The stars have certainly aligned for me this month when it comes to my favourite genre of game – racing. Not only did Microsoft add two brilliant racing games to the Xbox Game Pass catalogue (Wreckfest and Dirt 5), Logitech also sent me the beginner-friendly racing sim wheel – the G920. With my gaming PC recently rebuilt and the awesome EPOS SENNHEISER GSP 601 Gaming Headset providing the outstanding audio, racing on PC has never been this good!
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Growing up, I was always fascinated by cars and racing. In my teens I often felt that, at some point in the near future, I’d somehow find my way into a track car. Unfortunately for me, reality got in the way and I eventually learnt that car racing is both prohibitively expensive and very difficult. Not to mention that most race cars are not designed to cater for drivers over about five feet tall.
While it is a little disheartening to realise that my boyhood dreams won’t come true, I also feel extremely fortunate to live in an age where the experience can be simulated at a level that more than satisfies me. In fact, the diversity of racing experiences available to me in the virtual environment is so vast that I can live out several different versions of my dream each and every night! Within the space of an hour I can wrestle a V8 supercar around the legendary Mt Panorama, drive a Ferrari Formula One car around Monaco and then change pace completely to compete in a ride-on lawnmower destruction derby.
And the experience is incredible! The addition of the Logitech G920 to my setup has been a major revelation that has left me wondering why I didn’t do it sooner. For an “entry level” wheel, the immersion on offer is truly incredible.
The G920 has changed the whole experience from ” playing a game” to “simulating a driving experience” and I can’t get enough of it. As with anything new, there is learning curve and a bit of tinkering to get the setup just right. However, for any wannabe racer, the payoff is well worth the effort. After all, tinkering and tuning has been a part of motor racing since the first ever car race, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to fine tune a Logitech wheel and virtual car setup than it is a real one. Far less expensive too…
The diversity of my racing experiences over the past couple of weeks since the Logitech G920 arrived has been possible thanks to Xbox Game Pass for PC. Those of you who have been following my regular roundups know how much this service has blown me away with the extraordinary value on offer. Yet more and more quality games keep being added to the service. The following is my February roundup, with a focus (naturally) on all the amazing motor racing that Xbox Game Pass has to offer!
Forza Horizon 4
Yes, this game has featured on every one of my roundups since they first began. I was blown away by all that Forza Horizon 4 had to offer even when just using a keyboard! Imagine, then, what the addition of the Logitech G920 has done to for me. Beware, the settings for this combination are definitely not optimised straight out of the box and a bit of customising goes a long way to enhancing the experience. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing this, a great place to start is by implementing the settings found here, then making small tweaks to suit your style.
Initially I found that I had to relearn how to play Horizon 4 with the wheel. The effort was worth it, because now I can’t imagine playing without it. Even in the outrageous world of Horizon Playground Games, the Logitech G920 significantly adds to the fun on offer. Slinging my Jeep Wildcat through the mud while my opponents tried to track me down and tag me was an absolute blast and has been one of my favourite experiences of Horizon to date. It just proves that you don’t have to be going fast in a hypercar to get the full pleasure and value out of the force feedback setup.
Of course, going flat out through speed traps in a Pagani Zonda Cinque is an entirely different thrill and it definitely puts a smile on my face.
One word of warning – become very comfortable with your wheel setup before braving the world of online racing. I do find it harder to correct when things go pear-shaped. This is actually making me a better (virtual) driver, because I am developing far greater respect for the limits of the car, but it was a bit embarrassing how useless I was in my stock BMW M6 the first time I braved the track. I think I spent more time facing the wrong way than I did the right way.
Forza Motorsport 7
I downloaded Forza Motorsport 7 when it was first added to Xbox Game Pass for PC and enjoyed what I saw. However, my time spent in the game was limited because I just didn’t feel like I was getting the most out of the game while using a keyboard. In fact, my desire for experiencing what Forza Motorsport 7 truly had to offer was a catalyst for asking Logitech to send a wheel for review.
I’m glad I did, because Forza Motorsport 7 is a game/simulator that deserves to be experienced through a force feedback wheel. Where Horizon is easy to get lost in the wildly fantastical world of the game, Motorsport 7 is all about simulating the driving experience. And when it comes to the simulation, I am all in! I have turned all driving aids off, set the transmission to manual and cranked the opponent difficulty level. The only thing that I am not using yet is the clutch, because my brain just isn’t wired to use it with the paddle shift setup. However, I am seriously eyeing off the optional Logitech stick shift attachment, because I am craving that ultimate simulation experience.
This has made progress slow as I learn to drive properly, but I love it! Every mistake helps me to become a better driver. Every spin has helped me to understand where the limits of my car are. And I am quickly getting much, much better. My goal with Forza Motorsport 7 is to become competent enough to compete in the online realm.
One thing I quickly came to appreciate with the Forza Motorsport 7 and Logitech G920 combination was just how different each car behaves. The physics of wrestling a classic American muscle car around Laguna Seca raceway are completely different to, say, threading a Gymkhana Ford Focus through the tight bends of a street circuit. My Stingray felt heavy and reluctant to turn (but easy to spin out), while the Focus felt nimble, twitchy and extremely fast. I’ll happily admit that I laughed out loud from the sheer joy of throwing the Focus around in the Ken Block challenge.
This game just makes me smile. In the mid 1990s a game by the name of Destruction Derby 2 consumed way more of my time than it should have. There was something incredibly satisfying about the mayhem of the game that was so much more enticing than my Economics homework.
Wreckfest takes me right back to that feeling… except with stunning graphics, excellent physics and a Logitech G920 force feedback steering wheel making me feel like it is the real thing!
Wreckfest is the definition of chaos, with the outcome of each race entirely unpredictable and fortune often playing almost as much a part as skill. The collisions are stunning and the damage, while accentuated for effect, is still lifelike enough to ground the craziness in reality. The result is an incredibly immersive experience that is mostly a blast and occasionally incredibly frustrating.
The Logitech G920 is a brilliant addition to Wreckfest and I haven’t had to play with the settings a lot to achieve a great feel. Every bump of the dirt tracks is translated into a vibration and every shunt from the side leaves me wrestling the G920 to bring my busted up beater back onto the racing line. The demolition derby events are my absolute favourite and my five year old has taken to sitting in my lap and attempting to wrestle the wheel while I work the pedals. She did manage to eliminate five competitors on her first attempt, which left me equal parts impressed and terrified.
Lawnmower racing should be a mandatory subject at high school, couch racing is as absurd as it sounds, and the Reliant Robin Vs fleet of busses race would be ridiculously dangerous in real life. As for taking a slow, beaten up old piece of mediocre automotive history and throwing it around a dirt racetrack? Amazing fun!
The final thing I will say about Wreckfest is how much I enjoy the battles between AI racers. Cars overtake each other, they wipe out and they aggressively battle for position. It is thoroughly enjoyable to be in the middle of it all!
Formula 1 2019
Codemasters have been kicking goals with the F1 Series for a long time, so it’s great to see the virtual representation of the pinnacle of motorsport on Xbox Game Pass for PC. There is a storyline of sorts to get players engaged, and the addition of a Formula 2 championship adds some novelty value, but really I’m only here for one thing. To experience the dream of driving the prancing horse at the highest possible level.
It goes without saying that an F1 racing car is a completely different beast to a ride-on lawnmower, yet the Logitech G920 adapts to the new game beautifully. Sure, you can pay A LOT of money for a wheel setup that better replicates the real thing, But you’d have a hard time convincing me that the extra coin is worth it. As far as I’m concerned, when I’m sitting in my Ferrari F1 behind the G920, I’m there.
F1 racing is as intense as motorsport gets and F1 2019 is brilliant in its recreation of the genre. Success demands perfection and taking the time to learn racing lines and braking distances returns dividends. Keep in mind that some tweaking will be required to get the Logitech G920 exactly as you want it. The general consensus online seems to be that wheel rotation should be tightened to 360 degrees, with minor tweaks to settings such as steering saturation.
Another of the new additions to Xbox Game Pass for PC, Dirt 5 is the latest version of the long-running, rally-oriented series.
I was lucky enough to be given a rally driving experience for my 30th birthday (many years ago), and it was a brilliant! However, the reality of driving an expensive car that someone else owns on a dirt track with actual, hittable objects around meant that there was no way I was going to find the limits of the WRX. Don’t get me wrong, I had an absolute blast and enjoyed a bit of sideways action, but I was never in a position where I’d almost hit a tree!
Dirt 5 gives me the opportunity to live out my rally driving fantasies, without the extensive costs involved with accidentally ripping the exhaust manifold from under the car on an unsighted rock.
There is a slightly arcade-like feel to Dirt 5, but overall the experience of fighting the Logitech G920‘s force feedback over the rough terrain and through powerslides is very pleasing. These days I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase a dedicated rally game, but to have it included with the Xbox Game Pass subscription means I will give it a good crack!
Naturally, the awesomeness of the Logitech G920 and Xbox Game Pass is only possible to experience because of the PC running it all. Check out my latest Gaming and Work PC specifications for an excellent balance of performance and cost:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5600X
- Cooling: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
- Motherboard: MSI B550 TOMAHAWK
- Memory: 32GB (2x16GB) XLR8 DDR4 3200MHz
- Graphics: PNY GeForce RTX 2070 Super 8GB XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition
- System Drive: 250GB Samsung 980 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD
- Game Drive: 500GB XLR8 CS2311 2.5″ SATA III SSD
- Storage Drive: 3TB WD Blue 3.5″ HDD
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 801
- Monitor: Acer EG270P 27” FHD Freesync IPS 144hz Gaming Monitor
- Sound: EPOS SENNHEISER GSP 601 Gaming Series headset and EPOS GSX 300 External Soundcard