Formally announced during the ongoing E3 event, the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel is the latest addition from Sony to the portfolio of official Move accessories. Let’s take a look at what makes it special. (Because it is special.)
As you can tell by the pictures on this page, the most peculiar feature of the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel is its folding grip design, which allows you to hold the device as either a wheel or a handlebar, depending on which configuration is more suited for the type of vehicle you are driving. The two little tabs located near the hubs connecting the handles to the main body probably serve the purpose to lock/unlock the handles.
The left and right hubs host the D-Pad and the four PS face buttons respectively, while Select and Start are those rounded buttons located on the flat surfaces between the hubs and central, circular frame.
The PlayStation Move sits in the middle of this frame, powering the wheel through the EXT port located at the bottom. So, just like with the Sharp Shooter, the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel doesn’t need batteries, and communicates with the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Move Bluetooth interface.
As for rumble, I don’t have information about how it works, but the fact that the Official PlayStation Blog lists “intense vibration feedback” as one of the main features of the unit suggests something more sophisticated than the solution adopted for the Sharp Shooter (which vibrates by “propagation” courtesy of the Move’s own rumble mechanisms). Maybe there is something in the handles? We shall see.
Wrapped around the main circular frame are two paddle shifters which of course allow changing gears or executing whatever action a given game has them assigned to.
As you can see from the photo below (courtesy of Engadget), aligned with the handle hubs on the back of the unit are two digital shoulder buttons (L1 and R1) and, more importantly, two analog triggers (L2 and R2). Since the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel doesn’t come with pedals, these triggers are meant to be used to accelerate and break in car-based racing games.
When the unit is unfolded (“bike mode”), acceleration is controlled via the right handle, which is actually a twist throttle, so it’s fair to assume the triggers will double as brake levers when driving motorbikes, possibly operating front and rear brakes independently in games providing such an option.
According to sources kind enough to check out the unit for me, the Racing Wheel triggers appear to have a long smooth throw which feels very precise, closer to the way the triggers on the 360 controller feel rather than the Move one. It goes without saying that these characteristics should allow for a more accurate management of gas and brakes in games where this stuff matters.
Speaking of games, the only one apparently being demonstrated at the Sony booth is LittleBigPlanet Karting, but there are more to come. The current list includes Burnout Paradise, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, MotorStorm: Apocalypse and Gran Turismo 5, which are all expected to support the Racing Wheel (via free update, most likely) around the time the unit hits the store shelves this fall at a suggested retail price of $39.99.
That said, don’t expect to be able to enjoy motion controls in those games unless you actually purchase the Racing Wheel unit.
As far as I understand, the wheel peripheral will be mandatory to play the aforementioned games with the Move. While developers are of course free to support the vanilla Move in their racing games (Sega did just that with Sega Rally Online Arcade as well as Disney Interactive with the driving sections of Tron: Evolution), issues related with ergonomics and buttons availability apparently make it problematic to provide a good driving experience with just the Move. This is why the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel exists in the first place, apparently.
Unlike the Sharp Shooter with regards to first person shooters, the Racing Wheel does actually have the potential to enhance the driving experience, especially in the context of the more sophisticated simulators such as Gran Turismo 5, which should really benefit from the accuracy of the Move sensors combined with all the other functions the Racing Wheel provides (mainly the triggers and the shifters).
Of course, racing enthusiasts might very well hold-on their Sparco seats and laugh from behind their Logitech wheels at the prospect of playing with this Move add-on, but gamers looking for a cheap, easy to set-up and possibly game-enhancing alternative to the expensive contraptions needed to get the most out of Gran Turismo and the likes, might very well see some value in this PlayStation Move Racing Wheel.
I personally do. What about you? Let me know in the comments section below and stick around for a deeper analysis of the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel as soon as I get the opportunity to get my hands on it.