Does a Wheel Make You Better at Racing Games?

Racing games are slick, fast and fun. I am none of those things. 

So when Bandai Namco sent GameByte a copy of Project Cars 3 along with the latest wheel from Logitech G, the G923, it felt like the perfect time to try and change that. Could an actual wheel see me go from last place to a podium finish? It gave us the opportunity to answer the question many of us contemplate every time a new racing game comes out. Is a racing wheel a worthy investment?

To gauge this I decided to test myself on the same track multiple times with a controller and a wheel using Project Cars 3 on PC (the G923 works on both PC and Xbox which is ideal for those that have both).

Before I jump into my findings it’s worth noting that I am not the best at racing games. I enjoy them and I play them occasionally but I am not someone that frequently uses wheels. So the findings below are from the perspective of someone with minimal wheel experience. 

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The Rules

  • The car used in all the races is a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
  • The race is the Shangai Henan Loop
  • Races must be done with a camera perspective from the drivers point of view
  • Best lap time, race time and position will all be considered but the position is the most important thing
  • Once a podium finish (top three) position has been achieved with one control type the next race with the other controller type MUST achieve a top five finish to trigger one more race, or it will be considered a loss. If they fail to match the highest controller position in their second race, it will be considered a loss

Getting to grips with the G923

I began the races with the G923 to help me get use to using the wheel and pedals for the first time. I instantly found myself far more absorbed in the racing than I normally am. The scrappy battles pushing between cars to climb position feel great using a wheel, as does out maneuvering someone on a bend. 

Easing on the brakes and making sure you don’t go smashing into barriers on tight turns also feels much more natural using the wheel. It gives just enough push back to what you try to do to feel like you’re driving a real car.

I did “alright” for my first few races considering it’s a game I hadn’t played before. I got a 10th place position at first. This was followed by a 6th place finish. Unfortunately I then dropped out of the top 10 in my next race due to carelessness. It was time to swap to the controller.

Credit: Project Cars 3

Controlling The Competition

The DualShock 4 is my go to controller of choice so it made sense to use that here. I performed much better in my first race with the controller than my first race with the wheel. I do partly put that down to getting to know the track a bit better though.

Project Cars 3 is still a lot of fun to play using a controller instead of a wheel. The first person viewpoint does feel less intense though, but that is most likely due to the natural posture you adopt when driving with a wheel. I found it much easier getting in front but also found myself making far more careless mistakes on turns, with it being a bit more awkward to figure out how much brake and how much gas I should be giving.

I was able to get a top five position and decided that it was time to change it up again to the wheel. Now that I was getting an understanding of the track and fellow racers could I push on for a podium finish?

The Podium Finish

Not only could I get a podium finish, I could get it with my best lap time and race time so far (although my lap time was technically invalidated due to glancing a barrier but let’s ignore that). Pushing through the racers was now a second nature on the G923… as was shouting abuse at them when they got in my way. 

First place looked to be in my grasp but I braked a tiny bit too hard near the end of the 2nd lap and just couldn’t make up the time between myself and the leader. You can see how I did below. 

Credit: GameByte / Project Cars 3

With a podium finish under my belt it was time to see if I could take my new found racing skills and transfer them to a controller.

Controlling the podium

There’s something about racing with a controller that makes my concentration slip. I’m not sure what it is but I was able to scrape a top five finish even if I did mess up on one too many corners. It was all on the next race. Failure here would mean that the wheel has bested my beloved DualShock 4. I could not let that happen.

Not only did I finish second in the next race, I did it with the best lap time and race time so far, as you can see below. It was now all on the G923 to try and do better. Could it?

Putting the pedal to the metal

The next race was scrappy, dirty and exhilarating. I pushed my way through cars, I ducked inside on tight corners and each time I did I felt in perfect control. Having just enough gas or just enough brakes to do what I needed.

As the final lap neared its end something started to become clear. I might actually do this. Not just a podium finish but a first place finish. As we came out of the penultimate corner I was able to nip in front of the car ahead of me. I drove as hard as I could. I used the perfect amount of brakes and gas to get through the last few tricky bits. In the home stretch, I was unable to be matched. 

My best lap time was .1 of a second slower and my race time was slightly slower too than the controller but, when push came to shove, I was able to out muscle and outperform the other cars on the track. It was all up to the controller to get a top five finish and trigger one more race.

Flying too close to the sun

The problem with getting better at a game is the level of cockiness that slowly seeps into your play style. On the final stretch in the final lap I was in second place and I knew I could nip between the first place car and the corner to take the lead. 

But just like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. I clipped a barrier, caused a massive pile up and went over the finish line in 11th place. My experiment was over and it was not the beautiful ending I hoped it would be.

Learnings and Overall Thoughts About First Time With the G923

The easy learning from this experiment is that Project Cars 3 is a lot of fun, even if you’re doing the same race multiple times with different controller types. It’s a good looking game with nice looking cars and tracks, with satisfying engine roars in its sound design and solid handling. Everything you want and need from a racer.

Although the controller was able to beat the wheel in speed it always let me down when it mattered most, gaining those positions. It was also not as entertaining a way to play the game. The G923 just adds that little bit of spark that absorbs you into what you’re doing, especially with headphones on. 

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Gripping the wheel and turning it an exact amount feels much more precise than slightly moving an analog stick. Pushing the pedals to give you just the right amount of brakes makes those important sharp turns much easier to navigate.

To answer the question at the top of the article “is a racing wheel a worthy investment?” the answer is… “yes” but you should consider a few things before you pick one up. You’ll want to consider whether you have the space to set it up properly, along with the pedals. It’s also important to think about how much you play racing games. 

If they’re your go to genre of choice or you easily clock up 10s of hours with the ones you do play then getting one could make that time you spend with them even more enjoyable. Even as someone that isn’t a huge racing game fan I find myself wondering if that’s just because I needed to spend some proper time with a wheel.

You can find out more about Project Cars 3 by checking out the games website here. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Logitech G923 wheel then click this link.