Reviewed: May 5, 2003
Type: Steering Wheel and Pedals
When it comes to driving games and the steering wheels used to play them, I like to think of myself as somewhat of an expert. I got my first steering wheel/pedal combo back in 1995 and since then I have tried over 20 different wheels from various manufacturers for both PC and consoles.
While most of these wheels have come from ThrustMaster, one of my all-time favorites is still the Mad Catz Andretti Racing Wheel. As much as I loved the Andretti Wheel, the new Mad Catz Universal MC2 Wheel and Pedals combo is light-years beyond in quality, design, and cross-platform compatibilty. If it only worked for the PC it would be the "best peripheral ever made".
Being in the "game review" business I have all the major consoles scattered around my TV. Unfortunately, this also translates into 16 controllers, 2 joysticks, 3 lightguns, 2 skate/snowboards and three steering wheels and pedal combos. I'm always looking for a good opportunity to consolidate and eliminate controllers and the Universal MC2 Wheel is the perfect replacement for the three wheels I currently have - one for each major system. Most serious gamers own at least two of the current next-gen console systems making the Universal MC2 the last wheel you will need to buy until the next crop of consoles arrive. And the best thing is that you are using the same wheel for all three consoles, so you never have to adapt to a new style of wheel or learn new button configuration.
I’ve always been a bit leery of wheels that I couldn’t physically attach to my computer desk. The MC2 wheel solves this problem with a very clever mounting design. In addition to the standard suction cups that let you stick this wheel to any smooth surface such as a coffee table, the bottom of the wheel base is molded to fit perfectly over your legs. Other wheels offer this feature but Mad Catz takes it one step further with curved extensions that slide down from each side to extend the arc almost 180 degrees. This allows the wheel to rest firmly in place on your lap with just a very slight outward pressure from your legs. This prevents any slippage making it one of the best wheels I have ever used on a console.
The wheel offers a nice textured rubber grip and convenient button placement. All of the buttons found on a typical game controller are split into two groups on either side of the wheel hub and labeled with symbols and letters for all three systems. The center of the wheel features a D-pad that resembles a car horn so you can easily navigate game menus, and for those of you who like to shift your gears manually you can choose between the easy-to-reach butterfly paddles behind the wheel or the nice big knobby stick shift mounted on the right of the base.
Behind the wheel is a multi-colored panel of lights that arcs across to the right as you accelerate. While it looks incredibly cool you dare not take your eyes of the screen to watch it (like I did) or you will probably wreck (like I did). The lights, which go from green to yellow to red, can also be used to calibrate the wheel using the new Accudrive Calibration System. The ACS lets you fine-tune the wheel and adjust the sensitivity of the wheel to your personal taste in driving.
The MC2 offers some good rumble effects – not to be confused with force feedback. The wheel will vibrate when you drive over rough terrain or hit an object or another car. While these effects are not physically accurate, they do a respectable job of adding some tactile feedback to the driving experience.
Pedals are typically a problem with most wheel/pedal combos, mainly due to their light weight and the fact that they slip around the floor and eventually work their way out of reach. The pedal base of the MC2 features large rubber feet that are deeper than average, and the bottom of these feet have deep textured grooves allowing the pedal base to grip firmly in carpet or hardwood floors.
The pedals are designed with a vertical vector pedal design that makes them pivot just like a real car. This also allows you to apply more downward force on the pedals rather than horizontal force that would normally cause the pedals to scoot away from your seat. If you are one of those drivers that brake and accelerate with the same foot then the pedal base has a nice flat textured section designed for you to rest your left foot and maintain even more stability.
The MC2 comes with a few additional amenities such as generous lengths of cables for connecting the pedals to the wheel and the wheel to your console of choice. The end of the cable splits off into three connectors, one for each system. Nothing could be faster or easier than connecting this wheel to a console or switching from one console to another.
I put the MC2 wheel through its paces with several driving games on all three systems. On the Xbox I test drove Apex, Project Gotham Racing, RalliSport Challenge, and Colin McRae Rally 3. On the GameCube I drove Pro Rally 2002, 4x4 Evo 2 and 18-Wheeler American Pro Trucker and the PS2 kept me racing for hours with titles like Burnout 2, Colin McRae Rally 3, Midnight Club II and the best of the best, Pro Racer Driver. I even broke out Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec and was turning record laps with this amazing wheel.
At only $59.99, this is a very affordable controller, especially considering its cross-platform compatibility. And with the increasing list of driving games coming out for all three big consoles chances are you already own at least one or two games that would be greatly enhanced with this wheel. The Mad Catz Universal MC2 Racing Wheel and Pedals is the perfect choice to compliment and add to the realism of any racing game, and a must-buy for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the ultimate driving experience on any platform they might own.