The Forza Horizon series has always given the chance to drive, race, and abuse your dream car, whether it’s a beautiful 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302, a 2018 McLaren Senna, a 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo or even a 1963 Volkswagen Type 2 De Luxe. What’s better than playing your dream car, tricking it out with a beefy engine swap and decorating it with a gorgeous livery? Well, driving it, of course! Sadly, we can’t all afford a brand new super car, so we do the next best thing and buy a nice racing wheel with force feedback, gear shift, pedals and clutch.

I wondered if buying a wheel would make this game much more fun and immersive, so after much debate and looking at the other racing games in my library, I justified buying the Thrustmaster TMX Pro set with T3PA metal pedals with clutch. I excitedly updated my firmware on my PC, jimmy-rigged a TV dinner tray to hold my wheel, plugged it into my Xbox One X and I was ready to go! I started Forza Horizon 4, selected my 1998 Subaru Impreza that I rigged for rally racing and took to the pavement, hands gripping my wheel.

Oh boy, was that experience nothing short of disappointing, frustrating, and saddening. I have played Assetto Corsa, Forza Motorsport 6/Apex, and Dirt 4, I had a pretty good baseline to compare my experience in Forza Horizon 4 with. My experience with those games were much more pleasurable and enjoyable; the cars feel like cars, you can actually catch spin outs, and drifting behaves like, well, drifting. Especially in Dirt 4.

After a little more searching and reaching out to the Forza community, it turns out that the Horizon series, with the exception of Horizon 2, has always had poor support for racing wheels, despite having settings for force feedback tweaking, dead zones, vibration scaling, etc. Despite having such a poor initial experience with my TMX, I buckled down and tried finding some decent settings to make my cars handle more like I expected them to, even if it was a little arcade-y.

The initial experience was as follows; step on the gas, moving a slow 60 mph, take a right hand turn and… spin out. Reach a top speed on the highway, try to bank left, barely clip grass, a car, or guard rail and… spin out. Try to drift in a hairpin and turn into an aluminum and rubber tornado. Four hours of failure after failure in recovering from a drift or loss of traction, even when using proper technique one would employ in a sim like Assetto Corsa. It felt as if the steering was at such a low sensitivity that cutting your wheel to counter-steer isn’t quick enough with a wheel, so catching a drift or spin out is almost impossible. However, I didn’t believe giving up on this. I felt that there was something that could be done, whether it be practice or settings, to make this game feel as good on a wheel as it does with a controller, of which this game is obviously primarily built for.

After some research, I found some tolerable settings for my wheel, though drifting is almost completely out of the question.

  • I turned down the vibration scale to 30%
  • Force feedback scale down to 40%
  • Center spring scale down to 15%
  • Wheel Damper scale down to 40%
  • Understeer force feedback down to 10%
  • Outer steering dead-zone down to 60% (in hopes to increase snappy turning)

After tweaking these settings, I was able to control my car on casual cruises. I couldn’t race competitively in any rally races and very few cross country races, as those types of races require a level of drifting and catching your traction. So, I opted into some street races to test these settings. This actually ended up feeling quite good! But, as stated before, drifting around banks, hairpins, or recovering from frisky and handsy drivatars slamming into you instantly warrant a race-restart.

Although the settings felt tolerable for races, there was no way they were snappy or accurate enough to use in a PvP settings where people using controllers could counter-steer and recover much more easily as compared to your using a wheel. When you try to recover or your sliding perpendicular in your car, no amount of counter-steering can get you out of it in a timely manner.

So, the verdict is as follows:

Using a racing wheel for Forza Horizon 4 can be fun and immersive, if you’re just cruising and maybe racing against easily level drivatars. It is neigh impossible to drift competitively or even recover from sliding and loss of traction, so you’d have to avoid rally racing, cross country racing and the drift league campaign missions.

Unfortunately, the game wasn’t built with steering wheels being the intended and primary peripheral in mind, rather an afterthought. Honestly, as much as I love my Thrustmaster TMX, I cannot stress enough that using a controller will give you the most edge in online racing and, frankly, fun-factor. It may not be as immersive as a wheel, but if you don’t want to pull your hair out, I have to say stick with the controller. You aren’t missing out on much.

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