While the Xbox 360 has amassed a stellar slate of racing games in short order, there's currently only one steering-wheel accessory available for the console, MadCatz's Xbox 360 MC2 Racing Wheel, a two-piece wheel-and-pedal set that retails for around $70.
The Xbox 360 MC2 Racing Wheel employs the same basic design that MadCatz's past wheels, such as the Universal MC2, have used, with a black-and-off-white Xbox 360 color scheme. Just about every button from the standard Xbox 360 controller is on the wheel, the only exception being the right analog stick. It's not a big deal, since it never really performs an important function--most current racers use it for camera movement. The stick's absence is a little puzzling, though, when you consider that some buttons are represented on three separate areas of the wheel.
The brake and gas pedals are analog, so the deeper they're pushed, the faster the rate of acceleration. The wheel can be tethered to a table via suction cups or left on the player's lap with retractable leg supports. While the second option is comfortable and more secure than sticking the wheel to a table, we found it difficult to access the pedals properly with the wheel binding our thighs together. That said, thanks to a healthy supply of small rubber grips on the bottom of their base, you don't have to worry about the pedals moving around while you're driving--so long as you place them on a smooth floor surface. Overall, the design is sturdy but hardly stylish--the faux-dashboard stickers give off a bit of a Power Wheels vibe. It's also worth noting that, although the wheel connects to the system via USB, you can't use it to play driving games on your PC. Our PC did recognize the wheel when it was connected, but there was no software available to get the wheel working.
We tested the Xbox 360 MC2 Racing Wheel with every car-racing title currently available for the 360, and results were mixed, to say the least. Project Gotham Racing 3 was hands-down the best performing game with the MC2 Racing Wheel--the shifting, steering, and gas controls were all quite precise--which makes us wonder why the wheel's default controls aren't synced with the game, as you have to futz around the control options a bit. Ridge Racer 6 was a solid performer, though shifting between the gas and brake so often made for a difficult ride.
Move beyond those two games, though, and the wheel's performance became a little shakier. Burnout Revenge had loose steering--god help us if the game actually included shifting--while Need for Speed: Most Wanted didn't include a control scheme that let us use both the stick shift and the pedals. Full Auto refused to work with the wheel at all, as the game wouldn't accept start button presses and progress past the title screen.
Aside from the sketchy game compatibility issues, we were a little disappointed that the force feedback in the wheel wasn't a little stronger--the vibration lacked any sort of real rumble that you associate with arcade steering wheels. True, some of the blame for control woes can be attributed to the game developers, but we've used plenty of wheels that allow you to dynamically map button functions to the wheel's buttons. This one doesn't, so it falls to the developer's whims to determine compatibility.
Ultimately, the Xbox 360 MC2 Racing Wheel hasn't made the same jump in quality that the system's games and controllers have, which makes it feels like a rehashed version of the previous generation's steering wheels. Although Microsoft's upcoming wireless steering wheel will probably be significantly more expensive, if it can perform at the same level that the system's controller does, it may be well worth the wait--and the price.