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Car Gizmos

Kinect-ing with Forza's sweet ride Add to ...

The beauty of video games is that they sometimes offer you an opportunity to play in more than one way. Forza Motorsport 4 is the latest driving simulation game to be released, and it proves fun to play with a controller, steering wheel or your bare hands.

Rather than review the game itself (a colleague has already done that, http://tgam.ca/CzAW), I’ll focus instead on how the game can be played – which can be equally invigorating and puzzling. The gorgeous red 2012 Ferrari on the cover notwithstanding, it was the tagline above that caught my eye even more: “Better with Kinect Sensor.”

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Really? Microsoft’s popular motion-based gaming peripheral as the better option than a standard controller? Not quite, since Forza 4’s Kinect experience is really just testing the waters.

This isn’t the first racing title that can be played wirelessly. Excite Truck and Mario Kart on the Nintendo Wii were the first to use a wireless steering wheel to control the action, but Kinect serves up the experience with the illusion that you’re holding a wheel.

The precision is impressive, and the concentration required provides an interesting methodology, but it comes across as a tease more than anything else because steering is the only function the Kinect sensor can read. Gear shifting and speed are both handled by the AI. For true simulation diehards, that’s unacceptable – which is why it may not matter that you also can’t play through the Career mode or world circuits using Kinect.

This is where the Fanatec Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel, Pedals and Shifter come much closer to creating a true driving simulator. Forza branding aside, the three-piece set works fluidly with the game by giving you the chance to drive with a full manual gearbox, clutch and six-speed shifter.

The force feedback is awesome in that vibrations and sensitivity mimic what’s happening on screen. The pedals have just the right amount of resistance, and can be adjusted for depth to accommodate your preferred tendencies. Actually, because Fanatec’s set requires assembly with a drill, there is some leeway to putting it together in a way that works for you.

A sturdy table with plenty of room underneath is the ideal choice for using the wheel and pedals, but Fanatec claims all that can be avoided by buying a wheel stand. Either way, getting the right fit makes it hard to leave the seat, regardless of whether it’s a chair, couch or stool. The problem is that you almost need a dedicated “man cave” to keep it around. It’s most definitely for a basement rather than a living room.

Not only that, but at close to $500 for the three-piece set (not including a wheel stand), Fanatec’s interpretation of Forza 4 is a costly one.

Still, there are other wheels out there, and for those on a budget, Forza 4 plays really well on a standard controller, too. We’ll see how “standard” Kinect is when the next iteration of Forza is set to launch.

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