Despite the issues with F1 2010’s release, a huge number of people have bought it and enjoyed it. ShopTo.net tempted many gamers away from the standard controller with a bargain bundle deal with a low cost steering wheel, offering people an entry level route into a more accurate driving experience.
Gran Turismo 5 will, undoubtedly, also provide a fantastic experience for those with a steering wheel to hook up with and offer accurate force feedback, inch-perfect lines and smooth cornering. Naturally, with this improved control and more subtle steering ability, those with a wheel will be taking their cars for a spin several seconds a lap quicker than those with a controller.
Over a long race, with tyre wear simulated this could take its toll, as one forum poster on PlanetMGC describes having played F1 2010 with a controller:
The main issue though is it is clearly meant to be played with a wheel. It’s impossible to drive as smoothly with a dualshock and as a result your tyres wear much more quickly. After a few laps I’m skidding out on every corner whereas the wheel drivers online just keep on going. Very biased towards those with a wheel.
This is exactly as you would expect. The reason Jenson Button can often stay out longer on old tyres is his smoother driving style. Those who hack at the wheel (as if they were using a controller in the car) tend to slow down a bit after a few laps as their grip levels suffer. In this respect, Codemasters have nailed the realism in F1 2010. And whether you’re using a wheel or not, players have a dilemma of whether to stay out longer and get some free track, or pit earlier for fresh rubber and lose track position as JunkieGamer point out:
…looking at the track on the bottom left of the screen I can see that a traffic jam has started to form behind me, and the roar was from an overly eager Hulkenberg. I knew if I pitted I was going to lose a lot of places, but if I stayed out any longer on this failing rubber it was inevitable anyway. So reluctantly I veered off and pitted.
But this is a far more common and urgent problem for those without the delicate touch of a steering wheel. As the first quote pointed out, players who had a wheel were able to keep their tyres fresh for longer, keep their speed up in corners for longer and generally stood a far better chance of winning.
It’s not a one-way party; getting used to using a wheel after years of “normal” controls is tricky, and many gamers say that for the first few weeks it’s far slower to use the wheel until you get the feel of things. But there are too many reports of wheel users being massively faster in online games to ignore this suggestion.
What bugs me the most isn’t that the wheel is quicker, not at all. If you’re willing to put the time and effort into learning to drive with one then it’s only reasonable to be rewarded for your trouble, but developers need to adjust their online lobbies, allowing people to just join other controller users if they prefer. It’s usually not until a couple of laps in that you realise you’re in a race with others who have a more natural method of control, by which time you’ve already been lapped and have no rubber left on your tyres.
To that extent, wheels aren’t killing online racers at all. But the emergence of lower cost deals and the increased numbers of people who use them means developers have to take note of this and redress the balance and offer non-wheelers a chance to compete fairly. Without this, there’s every chance that many many people will be put off from taking their racing online.