0314 Logitech Driving Force Pro
UPDATE 2/23/05: We noticed that the brake pedal on our Logitech Driving Force Pro has started to stick after several days of hard driving on Gran Turismo 4. The pedal sometimes fails to return to its original position after release, leaving the brake slightly engaged when we try to accelerate. We will monitor user feedback and add information as necessary.
Sony's Gran Turismo series for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 has long declared itself "the real driving simulator." However, the first two games in the GT series were dependent on the PlayStation Dual Shock controller to guide your car around the track--not exactly the ideal method for a game so firmly rooted in realistic driving performance and control. With 2001's Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Logitech introduced a driving wheel specifically designed to be used with that entry in the series, the Logitech GT Force. Here we are, three years later, and the fourth entry in the GT series is set to storm American shores next week. With the launch date looming, we had to check out the Logitech Driving Force Pro, a PS2-only wheel purposefully built to make your Gran Turismo experience as realistic and enjoyable as possible.
The Logitech Driving Force Pro contains all of the components you might expect from a PS2-specific racing wheel: USB port connection, a dual-clamping system for securely fastening the steering unit to a desk or table, eight PS2-specific buttons (circle, square, cross, and triangle, as well as L1, L2, R1, and R2), and gas and brake pedals perched on a solidly constructed no-slip floorboard. Real racing nuts will salivate over some of the special features built into the wheel that really set it apart, such as the 900-degree wheel rotation (for supported games), a choice between wheel-mounted paddles and a sequential stick shifter for changing gears, and force feedback (for supported games).
Installation of the Driving Force Pro is as simple as that of any USB-supported peripheral should be. We simply plugged the wheel into one of our PlayStation 2 USB ports and fired up the game. The wheel automatically calibrated itself throughout its 200- or 900-degree rotation, and we were all set to go. Provided you have a desk, table, or chair to which you can attach the wheel, the two clamping screws securely fasten the Driving Force Pro and open wide enough to accommodate a nice variety of surface widths. The only drawback here is the lack of a built-in lap-attachment option (though it should be noted that Logitech does offer a separately sold attachment). Unless you have such an attachment, you might have to experiment with the height of the table or desk you attach the wheel to in order to attain that ideal setup for living-room driving.
The solid rubber wheel is both sturdy and well constructed and also provides an excellent surface for gripping. Your fingers won't be slipping off this wheel any time soon, no matter how badly your palms sweat during those endurance runs at Laguna Seca. Fans of manual-transmission racing will be pleased to note that the Driving Force Pro gives you a choice between an attractive sequential gear stick and wheel-mounted buttons for shifting gears. Though Logitech refers to the latter as "paddles," they really are buttons, and they are depressed into the wheel itself when pressed. We would have preferred to see the more traditional free-standing paddles on the wheel, if only because that's what we're used to using, but on the other hand, this configuration means there's no chance of these buttons snapping off, as paddles can. As for the stick shift, we liked the feel of it, but found that a careful touch is required. You can't just flick the stick quickly and move your hand back to the wheel, as the stick has a tendency to snap back slightly too hard along its range of motion, which may shift you back to the gear you were trying to shift out of. A bit of practice, or a migration to the sequential gearshift buttons, will cure this problem once and for all.