driving Force GT with additional PS3 support will set you back close to Rs 10,000, but both perform way better. If these are out of your budget, you’d be better off sticking to your keyboard or original controller rather than buying a wheel like the Genius Trio Racer F1.

Tags: ,