Playing Forza Motorsport 7 or Forza Horizon 4 with a steering wheel, pedals and shifter is a real challenge. I turn off all the assists and shift from automatic to manual transmission. As a professional driver, I press the clutch pedal and select the correct gear. Taking my first turn is a completely different story.
As you can imagine, I went off the track into the grass. I have taken this corner before without any problem, but never with a steering wheel. A question came to mind. Is playing a racing game with a steering wheel more difficult compared to a controller? I asked this question to a lot of friends, but none of them were able to confirm, nor deny, this impression.
A steering wheel simulates the feeling of driving over a realistic road surface. You feel the transitions from tarmac to a narrow dirt road. This feeling further amplifies the immersion of a driving simulator and offers you more information about how much control you have over your car while driving on a changing road surface.
If your car loses traction, you feel your steering wheel turn slightly while vibrating to simulate the loss of control over your vehicle. This helps driver, unless the force feedback of the steering wheel makes you overcompensate your counter steering. This results in you sliding off the track, or you ending up in the opposite direction on the track.
Setting up the steering wheel with the correct balance that works well for you requires several attempts and long gameplay sessions. In my case, this takes hours of little adjustments. I almost completely turned off the force feedback to smooth out the movements of the steering wheel. This setup solves my problems in the corners.
A more subtle feedback indicates the loss of traction and handling of the car in corners, but allows you to remain in control over the movements of the wheel. A steering wheel is not plug and play, it requires adjustments.
A different experience
To return to the initial question. Playing a driving simulator with a steering wheel, pedals and shifter is a completely different experience, not necessarily harder. You have to relearn a game you already know and play for months. This requires time and effort to overcome routines and patterns.
If you have never used a steering wheel to play a driving simulator before, you might have a hard time adjusting to your new setup. After a few hours, the steering wheel becomes a second nature and you incorporate the force feedback into your gameplay experience. Practice makes perfect, so do not get discouraged.
Improve your techniques
Professional race driver posses a good knowledge of various types of footwork and pedal techniques, as well as weight transfer during braking and the effect of different weather conditions on the traction and grip of the tires. A steering wheel makes it easier to execute these driving techniques in a driving simulator.
You need to learn how to feather the throttle to prevent sudden weight transfer transitions. Too much acceleration while cornering translates to either oversteer or understeer depending on the characteristics of your car. Listen to the feedback of your steering wheel to further improve your driving techniques.
One technique you should learn is left foot braking. This practice decreases the time required to switch between your throttle and brake pedal by using two feet instead of one. An even more complicated technique is heel-and-toe downshifting, an advanced shifting technique.
In the end, a steering wheel with pedals and shifter allows for a more challenging and realistic experience. Although my personal track records are better with a controller, the more immersive experience puts me in the shoes of a professional driver.
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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Forza Motorsport 7, a video game developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.