Pursuing my newfound love of racing wheels has been an expensive endeavor—so far I've played with a $400 Mad Catz wheel and a $400 Thrustmaster wheel. Ringing up at a modest $90, the Hori Racing Wheel for the Xbox One provides excellent motivation for spending a lot more.
What It Is
The Hori Racing Wheel is the very definition of the budget option, providing the bare minimum necessary for the racing wheel-powered video game experience, with barely any of the bells and whistles.
It's a lightweight plastic wheel with the required Xbox One controls on the face and a pair of finger shifters for folks who'd rather shift gears manually. Also packed with the unit is a pair of pedals, which connect to the wheel via telephone-style cable. The unit as a whole connects to the Xbox One via a USB cable.
Aside from the ability to program buttons, which isn't really something I look for in a racing wheel, the Hori Racing Wheel for Xbox One is very light on features. There is no force feedback. There is no vibration. Just a wheel with 270 degrees of motion and a pair of foot pedals.
What I Did With It
Why, I played the two games most likely to have a racing wheel purchased for them—Forza 5 and Forza Horizon 2. The wheel worked fine with both, though Forza Horizon 2 seemed to have issues getting the on-screen driver's hands to follow along with the wheel motion from time to time.
What I Liked
It Gets The Job Done: When one of the positive things I say about a piece of hardware is that it works, you know I am reaching for nice things to say. The Hori Racing Wheel for Xbox One indeed acts as a steering wheel in games that support such a function. Being used to the racing wheel experience, I noted a marked improvement over my performance with standard gamepad in the Forza games. Whatever its shortcomings may be, it does help deliver a more realistic driving experience, to a point.
Thumb Buttons: At first I thought the placement of the shoulder buttons atop the wheel might be a problem, but they're actually quite handy. Coupled with button programming ability, it's quite nice to have the ability to swap views on the fly at your fingertips. The PlayStation 3/4 equivalent of this wheel, the Hori Racing Wheel 4, lacks these buttons, and I miss them.
What I Did Not Like
No Feedback Whatsoever: I can understand leaving out force feedback—it's an expensive option, and doing it right is one of the reasons the other wheels I've tested cost so much. The lack of even vibration feedback is a sin, especially considering the Hori Racing Wheel 4 for the PlayStation 3 and 4 includes vibration at $10 less. Perhaps it's a licensing issue with Microsoft's rumble tech. Whatever the reason, shrugging and moving on without it was not a good call.
The strong connection I feel with the road with other wheels is completely absent here. It's a cold and sterile experience. Yes, I have a wheel, but what does it real mean?
Stupid Suction Cups: The only mounting option provided with the Hori Racing Wheel for Xbox One is a set of suction cups on the bottom of the housing. These suction cups will only attach to the smoothest, most non-porous surfaces, i.e. not my desk or the folding table I use for wheels or even my dining room table.
With only eight feet of cable and no USB extension cord on hand, I was forced to play fast and loose, often with one hand holding the base down while the other hand drove. My suggestion would be to tear off the cups and apply some double-sided Velcro in their stead.
Uncomfortable Pedals: When fully pressed down, the pedals that come with the Hori Racing Wheel for Xbox One lie flat to the floor.
In order to complete depress one of these pedals I have to left my heel off of the floor, which is neither practical nor comfortable. To my recollection, every vehicle I've driven has the pedals at an angle when fully depressed, because of how feet work. Odd.
It's Quite Tiny: I've played around with 10 inch and 12 inch wheels previously. Hori's Xbox One wheel is an 8-9 incher, which is pretty damn small, even before taking into account my massive hands.
Between the small size and the cheap plastic on the top and bottom of the wheel (the sides are nicely rubberized), it's hard to shake the feeling that this is the children's toy of racing wheels.
My Final Thoughts
"You get what you pay for" immediately springs to mind when considering a recommendation for the Hori Racing Wheel for Xbox One, but it doesn't quite apply. While its closest competition, the $80 Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider Racing Wheel, also does not feature vibration or force feedback, it does boast an 11 inch wheel, an adjustable pedal set and a central clamping system for attaching to most surfaces.
Hori could have done a lot better. You could definitely do a lot better.