*Photo courtesy of SteelSeries.
The SteelSeries SRW-S1 is a purely plug-n-play accessory, don't worry about having to mess with drivers or configuration programs, something I feared would be waiting for me in the box. The first game we tried out, naturally, was Simraceway. Upon firing it up (and being greeted by some pleasant music), we headed straight to the controls to see if our controller was detected and that the default mapping was correct. Pleasantly, it was, and we fired up a practice run in the default Lancer EvoX.
This is a good segue into a quick mini-review of Simraceway, since these two are closely related. The game is a relatively small 500MB install package, and installs quickly and simply. The pre-configured control presets need very little fine-tuning, and you'll be up and running in no time. The game mechanics feel very realistic, if not a hair on the "arcadey" side. However, the mechanics are very good, the sounds are very nice, and the fact that it's free to play, and relatively cheap to buy more cars, you can ease your way into it without issue. The graphics are a bit dated, probably due to the engine it runs on, but you'll get over that, as is usually thet case with racing games. If you're into racing games, it's certainly worth the few minutes of bandwidth usage to give it a try!
After a couple quick laps, made a couple small tweaks to the deadzones and steering sensitivity curves to fit my driving style, which I'd call edgy with a mushy deadzone. After about 5 short minutes of tinkering, my lap times were dropping like crazy, and I was already having a blast. The lights are a great touch and the wheel follows the inputs very precisely and we observed essentially zero lag between the wheel turn and the on-screen reaction. I also wanted to see how it would do in the event I'm marathon-racing and my arms get tired. I could almost turn the controller upside down before it started to freak out. I was intentionally lazy about how I held it and manipulated the controls, and it still managed to follow very true.
I gave the SRW-S1 many laps in a few other games, namely F1 2011 and Dirt 3. F1 was a smooth transition as well, and played very well with the SRW-S1, and obviously the F1 mapping made it a great match. I was a bit leery on how it would work in Dirt 3, since throwing a controller hard to induce a drift and precise control to stay on course is a must. Dirt 3 required a bit more tinkering before I was really happy with it, but once I had the deadzones and sensitivities mapped how I wanted, I was drifting and jumping almost every bit as good as with my Driving Force GT wheel. For all of the driving games I tried, configuring the SRW-S1 was no issue, which is positive verifcation of SteelSeries' compatibility claims. Sadly the adjustment wheels cannot be made to work with any of the games I've tried, but SteelSeries does provide a patch to allow the lights to work with RPM-reporting games, such as F1 2011.
I've grown up with Gran Turismo as one of my favorite games to get addicted to a month each year. I've invested in several wheels over the years, and my latest is the Force Feedback Driving Force GT from Logitech. There is no vibration or other feedback with the SRW-S1, but I grew comfortable with it very quickly. And as much as I love the full wheel setup, I don't get around to using it enough, so it goes into storage whenever I stop playing it, and it is prohibitive if you want to pick it up for a quick race to have to set everything back up. That's where the SRW-S1 is a pleasure, it's a low-profile plug-n-play solution I can have sitting on my desk, ready to go when needed.
The weight does get to be a bit fatiguing after awhile which emphasizes the primary use of the SRW-S1 as a "pick up and play" peripheral, and not for the marathon racing session. Although clearly intended to appeal to a wide audience of casual gamers, the level of customizability and compatibility means that even the hardcore sim racers can find a way to have fun with it.