The Active Network


Product: SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: $159.99
Buy at Shop.Microsoft.Com - Great Low Price!
Review By: Julien Jay


Serious gamers know that driving into their favourite racing games with a keyboard or a joystick isn’t very realistic and accurate. Until now there have only been a few expensive and rudimentary steering wheels for the PC. However, now Microsoft hopefully has got the perfect solution that will give realistic racing feelings to everyone. It seems that Microsoft has once again deployed its legendary hardware “know how” touch by unleashing an innovative state-of-the-art Force Feedback Steering Wheel using groundbreaking technology from the ever-so-popular Force Feedback Pro joystick. To accompany this new breakthrough in racing wheel hardware, this Force Feedback Wheel also comes with robust non-slip pedals.


  • Precision driving experience: Designed with potentiometers, the SideWinder Wheel offers precision handling for the performance that racing fanatics demand.

  • Quality and comfort: Professional styling for the wheel and pedals means quality, comfort, and control.

  • ForceFeedback effects: With a variety of more than 200 realistic force feedback effects your computer driving experience won’t be the same!

  • Realistic, rugged and durable styling. The wheel’s compact, sleek design provides high quality and long-lasting durability with precise performance.

  • Customisability with profiling software SideWinder Game Controller Software allows you to create profiles for each game you drive. Profiles customize how you use your wheel, mapping actions or keyboard commands to the 8 buttons (including 2 trigger/shifter buttons) on the wheel. Profiles of your favourite games are included, and you can share your profiles with your friends! 8 Programmable buttons.

  • Eight programmable buttons including two shifters/triggers for use in a variety of game play scenarios.

  • Easy-to-release wheel clamp. The powerful, stable clamp system uses a single bolt to easily attach to your desk. Once the bolt is adjusted to your desk’s thickness, the clamp allows you to easily lock/remove the wheel.

  • Sturdy, anti-slip pedals designed for use with one or both feet – these pedals fit up to a size 13-foot.

  • Force feedback on/off switch and indicator lets you control the use of force feedback.  

  • With Force Feedback Technology, the powerful 16bits 25Mhz co-processor generates lightening-fast force feedback effects providing the most realistic driving experience in a PC steering wheel.

  • Microsoft Monster Truck Madness 2 is included, giving you the best force feedback driving experience right out of the box.

First you have to install the wheel on your desktop with its easy to use clamp: put the wheel on your desk, turn the bolt and push the quick-release lever to attach it to your table. Please notice that the lever will allow you to easily take off the wheel from your desktop if you see, for example, your boss is arriving! Now connect first the external AC power adapter to the wheel; the wheel will instantly and automatically turn in order to initialize on the center position. Then simply connect the pedals to the wheel and plug the midi/joystick cable to your soundcard. Now you can start your computer and install the SideWinder 3.02 Game Controller software that comes with the wheel. Installing it is a breeze even if it requires one reboot.


The SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel is a very nice device with a professional dark look. Due to its exclusive attachment system it’ll fit on almost every desktops so you won’t have to change your desktop in order to use the wheel! Once the wheel is attached by the robust big screw it’s very stable and you’ll enjoy a good gripping feeling. Turning the wheel in every direction quickly and brutally isn’t a problem at all for this very sturdily built wheel: the only problem you may encounter when doing that is the Force Feedback effect that will make you feel like you just had a wipe-out.

The force feedback wheel comes with six easy to access buttons located on the front of the wheel and two triggers located just behind the front of the wheel that your index fingers will easily reach when driving! One big center ‘Force’ button will allow you to enable or disable quickly the Force Feedback effects without restarting the game. As Microsoft SideWinder designers thought to every detail, when the Force Feedback effects are enabled the center button is light in green, or else no green light is displayed.

Finally the pedals are also well designed, as there are large enough for big feet and are sturdy enough to resist to any hard pressure! As a slit is located on the back panel of the pedals it will allow you to arrange the output cable in order to avoid any cable crushing when accelerating.


The SideWinder Game Controller 3.02 software gives you total control over the wheel:

  • First you’ll be able to test the wheel: when turning it you should see it on your screen the wheel turning, same thing for the pedals. But you can also test and experience all the force feedback effects.

  • The Force Feedback effects’ level and speed can be easily adjusted from the game controllers applet by using sliders.

  • The SideWinder Central panel offers quick access to the sidewinder applets and settings.

  • The SideWinder Profile tool helps users creating their own game profiles or use existing ones in order to assign games shortcuts to the force feedback buttons. But it also offers users to assign to each game special dead zone, sensitivity and pedals’ range.

  • The SideWinder Tray icon will help you activating or inactivating a profile for a specific game with a simple right mouse click.

Game Trials 

First you have to know that to enjoy the Force Feedback effects your game should support and use the Microsoft Direct X API: most of the newer games support it, but there may be some compatibility issues in the older versions! I tried the force feedback wheel with several games and I found only one word to describe it - Unbelievable! I tried the wheel with Microsoft Midtown Madness and spent hours playing with it, turning the wheel quickly to avoid walls and other mad drivers, pushing the pedals to accelerate/decelerate or brake, and vibrate when hurting walls or driving on cobbled roads and I can only say one thing: I want more!  Several times while cruising around Chicago in Midtown Madness the realism was so great I felt like I had to go get gas! After the police start to follow you and you get on the expressway this game is almost like the real thing. The way this wheel feels every bump, wobble, or jolt that your car makes you’ll almost feel the heat of your tires! The wheel is provided with Microsoft Monster Truck Madness II and really brings a spicy side to this old but funny game. 

With Need for Speed III and IV the wheel is also very pleasant to use due to the precision and the buttons that’ll allow in deploying harrow, hoot and changing your point of view in a breeze. The amazing Force Feedback effects will surprise you when you’ll bump other cars/houses! In fact the most astonishing thing with this wheel is that it doesn’t only vibrate but due to the innovative spring and pulley mechanism it’ll change the direction of your vehicle when hurting objects! The Force Feedback Effects are strong enough. Under Microsoft Cart Precision Racing driving carts is at least a doable job and due to the high precision of the wheel you’ll have an appreciable lead on your rivals. Also I just want to write here that some of our colleagues wrote that the wheel is noisy but really the force feedback effects are produced in silence!

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Installation: 98%
Performance: 99%
Look: 93%
Feel: 96%
Price: 85%
Manual: 89%
Drivers: 90%
Overall: 93%

As you have understood the SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel has really filled me with enthusiasm! It offers what all the serious drivers gamers are always need: driving precision and control, wide variety of buttons, incredible force feedback effects, solid set and an easy-to-use attach mechanism. What do you want to ask more? It’s the best racing wheel out on the market today!

Specs & Package
Overall Score 93%
Version Reviewed SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 Wheel
1 Pedal Set
1 Microsoft Monster Truck Madness 2
1 SideWinder Software CD
1 Connecting cable 
1 Power Adapter
The Good Points
Installation a Breeze
Professional Look
Realistic Experience
The Bad Points Price
Similar To SideWinder Precision Racing Wheel
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
256 MB SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" Sony Monitor
PC Required Multimedia personal computer with Pentium 166 MHz or higher processor and USB port
16 MB of Ram
10 MB of Hard Disk Space
CD-Rom 4x
Win 98/SE NT/2000

*DirectX® 7.0 or later API (included on CD); Wheel compatible with Windows 98-based games only; * Access to and use of the Internet for play may require payment of a separate fee to an Internet service provider. Local telephone and long distance charges may apply.* Access to and use of the Internet for play may require payment of a separate fee to an Internet service provider. Local telephone and long distance charges may apply.

Feedback forces are only enabled with games using Microsoft Force Feedback technology and are compatible with the Microsoft DirectX API version 5.0 or later. (games running in an MS-DOS box under Windows 95 or Windows 98 will have basic wheel functionality)


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