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NASCAR Compact Wheel

One of the genres best represented on the Playstation was racing, and this trend seems to continue as game development moves onto the Playstation2. If you're like me, you've got several racing games gathering dust in the corner waiting for some attention. Whether it's a new game or an old classic, there's a way to get more out of these games. The NASCAR Compact Wheel from Thrustmaster is an analog wheel that is designed to work with either the Playstation or the Playstation2. The Compact Wheel is designed for people that don't have the patience or the room to deal with a full size wheel, pedals, and all the cords that go along with it.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was how small the wheel actually is. Its small stature is actually one of its more important features. Its small size will allow you to easily store the wheel and it will easily fit into a backpack when you take it to a friend's house. Inside the wheel, a full controller is represented. A D-pad and all the buttons found on a Dualshock are present, making navigating the game menus very easy. For some reason the square, triangle, circle, and square aren't printed on the buttons. This didn't present a problem for me, but people new to the Playstation might have to learn the position of the buttons on a regular controller before figuring them out on the wheel. The wheel is designed to be clamped to a stable surface to remain stable while you play. In my experience, most people don't have a suitable surface to set the wheel on so this presents a problem. I found the best way around this issue was to grab one of my kitchen chairs, turn it sideways, and clamp the wheel to the seat. Thrustmaster has thoughtfully included padding on the bottom of the steering wheel so it doesn't scratch up any furniture. Once secured the unit feels very sturdy, and remains very stable during even the most intense races. After securing the wheel, all that is left to do is to plug the single cord into your system.

The NASCAR compact wheel features three settings for gameplay, Digital, Analog, and Negcon. According to the instruction manual the Analog setting is best used in games like Gran Turismo, while the Negcon mode is better for Ridge Racer. I first tried the game on Gran Turismo2 using the analog setting. Using the wheel while playing Gran Turismo was a bit of a mixed bag. I tended to oversteer too easily causing my car to spin out or careen into walls with alarming frequency. After a few races I grew accustomed to the wheel and I began to have more success on the circuit. Although the wheel responded well to my commands, the Playstation's lack of support for analog acceleration made it difficult to achieve the level of precision required for some of the races in GT2. After testing the wheel on the PSX, I tried it out on the PS2 and Ridge Racer V. This was the first time I ever appreciated the Playstation2's support of all analog buttons. The accelerator and brake levers are located inside the wheel and are easily accessible with the middle fingers. The accelerator offers enough resistance to make it easy to control how hard you are pressing, but not too much that it requires any extra effort to hold down. When testing the wheel on RRV I had it on the Negcon setting, and it worked very well. The forgiving nature of Ridge Racer made it ideal for the Compact Wheel. Power slides were easy to perform, and the wheel offered enough resistance and control to maneuver through the field of drivers.

On a whole I really enjoyed the Thrustmaster wheel. It added a new dimension of gameplay to games I had previously grown tired of. However, I found it difficult to control games that were more "realistic" in nature. For arcade-style games that supported all analog buttons, the control was ideal. The MSRP of the NASCAR Compact Wheel is $24.99, and it is well worth it if you are interested in a quality wheel for a very reasonable price.

For more information on the NASCAR Compact Wheel click here.

By Aaron Thomas

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